Ideas #10 and #11

Idea 10: Adjective ranking

Our school has recently established a Teaching and Learning working group. We meet once a term and there is a representative from each department, I am sure most schools have a similar concept. The really nice thing about the one here is that it is voluntary and is more of an informal meeting of minds who are interested in developing new teaching ideas. Last term, we decided that as a group we would try and observe as many people as possible from other departments, which is why I have watched several English and Maths lessons this term as well as a Psychology lesson. Our new project is to create a shared pedagogical database of brilliant teaching ideas that we think really work, so that others from across the staff faculty can dip in and out of them. This is where idea #10 came from.

The idea

Give students a list of adjectives that they have to rank in order of how effectively it describes a named object/ concept/ process that you then give them. Students then come up to the white board and rank the words, followed by teacher facilitated feedback. Repeat with the same adjectives but with a different named object/ person etc. I used this with Year 10, asking them how the adjectives could be used to describe Kennedy, Khrushchev and Stalin respectively. The resulting feedback required them to link it to specific historical examples to support their point.

Pros

  1. It is very simple to set up and it requires minimal resources
  2. It allows less able students to follow the lead of others if they are unsure, allowing for whole class participation
  3. Equally, it can be differentiated for more able students through word choice and targeted questioning.

Cons

  1. The adjectives need to be carefully selected for this to be effective and if they aren’t, then it could fall flat on its face. Again, take a leaf out of @HFletcherWood’s book and consider what you want the students to be thinking.

Would I use it again? Definitely. I tried it with several other classes and it worked brilliantly. Excellent for a last minute tweak to a lesson.

Idea #11: DIY

I have been struggling recently to convey to students what a top level answer should look and feel like. Thanks to help from Twitter (@miss_history and @leedonaghy in particular) I found a range of examples for my Year 11s but my Year 12s were still hovering on the borderline of A and B. I did not have access to a model answer so I decided to set myself a challenge…

The Idea

I decided to write my own timed past paper essay to give to the students. I handed it out at the beginning of the lesson (not telling them that it was mine), told them not to be fooled by the language used and then asked them to mark it. We then as a class drew up a WWW and an EBI set of targets for essay writing. We decided that I had received 22/24 – a very respectable A grade. I then revealed that it was mine (to the horror of the student who had slated my essay and given it 13/24, the cheeky so and so!).  It was a great learning curve for both the students and myself.

Pros:

  1. I appreciated just how hard writing AS answers is in the time available, having not done it for eight years – this gave me lots of ideas for future planning.
  2. I could demonstrate very clearly what students should be sounding like in an essay as I deliberately structured it in a certain way to point this out.
  3. Students thought not only about what is good but also what should be avoided – even by top students.

Cons:

  1. I was placed in quite a vulnerable position in terms of my authority if the students had thought it was completely rubbish or indeed if it had not turned out well.
  2. It is fairly labour intensive to do regularly although once you have a bank of these this would resolve itself.

Would I do it again? Yes although I am hoping soon that my students will be of the same level so I can simply steal theirs!

 

 

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Ideas #8 and #9

Idea #8 – letting go

The idea: I am currently teaching the French Revolution to my AS group and it is an incredibly complex unit due to the level of intertwining narratives. In order for my students to have the level of depth required at AS I have necessarily had to teach the topics in discrete units i.e. one lesson on the rise of the sans-culottes, another on the September Massacres and another on the divisions within the political clubs. The major disadvantage of this is that students end up having very little idea of how these events relate to each other chronologically which can cause issues when it comes to constructing evaluative critiques in an exam. I have also been teaching this at a rather frantic pace as there is the ever constant spectre of not getting through the course before the exam.

However, I decided to throw off the shackles of panic and instead allow the students to spend two lesson creating a synoptic timeline of the events we have been studying, but with a twist. The timeline had two layers: one of the events happening in Paris and concerning the Assembly, the King and the sans-culottes, the other timeline was of the events of the French Revolutionary War. Students had each other, textbooks, their folders and myself for support as they completed the task.

Pros

  1. A very relaxing learning environment in which students produced vast quantities of high quality learning tools.
  2. One-one attention for those who are less able in the class.
  3. A synoptic, broad reaching understanding of the unit thus far was gained which was evidenced in subsequent essay answers.

Cons

  1. Two lessons of a tight teaching schedule were taken up.
  2. Some finished much more quickly than others and I ended up running two mini lessons at once.

Would I do it again? Certainly. I intend to complete such a timeline at the end of each AS unit now as I feel it was a vital step in reviewing and securing their knowledge. Allowing them to be independent is also great practice for study leave and the coursework term at A2.

Idea #9 – Pictionary

The idea: I have used Pictionary as a revision task before but had been struggling to think of a way to use it as part of a non-revision lesson until I went to observe a colleague teaching an AS English Language lesson.

Students, in groups of three, were given a sheet of flip chart paper, a pen and a pack of instruction cards. They had to draw a political cartoon that represented the message described on the card that they picked. An example of the message was ‘Draw a source that suggests that the liberal reforms were to promote national efficiency’ or ‘Draw a source that suggests that the Cuban Missile Crisis was a result of Kennedy’s actions’. One student would draw and the other two in the group would guess what the message was. If they guessed correctly, they would gain a point and become the artist.

Pros:

  1. Students were thinking deeply about the symbols that they would come across in sources and using these to help each other guess.
  2. Students were thinking about the deeper meanings behind the source rather than simply stating ‘Kennedy is in the background shouting’. They had to infer meaning from symbols and suggest their messages which is a surprisingly rare first response to a source.
  3. Students were highly engaged and then could apply these methods to sources, producing answers of a high quality that were focusing on inference.
  4. It is a fresh way of looking at sources, which can become repetitive – particularly close to exams!

Cons:

  1. Unless there is a clear feedback session focusing on the purpose of the activity, student may focus on the drawing rather than on the learning.

Would I do it again? Definitely. It worked very well and student responses were significantly improved as a result.

Idea #7

The Idea

I have long been intrigued by @teachertoolkit’s 5 Minute Lesson Plan and the evangelical following that it has on Twitter. A detailed account of what it is and how to use it can be found on his website here

In essence, the plan provides a template that includes every event/ idea that is required to plan an Outstanding lesson but only that, rather than the endless hoop jumping that many lesson plan templates require. I could not experiment with this at my last placement as they had very firm ideas on what they wanted staff planning to look like but in my new placement I have much more professional freedom over my planning. 

I was being ‘officially’ observed for the first time by my new HOD so I thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to use the 5 Minute Lesson Plan to plan the lesson for a mixed ability Year 10 group. The lesson went really well and I am very happy with the feedback that was given to me. I discussed the lesson plan with my HOD afterwards and below are the points we discussed. 

Pros

  1. It is very clear for the teacher who is planning and takes you through the stages systematically which is a nice way to plan. 
  2. The idea of ‘stickability’ is FANTASTIC and really focused my planning on what I wanted to ‘stick’, thereby leading me to reflect on whether the activities I was planning would do this. 
  3. The ‘Big Picture’ section was useful to provide very clear context to the observer. 

Cons

  1. Once written onto it is quite confusing for the observer and my HOD found it hard to follow (this may be my terrible writing though).
  2. The sections are not always applicable in all schools so it does need adapting although I don’t know if this is a ‘con’ as such…

 

Would I use it again? Yes albeit in a modified format. I will take the sections and probably re-arrange them in a more ‘traditional’ format because I personally will find it easier to read and work on. I will definitely use the concept of ‘stickability’ though in my lessons as it is a really useful way to think about what you are aiming for in a lesson. I will also use @teachertoolkit’s format to create revision sheets for History as I have seen done in other schools…but that is an idea for another post.

Ideas #5 and #6

Apologies for the fairly History-centric post here.

An evaluation of days five and six (independent schools have teaching on Saturdays) of the 100 day challenge.

Idea #5

Idea #5 is an adaptation of a resource gained from the very useful Keynote Educational course I attended earlier in the term. Inspired by David Didau (@learningspy) and his posts on interleaved curriculums, I have redesigned how I teach Year 12 History. I teach the AQA History Unit1F AS course which is an essay based exam. I see the group four times a week. I have devoted three lessons to knowledge (@joe__kirby would be proud, see here for his ideas on the importance of knowledge) and one to applying this knowledge to essay based skills. I hope that this will give me time to re-visit and build on these skills in a systematic way – I have already seen a dramatic improvement in their essay structure so it seems to be working.

Last week we looked at question analysis and this week was on selection of knowledge to strengthen an argument. The course leader had designed a grid, which I adapted (see picture). The students are then given four past paper questions and have to select and rank which concepts/ ideas/ arguments that they would use to create an answer specifically for that question. They then plan the answer as a pair and complete it individually for homework.

12 point grid to encourage selection and deployment of information.

12 point grid to encourage selection and deployment of information.

Pros

  1. The students were very engaged in the task and found it challenging which is brilliant.
  2. The students were thinking deeply about the nuances within historical arguments which is a great skill to develop.
  3. Students had to apply their wider contextual knowledge to assess and rank which, again, is brilliant to develop.

Cons

  1. It takes a while to think of things to fill the box that will allow students to use it effectively. Particuarly since I am taking a leaf out of @hfletcherwood’s book and considering the thought processes I want students to have in the task.

Would I do this again? Yes, certainly. It was brilliant and my students worked really well. It was clear as they were planning that they were creating more sophisticated arguments as a result.

Idea #6

As a history teacher, one of the biggest challenges I face is teaching students how to evaluate a source’s utility and step away from the stock ‘it is biast (sic.) so it is not useful,’ approach. I am also sick to the teeth of going through past paper questions very carefully with the class, although this is resulting in some progress in the quality of work.

I decided to approach the task from the other direction and get the students to create their own ‘past paper question’ in a collaborative task, an idea that has cropped up in a lot of the ‘100 ideas’ books that are available on the market.

The idea: students would create their own question (key terms provided) and then select the sources that would help them answer this question. They would then evaluate the sources. I hoped that by creating the question students would think carefully about what was required. I also hoped that in selecting their own sources to match the question, students would have to think deeply about what was in the source that made it useful.

Pros

  1. Students did think carefully about the task and really appreciated the change of activity.
  2. It was a challenging task that really stretched the students and led to some excellent discussion and debate among a class that is normally quite tricky to keep on task.
  3. Students were able to tell me why the source was useful and this then improved their written answers.
  4. It is very easily differentiated in that students select sources that they can access.

Cons

  1. It is quite time consuming finding a range of sources to provide the students with an adequate range of materials to select from.
  2. In a similar theme it is a lot of photocopying which is both time consuming and expensive if your department has a limited budget (fortunately my school is amazingly generous with photocopying).

Would I do it again? Yes, certainly. I think it worked well. A member of SMT was observing and he commented on the effectiveness of the task and the engagement of the students which confirms my ideas about it too.

Idea #4

The idea

After a plea on Twitter, the incredibly talented Ross McGill (@TeacherToolkit) suggested that I use idea 97 from his new book 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers. If you are reading this then there is a high possibility that you a) follow him and b) have the book judging by the amount of tweets about both him and it. For the few people who don’t own a copy, Idea 97 asks teachers to test themselves, setting thirteen tasks to complete, preferably in friendly competition with another teacher. 

I read the list feeling quite smug as I do some of them quite regularly anyway (i.e. no whiteboards for a lesson, no pens for a lesson). Some of them were not relevant in the school that I work in (we are not required to share learning objectives with students every lesson, for example so I have done that one too). 

However, one struck me as particularly difficult. The challenge was to avoid saying common ‘teacher’ words such as right, OK, listen, now etc. I say these words all the time. I have videoed my teaching before and became irritated with the amount of times I say ‘right,’ in a lesson so I cannot imagine how irritated my students must be after listening to it lesson upon lesson. I decided that I would try to avoid these words for the duration of the five lessons that I had in the day.

Did it work? No. I was rubbish at this and kept saying the ‘forbidden’ words without thinking. I made the students aware of the challenge and they did point out (perhaps a bit too enthusiastically) whenever I said one of the words so

Pros

  1. I was certainly more mindful of the language I was using which made me think about the way I phrase explanations and questions. This was certainly a good learning point. 
  2. It was nice to challenge myself.

Cons

  1. It is really hard!
  2. I kept focusing on the words which then sometimes distracted me from actually teaching students. I don’t think this was the idea behind it…

Would I do it again? No. However, I will be more mindful of my language and how I am communicating when offering explanations or phrasing questions. I do encourage people to give it a go. I also encourage people to try some of the other ideas on the list of 13 that @TeacherToolkit provides!

Idea #3 and a follow up on Idea #1

A slightly more prompt evaluation today.

First of all, a follow up to idea #1 (marking every day). I handed back the marked work to the students with accompanying colour coded tasks to develop/ improve the work from the previous lesson. Every student immediately set about their tasks and – amazingly – it took them the same amount of time to finish them. Even the most able in the class who usually whizz through work were beavering away at the tricky question that they had been set. It was a great way to start the lesson and I am very happy with the outcomes.

Using the colour coded paper and stapling it to their work (echoing @kohlmand’s Purple Pages of Progress) is also a great visual clue for both myself and the students too. I will definitely keep doing this with my GCSE classes and adapt it to fit the marking schedule of the Year 9 classes I teach.

Idea #3: Hinge Questions

An idea developed by Harry Fletcher-Wood, suggested by Joe Kirby and originally taken (I think) from master of AfL himself Dylan Wiliam. The concept of a hinge question is a question with multiple answers which should take no longer than 2 minutes for all students to respond to. It should signal to the teacher where misconceptions lie, thereby allowing the teacher to address these misconceptions before they bed in.

Harry Fletcher-Wood has a very detailed process to develop hinge questions using theories based in cognitive science. His process can be found here and produces some really interesting ideas. I really liked his process but, knowing very little about cognitive science, felt that I would take a less scientific approach to these as I would like to research it further. However, I took his idea of thinking about what you want the students to think about when answering the questions as a guide.

I produced three sets of questions: one to use as a starter before continuing with a topic and two to use at different points in lessons. They were for a Year 11 and two Year 9 classes.

Year 9 question: students responded by holding up coloured cards corresponding to their answers.

Pros

  1. It was a great way of seeing who understood and grasped the topics and, more importantly, identifying those who didn’t.
  2. It offered time in the lesson to directly address these misconceptions.
  3. In offering ‘difficult’ or obscure questions/ answers it challenged students to think about the topic carefully.

Cons

  1. It took AGES to think of questions and answers, although these can be repeated once made.
  2. It is really hard to think of them! Definitely a challenging task for the teacher. This is good in a way but was not great at 7.00 a.m. this morning.

Will I use this again? Definitely. As Harry details in his blog, I hope this skill will develop and refine over time, particularly as I read up on the subject of cognitive science and how it can be applied in teaching.

That’s 3 new ideas that have been successful: feeling very positive about the challenge at the moment!

Ideas one and two…

Idea 1: Joe Kirby and Katie Ashford’s DIRT marking every lesson.

The idea

Joe Kirby asked the question ‘what if we marked every day?’ and gave a method for doing just that without collapsing with exhaustion. The idea is to scan work and assign it one of three colours and mark it with this colour.

The teacher then assigns each colour a development task the following lesson in which students can have Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time (I think these are the words of the acronym). Katie and Joe promised that it would take mere minutes. It did. Four minutes for a GCSE class set. Very impressive. I have yet to hand it back but here is my evaluation thus far from a practical point of view.

 

 

Pros

1. It is quick. Very quick.

2. It really gave me a chance to think about how to stretch my most able students as this is something I worry about in my mixed ability classes.

3. It provides nice linking activities thereby providing a sequential system of work which is nice when teaching History.

 

Cons

1. Although it is quick to do, it took me AGES to think of questions to ask. I guess this is something that will improve over time though.

2. Remembering to do it and not to let them take their books home (all students at my school keep their books or files with them) which is now an automatic routine.

 

It is clear that, practically at least, the pros outweigh the cons of this idea and it is something that I am going to adapt. I have the class on Wednesday and am giving them paper the same colour as the highlighter to respond on. I think this will give a good visual representation for me to check progress and who is making more progression as the term goes on.

Check back tomorrow to see how DIRT feedback went!

 

Idea 2: Essay Marking Grid courtesy of a recent course from Keynote Educational

The idea

I went on a course before half term focusing on teaching AS History although I think that this idea could be translated across subjects.

The grid consists of success criteria for each grade as well as three columns ‘Sustained’, ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Rarely’ which I ticked off appropriately as I was marking and then highlighted targets on the success criteria that were missing or in the ‘Rarely’ category.

 

Pros

1. Really focused my marking and linked it firmly to exam criteria which I think made it more effective.

2. Targets are clear and it is easy for students to then ask questions/ see where they need to go i.e. from ‘Rarely’ to ‘Sustained’ on each criteria.

3. Students can see themselves progressing as the ticks (hopefully) move each time work is marked. This means although they may be getting a B grade each time, they can see that it is getting higher and what they are missing from the A band.

 

Cons

1. If you have a photocopying budget and large classes this will result in a lot of paper.

2. It adds a couple of minutes onto marking each piece which, again, if you have large classes may inhibit how regularly you do it and therefore its effectiveness. I used it with a Sixth Form class of ten students so it was manageable.

 

Will I keep doing it? Yes. The students responded well and I like the focus it gave to my marking. In the future I am going to ask them to redraft the work (a la @learningspy David Didau) and I will ‘re-tick’ the same sheet with a different colour there by (again, hopefully) demonstrating progression in a really concrete way to the students as they can see the ticks moving.

 

One of my former colleagues has joined my challenge: you can read about his ideas and evaluations here http://teammathsblog.wordpress.com/2013/11/05/challenge-accepted/ – and we hereby challenge others to join us!

Any new ideas very welcome here or on @annebradshaw88.

New school, new term, new ideas…

This summer I moved region, house and school: it was a big move and I am still not fully moved in.

Moving house was fine: I have done that before and moving to a region where I didn’t know anyone was a breeze as, thanks to the arbitrary placement policies of Teach First, I had done that before too and it had been fantastic. It was incredibly emotional leaving my previous placement as that is where I learned to teach and, cliche I know, learned to love teaching: thanks in large part to having a mentor in the shape of @ukliteracy who has an incredible passion for pedagogical innovation.

However, for a variety of reasons I had to move to the South West and duly got a job teaching History (brilliant), to students from Year 9 upwards – including 6th form – (excellent), in a boarding school (terrifyingly new and different and not something I ever imagined).

I can honestly say that I love my new post. It is incredibly different in structure to any school I have been a pupil at, or worked in and this makes teaching here utterly fascinating. The culture and ethos of the school allows professional freedom for the staff to focus on the core task of our profession: teaching. Yes, we are monitored but it is not constant and it is not oppressive.

Having had a half term to acclimatise, I now feel like I need to mix up my teaching. All of the new ideas that I developed (or – more accurately – stole from amazing teachers on Twitter) over the past two years of teaching are now regular fixtures in my classroom and I want to keep trialling and experimenting with new ideas.

To aid this, I have a rapidly increasing collection of texts on teaching which have a recurrent theme of ‘100 new ideas’ (see the very useful and most recent book from @TeacherToolkit). I have decided not to let these tomes languish on the shelf and instead am setting myself a challenge: for the next 100 teaching days I will trial 100 new ideas. Whether these are from Twitter, books, TES or my colleagues, hopefully they will increase the effectiveness of my teaching and keep my students engaged and motivated in the subject that I teach.

First up? Joe Kirby’s (@joe__kirby) and his colleagues’ DIRT marking system as described in this blog. I will feedback when I have enacted it and assessed results.

Any and all ideas welcome via the comments on here or on Twitter @annebradshaw88

TeachMeets and Twitter

I was asked to write a blog to help promote an internal TeachMeet for TeachFirst participants in the North East. Here is the result.

Collaboration is a word that is used extensively by those involved in any sort of managerial role, indeed it was repeated with alarming regularity in my most recent MA assignment in a vain effort to give it the managerial ‘buzz word’ tone. Teach First certainly love the concept, as we all know, as do (in theory at least) the management teams of the schools that we work in. The sheer ubiquity of this term has led to its true value being undermined by people who say they are being collaborative, in order to appear on paper as good leaders, when in fact they are not. However, in a profession such as teaching, collaboration is one of the most important skills to have. With an ever increasing work load, finding time to innovate, improve and progress is difficult yet by having many minds to collaborate with greatly increases your ability to do this – and to enjoy teaching again.

The easiest way to access collaborative CPD is through Twitter. I was encouraged to join Twitter for educational research by another Teach First participant, Fiona McGregor (@mc_fi) and have not looked back since. Following other teachers from around the country provides me with daily ideas and access to blogs that have radically changed how I think about teaching and learning and thus my classroom practice. Whilst on Twitter, I was introduced to the concept of TeachMeets, which colleagues on Twitter found immensely valuable as another, informal, way to collaborate and share good practice. Intrigued by this idea, a colleague from my school (my mentor last year) and I formed a team to create our own TeachMeet Takeover of a whole staff briefing. This was an opportunity for staff across departments to share good practice, innovation and time savers with members of staff that they may otherwise not have shared with. Although it was nerve-wracking to stand as a junior member of staff and present to a very experienced staff body, it was a brilliant meeting. I gained a multitude of new ideas and staff who had been teaching for a while were intrigued by the input from NQT and trainee teachers. Listening to ideas from other departments was fantastic as they often provided a new approach to my own subjects of English and History.

I am now collaborating (there’s that word again) with my LDO to produce a TeachFirst NE TeachMeet for our 11, 12 and 13 cohorts, both Primary and Secondary. I genuinely can’t wait to see the presentations from other participants and to gain fresh ideas for the end of the term as well as for September.

Blogging with students…

Homework. It is the latest priority in our school and as such teachers are now being monitored to ensure that enough homework is being set. I understand the reasons behind monitoring and I understand that parents like to see their children having regular homework. However, for me, homework has to be meaningful, otherwise it can lead to disengaged students and a dip in the quality of work produced.

In an earlier post I discussed my experiments with WallWisher. These have been successful and the Humanities department is now trialling it with IAmLearning to set homework which builds on both knowledge and skill: necessary for students to gain top marks in assessments. I would recommend both to anyone. 

However, due to my new-found enjoyment of using/ reading/ writing blogs I have decided to trial blogging with students, inspired by UKLiteracy’s efforts with her Year 10 English class. The beauty of this is that blogs provide a permanent, chronological record of the learning that has taken place. I have set up a blog for my GCSE History class where I post my own summary/ view of the topic covered in the lesson and an accompanying homework. The most recent homeworks have been past paper questions but there is a great scope for posting videos/ podcasts/ quizzes for students to interact with and then comment upon.

Here is my current evaluation of blogging as a homework tool:

Advantages

  • Easily accessible for both teacher and students from a variety of locations/ devices.
  • Homework cannot be lost/ misinterpreted due to lazy recording in planners. 
  • No scrappy bits of paper.
  • No ‘dog ate my homework’ excuses.
  • Has to be done the evening before it is due so encourages independence/ sticking to deadlines. 
  • Students can view each other’s work and use it to inform their own – this has been particularly successful. On the most recent assignment the comments got progressively more sophisticated which was lovely to see. 
  • Notes/ links/ revision guides can be posted by teacher. 

Disadvantages

  • Public so is a risk of misuse by students unless moderation is set up effectively. 
  • Blog sites can have a range of content on them which may not be suitable for younger students. 

The last disadvantage was the most worrying for me. I trust my Year 10 class and they have the maturity to filter what they view; year 7 may not. However, I have found a brilliant website called kidblog which allows teachers to set up a class blog which students must have a password to access. Once there, they can post and view each other’s posts but these are never public, nor can students access other blogs. In my English novel writing project (also blogged about here!) students are posting their stories as they write them and then are set homework to peer assess some one else’s in the comments section. This has been excellent and very valuable  here is an example of the feedback from a Year 7 student – 

www: good use of punctuation and rhetorical questions and it makes me want to read it!

EBI: you check all your spellings and add some other characters.

The WWW comment in particular shows a sophisticated level of comprehension and analysis. 

In conclusion? Blogging is a fantastic way of engaging students in the long term. WallWisher is fab for one off/ short homeworks but for GCSE students or long term projects blogs provide valuable, relevant homework that increases engagement of students outside of the class room. Without scrappy bits of paper. Your bin and the rainforests will thank you.