A Room Of One’s Own – the thin end of the staff room wedge : October 8, 2012
On the rare occasions I ever had cause to knock on the staff room door as the timid little chap I was back in the early 80s, a disgruntled teacher would throw it open, grumble about being disturbed, and demand what it was I had the temerity to be asking. It was a place of place mystery and unguessable wonder: what went on in there was essentially unknowable and dreadful. Even in the furtive fleeting snatches I had through the thick, yellow clouds of billowing smoke, you could see the place was packed: a humming sanctuary where teachers went to plot and laugh and moan. A sacred space into which even the briefest glimpse seemed a wild transgression.
But what would happen if a student were to knock on the door of what, at my current school, is called the Staff Lounge? Well, they’d be waiting a bloody long time for someone to answer, that’s for sure. Most of the time it’s barren wilderness of laminate flooring and leatherette armchairs. I’m not really sure why this is. We don’t have the excuse of many other schools where lunch breaks are impossibly short and punch-drunk teachers lurch from lesson to loo-break with nary a moment to slurp down a mouthful of tepid tea. No, we boast a generous 50 minutes – plenty of time to refuel and still have time for some for a spot of gossip. And it’s not like someone hasn’t tried to make it feel hospitable. It has a table football, a flat screen, wall mounted TV and a Nespresso machine which produces rather good coffee.
But there’s precious little to offer in terms of camaraderie or repartee. The only time it gets used is during break-time on Tuesdays when about 20 staff members get together together under the umbrella of ‘Cake Tuesday’. It’s a good idea: every one takes a turn at supplying the cakes but only 2 or 3 times a year; in return you get to fill your face with French fancies every week. But it hasn’t made much difference to the sorry neglect of the staff room.
This year saw, perhaps, the final nail in the staffroom coffin. Our esteemed Secretary of State announced that schools no longer had a legal obligation to provide a room solely “for use by the teachers, for the purpose of work and for social purposes”. You might have imagined anguished howls of protest and wild cat strikes at such earth-shattering news. But no; protest came there none.
Why is this? Over the last 13 years I’ve worked in a number of schools all of which have had very different stances to their staff-rooms. For five happy years I worked at a school which yo-yoed between special measure and satisfactory. The students were often challenging and staff rallied together and supported each other in response. During my first year there I used to work through many break and lunches just trying to stay afloat but during my second year I learned that spending break time in the staffroom was an unmissable treat: it quickly became one of the highlights of my day.
Then, in my efforts to climb the greasy pole, I moved on to a school which had a very different relationship with its staffroom. We all trooped in twice a week for briefing, and that was it. Part of the reason was that each faculty had its own work base in which teachers would congregate. Also, the 30 minutes lunch was staggered, in three sittings, over an hour and a half. We didn’t have much time and we were never on lunch at the same time as anyone else. Although I got to know my own team very well, after four years I still had no idea who some staff were or what they did.
Some decidedly unscientific research conducted on Twitter last weekend revealed similar findings elsewhere. Although some teachers report a busy, vibrant staffroom, the majority experience is that the staff room has become the preserve of supply teachers and trainees.
Does it matter? Is Mr. Gove right to preside over the lingering death of the staffroom? Will generations of teachers roll their eyes intolerantly as us old-lags fondly reminisce about the halcyon days in same way I do when some tedious old bore bangs on about getting high from the fumes of the bander printer?
For what it’s worth I think it does matter. As someone who’s visited a fair number of different schools, you can learn a lot from observing how the staffroom’s used. I love the bustle and hum of a busy staffroom; it speaks of unity and shared experiences; it allows teachers to unwind and regroup before heading once more unto the breach; and it seems to have a tangible (mostly positive) effective on morale.
As with so much else, it’s up to us. Ultimately, we’ll get the schools we deserve and if we want them to contain a dedicated space for us to drink tea and make inappropriate jokes we need to make damn sure we’re in there, feet up, smoking our metaphorical pipes and staking our claim to a room of our own.
11 from 11 : December 10, 2011
2011 has been a good year. Starting the blog has been life changing and after reading A Year in the Life of an English Teacher I’ve decided to take up the challenge and provide you with a smattering of what’s been happening for me over the year. Also, it provides a useful shop window to garner votes in the Best New Blog category of the Edublog Awards. If at any point whilst reading this you are overcome with a powerful urge to vote for me, just click the link on the right.
Even though I’ve only been blogging since July (which leaves the first six months of the year a blank, silent void) I still managed to rack up 72 posts.That feels like a lot. I’ve had an awful lot to say (some of it has even been coherent and worth saying) and and now, heading into the final week of school, seems like a pretty good time to reflect on my favourite posts. These are my favourites, not yours so if you didn’t happen to like ‘em: tough.
The thought the thought of organising this into some sort of hierarchy has the anal-retentive in me salivating, the thinking involved has made my head hurt. In order to save myself a lot of pointless grief I’m going to wheel out my selection in boring old chronological order. Here goes:
My first post. More or less. This sums up my journey as teacher over the past few years and the struggle to reinvent myself as more thoughtful, more reflective and more focussed on students’ learning. Also, it provides a glimpse into the reasoning behind my Twitter moniker.
Looking back, I really hit my stride with this one. Having just read Phil Beadle’s Dancing About Architecture the night before and having had very little sleep, I was full to bursting with vim and vinegar. I still feel excited about this sort of teaching and, even though it’s hard to justify in terms of students making visible progress, they had a hell of a lot of fun.
This is a topic that’s bothered me for some time. We would never (I hope) approach student assessments in the way we approach teacher assessment: either well done that’s outstanding; or see me, that’s inadequate. Since writing this post and talking about it to others I find I’m not alone. My school is in the process of launching a coaching culture which should make a real difference in helping teachers focus on improving the parts of their practice they want to improve without any fear of criticism or reprisal. This can only be a good thing.
Quite a personal one this. I reflect back on the process of going for promotion last academic year. Needless to say, it didn’t happen but I learnt a heck of a lot and am definitely much clearer about what I do and don’t want.
Taking part in #UkEdChat on Twitter every week on Thursdays between 8-9pm has had a big impact on my professional development this year. I can’t remember what the topic of discussion was about now but I, ahem, hijacked it by getting into what has been referred to as ‘the Rows Row’ with Andrew Hall. Sometime later I was interviewed by a TES journalist about my views on classroom seating and found myself quoted out of context and made to look slightly foolish in the TES Pro magazine. Ah, well. We live and learn.
Without doubt, reading Carol Dweck’s book Mindset has made a massive difference to my approach to teaching. This post was an attempt to communicate why I think fostering a growth mindset in our students is so crucial.
Two post is one here, which is a bit of a cheat. Kenny Pieper is one of the best people I’ve connected with since becoming a convert to Twitter. He wrote about how he had applied Sugaga Mitra’s amazing research on self directed learning in his lessons and I was riveted. I had to try it. Kenny very kindly gave me permission to repost his article and I followed it up the next day with my own findings. I’m still getting to grips with the style of teaching but I am absolutely convinced that it’s the right direction to be travelling in.
This post has generated more discussion and site traffic than anything else I’ve written. I’m still getting 5-10 hist a week and there was even a #UkEdChat devoted to it. I have to confess that I’m mainly repackaging Phil Beadle’s points from his masterful, and very funny, How To Teach. It seems I’m not alone in finding successful differentiation a real bugbear,
9. Easy vs hard
This is the post I feel most strongly about. I’m absolutely entrenched in the view that hard work can accomplish almost anything and am frustrated beyond reason that hard work is viewed as something to almost be ashamed of. Communicating this message to my students is starting to make a dent in their stolid belief that trying hard is for losers.
The week I spent experimenting with different ways to introduce learning objectives was exhausting. I wrote this post of the beginning of the week when I was still really excited about all the amazing new things I was going to try. By the end of the week I remember how shattered I felt at all the thinking I’d had to do. It was such a useful thing to do though and it’s still resonating in my lessons months later.
11. But is it art?
This was the post I enjoyed writing most. I’ve read some superb education books this year which have really added to my repertoire of new skills and knowledge. I loved finding out and experimenting with SOLO taxonomy and Daniel Wilingham’s ideas on knowledge as well as connecting more closely with Dylan Wiliam’s writings on formative assessment. But the book I’ve probably been inspired by the most (with the possible exception of Dancing About Architecture) is Seth Godin’s Linchpin. It is well worth a read.
Well, that’s it. There are many other posts I enjoyed writing and some which you seemed to have enjoyed reading. I wrote a lot about assessment, none of which makes it into my top 11 and had two posts picked up by the Guardian Teacher Network which was kind of a big deal.
Thank you very much for all the feedback whether it’s been supportive or critical. I leant so much from arguing with my adversaries that I’ve even begun to think of them as friends.
Election Fever : December 6, 2011
The last time I canvassed for votes was back in my school mock election in 1987. In typically awkward bugger fashion, I ran as a Trotskyite candidate. As I recall I did rather well and came in third which has got to be some kind of record for any kind of communist in a British election.
For the last 25 years I’ve managed to stay out of any kind of election but now I find myself nominated for an Edublog Award in the Best New Blog category. Which is nice. But I’m not entirely sure how to react. Obviously it’s lovely that I’ve been nominated and of course I’m thrilled at the idea that people get something out of reading my ramblings. But an award?
The best thing about getting involved in Twitter has been the discovery that I’m not alone. I’ve discovered, much to my surprise, that the world is full of teaching geeks just like me. The idea that there might be others out there who would possibly be interested in what I had say was galvanising and I started blogging almost immediately.
At first the blog was just about reflecting on my classroom practice. Having started though I found I had 12 years worth of unprocessed thoughts clamouring to come out. And out they’ve come. For an idea of the sorts of stuff I’ve been writing about click here.
It’s been a joyous experience to find my voice as a writer. In the past I’ve had a crack at poetry but had begun to resign myself to the fact that I just didn’t seem able to write fiction. It’s been a wonderful discovery that not only can I write non-fiction but that I really enjoy it. And best of all I’ve been able write posts for the Guardian Teacher Network and been commissioned to write a book (more on that another time.) Recognition at last.
The award thing bothers me a bit though. I mean, I’d really like to win. Obviously. But the way one wins this particular contest is by importuning folks to vote for you. And not just once: you can vote every day! I wouldn’t mind if some faceless panel of experts pontificated over proceedings and arbitrarily declared a winner a la the Turner or Booker prizes. But this is a popularity contest, a beauty pageant and I’m just not prepared to parade around in my swimsuit.
Twitter is often dismissed as shameless self-promotion and I’m rather reticent to spend the next few weeks exhorting everyone I follow to please vote for me. It’s just not very British. I can still hear my mother explaining at 7 years old that no one likes a show off and that modesty’s the best policy.
So, I’m going to suggest that if you’d like to vote for me you can do it here but that I’m not going get all tedious about it and start prefacing all my tweets with the #eddies11 hashtag. You however are more than welcome to do it on my behalf.
Thanks for reading.
Awards season : November 19, 2011
Being as I’m still very new to this blogging game (was it only July I made my first post?) I had no idea there were awards for it, let alone awards for educational blogging. Who knew?
Well, apparently lots of people knew: the Edublogs Awards have been going on since 2004. I’ve only been alerted to this thanks to Kristian Stills generous nomination of the The Learning Spy. Which is lovely. But before I getting too carried away practising acceptance speeches, I thought that this would be a fine opportunity to do a bit of nominating myself.
So, my nomination for best individual blog is….The Behaviour Guru. Tom Bennet’s coruscating prose and savage humour make this a delight to read. However, not only is Tom a skilled exponent of the mot juste, he is also a thoughtful and considered chap when it comes to all issues educative. Although he sometimes hides behind a facade of irreverence, his insight into teaching and his compassion for students shine through. Thoroughly recommended.
Moving on, I’m nominating Mark Anderson’s ICT Evangelist for best ed tech/resource sharing blog. As well as organising a very fine TeachMeet, Mark’s blog is, as you’d expect, a pretty slick affair. Lots of whizzy interactive stuff as well as some invaluable tech recommendations and advice. Mark is a passionate advocate of all things ICT but is also rooted in the real world and is happy to demonstrate how to get the best out of all the net has to offer.
My nomination for best individual Tweeter is Dr Mark Evans who tweets as @teachitso. Mark describes himself as a “Proponent of the scientific approach that underpins evidence-based education – without the Snake Oil”. This last is an crucial caveat. I have learnt so much from Mark; he regularly shares all sorts of education news and research. The man is a machine – he literally seems to know everything and can supply a peer reviewed journal entry to back up all manner of surprising things. Probably the most important thing I’ve learnt from Mark is to have a healthy scepticism for some of the mosre outlandish claims made in the sometimes wacky world of education.
New nomination for best new blog goes to Laura Sutherland’s 300000 Questions. Laura’s only being blogging for a month or so but her passion and enthusiasm for English teaching come bubbling through everything she writes. Her blog is very much focussed on reflecting on her own classroom practice and she generously shares all of the resources she’s used. One to watch.
And finally, the Best educational use of a social network nomination goes to Kenny Pieper. His use of Twitter to promote #PedagooFriday , his wonderful blog Just Trying to Be Better Than Yesterday and the educational book club wiki he set up moderates all add considerable value to my PLN. He is as warm hearted, caring and thoughtful as you’d want a teacher to be. Just wish he lived closer!
Not sure what happens next, but good luck to you all.
Protected: Off sick : November 10, 2011
End of term : October 24, 2011
Term 1 is always far more exhausting than I expect it to be.
Some of the highlights from last term include meeting some cracking education types including Ian Gilbert, Phil Beadle and Jim Roberson; being published by The Guardian; completing day 1 of the Critical Skills Programme; Compering my school’s awards evening and attending my first ever TeachMeet.
But what’s had the most impact on my teaching in recent months? Easy: keeping up the blog. Firstly, it’s been a fantastic way to record my own musings and meanderings. In the past I’d teach a great lesson or think something really profound and then just… forget it. Now I have a permanent record of all my thoughts and foibles. And that’s great too.
I’m excited about the fact that I have changed a lot of what I think because various dissenting voices have called me on some of my most extreme opinions is invaluable. “Putting it out there” has allowed me to hone the razor edge of my intellect against some pretty robust nay sayers. Of course I could have chosen to ignore these contrary views, but as Kristian Still said to me, we’re not going to learn much in an echo chamber. Some firmly held opinions have had to be re-evaluated whilst other vague notions have crystalised into articles of faith.
The list of stuff I didn’t know before beginning the blog is shocking but I’m enjoying putting that right and have even invested in my own copy of the sometimes impenetrable but definitely indispensable Visible Learning so I can check my facts before I start spouting knee jerk nonsense.
The other thing I’ve gotten out of blogging has been the sheer pleasure of writing for an audience. As an English teacher it’s important to practice a little of what I preach. And some of the feedback I’ve had has been tremendous. I don’t get nearly as many comments as I’d like on the blog but loads of folks have got in touch via Twitter to let me know that they find what I’ve been writing is in some way meaningful or though provoking. I have to admit, I’m not yet growth mindset enough to not enjoy a spot of praise and, sadly, I’ve always been a bit of a show off. Now seems like a good opportunity to reflect back over the past four months and organise what I’ve written so far.
Here are all the posts related to Kristian Still’s crowd sourced techniques on presenting learning objectives:50 Ways to lead your lesson Objective Quest – Day 2 Objective Quest – Day 3 Objective Quest – Day 4 Objective Quest – Day 5
The next collection of posts are on things I’ve tried myself in lessons:Using Learning Continuums - basically, a fancy type of learning objective Getting to grips with PLTS - some thoughts on embedding the personal learning and thinking skills in schemes of work So, what are learning spies? - getting students to observe each other Zooming in and out - a techniques for explaining how to get A&A* grades out of students in English A return to guided reading - revisiting the ‘reading strategies’ The Learning Loop and Rebooted: the Learning Loop - a skills based scheme of learning Learning journeys - visual learning objectives Forget the answer, what’s the question? QFT (question formulation technique) Going SOLO - Solo taxonomy Do It Yourself - Kenny Pieper’s post on Sugata Mitra’s child driven education More DIT learning - and my own rip off
Then there’s posts on general educational themes:What’s the point of lesson observations? this is a rhetorical question… Does group work work? and my answer Why group work works for me What’s the point of INSET days? …and another one… Exam analysis - reflections on the importance of exam results Seating: sorted - my assertion that arranging desks in groups is better than rows Challenging Bloom’s Taxonomy - it’s not all it’s cracked up to be Differentiation: to do or not to do? this, on the other hand, is a genuine question Knowledge or skills? - balance in all things Easy vs Hard - the belief that good things will come to those who are prepared to work hard Questions every teacher should ask every day - a useful reminder about what we should be doing Reading should be our top priority - Roy Blatchford’s article on the importance of reading What’s the point of homework? - maybe not as much as some would have as think Is the starter finished? - are four part lessons the only way? Team meetings: some stuff I’ve learnt - some thoughts on how meetings should (and shouldn’t) be run
A number of posts on assessment (nods to Dylan Wiliam):Formative assessment and the markscheme What’s the point of assessment? If you grade it, it’s not formative assessment Is there a case for summative assessment? Should we stop doing good things? What can engineers teach us about assessment?
Some ‘how to’ guides:How to write an outstanding job application - advice on how to go about applying for a new job How to make friends and influence people - advice for new teachers and old lags alike How to fix your attitude - Carol Dweck & Mindset theory How to have a successful life - Phil Beadle’s guide to happiness
Some posts about where I am and what I think about stuff:The Greasy Pole - trying to get promoted Emerging Leaders - attending a leadership course The Learning Pyramid - teaching myths Back to school - reflections after my first day back in September Reasons to be cheerful - and midway through the term
And finally, a couple of posts about text messaging:Teaching texting - original post The case for teaching texting - and the one The Guardian published
Thanks to everyone who’s encouraged or challenged me: I’ve learnt loads and really appreciate you spending your valuable time telling me what you think.
Objective Quest – Day 5 : October 18, 2011
Phew! After two days of ‘curriculum enrichment’ followed by an evening compering awards evening I’m knackered. Friday’s lessons seem a long time ago now but I’m committed to reviewing the learning objective techniques used. Sadly though, I’ve reached my limit and this will be the final installent of the Objective Quest for a while at least.
So, without further self-justifying twaddle, here are Friday’s lessons:
Lesson 1 – Yr 9 – 3-2-1
This is the first of two lessons with Year 9 today and they are spending both lessons reflecting on the term’s learning and preparing a presentation for Thursday afternoon. Because normal lessons are collapsed on Monday and Tuesday for enrichment, this is the last time I se the class before they have to present so the lesson needs to be tight, focussed and purposeful. The objective is ‘to be able to share ideas and solve problems’. According to @badgerove’s suggestions, students need to work through three steps and write the following:
Lesson 2 – Yr 10 – Learning Continuum
No review of techniques used to introduce learning objectives would be complete without at least one less using the learning continuum. I’m a big fan of this idea and have been since basically nicking the idea from Jackie Beere’s How to Teach the Perfect Ofsted Lesson. If you’re interested in reading about the principles behind this technique, I’ve written about it here.
The objective for this lesson was as follows:
What I do is to get the students to view the objective as something which they can meet a different (or differentiated) levels and ask them to decide how much progress they want or are able to make by the end of the lesson. The key words in this example are ‘explore’, ‘analyse’ and ‘evaluate’ which are linked to the skills described in the grade criteria for B, A and A*. This is something which I make explicit to students when introducing the objective. Now, compared to some of the marvellous techniques I’ve trialled over the past 5 days, this certainly isn’t the best at engaging students’ interest. But it is a fantastic tool for getting students to think about their progress and the direction of their learning. It’s easy to stop the lesson at any point and ask students to mark an x to show how far they’ve travelled, or even to get them to get up and physically position themselves against an arrow on the classroom wall. The kids don’t enjoy this so much as find it very useful and perhaps I need to think about combining it with other techniques like expanding sentences and hierarchies. The main drawback is that it takes time to work out this kind of objective: definitely not one to try on the fly.
Ease: 8 Impact: 9
Lesson 3 – Yr 10 - Code Learning Objective
This is my parallel Year 10 class and what I did was to use a very simple cypher on puzzlepixies.com to transform the objective:
The class were completely nonplussed to be confronted with this as their objective and needed to quite a bit of coaching to work out how to crack the code. It took them ages! My plan was to them use the learning continuum from the previous lesson but we didn’t really have time so I used it as a plenary instead. Was this time well spent? Probably not. But on the plus side I can tick the numeracy across the curriculum box and despite some getting very frustrated, others really enjoyed the challenge.
Ease: 8 Impact: 4
Lesson 4 – Yr 11 – Meta Menus
Meta menus are another old favourite of mine and are ridiculously easy to use. Basically, you introduce the lesson topic and then display the meta starters slide from the PPT below:
Students have to select a question and you can either get them to discuss it with a partner or to write an answer in their books. Sometimes just the simple act of asking them to choose is enough to get them thinking in interesting ways. The most popular starter question always seems to be ‘what will hinder your thinking?’ and this is a handy way to discuss possible distractions.
The objective for this lesson was ‘to be able to explain how to achieve a Band 5 in the Extended Reading controlled assessment’ and some of the debate generated by the starter menu proved invaluable in dealing with concerns and misconceptions. This is a very flexible tool which can be easily inserted into any lesson and is a fantastic way of providing students with a choice as to how they will find their way through the lesson.
Ease: 2 Impact: 8
Lesson 5 – Yr 9 - Not the First Time?
This one was a complete cheat as I just used the same objective from lesson 1. Obviously they were all able to say that they’d seem the objective earlier in the day, but they were also able to tell me about other lessons across the school where they had done similar things. So, not such a waste of time as I might have feared.
Ease: 10 Impact: 4
It’s been hard work thinking this way about teaching and forcing myself to constantly change my lessons’ structures. But, I’ve learned loads and tried out lots of techniques I wouldn’t normally have bothered with. Also, several lovely people have been in touch to say that they’ve found some of the techniques I’ve written about useful and if nothing else then I’m delighted that these blog posts have helped to promote Kristian Still’s brainchild: to crowd source 50 different techniques for introducing learning objectives. And here they are (currently up to 51!)
Objective Quest – Day 4 : October 13, 2011
Am starting to feel slightly exhausted by all the different objective introducing techniques whirring around my head like a cloud of relentless cheerful wasps. I long to use the same one all day for all my lessons but am stubbornly committed to seeing it through. At least until the end of the week. And the surprising reality is that as of today I have only managed to plough through 15 of the buggers!
Lesson 1 – Year 9 – Create Fun Signs
This was a lesson I’d agreed to cover for a colleague so that she could go on a learning walk around the faculty. She had planned the lesson and all I had to do was monkey about with the objective. So, I made my way over to RedKid.net to turn To be able to work effectively as part of a team into a ‘fun sign’. The bad news was the that the objective was too long to fit on the sign. And this wasn’t a particularly long objective. So, short of time and impatient I instead plumped for a quick ‘missing keyword’ and simply missed out effectively.
Ease 10 (didn’t work) Impact 0
Lesson 2 Year 10 – Going Solo
Now, I’m really excited about SOLO taxonomy and have written about it here. The objective was for the students to begin thinking about powerful forces in Of Mice and Men and I wanted them to be able to measure their progress from pre-structural to at least relational. So (gasp!) I didn’t have a learning objective, just a series of statements:
- I don’t know anything about powerful forces in section 1 Of Mice and Men (pre-structural)
- I know one thing about powerful forces in section 1 Of Mice and Men (uni-structural)
- I know a few things about powerful forces in section 1 Of Mice and Men (multi-structural)
- I can use the things I know about powerful forces to explain their impact on the story and characters in section 1 of Of Mice and Men (relational)
- I can use what I know about powerful forces in section 1 of Of Mice and Men to be able to speculate about how they will impact on the rest of the novel (extended abstract)
Ease: 7 Impact 4
Lesson 5 – Year 9 – Don’t Always Introduce Learning Objectives
How’s that for lazy! This lesson is a class I see once a week with a colleague taking their other three lessons. They have a lesson with her Period 1 and she had set up an activity which she asked me to continue. So, we began with a plenary of their previous lesson and then cracked on: introducing another objective would have felt unnecessary and I would have been doing it for no other reason than the illogical nonsense that lesson can only be successful if they follow an Ofsted approved path.
Ease: 10 Impact: 4
I have another 5 lesson day tomorrow and am beginning to buckle under the groaning weight of all this innovation. Hope you won’t be disappointed if I cheat a bit.
Objective Quest – Day 3 : October 12, 2011
Quick update on the Learning Objectives google doc: we’re now up to 47 ways to introduce learning objectives! Only three more to go so if you have any good stuff lurking in the cluttered cupboard of your brain, please add it here.
Another 3 lesson day, punctuated by Jim Roberson doing some motivational speaking for our Year 10 & 11 students.
P1 Year 11 Connected Words
Lesson 1 was with Year 11 and our objective was To be able to explore the ways power is presented in Of Mice and Men. The chosen techniques was Connected Words. I gave different tables different key words to focus on and asked them to come up with as many connected words as possible in 1 minute. The keywords were ‘explore’, ‘ways’, ‘power’ and ‘presented’. They came up with some amazing ideas which sparked some really interesting discussion. My favourite connection was between ‘explore’ and look around’. This provoked an extended debate on what ‘looking around’ might look like in their controlled assessments. It was ridiculously easy to do and made for a purposeful start to the lesson. I’m already noticing a real trend; so far the low tech techniques seem much more likely to make students think in interesting ways.
Ease: 10 Impact; 9
P2 Year 10 – Missing Keyword
Year 10 finished their controlled assessment last lesson and I wanted them to self assess it before handing it in for summative marking. I absolutely hate this about controlled assessment – it goes completely against my teaching grain to work like this and I really struggle with the idea that I have to mark work and the students them have no opportunity to improve. The opportunity for useful formative feedback is completely lost. Anyway, that’s another blog post for another day. The objective was To be able to use success criteria to _ _ _ _ _ _ _ your work. It didn’t take them very long at all to decide that improve was the missing word. Not much material for debate, but it did get them talking about the objective so overall a plus. And of course an absolute doddle to do: in fact slightly less work than normal as you actually write one less word!
Ease: 10 Impact: 5
P4 Year 10 Odd One Out
This is my parallel Year 10 group at they’re at exactly the same stage so it was intended as a repeat of period 2′s lesson. The odd one out techniques suggests showing the class 4 statements or objectives and then getting them to work out what the actual objective is. I decided that using 4 statements would be a bit more meaningful than 4 objectives so I asked them which of the following statements they thought would make the most impact on the quality of their work.
1. You should make your work as neat as possible
2. You should count the exact number of words you have written
3. You should read through your work and check you have met all the success criteria
4. You should use the time to do a bit more writing
This was great and was useful for exploding a few misconceptions as well as getting the students themselves to justify the use of success criteria. Hearing comments like, “If you don’t use the success criteria how can you know how well you’ve done?” was music to my jaundiced ears. My work here is done, I thought smugly to myself. I hadn’t intended to do this, but in the event I decided to get the class to write their own objective based on statement 3 (which was of course the right answer!) This made for a much better lesson than the one earlier in the day: the students were more engaged in the activities that followed and came up with much more interesting comments at the end of the lesson. Yes, it was a bit more trouble to think of the statements, but the impact was tremendous. I was so interested to see the difference it made to what was essentially the same lesson. This one is only avoids being today’s winner by a whisker as it did take marginally more effort.
Ease 8 Impact 10
Objective Quest: Day 2 : October 11, 2011
OK, after a positive start yesterday on my quest to try out 40 different learning objectives before the end of term, I was raring to go today. I only have three lessons on Tuesday and spend a lot of time running around trying sort things out, have meetings and generally try to stay on top of running the faculty.
P1 Year 11 – Order the Learning
The basic premise of this one is to take out the words of the objective and arrange them in order of importance. Today’s was on the ending of Of Mice and Men. I wanted them to consider the techniques Steinbeck uses and to explore their reactions:
Lots of discussion provoked and the hierarchical nature of the task leant itself to the novel as we’ve been doing lots of thinking on power and where the different characters fit into the ranch’s hierarchy. No real agreement was reached about the most important word; some thought Steinbeck as without him there wouldn’t be a book to study; others thought ‘evaluate’ because that’s the skill they need to get an A* and is therefore more important than the text we’re studying; some chose ‘impact’ and ‘readers’ because that was what we were having to think specifically about. As always, the reveal was that there isn’t a right answer. Hurrah! One thing I’ll make clear in the future is not to bother with ‘the’ and ‘of’.
Ease: 9 Impact: 7
P4 Year 10 Film Studies – Einstein
I only see this class once a week as another teacher takes the rest of their lessons. I’ve been having to get my head around stuff like Todorov and am only a couple of steps ahead of them. But what about the objective? Bit gimmicky this one. Basically, it’s just a picture of Eistein writing up your objective. Takes a while to do and no real gain beyond the fact that some of them found it amusing and possibly thought more about the objective due to the novelty value of its presentation. Unsurprisingly, an alarming number of Year 10 do not know who Einstein is.
Ease: 3 Impact: 2
P5 Year 9 – Jigsaw
Year 9 are in the middle of putting together a pitch to launch a new musical artiste and are in the middle of a critical skills challenge. The objective was To be able to see ways of improving my work and other people’s. I have to stand at the top of the stairs in to the English block to welcome in students, so I left instructions on completing the objective jigsaw on the board. They didn’t do it. They way this works is by using your mouse to move jigsaw pieces around to complete the puzzle. Only one student can do it at a time unless you have an interactive whiteboard. It took ages to set it up and made little or no impact on anyone’s learning. Verdict: avoid.
Ease: 1 Impact: 1
I’ll back with more tomorrow.