The less time spent making lots of worksheets and single use resources, the more time can be spent on planning, assessment and feedback. I also realised that tidying my office at home that I’m the proud owner of an extensive collection of sticky notes: index markers, A5, square, plastic markers, different colours, different shapes. These are all ideas for the humble post-it note that I’ve collected over the years from other excellent teachers. Feel free to suggest more and I’ll add them and give credit.
Glossary – Students write subject terms and definitions they forget/struggle with on the post it and put it inside their book as a quick reference.
Punctuation checklist – Students write a punctuation check list on the post it and tick off each punctuation mark they’ve used correctly to ensure they have full variety.
Retention – At the end of each logical section, ask weaker readers to write the main idea as a topic sentence and stick it at the side of the section to refer back to.
Vocabulary – Students write synonyms on a post it and read their sentence back with each word in the ‘improved word’ spot before selecting one. Useful for discussing connotations and encouraging the appropriate vocabulary choice, not just any fancy sounding word from a thesaurus.
I’m a big fan of the #teacher5aday hashtags and discussion of work-life balance on Twitter that I’m always talking about things I’ve seen online or great little ‘tweaks’ that make life just that little bit easier. I’m going to attempt to recap some the great advice I’ve been given for work-life balance (both in person and online). Whilst I’d love to take credit for some of these ideas, they’re just a mix of things I’ve thought about and things I’ve picked up along the way.
In earlier blog posts I’ve been exploring the ways that KS3 can be reclaimed to have a positive impact on student achievement over time. Ofsted’s document KS3: The Wasted Years explores the issues affecting KS3 at the moment and, to me, gives very clear guidance to schools about what is required for them to be successful.
Firstly, Ofsted state that ‘[successful schools] ensure that pupils are well aware of their school’s high expectations for behaviour and conduct, and they have a clear understanding of pupils’ achievements in primary school and build on them from day one.’ (Ofsted, 2015). For more on this see the earlier posts in this series.
If we want to see students make expected or more than expected progress at KS4, we need to get in early on and identify knowledge gaps, effort issues and behaviour issues before they become a massive problem. It sounds very common sense: intervene at KS3 to prevent putting a sticky plaster on a gaping progress wound at KS4.
In a time when Ofsted no longer grade individual lessons and there’s a move towards demonstrating ‘progress over time’, a new focus for observation, scrutiny and inspection has been identified: marking.
The major problem with this focus on marking is that – like when ‘Ofsted wants to see…’ was the be all and end all of lesson planning leading to VAK learning styles, thinking hats and brain gym (because we all know that without moving around the brain won’t get enough oxygen) – marking risks becoming a tick-box, ‘prove we’re doing our job’ exercise where the primary people involved (student and teacher) aren’t the primary audience for the feedback being given.
It’s worth pointing out that Ofsted do not have a particular expectation with marking, they don’t have a set expectation about the frequency or detail of marking in exercise books, nor do they want to see ‘excessive written dialogue’ with students. This should be an announcement that makes teachers cheer, but it doesn’t because the general message of Ofsted appears to have been corrupted and manipulated into another stick to hit teachers with – namely that in order to show progress over time, your marking has to be excessively detailed with little tricks to show students are acting on feedback.
There are a number of problems with this approach:
It assumes that the only way that meaningful feedback can be given is written
If (1) is true, then all verbal feedback must be recorded with verbal feedback stamps (see @TeacherToolkit’s brilliant post about this here)
That the only way to show student progress is if their response is close to the feedback given
It risks creating a ridiculous culture of marking martyrdom where the ‘brilliant marking’ is usually the most detailed, most tick-boxy because it looks pretty on a page, thus having a negative impact on work-life balance and staff well being.
Then I’ll explain why I’d like to rediscover a sincere ‘well done’.
Prior to opening this website, I have posted to Staffrm.io on a range of topics. The benefit of Staffrm is that, like Twitter, it’s a collaborative space for testing ideas that don’t have to be polished. It’s great for digitally jotting down some ideas and reading what other people are exploring in their own classrooms.