The humble post it note

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.

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Literacy:

  • 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.

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Preventative intervention strategies

Having already blogged on why I don’t think ‘whatever it takes‘ is always the best way to view intervention, I presented on preventative intervention strategies at Red House School TeachMeet earlier this week.

We’re in the middle of exam season and there’s a lot of last minute pushes, final revision sessions, drop ins and other inteventions. But it’s also the time of year where teachers can feel flustered and overwhelmed with the amount of last minute things to tick off the list.

Bu5111a797f718b853efb81701769a2916t with increased discussion about workload, retention and recruitment as well as shift towards linear exams, it’s an ideal opportunity to consider if the way things have always been done is the most effective: for staff and students.

 

 

1. Track data at a student, class and year level. Then do something with it.

  • There’s no point having data coming our our ears if we don’t do something with it. By recording data and linking it to key skills, AOs or question types intervention lessons/starters can be planned to address the weakness over time so students are confident, independent learners.

2. Add some power to your marking.

  • šDecide on a marking focus each fortnight (e.g. PP, SEND, HA) and place their books at the top. The books will still get marked but your most focused energy is put on a different focus each time.
  • Or, ask students to place their books onto two piles based on whether they understand/don’t. Mark the students who are unsure first and address any misconceptions they may have through a differentiated starter or a small group input during class time.
  • šGet students to write out their previous target at the start of the next piece of work.
  • šBefore students say they’re finished, they have to identify with a highlighter where they’ve acted on their target. For exam classes, students could also label where they’ve hit the assessment objectives.

3. Create a culture of learning from the day students enter your room.

  • šSelf service board: Place extension material, catch-up work, wider subject material on a board so students can help themselves.
  • šDrop in time: Rather than extensive revision sessions after school that can become additional lessons, offer 1-1s or small group drop-ins over time.
  • The language of excellence: Sometimes the language we use can go a long way in creating expectations. e.g. If you think you need to take it away and proof read, then I’m not going to notice if you ‘forget to hand your book in’.
  • šReading lists: Encourage students to read widely and offer a range of book types.
  • Independent study packs: Have material available for home study. They can also be useful for students who miss lessons or have alternative education arrangements.

4. And the big one: make KS3 count.

It also goes without saying that this year’s Y7s are the Y11s of the future, so closing progress gaps at KS3 through high-challenge curriculum, early intervention will prevent a significant chunk of the last minute chaos at GCSE. Excellence is a habit. If we intervene early and set a standard of excellence then there’s no reason for staff and students to be exhausted by exam season of Y11.

Finally, the future’s bright if we take time to create it.

For more KS3 posts:

On challenge

On engagement

On early intervention

On driving questions for rapid progress

On rethinking differentiation

Pass it on: top time-saving tips

work-life-balanceI’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.

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Rethinking differentiation: getting the most out of questions

“Inspectors reported concerns about Key Stage 3 in one in five of the routine inspections analysed, particularly in relation to the slow progress made in English and mathematics and the lack of challenge for the most able pupils.” (Ofsted, KS3 ‘The Wasted Years’, 2015)

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Credit: Betanews.com

When I trained, the common approach to differentiation was to teach to the middle, stretch the top and support the bottom. The (anecdotal) result? Lots of time-consuming creation of single-use resources, extension tasks that lack rigour or provide ‘more of the same’ or support pathways that remove the complex thinking – and that’s before you have to cater for the range of learning styles in your class! As a trainee teacher in an era when teachers were told ‘Ofsted want progress every 10/15/20 minutes’, it felt like there was a perverse incentive to make the visible learning as easy as possible to show.There were weeks where I’d spend hours making different worksheets for different tables, parallel tasks and card sorts that I’d tell myself I’d use again (but inevitably wouldn’t).

Then I was given the piece of advice that changed my approach to differentiation (and workload): a resource should never take you longer to make than the students to use.

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Reclaiming KS3: Driving questions for rapid progress

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Flickr: Creative Commons

When looking at examiners’ reports at KS5, there’s been a welcome move in recent years warning staff not to send students into exams with pre-prepared essay frames, writing templates and other formulaic crutches designed to get students through exams with the minimum of independent thought. Aside from my personal feelings about endless writing frames, they send the message to students that ‘you can’t do it on your own’. Students can become reliant on them and then panic and go into learned helplessness when you suggest that they write an essay independently – worse when it’s accompanied with cries of ‘but Mr/Mrs so-and-so gives us starters!‘.

At KS5 this is well overdue but with shifts in GCSE exams to new specifications, I’m inclined to say that this is a very welcome shift away from teachers dragging students through with check-lists and crib sheets, and towards a curriculum that values students’ independent application of knowledge.  On #EngChatUK there was a lot of pre-specification worries, which seem (largely) to have worked themselves out. (Whilst planning this blog I found a new post by Andy Warner on the new GCSEs which is worth a read here)

The relevance to Key Stage 3 is to work backwards from KS5. If we’re going to ensure that KS3 is challenging, engaging and unapologetically academic, then there needs to be time set aside for promoting the value of scholarship and high-level thinking. In KS3: The Wasted Years, Ofsted mention that it is the ‘most able whose progress was particularly affected when secondary schools did not build on prior learning.’

Using driving questions to structure and support learning ensures that all students make rapid and sustained progress.

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Rethinking KS3: Early Intervention

In earlier blog posts I’ve been exploring the ways that KS3 can be reclaimed to have a positive Assessmentimpact 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.

The ways that this can be done are:

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.

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Reclaiming KS3: Engagement

In this series of blogposts I’m exploring ways that KS3 can be reclaimed rather than being viewed as a second priority behind KS4/5. To go further, what I’m suggesting is that if schools want to ensure maximum progress gains at KS4, then targeted investment in KS3 is essential.

The three ways that this can be achieved are:

  • Challenge (Read the post here)
  • Engagement
  • Early intervention

Engagement

employee-engagement-survey-staff-surveyThere’s been a lot of discussion about the nature of engagement and relevance in the eduTwittersphere in recent months and it’s clear that these concepts raise a range of issues to be explored.

Sometimes I find that engagement is often tied up in discussions of relevance and self-esteem and many other concepts that shift the focus of learning away from the student and on to the teacher. When engagement becomes synonymous with ‘entertaining’ and ‘fun’, there’s an implication that if there’s an issue with achievement or student behaviour, it can be explained away as ‘the child only behaved that way because they found the lesson boring’. This approach fundamentally undermines teaching staff and excuses poor behaviour. It gives students an opt out and acts as a stick to hit teaching staff with – hardly conducive to developing a high performing team. Positive behaviour for learning should be non-negotiable, regardless how entertaining students find the lesson. In this post, I’ll be exploring why challenge can help foster engagement and how through praise we can promote engagement within an academic environment.

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Reclaiming KS3: Challenge

ProgressThere’s been a lot of focus on KS3 and the role it plays in achievement at KS4. Sometimes I wonder if due to pressures in the upper school, KS3 risks becoming the neglected sibling of KS4/5. It shouldn’t be. If KS3 is purposeful, challenging and engaging, the chances of having the progress gaps to be filled in KS4 will be drastically reduced. In short, the key to success at KS4 is strong KS3 provision.

 

The keys to success at KS3 are:

  • Challenge
  • Engagement
  • Early intervention

This post will focus on the first area: challenge.

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Approaching research skills in a digitally literate classroom

An area I’m currently exploring is how to promote digital literacy across the curriculum. One of the ways that this can be done is through explicitly teaching research skills and guiding students through the process. The result is that students gain transferable skills and a set of useful notes at the end of the process (and we don’t have to wade through copy and pasted information that (most likely) is either less than relevant or beyond the students’ understanding of a topic).

In a nutshell – if we don’t teach students how to research well, then the success of any research task is left (at least in part) to chance.

The process here is taken from an eBook for a Year 9 group. Students will be researching the social and historical context of WW1 poetry and they’ll record their findings in a pdf version of this workbook in Showbie or Notability.

Step 1: Give the students a reason to buy into the research process

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Step 1: Give the students a reason to buy into the research process.

Start by giving students a reason to buy into the research process so they can see the value in high-quality research. This idea is taken loosely from the  ‘so that…’ form of lesson objective as it highlights a sense of purpose. The aim with this starter is to get students thinking about the role of context when they interpret literature so that they can appreciate that literature isn’t just created in a vacuum. Once they understand the reason for exploring social and historical context, they’re more likely to engage with the research process.

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