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September 2021 BLOG

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.