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Teaching and Learning Blog

By James Collins, Deputy Headteacher

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  • September Blog 2022

    Published 29/09/22, by James Collins

    Following on from our Teaching and Learning Blog in May (https://www.crookhorn.hants.sch.uk/blog/?pid=20&nid=7&storyid=301) where we discussed oracy in the curriculum, I wanted to share with you some more thoughts on one of our key pedagogical tools which is ‘Think, Pair, Share’. In this month’s blog, I will discuss in more detail what this strategy is, and how this can be used successfully in the classroom. Our coaches we will be working with you throughout this term on developing your practice, so please discuss with them your progress so far, and what you need to work on to develop this further.

    What is it?

    Think-Pair-Share is a cooperative learning approach where the whole group is given a single question or prompt to discuss. Students consider the question individually for a few minutes before forming pairs to discuss their responses. Finally, they share their thoughts with the wider group, be it the table they are on or the whole class.

    Why do it?

    A major benefit of Think-Pair-Share is the wait time. This initial phase of silent thinking is a crucial opportunity for students to retrieve their prior knowledge and organise their thoughts. This in turn promises to improve the quality of the subsequent discussion and increase participation in the ‘Share’ stage. We know as professionals we often skip this ‘thinking’ stage or rush it, as we are worried about the silence or the pace of the lesson.

    The structure gives every student a low-risk opportunity to formulate a response and rehearse expressing it to one other person before ‘going public’. In this way it promotes the equal participation of every student.

    It potentially exposes students to points of view and approaches which contrast with their own and bring new perspectives. Our new classroom layouts really support T-P-S, and we should be generating more on task discussion as a result of the group based learning.

    How to set it up

    1. Before the session, develop a stimulating open-ended question (this should be part of your ItsLearning plans) – have a go at responding to it yourself – and prepare materials such as slides, as needed.
    2. During the session, introduce the Think-Pair-Share activity, including the hoped-for-benefits.
    3. Pose the question and ask students to spend a few minutes thinking about it individually, jotting down some notes and preparing their response. They can note this down on their mini whiteboards to lessen the fear of getting it wrong.
    4. Next, ask students to pair with another student and share their responses in turn for a further few minutes, noting similarities and differences. If they disagree, encourage them to summarise each other’s positions so they can explain why and how. You may ask them to integrate the ideas into a joint response for the ‘Share’ stage. Let students know whether you will be calling on every pair in the ‘Share’ stage, or inviting volunteers.
    5. Finally, invite the pairs to share their responses with the table or with the whole group. It doesn’t always have to be just discussion. They could share their ideas via a classroom thread on ItsLearning, or a poll you have set up. They could share by writing  paragraph and then sharing these with the rest of the group.

    Considerations

    We know at Crookhorn we have seen a decline in the students’ level of oracy. This may take time to build back, so don’t feel dejected if it doesn’t work straight away.  If the room and group size allow, consider intervening to allocate students into pairs of your choosing. This will give them an opportunity to get to know others outside their social network. As well as helping them bond, students are likely to encounter new perspectives and approaches.

    If students start chatting immediately, do emphasise the value of that first silent individual ‘Think’ phase. It gives students the opportunity to retrieve what they know and organise their thoughts about the question, both of which are central to learning and improve the quality of the discussion.

    The quality of the conversation will be affected by the difficulty or sensitivity of the question, and the extent to which students feel comfortable making mistakes.

    Variations

    Stump your partner‘ is based on an idea from the Centre for Teaching Innovation at Cornell University for consolidating learning from that session’s objective, reading, or other didactic material. For the ‘Think’ stage, ask students to individually and silently come up with a question to test their partner and help them to learn. Instruct students to try to stump their partner with a challenging question, but to keep it based on important concepts from the lesson or reading. For the ‘Pair’ stage, ask students to turn to a partner and pose their question, followed by a discussion of the responses. Finally, for the ‘Share’ stage, collect the questions to get a sense of what students find central and/or challenging.

    How to know if it works

    Compared to whole-group discussions without the Think or Pair stages:

    • Is there more equal participation? What proportion of students are participating in the plenary ‘Share’ stage?
    • Is there any change in who participates in the ‘Share’ stage e.g. quieter students, students from under-represented backgrounds?
    • Is there any change in the quality of the contributions e.g. is there difference in knowledge or sophistication; how productively are students engaging with differences of viewpoint?
    • Does the nature of the question affect the participation?
    • Do students find the activity helpful?

    Examples

    • In Mathematics, Ariana Sampsel’s (2013) small-scale action research project found that students’ explanations became longer, giving her more feedback about their thinking.
    • Lange, Costley and Han (2016) deployed Think-Pair-Share to make students’ language use more meaningful and improve their acquisition. They found students gave fuller responses and participated more equally compared to an alternative technique. They attributed this to the structure and wait time.
    • In Engineering, Janet Rankin explains how it can work.

    I hope you have found this blog useful and there are some hands-on strategies you can use. If you have any questions or feedback, please do share this with your coach. This is a very powerful way of developing many different attributes within our students.

     

     

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  • June Blog 2022

    Published 04/07/22, by James Collins

    Mixed Attaining Teaching Blog – The Sequel.

    Part 1 of this Mixed Attaining blog focused primarily on “The Learning Journey” – a fundamental tool in not only mapping out the intended learning outcomes for students, but what prior knowledge needs to be considered, revisited and embedded for all student groups before moving on. As teased within the first blog on this subject, there are a number of other techniques, concepts and strategies which can be implemented, and which can work hand in hand with having a solid, well-thought-out learning journey in order to promote progressive learning within the mixed attaining classroom.

    So, now you’ve hopefully had chance to digest, consider and maybe even implement some of these ideas relating to the learning journey, much like a long anticipated follow up to a summer blockbuster hit, here is the Mixed Attaining Teaching Blog – The Sequel; a summary of further teaching strategies that can help elevate the learning and teaching for all pupil groups within a mixed attaining classroom.

    1. Task design and differentiation

    Using the same Year 7 Maths example from the previous blog, within the key skills/knowledge section (which represents the bulk of the learning journey), tasks need to be progressive; allowing students of all attainment levels to work through and embed, apply and then challenge their learning. One way of doing this could be to allow students to choose, or for you to set them off at, different starting points; middle / higher attainers could complete tasks relating to the orange or green concepts (which should be easy enough for them to complete independently, whilst still providing opportunity to stretch and challenge). The class teacher is then available to explicitly teach the LA [lower attainers]. Also, in those classes where addition adults are available, a ‘helicoptering' technique can be used just to check in specifically with any MA [middle attainers] who may need additional support as they progress through, linking to what we will later explore as flexible grouping.

    Whilst differentiating tasks could appear overwhelming and contribute to a growing workload, one possible solution to this would be to make small adaptions in content. Again, using maths as an example, if all students are completing a task on finding a percentage of an amount (without a calculator), the higher attainers may do this with numbers such as 27%, which would require you to partition in a number of more complex ways, along with additional steps, whilst a child working below this level, may only need to find 20%. Here, the concepts hasn’t changed, nor has the expectation of what they are doing, but the values they may need to partition or manipulate would be more within their remit, allowing them to concentrate and develop their understanding of the concept taught, rather than the numbers or the context used. In English or curriculum subjects, this may look like removing or simplifying certain words which need to be read, so as not to change the meaning, but to reduce the level of reading skill required, should that be the student’s barrier to their learning.  All adaptations and tweaks should just be enough to relieve the cognitive load, but maintain the essence of the concept being taught. Also, these adaptions, whilst widely done to remove barriers for lower attainers in the class, will actually support all students, and remove that ceiling of what teachers or other students believe either they or others can achieve; everyone is learning the same thing, though maybe just accessing it in a slightly different way. Not only does this then promote a positive mindset, through this model, all students have had the chance to progress further and deepen understanding, with HA / MA perhaps doing this more independently and with the opportunity to access deeper thinking/reasoning tasks, whilst the lower attainers are able to have explicit teaching, catching them up, ready to progress with the rest of the class. Lower attainers may not progress onto orange or green concepts within that lesson, but they are now included in the same learning journey, and able to apply this knowledge as the learning journey continues.

     

    2. Flexible grouping, Live marking and levels of scaffold.

    Differentiation and different starting points is one thing, but to really elevate their effectiveness, it is evident that the role of the teacher is crucial. As teachers, we are the most valuable resource in the classroom, so plan yourself into your lessons!

    Live marking (whilst also reducing the work load of marking after a lesson) allows for immediate feedback and misconception addressing within the lesson. ‘Checking for understanding’ (CFU) tasks within lessons can greatly contribute to recognising those children who are struggling, along with those children who could be stretched further. Questioning, along with when questions are asked, should be considered early in the planning stage of a learning journey and used to stretch and challenge, assess understanding, but also pre-empt misconceptions. If you are able to recognise, but also plan for these misconceptions, teaching is more targeted and effective. Consider when you will work with certain students or small groups of students. That is not to say that you only work with certain children for the duration of a lesson, but to split your lessons up and recognise when and where your support would be most helpful. For example, you may need to spend 10 minutes supporting a LA group during a ‘Do Now’, warm up, or even ‘responding to marking’ tasks, allowing them to ‘peel away’ and work more independently as they gain confidence and understanding whilst embedding and securing knowledge the rest of the class already demonstrate. Once working independently, this could then provide an opportunity for the teacher to move to live marking work completed by MA/HA to see how they could be extended. As learning moves into the main bulk of the lesson, teachers would move on to delivering to the whole class, using questioning to decipher who may need support, and as students are set off to complete more independent work/practice (which could be differentiated in the ways already explored), the teacher would prioritise working with those students identified. A further positive to the teacher frequently working with different groups of children based upon immediate recognition of need is that it creates a culture ofany and all students can and will be worked with throughout a lesson’, thus creating an inclusive working environment. It again eliminates the ceiling of what each child believes they can do; working with an adult is no longer considered something only someone/the group who is struggling does.

    The level of support each student my need will also differ. Even though we may identify students as either lower attaining, middle attaining or higher attaining, we know that this could be for a variety of different reasons and that no two students are alike. The level of scaffold (Rosenshine) therefore also plays a key factor, not only in teaching and clarifying concepts, but allowing children to learn from teacher feedback and progress; teachers or the supporting adult is not just repeating the same models, but encouraging the child to develop and build up understanding from these models.

    Self scaffolding is more suited to those HA’s or those confident in topic who are encouraged to check their own work and recognise mistakes. Adult may just direct to ‘check this’.

    Prompting relies on the supporting adult drawing attention to a misconception, but limits the scaffolding. Phrases such as ‘Can you explain your thinking here?’ allows a student to develop their reasoning more and encourage self-correcting before the self scaffolding stage.

    Clueing allows the supporting adult to be more direct in pointing out a misconception, but again, limits the information given to fix it. Phrases and examples such as “this part here doesn’t look right – what do you know already?” or for example, providing alternative homophones when a spelling is incorrect for a student to decide which one to use.

    Modelling allows the supporting adult to model a method within a similar task for the student to learn from and apply to their own work / misconception.

    Correcting occurs when the student repeatedly makes the same mistake and needs work corrected and explained the misconception in more detail. Once corrected, the supporting adult should provide one or two further, similar questions to check understanding / misconception has been addressed.

    3. Resources to reduce the cognitive load.

    Willingham discusses ‘cognitive load’. If information is in our long term memory (e.g. multiplication facts, spellings/spelling sounds, continents/countries, dates etc), then problem-solving using these facts will require less of a ‘cognitive load’ (essentially less brain power) than if these facts are only in our short term memory. Warm up sessions and ‘do now’ tasks can not only provide opportunity for children to either deepen knowledge or develop it, but as an opportunity to commit these concepts to our long term memory. Stanislas Dehaene’s research goes on to support the use of spoken language and verbal tasks in helping facts being stored in our verbal memory, which can be beneficial to all students, but particularly for SEND or those with reading/writing barriers to learning. Tasks where saying (and hearing) the sound pattern of the phrase, and stem sentences are important, and so should also be considered in the tasks teachers are asking students to complete, and could again be something teachers think about when trying to differentiate or create progressive tasks for students.

    For some SEND, trying to commit something to memory can present its own problems. Therefore, recognising what the key element of learning is, and how you could lighten the cognitive load in achieving that can really make an impact. Having word banks, significant words or equations, diagrams etc available to students, so long as this wasn’t the key element of learning you wanted to teach / test, would help free up the cognition of students (and then could later become fluency or do now tasks in later lessons to help embed.)

    Further, examples:

    • An English lesson focussing on text analysis – How does the author create a sense of danger… - could be supported by word bank of synonyms. For those HA students who perhaps wouldn’t need a work bank, they could still be given one, with some red herrings thrown in, allowing for a reasoning and deeper thinking opportunity where they would need to explain why some words would be more appropriate and effective than others. Additionally, for MA, this would provide an CFU opportunity; checking that they understand the meaning of specific words, as well as potentially broadening vocabulary. 
    • A maths lessons on Pythagoras could be supported by word mat of squared numbers / square roots.
    • A science lesson which requires table / graph plotting could be supported by table / axis already drawn. This could be further differentiated by having more or fewer things, such as titles and/or scales, already populated.

    Other possible resources; word mats, word banks, pre-drawn tables, times tables grids/facts, number lines, working walls with relevant information, or which has been put up as a result of class discussion etc.

    I recognise that there is an awful lot of ideas, theories and information to digest here, but I can’t stress enough that it only takes the smallest adaptation in your classrooms for all of these things to have a chain reaction; what looks like a mountain of work, only needs to start from one, well-thought-out idea or adaptation, and the rest naturally develops over time, so long as you recognise what you want to achieve next. If there is anything you would like to discuss further, whether its help designing or adapting tasks, clarifying a concept, or just to get more information, please do not hesitate to ask!

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  • May Blog 2022

    Published 04/07/22, by James Collins

    Children should be seen and not heard was often something I heard when growing up. We’re taught that silence is golden, which in some situations it truly is, however for some children, silence is becoming the norm. There is a growing sense that this pandemic has caused many social issues, and one of these is that children have regressed in terms of their discussions and ability to talk to adults or peers.  With the inability to express their thoughts, feelings and opinions with confidence, too many children are locked in semi-silence. We need to develop the teaching and learning of Oracy, so all students develop their confidence in their own voice.

    What is Oracy?

    Oracy describes the speaking and listening skills needed to be a good communicator, it intends to give spoken language the same importance as ‘literacy’ does to reading and writing. It’s about having the vocabulary to say what you want to say and the ability to structure your thoughts so that they make sense to others.

    Why is Oracy so important?

    To be able to communicate with each other is a life skill, and something that we believe our children need in their future careers. If this Oracy development is not supported in schools, this might affect children’s future life chances.

    Evidence found that children who struggle with language or have poor vocabulary at age five are:

    • Six times less likely to reach the expected standard in English at age 11 than children who had good language skills at five.
    • Ten times less likely to achieve the expected level in Maths.
    • More than twice as likely to be unemployed at age 34 as children with good vocabulary.
    • Twice as likely to have mental health difficulties, even after taking account of a range of other factors that might have played a part.

    The impact of Oracy is clear. We know the gap between the disadvantaged students and those who come from advantage is widening, and if we must do a range of measures to narrow this gap.

    A number of organisations have developed resources that explore curriculums for Oracy, including Voice 21, whose Oracy framework is depicted here:

    What can we do to improve Oracy here at Crookhorn?

    1. Develop the effective use of ‘Think-Pair- Share’. The coaching team will work with you on how this is used in class. We will work with you on developing the think time, as this is often rushed and overlooked. Getting students to really think through what they want to say, and jot down some points is key. We also need to consider how to conduct the ‘pair’ stage. The share section does not need to be a whole class discussion but in groups. Teachers need to build adequate time in for this into some lessons and to enable meaningful learning from the talk.   
    2. Consider the use of Cold Call- and how this is used effectively, so it builds confidence and is not used as a tool for terror! Teachers to plan questions specifically, and plan for who will answer these questions. 
    3. Our student council are currently discussing some ground rules they would like implemented when having a group discussion. These will be distributed to all staff this half-term to be promoted in the classroom and for us to follow when students are discussing issues.
    4. Make time for Oracy: Time is needed above all else. Although timetables are already filled to the brim, think about where there might be chances to teach Oracy. You may be able to find time to teach Oracy explicitly as a standalone lesson, however even if you plan in opportunities for Oracy into other curriculum areas, this will make a difference.
    5. Give opportunities to practise Oracy: Children need as many opportunities to use their Oracy skills as possible. Think about the amount of time you give children for discussion and the structures you use – can you change your approach to encourage Oracy? When you talk with children, do you always question or do you comment and prompt? Do you build upon what children say? Think about how often children are given opportunities to report orally, both planned (e.g. presenting research) and unplanned (e.g. How did your group find that?)
    6. Have high expectations for Oracy from all: Being a good role model for Oracy is crucial. Just as using your thinking voice is an important tool for developing children’s metacognitive skills in Writing, so it is for Oracy. Verbalising making Oracy choices and thinking about the most effective way to phrase speech is key to supporting development. Feedback about Oracy is also helpful. If a child says something incorrectly, rather than focusing on their mistake, repeat what they said back to them using the correct phrasing. For example, if a child asks ‘Can I toilet?’ say ‘Please can I go to the toilet?’ back. Where possible, praise and give feedback on speech specifically, even when Oracy is not necessarily your objective or main focus. For example, ‘I think the way you explained that had a really clear sequence.’
    7.  Have fun with Oracy: Enjoy debates, performances, role play and games together, where Oracy takes centre stage. A whole range of ideas can be found on our webinar recording discussed below.
    8. We are going to release 10 key Tier 2 words every term, and will ask you to consider how these words are used in your subject and plan in when you can cover them in your lessons. We have worked with a selected group of subjects this term (RE/History/English/Science/Geo) about which Tier 2 words are used frequently and asked the staff to explain what these words mean to the students and how they can be used. This is to be planned as an Oracy task at some point during a lesson. We could teach these words in a variety of different ways, and we have noted some ideas in a Power Point in the literacy folder in itslearning.

    https://crookhorncollege.itslearning.com/ContentArea/ContentArea.aspx?LocationType=1&LocationID=65

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  • April Blog 2022

    Published 03/05/22, by James Collins
    Mixed Attaining teaching blog I think one of the biggest misconceptions in preparing for and teaching a mixed attaining class, is the idea that you should focus on the lower attaining children and try to pull them up at the expense of the middle and
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  • January Blog 2022

    Published 01/02/22, by James Collins

    We often talk about the need to improve ‘student independence’ at Crookhorn. We also talk to our students about the benefits of being independent, as part of our OPEN MIND philosophy.  We need to develop habits that, once embedded, will enable students to respond proactively and positively to any challenge they might face. By creating learners who are in control of their own education, we also create young adults who will continue to be independent thinkers in their lives beyond the classroom. This is our job, and we must teach in a way that allows room for independence without sacrificing those all-important results. But to create a more independent learning environment we must first start by adjusting the mindsets of everyone in the Crookhorn classroom − students and teachers alike! I want to cover some strategies that I think we should all try and work with our coach on to develop good habits in the classroom.

    Changing mindsets

    1. Learning from failure (OPEN MIND-Make mistakes)
      One of the major obstacles preventing students from becoming more independent is a fear of failure. To encourage a more independent approach, we must help students to see failure as an opportunity to learn, rather than something to be avoided at all costs. Be sure to praise students for trying even when they make mistakes and praise them further when they demonstrate that they have learnt from what they have done wrong in the past.
       
    2. Praising persistence
      Effort and persistence can help any student to make great progress regardless of their starting point. While it is important to praise any examples of independent behaviour, you will really reinforce the importance of trying hard by praising the effort that a student makes above the final product of their work. As a result, students will be more likely to keep trying when they encounter difficulties. They will also believe that with enough effort they can always make progress, no matter what they are faced with. So true for our SEN students!
       
    3. Minimise teacher talk
      In every lesson, there will be moments when the teacher needs to stand at the front of the room and address the whole class. Although sometimes necessary, these periods of teacher talk should be kept to a minimum, allowing for other forms of engagement that require greater levels of independence. This is something I know many of us are working on, including me, as Pam Jones who has coached me recently will tell you.  
       
    4. What it means to be independent
      It is important to discuss with your class what it means to be independent in the classroom. While you might have a clear idea about what independence looks like, your students are likely to be less certain. Through a class discussion, devise a set of characteristics that define someone as independent and identify specific examples of classroom behaviour that demonstrate these characteristics. This may involve drawing attention to examples already being exhibited in the work or actions of students in the class. Recap on this at regular intervals.

    Teaching tools

    1. Include all necessary information
      When creating handouts or presentation slides that relate to a task, help students to be independent by ensuring that you include all the information that they will need to successfully complete the work. Teaching through the itslearning plan will show them where the resources are, so they can access them independently. While they are doing so, you can circulate to assess work, provide assistance where absolutely necessary or use questioning to challenge students’ thinking.
       
    2. Reusable checklists/flow charts
      Checklists/flow charts are a great tool for promoting independence because they provide students with the means to make judgements, assess what they have done and deal with various queries without asking the teacher for support. Please liaise with the SEN department who will help you with this. The clear layout of activities in itslearning can be seen as a checklist- so highlight these to students who are accessing their plans through itslearning. In RE, we are being encouraged to provide these for our SEN students to give them clear tasks for them to complete over a period of time. If you need a template, see SEN or myself.
       
    3. Helpful learning walls
      We have done lots of work on our learning walls, and this is something we should revisit within departments every term. They can be a brilliant aid to independence; they offer an alternative point of reference to help students deal with questions or problems relating to their work. Directing students to check the learning wall when they have a question will encourage them to search for answers independently before they ask for your help.
       
    4. Set up a reference corner/itslearning resources
      To make sure that students always have a place to go when searching for answers, designate an area of your classroom (or itslearning!!) to be the “reference corner”. Within this area you should make available a selection of reference works. This might include general reference books such as dictionaries, thesauri, encyclopaedias, grammar guides and handbooks of equations. You may also choose to add text books or books relating to a topic you are currently studying. Kate Humby in the library is available for support in creating digital content.
       
    5. Training in thinking techniques
      Taking the time to train students in problem-solving and thinking techniques will provide them with a go-to structure that can be applied to difficulties encountered in the classroom or when completing homework. The techniques you introduce might be as simple as learning to organise thoughts through mind-mapping, lists and diagrams. Whichever technique you decide to use, it is essential that you model it several times first. Let your students see how the technique works in practise, in the context of a genuine problem that has been encountered during a lesson. After a few supported attempts, encourage students to go off and use the procedure independently. Put good examples on itslearning, so they can see what a successful one looks like.
       
    6. Refusing to help
      Although it may seem at odds with your role as a teacher, refusing to help students can be a powerful strategy for encouraging independence. For example, try refusing to help students until they can show you that they have made three attempts to solve their problem on their own. If they are still stuck after this, ask them to talk you through their attempts, so that you can explain how to solve a similar problem in the future, as well as helping with the current one.
       
    7. Live marking
      You can help students to become more independent and more aware of the quality of their work by asking them to make improvements when they believe that they have finished. If you are in the good habit of setting the students some independent work in each lesson, then get around the classroom as much as possible with your green pen and give them some extension work and specific feedback to them, which helps their thinking further. If you see a good piece of work or something that you want to highlight to the whole class, take a photo and add it to the itslearning plan, so all students can access while you continue to walk around. Another option is to put on the visualiser and give some whole class feedback, take a picture through the visualiser and then add to itslearning.
       

    As per usual, if you have any feedback or tips that you have tried to promote independence in your classrooms, I would love to hear about it, so I can share with others.

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  • December Blog 2021

    Published 07/01/22, by James Collins

    This month the guest editor is Vicci Masson, who has written our teaching and learning blog on the advantages of using dual coding to support all students, but in particular our SEN students. I know the Humanities departments have been trialling this and have found it extremely useful, and the student feedback has also been very positive. Vicci has focussed this blog on supporting revision, as we are now in the run-up to the summer exams, I think this is good timing for us to consider how we can use this to support our students. Over to you Vicci…

    In History this year we have had a bit of a revelation.  While we want to stretch and challenge all our students, so they can make the greatest progress we don’t want to hamper our athletes before they have even started the race by giving them tools that will not help them get to their end goal.  With a very high percentage of our Year 11 students with SEN support this year, this is a very important time for us to review our practice and improve our provision for revision.

    Knowledge organisers

    Our existing knowledge organisers were content heavy and while they would support our level 7-9 students and challenge our level 5-6 students, they would not be helpful for our students in the low attaining band. Those with a target grade of a 4 or below would struggle with the level of literacy (example below)

    Having attended an Eduqas webinar in October that focused on a school in a similar setting to Crookhorn, I was interested to see how they used knowledge organisers differently. 

    They advised designing knowledge organisers following the principles of dual coding.  These were not to then be filed away or sent home with students to never again see the light of day! Each knowledge organiser was handed out at the start of the topic and stuck into the student book.  The images used in the knowledge organiser were then used in every ‘Do Now’ activity, so that students became used to using them as an information source.   

     

    Research by Mayer and Anderson in 1991 found that when verbal information was presented alongside relevant images, it became much more memorable.  Therefore, having the images shown on the board or in the student’s book while they complete a piece of work mean that the cognitive load facing the student is reduced, allowing them to more easily complete the task in hand.

    If our brains work best when information comes in more than one format, then the repeated use of these simplistic images over a series of lessons should aid working memory and ultimately lead to greater progress being made.

    We have used these in our revision programme and already this year there has been a pleasing response from year 11.  Students are using the resources in a meaningful way.  The use of a visual representation gives them something to hook their learning to but more so, the over learning and repetition of using the knowledge organiser each lesson has afforded students a new-found confidence to respond to targeted questioning and cold calling. 

    This is a tactic that we plan to cascade down to KS3.  Not only will this prepare our students to work similarly at GCSE, it would seem foolish to not use current research in our pedagogy for KS3 as well as KS4. In year 8 will be trialling the use of knowledge organisers that use black and white images from the noun project. 

    This website is a useful resource that is a one-stop shop for simplistic black and white images.

    https://thenounproject.com/

    Please find below another example that we have recently used.

     

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  • November Blog 2021

    Published 09/12/21, by James Collins

    Checking that our students have understood what we are teaching a is a key part of our Assessment policy. Doing so regularly, in a meaningful way, will then inform a teacher of how to adapt future planning to address misconceptions.

    As classroom teachers we have many techniques we can use to check understanding. In the next few pages, we will refresh our thoughts on the most common of these and look at how we can extend the use of technology to get a true understanding of what our students have learnt, rather than what we have taught them.


    Mini Whiteboards

    A staple of some classrooms and used in many ways. Writing an answer and holding it up is probably the most obvious use, but how can we go beyond this?

    A while back I found this article: https://thegoldfishbowl.edublogs.org/2015/11/29/mini-whiteboards/

    Although a few years old, Miller’s comments are still valid for our lessons today.

    Whiteboards are a way of getting immediate feedback about student understanding, with an effective sequence always starting with a well-designed task or question. Rather than just waiting as students write, this time can be used to seek the most useful responses. Do most students get it or not? Where are the great examples that can be used as models? Where are the examples of common errors that students can learn from? Which students are making the same errors?

    …One of the issues that we have, as I am sure many schools do, is the use of unnecessary fillers in spoken responses. [Due to a] lack of confidence in what they are saying. Or that they don’t know what they are going to say before they start saying it. The few seconds it takes to write a couple of ideas down on a whiteboard can help to eliminate both of these. 

    Miller talks about this well question. These are an integral part of our planning on itslearning, and we should see this in the key question's section of the plan.

    Miller goes on to discuss what can then be done with the responses seen and how lessons can be adapted accordingly.

    Going beyond this, rather than just letting whiteboard responses be one-off instant feedback to you, you can record general perceptions and misconceptions in the review notes of the plan for development when reviewing the topic before the next time you deliver. This idea of recording general thoughts can apply to our questioning of the students too.

     

    Self-marking tests

    Whichever platform we use, self-marking tests have huge benefits on teacher workload and meaningful analysis of results.

    Some of the best tests I have seen staff use are the simplest. Succinct questions with multi choice answers. Really think about what it is you need the students to understand and focus down to that. When used for homework, there is no need to fill a particular time frame with extra questions – if you can gauge understanding in 10 questions taking less than a minute each, then why add anything else

    There are currently two test versions in itslearning.  The itslearning development team have released the new version, however this still has some limitations, and some staff prefer using the older version.  There are no plans yet to remove the older version, and old tests can be easily converted to a new once it is functioning fully:

    When creating self-marking tests, please consider the following questions as options:

    Fill in the blanks – take a section of text (copy for an electronic resource or type in yourself), highlight the keywords to demonstrate understanding – done!

    This type of question has variations:

    • Just selecting the word means the students have to get the correct spelling, there are options for adding in common misspellings, so the students get the marks if they spell it a different way.
    • There is also the option for marks to be awarded if students use the correct capitalisation.

    Select from a list – very similar to the above, but students will be offered a list to choose from, as well as the words highlighted in the text, you can add in extra words to make the students think harder.

    Differentiation opportunity – please consider the option of creating two versions of the above.  If you create one homework with the ‘Fill in the blanks’ and one ‘Select from a list’ then you can allocate accordingly to the class.

    Spelling tests – for those subjects that need keywords spelt correctly, we can use a self-marking test as a tool for independent practice (Yes, I know we have no control over them googling the answers, but we never do with homework.)  Building the opportunity for them to independently try is always good.  You will obviously need to design a way that you can ask them to type a particular work without typing it yourself so do consider the option for recording audio files in the questions.

    Support sheets:

    Setting up
    Selecting from a link and fill in the blanks

     

    Examples seen recently:

    English – 10 questions

    Science – A CFU test set, with support videos if needed.  This test has been left open for as many attempts as they want, so students can independently aim for improved scores.  With a test open like this, you could attach the same test to a revision plan later in the year.

    • Currently, only old tests can be accessed after the deadline.  The workaround for this on the new test would be to keep the original deadline and then change to a later date in the year for the revision session.

    Differentiation opportunities – could the videos be in a ‘support’ CFU that is targeted at key students through the permission settings?  Could you ‘copy’ this test having created it, and add in some challenge questions at the end and then target to you higher attaining students. 

     

    Matrix (survey question)

    We’ve all had students in our classes that just don’t seem to get it: even though they are getting the answer right, they can’t tell you why.  It is therefore key that we know what level the students believe their own understanding is at.

    A matrix question is a grid question where students can rate their confidence options for various questions.  The below example is set up with RAG options for five photography techniques.  These questions can be completely tailored to you – there are various other options, as well as how the results will come out to you on the support sheet.

    Support sheet:

    Matrix questions

    There are many more ways that itslearning can support our checking for students understanding.  Kate Humby is now fully training on how to create resources and support your curriculum.  Through the Spring term she will be working with Heads of Subject offering her support.  Please do contact her if you’d like her to create a resource for you, or you would like some specific training, so you can create these resources for yourself.

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  • October 2021 Blog

    Published 09/12/21, by James Collins

    Our Literacy plan is a simple three strand approach based on what we consider to be Crookhorn’s biggest areas of need: increasing the engagement with and enjoyment of reading, oracy and the mechanics of writing.

    DEAR Time and why it counts.

    DEAR Time allows us to expose the lower years to a range of texts, to give them space to share their ideas verbally as well as to listen to the opinions of others. By asking open questions we encourage the students to think and, more importantly, respond by explaining their thinking using because/but/so sentences.

    Example question: ‘What do you think we could do to help plastic pollution?’
    Student response: I think we could reduce plastic pollution by recycling because it is better to reuse than to make new.
    I think we could reduce plastic pollution by recycling but we need to stop buying it in the first place.
    I think we could reduce plastic pollution by recycling so we can all help do our bit.

    From Autumn 2 we will be starting the class reads during DEAR Time where teachers follow the schedule and read the allocated pages. The updated versions can be found on the Literacy page in Staff Resources: https://crookhorncollege.itslearning.com/ContentArea/ContentArea.aspx?LocationID=65&LocationType=1

    • Year 7 – Pax
    • Year 8 – Cirque du Freak
    • Year 9 – The Extinction Files

    Oracy – the importance of dialogue.

    Oracy is a term first coined in the 1960s by Andrew Wilkinson and focuses on the ability to express yourself fluently in speech. We want to use dialogue to help students develop their understanding through consistent and meaningful dialogue; listening and responding appropriately, sharing opinions and demonstrating their knowledge.

    The 5 step method, Robin Alexander (2008)

    1. Rote – transmit knowledge to students by repeating ideas.
    2. Recitation – targeted questions to test knowledge, progress and recall.
    3. Instruction – tell students what to do and explain key ideas.
    4. Discussion – encourage exchange of ideas and information.
    5. Dialogue – structured questions and discussion to deepen understanding.

    Oral rehearsal builds confidence and helps remove the fear of committing the wrong thing to paper which can be an obstacle to writing. Think-Pair-Share can be an excellent tool as it encourages students to listen to teacher input and then discuss their answers with a partner before group/class feedback to check for misunderstanding or writing down their rehearsed answer. Once students are confident and adept at doing this, we can then introduce this in a wider classroom setting. Sentence stems can be a helpful way to scaffold this structured discussion:

     

     

     

     

     

    Allowing students the time and freedom to talk to one another can feel uncomfortable at first as it puts the onus on them to stay on task and focused but if we circulate and transition into the role of facilitator, we promote oracy and independence.

    The Mechanics of Writing

    These are the building blocks of success. Historically, our students have struggled with longer answer questions that require them to organise their ideas in a coherent and concise way with focus on the keywords of the question.

    For many subjects, students are expected to support or justify their ideas which is where conjunctions become an important tool. Please look at the example from Technology:

     

    Technology

    Using conjunctions

    Because     –    But     -      So

     

    Conjunctions like ‘because’, ‘but’ and ‘so’ let you explain your ideas in more detail to help you get the higher marks by showing what you know.

    Stainless steel grade 304 is used for the pivot screw because it is naturally corrosion resistant so will not rust.

    Stainless steel grade 304 is used for the pivot screw but if it was a marine environment, we would use 316 as this resists corrosion in salt water.

    We use stainless steel in the manufacture of pivot bolts so that we do not need an additional surface finish.

     

     

     

    Alongside promoting conjunctions to explore ideas, we are continuing to focus on the basics for punctuation – capital letters and full stops – to instil the importance of accuracy and proof-reading. Consistency is key to success and can be a simple addition to your marking; capital letters for names or starts of sentences are easy to spot and highlight during live marking. I will be undertaking several learning walks this half-term to monitor the impact of our marking focus. Please find the help sheet attached.

    Thank you to the staff who have started to embed Literacy in their practice. If you would like further guidance or have any queries or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

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  • September 2021 BLOG

    Published 04/10/21, by James Collins

    It’s certainly been a busy start to the new academic year, and it has been fantastic to get back to some sort of normality in terms of teaching and learning. I think we have all been yearning to return to the classroom and teach like we did pre-March 2020, and it has certainly been exciting for us all to be back doing what we got into the job for, which is to engage students in our subject area and light fires inside them to give them the passion to learn. In my very privileged position of being able to drop into some lessons, I have been delighted to see the high quality of teaching that our students receive on a lesson-by-lesson basis, and let’s hope this continuity of being in College and learning in a classroom from our expert teachers continues to be the case in the coming months.

    We have learnt a huge amount about pedagogy from our enforced time away from the College classrooms and the importance of taking this learning forward into our day-to-day practice cannot be underestimated. The vision Sarah outlined on our first day back in regards to our Blended Learning philosophy is clear, and we must all play our part in fulfilling this vision for what learning should look like in the coming years if we are to support the College in this vital area.

    Pre-Covid, we were really making huge strides with our coaching, and without a doubt, we were all making progress in improving on our delivery in the classroom. On our recent disaggregated training, we had 3 sessions for teaching staff that focussed on the following;

    1. Feedback and marking
    2. Blended learning
    3. Improving the quality of student’s literacy

    There have been some wonderful examples from each area that I wanted to share with you from the last couple of weeks that really highlight excellent practice from within the staff.

    Feedback and marking

    In our training session, I highlighted to you some key steps to making sure you are giving good feedback. If you reflect, are you following these steps, and are you doing them well?

    • Look at your itslearning planner- when is the most effective time for you to give students feedback? Plan this into your planner
    • Work out how you will regularly ‘CFU’ and how this ties in with your more formative feedback.
    • Plan for students to have time to respond
    • Plan for how you will check that response
    • Consider what you have learnt from the students' responses to help with future planning. This should go in your review notes.

    We then discussed the benefits of live marking, and some steps to put in place to make sure this is successful and thus reduce the amount you are having to mark outside the classroom.

    1. Put in place a rota- a row at a time, a group of students each lesson
    2. Plan for it – independent study time when students do not need whole class input
    3. Put in place measures to support students who need help during this independent work– BYOT, research materials etc..

    The last part of the training was looking at the use of the visualiser. A visualiser allows teachers to show all students what is expected and can give the whole group some instant feedback. I have seen teachers use this to great effect, taking a piece of work that is of a good standard, showing students where it could be improved, and allowing students time to check their own work and make corrections/additions.

    In your pigeonhole with this blog are great examples of feedback and marking which we have either seen in exercise books or screenshots of how people are using itslearning to support their feedback to students.  

    Blended learning

    There is no doubt that the quality of our planning is in a far better position now compared to pre-covid. Staff are working much more collaboratively, and the plans are much more accessible to both students and staff alike. Adam ran a session during our training about a couple of key points we must all remember when developing our Blended Learning pedagogy.

    To provide a true blended learning experience, additional resources can over time be built into the plans that allow students to pursue aspects of their learning on a topic to greater depth or resources that might help students master their understanding of the knowledge connected to a topic that they have struggled with. We should be getting into the practice of setting differentiated homework targeted and assigned to groups or individuals, especially when we have mixed attaining groups.

    Putting the revision planners up for GCSE courses enables this additional aspect specifically if supported with complementary resources from GCSE Pod etc.

    Teaching through the plan

    We must all get into the habit of familiarising students with activities and resources that we are using. Students will need to access these when it comes to independent study and by going through this with students, it makes them understand what they can use in the future. I have recently used the tactic of having their do now task on the board ready for them, take the register whilst they are doing this and once the task is completed, show them the plan for the day, all the resources, and any homework set. I then click on the resources as and when I need them. I also encourage the students to have the plan open on their phones as we are working. I have found that this really helps certain students who might need to go back to certain resources or slides that are not up on my main teaching board.

    Review notes

    I have had a few conversations about review notes recently and the purpose of these. These are an expectation of the College and should be done at the end of each ‘big question/application’ of your plans. I believe that good practice would mean you reflect on the learning at the end of each lesson, and if there are identifiable points that will help you with your next lesson, they should be made in the review notes section. When I am writing my review notes, I concentrate on a few points.

    1. What have I learned from that plan that I can take forward in my future planning?
    2. Which students have I highlighted as struggling and need CFU and live marking as a priority? What students have I checked in with today, which books have I checked today?
    3. Use of review notes to summarise the understanding or struggles identified in the live marking session.
    4. Where I am up to with my plans- what’s my pace like, what do I need to revisit in future lessons.

    Once I got in the habit of writing these quick notes at the end of the lesson or day, it really helped me with my future planning.

    Literacy focus

    Katy King went through the key points of the main foci for this academic year during her session. We have now streamlined our literacy action points to the following 3 main strands.

    • Quality of reading and developing the reading strategy across the College 
    • Oracy work and how this is built into the literacy strategy
    • Mechanics of writing (sentences structure, appropriate vocabulary, appropriate punctuation, and paragraph structures)

    Katy will be writing the October blog to really develop our understanding further in these three areas and give us examples of what is happening in colleagues’ classes to help us with our teaching. I have seen some great examples of a couple of key strategies from the ‘The Writing Revolution’ that staff are using regularly. Attached are some scanned pages from the ‘TWR’ that are important for us to read before we use these ideas.

    The Single Paragraph Outline (SPO) is used extensively, and if used correctly, can be superb for students to use. The SPO is used to plan a paragraph and is not a writing structure/frame. Staff can use this to help students with a road map that they can follow to plan the beginning, middle, and end of a unified, coherent paragraph. I have also included the process of turning this planning of using an SPO into writing a coherent paragraph. The TWR sheets I have scanned show you a clear route for how to use this in the classroom which you will also find in your pigeonhole.

    Because, But and So is an activity that is simple yet requires students to think analytically. It’s also the first conjunction activity you should give to your students. It will prod them to think critically and deeply about the content they are studying and allow you to check their comprehension. Have a look at the examples and talk to your coach about how you could implement these into your teaching.

    Thank you all for the time, effort, and commitment you are showing to improving your teaching. It’s hard to change habits, it takes time and patience, but it is all worth it if it helps our students achieve the very best they can. Any questions or feedback, please do send them to me or your coach, and we will be happy to help.

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  • June 2021 BLOG

    Published 05/07/21, by James Collins
    Blended Planning We continue to see great developments in blended planning across the College, with many exemplary examples across all subjects. From our work and experiences this year, we have adapted the wording of our Blended learning Protoc
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  • May 2021 BLOG

    Published 18/05/21, by James Collins
    How do we engage students successfully back into learning in the classroom? A good place to start is the first chapter of Boys Don’t Try, which many of you have borrowed from the staff library as part of your professional development. One of th
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  • April 2021 BLOG

    Published 19/04/21, by James Collins

    It was in February 2020 when we last had a teaching and learning blog about behaviour management, when Chris Watson shared with us some useful tips from staff about the setting of routines and dealing with behaviour situations that are common to us all. Dave and I thought it would be a good time to return to this as we approach a new term and to continue to make sure we are all playing our part to make sure standards in the classroom remain at a very high level.

    Tom Bennett recently said that if we get behaviour right, everything else is possible. He stated that behaviour is the beginning of safety, equity, dignity, curriculum, opportunity and learning, not an afterthought or something that only matters when students misbehave. We also know as professionals that when our teaching is of the very highest quality, this helps our students remain on track and enjoy being in the classroom.

    Since the students have returned to us full time before Easter, it was clear that some students have partially or entirely lost the learning and behaviour habits that we had instilled in them whilst at College previously. It was also clear that students with less privileged backgrounds struggled from going from few or no boundaries to the structure and routine of being back in the classroom. This proved a challenge for some students who pushed boundaries with staff at times.

    There are some points that Chris mentioned in his blog that Dave and I believe support all teachers and ultimately help the students in the classroom to become better learners. If all teachers consider these at the start of term and we, as staff remain consistent with these principles, this will lead to a successful term for us all.

    1. Planning

    Chris talked about the importance of planning and strongly recommended us to read page 57 of PLAN, MARK, TEACH. This is vitally important when dealing with challenging groups. Chris described how important a ‘Do Now’ task was for the students, to settle them down straight away. The pace of the lesson is crucial, and the differentiation to make sure all students are challenged in the right way will keep students on track. Really consider your planning, have you supported the students who need guidance so they don’t feel disengaged or disheartened and can make progress? Is there challenge and rigour for the more and most able students so they can stretch themselves with their learning? As professionals, we understand that when this level of planning is absent, this can often lead to the most challenging of behaviours.

     2. Bring it back to learning

    Whenever I ask students why they come to Crookhorn and what the point of turning up everyday is, they generally always say ‘to learn’. We drum this into them during transition and in SLT and pastoral assemblies. Refer the students to our OPEN MIND and Cornerstones philosophies, this is really important. Are they showing respect for their teachers and classmates, are they taking responsibility for their own learning, how can they prove they are committed to the learning and ultimately, are the achieving their potential? Use these terms with them, remind them what it takes to be a Crookhorn learner.

    3. Define what you mean by good behaviour

    There is an opportunity here at the start of term for you in your classroom to re-evaluate what you want behaviour to look like. We as teachers should define what behaviour is ideal in our classrooms, be concrete with your rules. Vagueness is the enemy here. If you are vague, you’ll barely be aware of when behaviour goes wrong; and students will not grasp what is expected of them. What does fantastic behaviour actually look like in an assessment or when students are coming into your classroom?

    4. Good behaviour must be taught, not told

    The best teachers actively teach the behaviour they want to see, as if it were a curriculum. Do you want students to be kind, or work hard, or listen hard in assemblies if you are their tutor? Teach them to do so, don’t just tell them. Set the example, highlight when students have done something well and share. Chris mentioned in his blog about praising students when you notice good behaviour, so other students know what this looks like.

    5. Build routines, habits and norms

    When dealing with students you should consider these questions:

    1. What behaviour do you want them to think is normal? Then, tell them what it is and teach them what normal means in many circumstances. Challenge them when it is not met. Show them how to do it. Correct them every time they can’t or won’t do it. Never let it slide. Define the new normal by bringing it to life.
    2.  What habits do you want them to develop? If you want them to be punctual, clarify what punctuality means. Insist upon it. The more a behaviour is demanded, and challenged by its absence, the more practice students get performing it, until it starts to feel habitual. We seek, ultimately, to change their behaviour habits, not just their behaviour. 
    3. What routines do they need to learn in order to succeed as learners and human beings? This is crucial. In order for it to be as easy as possible to behave, students should be taught the specific sequences of behaviour they are expected to demonstrate.
    4. Build the habit of phoning home, and not just when things are difficult. We know the positive phone call when a student has done well is so important when building a relationship with parents, so when things aren’t going so well you have a relationship in place and parents are more likely to support.

    6. Make boundaries meaningful. 

    Students need to know that deliberately misbehaving will result in consequences. When behaviour is poor, or fails to meet the standard, it must be challenged. Students need to know a line has been crossed. These lines can be managed by many means. Sanctions can act as a deterrent but only if consistently and fairly applied, and when there is a high expectation that they will occur. Rewards too can have a small, short-term motivating effect. Both sanctions and rewards are an essential part of our system- please use them consistently.

    We know that a well-planned out lesson delivered by an enthusiastic and motivating teacher in a classroom is the best way students learn, of this there is no doubt after what we have been through. I honestly believe the vast majority of our students believe this too now (which is a silver lining in these difficult times!). I have attached Chris’ blog again if you want to refer back to the top tips.

     If you would like any further support within this area, please contact myself, Dave or Chris and we will be delighted to help.

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