What would be your top-5 classroom ideas, to add impact and aid student progress?
In this post I share my presentation from #TMEnfield (28.06.16) which is offered in two parts – the first part is only posted here: 5 High Impact Ideas for the Classroom. The second section on ‘Coaching Solutions for Schools’ to replace lesson gradings and formal observations altogether(!), can be read here.
A waste of time?
Throughout this presentation, I argue 5 ideas that have little or no impact in the classroom. Some may be a matter of poor practise, or simple myths and fads that stem from OfSTED whispers. Instead, I offer 5 ideas to use in replace of and layout the 5 ideas in the following format:
- Forget this (idea).
- (Instead) Do this.
The first idea, is that teachers should stop trying to teach several keywords in every lesson – unless the lesson (i.e. revision) requires students to build up their vocabulary in for example, a French lesson. Forget trying to teach keywords by writing them all on the board for students to copy. This leads to complication and misconception. It makes what you are trying to teach, too generic which will result in less impact.
Instead, I recommend that all teachers do this. Teach the etymology of a keyword. Its root meaning. Break the word down into parts so that students not only understands how to ‘spell the keyword’, but gains a secure grasp of its meaning and origin throughout history. What I always find fascinating, is that even teaching in your own subject, there is a whole, new world waiting to be discovered when breaking keywords into more refined details.
As a suggestion, I recommend embedding this strategy using A Flying Start technique.
Triple marking may have stemmed from some senior leaders interpretation of the School Inspection Handbook, but after posting this blog, the origins of the idea have come to light and have been clarified below this image. Thankfully, OfSTED have started to publish their own misconceptions and they could not be clearer.
Ofsted does not expect to see a particular frequency or quantity of work in pupils’ books or folders … Ofsted recognises that marking and feedback to pupils, both written and oral, are important aspects of assessment. However, OfSTED does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback; these are for the school to decide through its assessment policy.”
Teachers or students mark the work; then the student or teacher marks the original marking or re-draft; then the expectation is that the student then improves the work. Worst, some schools expect every re-draft to be marked again.
We need to keep triple marking in mind and ensure it never happens.
After posting this blog, I have added this here from a Twitter source to help explain the context behind Triple Marking: The idea was to reduce marking and make more of key assessments. Step 1: students check work and eliminate the mistakes = less time marking nonsense. Step 2 – teacher marks! Step 3 – students act on the quick wins be that corrections, challenge task or wallow in their greatness. The triple of TIM came from it being three parts. The other bit came from 2 parts student to 1 part teacher. I think (although in a research driven world this is a weak and unfashionable sentence starter!) it still stands the test of time if we evolve and update the various components.
Instead, do this. Improve the quality of your verbal feedback with students, working tightly on the depth of your teacher-instruction and teacher clarity. John Hattie’s research shows that the quality of feedback has a significant impact on the overall progress of a child. If teachers and schools worry less about written dialogue for ‘tracking and monitoring’ purposes, and focus more on reducing teacher workload, then what teachers can actually do, is focus on ‘improving’ a student’s work, rather than evidencing conversations and written feedback.
Carol Dweck advocates one of my favourite mindset approaches. By saying “not yet” in your verbal feedback (or written if needed), you are suggesting that the student is on a journey to achieve the success criteria.
An example would be: “Ross, you have not yet developed your design ideas to clarify knowledge of materials and how they will be fabricated; record how you would use injection-moulding techniques.” By restructuring your conversation in this way, you encourage the student to re-draft their work with diagnostic feedback to help them succeed with pinpointed instruction.
I am a huge fan of Jim Smith: @TheLazyTeacher and his brand, “students work harder, whilst you do less.” And although this sounds great, it is much harder to achieve in reality with a class full of thirty, fumbling teenagers. Mastering your classroom domain takes years of discipline and consistency; to be able to demand that all your students love your subject and work hard every time they are with you. It takes hard work.
How often have you have a short millisecond to step back and look at students working? Or to wonder ‘why on earth am I sweating, whilst students just sit and colour in?’
So, forget working harder than students!
To become more disciplined in your classroom, it requires you to become a ‘broken record’ and Sweat the Small Stuff. You must be consistent, demand the highest expectations and the easiest way to achieve this is by modelling your instructions. This is not easy to do in every lesson, but when teaching key concepts, it is vital before students can acquire knowledge.
Instead of working harder than the students, do this.
Model the work using an “I do, we do, you do” methodology. Soon, you will discover that students start to grasp key concepts better and that quality of your classroom environment grows and flourishes into a working environment where you can ‘stand back’ and intervene more thoughtfully.
How I achieve this climate in my classroom, is by doing this:
- When teaching a new concept, I ensure that all normal conditions are set. School rules; “pencils down; eyes facing the front” … that sort of thing. As I demonstrate work around a table or under the visualiser (see image), I do not answer any questions from students. There is a ‘no hands-up’ policy.
- After any instruction, the teacher should not offer any help. This would be coupled to a period of time where students would complete the task.
- During this period; for example, “you have 5 minutes to re-draft your paragraph.” The teacher should not repeat any of their instructions. This demands that students listen more carefully and thoughtfully to your instructions the first time. More importantly, this ensures teachers consider their vocabulary better and therefore improve the quality of teacher clarity.
- In my classroom, I have the expectation that students are not allowed to say: “I can’t do it.” If they do, there is a consequence. I also say “I cannot help.”
- Finally, once all ground rules are established and embedded, part of the modelling process requires the teacher to complete the work also. This may be a drawing or writing a paragraph, or reading from a text. Whatever it is, model the work expected. Using a visualiser also allows students to observe you writing, re-drafting or drawing the work in silence.
Next? Forget word-searches and worksheets. They are dull as dishwater and the work offered provides very low challenge. This is no way to teach students and help them make progress. Worse, demanding students to ‘read in silence as a punishment’ for their behaviour or as a result of poor lesson-planning, is best avoided. Each of these activities are the consequence of teaching with little or no expectations of the students and these types of activities are always evident in some of the weaker lessons I have observed in my career.
Instead, do as Mary Myatt advocates: “high challenge, low threat” in terms of supporting colleagues. This can also be applied to students and in your lesson planning. When I share my views on ‘Stickability‘, I am sharing a deep and cogent process from years and years of teaching experience. Anyone can plan a lesson on paper, but not everyone (yet) can plan with ‘high challenge’ from a cognitive perspective.
Do we really need lesson plans? Well, no …
But we do need teachers to understand the planning process, and the 5-Minute Lesson Plan is one of the best methods for moving cognition from ‘apathy to flow’ to help learners thrive.
Finally, one of my greatest frustrations in teaching, evident in learning walks and book-looks across most schools is the verbal feedback stamp.
If you see one of these in your school, please throw it in the bin!
When I first blogged about Verbal Feedback Stamps, the community was divided. Many agreed, but others insisted that a feedback stamp was an opportunity for students to write – yes, that means record – what was said by the teacher to demonstrate that they had understood what feedback was said.
No, I thought so. This process is endemic of a triple-marking culture grown from OfSTED myths and work scrutiny to prove to senior teachers and inspectors evidence of ‘acting on feedback’ and by date-stamping evidence that teachers ‘are talking and providing feedback’ to their students.
|It’s quick!||It’s a total waste of time!|
|It’s a visual reminder for you and the student.||It adds no value to the learning.|
|It’s proof to school leaders and inspectors that you are (actually) speaking to your students!||It’s proof that you are stamping for evidence trails and not really for you or the student.|
|It adds to the marking frenzy, your workload and worse of all, supports Ofsted fads to ‘show progress’.|
Instead, do this!
Reduce your workload, avoid using verbal feedback stamps and triple marking. Choose one area of a child’s work to mark. Just one section. Mark it well and in detail and offer sophisticated feedback (verbally or in writing), and no matter what, ensure that the feedback is specific and diagnostic (e.g. Not yet). By avoiding any assessment, students should understand that their work is in progress and ‘zooming in’ on one area to improve, the yellow box focuses students to act on feedback in a clear and specific framework.
The addition of a new (empty) yellow box should vary in size and allow the student to comprehend what work is expected in their redraft/improvements.
The answer. You work less. You mark less. You provide specific feedback. The student knows where to work and what to target; improvements can be identified much more clearly to help aid student progress. This ensures you are marking for the child – not observers – to reduce your workload with more direct, specific comments. that lead to greater impact. And even if your school does not advocate this methodology, you can still toe-the-line with your own school’s marking policy recorded inside the zone.
Critics may think the yellow box is another triple-marking strategy in disguise. I’d say, don’t expect teachers to mark the re-drafted version (ever) unless it was for summative assessment purposes. Even then, I’d stick to the original assessment and offer verbal feedback on the improved piece of work.
It’s perfect for workload and aids student progress.
Watch this short video below which shares my views on marking:
To download my full presentation, click below.
Thank you for sharing.
Who’s laughing now?