Since arriving in my school I have found a wonderful atmosphere conducive to teaching. Alex Quigley says that in order for teaching and learning in a school to be superb, 85% of conversations need to be about teaching and learning.
A great Headteacher, and now Principal at an international school, says that such a figure needs to account for the fact that human beings in an institution like a school need to have people who connect and trust within a full range of conversations (euphemism!). The true figure, one that cannot be truly known, hints at the idea that teaching and learning needs to be the conversation around which the school is centered on learning and improving.
Such conversations really need to be serendipitous, though. They need to be had at the right time.
Should we always aim for ZPD?
ZPD is important, but also making students able to cope with feelings of inadequacy and challenge, of ‘I’m not (yet) good enough, is essential. We want to build students with resilience and grit and with the ability to truly think about the concepts we set them.
Should we make the quality of understanding distinct from the ‘quality of reception’?
Lectures that might be understood at the time, but do not necessarily result in applicable knowledge even the same day or the next are common. How can we make this concept explicit to the students? Is this desirable?
Experience: Teachers as GPs
Experience is king. NQTs can be marked as ‘Outstanding’ for their practice: they will (hopefully) get better. Like a GP, a teacher will use their experience of reading the language and expressions of thousands of students, and will access their bank of millions of words read by students past and present, to make numerous judgements on the quality of work. It is possible for NQTs to teach lessons that pass the perception of outstanding: experience, though, trumps one-off lessons.
Integrating SEAL/Thinking Skills
Every school has a range of soft-skills that underpin lessons. In my school we have prioritised these as four distinct areas: Dare; Share; Excel; Create.
What do these thinking skills really mean? What does it take for students to colour the lessons with these types of thoughts?
What does this really mean?
What language can colour this? Orange lesson?
This is why… What skills sit behind dare?
People who are good this skill… how will these help you as a leaner/ as you are older?
Explicitly this is what were doing. Innovative: how can it used later.
How to be teased
Bars: broadband tune.
Receiving the signal. Growth mindset.
Reintegrating DIRT time
I have reintegrated regular DIRT time in my lessons now. Every week, at the same time, students are expected to respond to feedback, always with a task. This is preempted with a video recording under the visualiser of such DIRT time.
Dirt time and visualiser (save videos in edmodo).
This involves creating a task based upon a formative learning point for the entire class. You complete this task yourself as a video, and then the video is saved.
Prioritising the Macro of Planning and Analysing
Writing paragraphs of analysis is key to English: the English curriculum prioritises the paragraph level of analysis, and with judicious success. However, especially with students beginning paragraph level analysis, the thinking and knowledge necessary is sometime somewhat overshadowed by the need to structure that analysis. Discourse markers, weaving analysis, using adjectives and adverbs to show opinion, identifying technical terms, providing precise statements are all aspects of analysis that can overwhelm the working memory.
The purpose of the sheet is the prioritise the first level of analysis (the typical ‘explain’ of PEE’) and word-level focus. At its base level, it provides a level for students to analyse with some change in focus at the beginning of KS3.
Its secondary purpose, depending on use, is to allow students to analyse the macro purpose of the quotes being analysed.
To this end, identifying links between the quotes is useful.
Finally, this sheet can be differentiated by having knowledge or statements as the key points, with other aspects as the additional analysis.
As with all, using Triptico enhances.
Regular recapping of spelling is fundamental. To this end, students write a corrected spelling in three different forms: possible choices are lower case, upper case, cursive, divided into perceived syllables etc.
Students then write the correct and corrected spellings in the back of their books.
After a period of time, students are to write the rules of spelling.
Modelling video cast.
Modelling a SWEATY… SWEATY-off etc.