Each time of year is particularly challenging for its own reasons. The opening term is challenging in terms of establishing routines and getting back some level of teaching fitness. It also moves into the cold and darkness of the Christmas term (of which it is significant that there is no ‘winter’ term.) The spring term begins as a middle term, and perhaps is the most straightforward out of all the terms: I certainly felt a rhythm of lesson planning and marking.

However, when exam season starts, the need for teaching fitness (a post yet to be finalised) is increasingly urgent. Last term I had planned for improved lesson plans, and found myself with that typical tie management conundrum in all school situations: in order to be an effective teacher, you have to waste time. Such time wasting, as I have said elsewhere, refers to the need to spend (sometimes substantial) time on that which is trivial to the school, and to me, yet is vital to the student in question. To manage my time in school to address such, usually pastoral, issues requires me to reallocate paperwork time elsewhere. Sometimes that time is in the evening, which when I have been awake and working since 7am is somewhat galling.

Yet to find work sometimes galling is not a facet of any industrialised culture. It is the danger of potentially burn-out, of losing my effectiveness, that I find most worrying. I feel strong at the moment, but around me in the profession, in many headlines, I see much angst. And yet I know that my school and my experience is amongst the best (in that I feel effective) out there.

I think one of the substantial differences between last half-term and this half-term is that variance for myself is as importance as variance is for the students. Re-reading my evaluation last time, here are some points to add from this half-term.

L/Os
Triptico: Various anagrams as learning objective starters have proved to be useful. They give me time to write on the board, and they differentiate for the students who seem to be slow starters.

54312: starters are also effective, too, for speaking and listening starters.

I have used My Rebus less, for some reason. I think that it is best when students have been given at least some of the pictures themselves. It takes 4-5 minutes to create, too, which can be too long.

I once wrote a book about asking questions to people in the street. I think that my learning objectives tend to be a little staid, a little dry. With this in mind, I want to see, for one class at least, I can think of as many interesting learning objective questions as possible. Depending on the mood of the TES community, I might post a thread to see what can be devised.

Starters

I have¬†combined some wordsearches with drama as an effective starter several times. Students come inside and are immediately settled. They need to use to work for something purposeful, but to simply reveal all the answers is time-consuming and wasteful. Instead I used it to present some of the short stories from the poetry anthology: I crunched the story with a teachit tool, then used teacher’s pet to create a wordsearch. After directing students to the abstract nouns from the word search, they create their own drama pieces in 2 minutes that are shared to another group before we (as a class) predict themes. We then read the story, highlighting interesting words or phrases, ready to return to them later.

I think more teacher’s pet starters would be useful, particularly for the EAL students. Easier said than done? And when to create?

I think, too, that the writing starters I looked at needed to be slightly more focussed than before.

Plenaries
I don’t think that I managed to allocate my plenaries and starters as effectively as I did last half-term. I think this is because when I planned, I was tired and, like with all fatigue, I am to keep something back in reserve so I can turn up tomorrow with the minimum level of energy that I am willing to bring. I think that the three statement plenary is one that I want to use.

What has worked very well are the exit questions. I have established 10-15 minute plenaries as often as necessary (what with the DFeS giving exemplars SOWs that suggest 5 minute plenaries that have require the pupils to discuss and write three abstract points, which is terrible practice.) I think, though, that when student teachers and visitors see my lessons, my students pack up and leave in their (relative) own time. I can ask the student either for a phrase, or an explanation (in groups of 2-3) in the 3-4 minutes left of exit time.

Exam Classes

Of particular importance in this time are my exam classes. All has been learned, and has been learned a time ago. Between now and the weeks before the exams, only a refining of style is necessary. Something to plan later this week. That, and lots more essays, and lots more marking!