I have discussed some principles of teaching recently: these points came out.
1) Students need to learn; not just do.
2) Students need to be inspired to complete academically rigorous work.
3) Students need to learn concepts, not just complete tasks.
4) Students need to develop a personalised framework of how to both analyse and manipulate language.
5) Students need to experience a rhythm of learning that keeps them curious and revitalised.
6) Students need to address the mechanics of language in a personalised and rigorous way.
7) Students need to become reflective practitioners when both manipulating and analysing language.
8) Students need to know how to develop questions effectively.
9) Students need to develop effective public speaking skills.
10) Students need to adopt a growth mentality.
11) Students need to feel connected to the canon, and to culture that influences nations.
12) Students need to understand, and embrace, the ‘zero-draft’ response.
Students need to learn; not just do.
You measure students by what they do. We ask them to do things. Worksheets and resources compel them to do things. Our SoW seem to function on the idea of doing things. We do things in a particular order. Students can do things in a sophisticated way. Students can ‘prove’ they’ve learned something in a lesson. It doesn’t matter how conceptual you can be – there needs to be something for students to do. Students doing something can make them comfortable. It can make teachers comfortable. Learning is measured by what they do. Performance is measured by doing. An observation based on performance is doing.
Students need to be inspired to complete academically rigorous work.
Engagement is a weasel word. Having worked in a variety of schools, it is a granted that some students gravitate to anti-social behaviour. It is not just about deprivation: it is about the inability to adopt good habits that aid improvement. It is about the inability to organise, or the in a ability to defer gratification, or the inability to feel part of something larger than yourself. Students need to develop trust in their teacher. They need to know how to develop useful working relationships. There can be intractable issues that damage aspirations to learning. An incredible effort needs to be iven with these students, and even then…
Students need to learn concepts, not just complete tasks.
You cannot understand if a student has understood a concept in one lesson. Even the ways that I have (successfully) ‘measured’ understanding in a lesson are flawed – albeit lacking no more veracity than any given method used by anyone I know in my career of ten years. However, task completion is a seemingly great indicator. Tasks can be varied, interesting and engage students tremendously. The students can produce great work. They can demonstrate improvement by completing greater tasks.
But concepts exist. Varying sentence length for effect is a concept that exist enough for it to be recognised by almost any educated person, and certainly any examiner or teacher of at least minimum distinction. And how can these concepts be learned unless they are something that become referred to, and consolidated, on a regular basis.
Students need to develop a personalised framework of how to both analyse and manipulate language.
Students need to be inspired to develop a personalised framework of how to use language. Rather than the interminable, although often successful, method of modelling analysis as the go-to route for develop our students’ specific methods of language understanding, inspiring students to develop a personalised framework should be our goal. That last sentence exemplifies the need for this to be an ongoing process!
Students need to experience a rhythm of learning that keeps them curious and revitalised.
A SoW needs to be responsive. I have written about this at length. If there seems to be something of current worth, or a concept that ignites a zeitgeist of curiosity, then the teacher needs to use their judgement in how to use that. Analysing language is difficult work; that it is so essential is why we need them to be revitalised through other, sometimes non-academic, methods of analysis and manipulation.
This point is perhaps the key one that speaks of the need to make our students learners, not just doers. A doer requires consistent revitalisation. A learner will grind as necessary through analysis, and will consolidate where possible with varied tasks. It’s all to do with judgement.
Students need to address the mechanics of language in a personalised and rigorous way.
Accuracy in communication is essential. Professional communication that contains errors that more than typos – such as run-on sentences or poorly-conjugated verbs – indicate systematic issues with using language. These are remarkably common; they never end well. Therefore, specific grammar lessons that addressed personalised language issues in an individualised programme (possible with my grammar video library and accompanying KWL booklets) are essential. People just need extra time on some concepts on a regular basis; this needs to be built in.
In addition, the model of constructing language from the bottom down – of seeing each sentence as an ‘idea’ with either extra ‘ideas’ or extra ‘details’ – helps students to develop useful models that actually help them develop accurate writing. Simply asking students to recognise and write ‘simple/compound/complex’ doesn’t actually help them develop personalised sentences of due merit.
Students need to become reflective practitioners when both manipulating and analysing language.
The act of reflecting when writing is one that needs reflective (haha!) practice. Modelling the thought processes of writing, of not overloading the working memory, is essential for students. There is a fine balance between developing the ability of a student to use a crafted writing technique, and dampening their inquisitive, creative spirit. My thoughts? Too many students write without any conscious use of technique. Drafting is something seen as a thing they are forced to do. Observers, including Ofsted, ogle sycophantically over the use of props and artefacts to inspire writing. Just because writing is ‘inspired’, doesn’t mean it is any good. And just because someone feels good about writing with props (again, so often that go-to response) doesn’t mean they are developing a substantial, lasting ability to write.
I use props, and games, to inspire writing. I like to think, though, that my students are inspired, though, by their increase in achievement.
Students need to know how to develop questions effectively.
In my first year of teaching in a new school, I was perturbed by the seemingly glib questions asked by students in public events. The solo taxonomy is excellent for developing questioning skills; this is burgeoning aspect of my students’ curriculum.
Students need to develop effective public speaking skills.
The best schools expect students to speak publicly. Speaking and listening is so maligned in schools, due to exam pressures, that there is no requirement for it to be taught explicitly. My students train towards public speaking events; to do so
Students need to adopt a growth mentality.
Despite dissent from some parties, students need to be treated with high expectations. This leads to effective truths; it is a pragmatic principle. The highest criteria needs to be shared; the best exemplars need to be shown. A teacher needs to demonstrate this in their own manner (and, hopefully, their own life!). Such a mentality must not undermine the evident truth of
Students need to feel connected to the canon, and to culture that influences nations.
While I have spoken of learning concepts, and of an essentially skills-based curriculum, and of responsive schemes of work, the basis of everything is quality content. My students receive texts, and own them, in the form of A5 booklets printed with an appealing ‘burnt paper’ effect. These stick nicely into books and allow extensive annotations. Texts sourced independently, and created personally, are harvested alongside more traditionally influential texts. Canonical texts are introduced with judicious context. Such practice aims to connect students to the breadth of literature that they might otherwise miss in a classroom otherwise.
Students need to understand, and embrace, the ‘zero-draft’ response.
We have all read a text, or heard a question, and have struggled to form a response of any worth. Our reaction is to become frustrated, fearful and ‘bored’. However, such texts can become inspirational when connections begin to be made. What was once difficult to grasp becomes intuitive; what was impossible to conceptualise becomes real. There comes a point when content needs to be presented to student who may not yet have the constructions to connect to it: knowing the ‘zero-draft’ concept will aid the likelihood of a resilient response.
Again, like with other principles, it is essential (I think) for a teacher to model this example in their own life, and to connect with analogies how it is useful.