Teachers, when first stepping into a new classroom, used to find an empty collection of cupboards, perhaps with a single ruler and pencil that sought to challenge the new incumbent to find their own resources. Operating on persona, such teaching characterised a time that I have heard much about (the 70s), yet have zero personal experience enjoying.
My time was different. Inheriting a mass of worksheets and resources as a NQT, I thought I had it made. Such a treasure of resources the likes of which the TES and Teachit bountifully gave! Yet soon a boon was not to last, for such a collection gave me a surprising sense of unease: where did things fit together? Would I ‘do’ a book via worksheets? Might I ‘do’ a bunch of starters from the Badger book? How about fitting in that ‘letter to persuade’ suggested in the SoW for the class reader? I did not know, and I felt compelled initially to follow such resources. After all, they had stood a test of some sort of time, so wouldn’t it be presumptuous of me to do otherwise?
It did not take long (several years) for me to realise that I had to create and personalise my own schemes of work (like in the 70s) to teach from the point of view of progress. It is at this point that I might anecdotally address an NQT whom I met recently. They informed me that they had barely touched their new classroom, leaving much of the worksheets and other resources provided buried in filing cabinets and the cupboard.
My theory on such practice (however uninvited) is this: any person who attains a position of some responsibility will place unto that whatever it is that motivates them. This is unlikely to be solely the domain of a teacher or a boss or a parent (perhaps moreso peers). If someone attains a position without deciding upon their values, or their purpose, or even working particularly hard or effectively, then they will likely continue in that vein. What would they attempt otherwise?
My desire to place into this vocation something a little more than that which came before has led to the following:
– content based vs criteria based planning. Although I am not always managing this (as there has to be some balance of content to drive planning forward realistically on that Sunday when you are occupied), it is a mindset that has transformed how I feel about what I do.
– plenary and starter generator. Being able to see the entire spectrum of entrance and plenary activities, I am happy to choose what I want with relative ease.
– starters sentence level and otherwise. Having a collection of grammatical activities has been a boon. My students enjoy working on a definitive, challenging sentence task when the lights are dimmed and the music is cinematic and I exhort their efforts.
– need to vary activities. Just because something works before, doesn’t mean it will work again. We requires varied rhythms, moderation in all things (including – and especially! – moderation. Planning this into the pattern of lessons is better than sensing the porridge of work hardening before changing.
– need to vary groupings. Having varied groupings from time to time, with clear criteria, makes students appreciate their friends! It also creates, at times, a more business-like atmosphere in the room.
– outstanding is from solid pedagogy. Entertainment and engagement and exciting do not always lead to learning: however, they help. There are a few blog posts about engagements around right now that I do not really quite understand. The point made, though, that I agree with is that students who are motivated will more likely attach learning to whatever structures they already possess.
Engagement for me comes from purpose. Purpose allows students to suffer boredom, challenge and failure with the positive attitude needed to succeed at anything of intellectual worth and endeavour. It does not come from jigaw groups or props, or even the notion that an outstanding observation lesson needs should be inherently different from the usual lessons.
In this big-breakfast of a post, I finally meander to my point. I am increasingly using the book ‘The Full English’ by Julie Blake. It presents different types of activity (other than ones that stem from entirely academic modelling) that can help vary of rhythm of your lessons. Once all else is in place, I recommend you give it a look. It is a best-seller for a reason:
Just don’t forget to leave it behind to for that busy NQT .