May 2018 Blog
Over the last couple of weeks, Sarah and I have spent some considerable time speaking and interviewing prospective candidates who want to come and teach at Crookhorn. Whenever I am asked to describe teaching and learning here at Crookhorn, I tell the candidates we concentrate on 3 key elements, which are planning good lessons, giving our students the best possible feedback on how to improve and then working on becoming better teachers in the classroom. It sounds basic but that is probably because it should be, and I truly believe that this, in correlation with our drive to reduce teacher workload, will have a positive impact on student achievement and progress. This month, the coaching team will be looking in more detail at how planning lesson objectives and outcomes can really shape our teaching.
In ‘Teach like a Champion’, Begin with the End teaches us an effective way to plan lessons focusing on the lesson objective being the focal point at the start of planning. This strategy helps to move us away from planning a lesson to lesson, or simply that last minute planning the night before based on what to do rather than what do the students need to master in this sequence of learning. In this manner, the teacher knows that students master lessons as a unit and not as an individual days work. It also encourages students to look back on missed or misunderstood objectives so that they do not fall behind for future objectives since everything builds on itself.
Begin with the End is an excellent strategy because of how much it involves the Cognitive learning theory which focuses on the way that students learn and store new information. This strategy focuses most effectively on planning with the intent to teach students to master an objective. Through unit planning, the teacher focuses on repetition in the lesson, based on building upon knowledge acquired in previous lessons. This influence of repetition forces the students working memory to store information multiple times knowing that students brains are selective in what they transfer to long-term memory. By Begin with the End, teachers are ensuring that they plan for students to be given multiple chances to retain more information through interleaving knowledge and skills so that these transfer from their working memory to their long-term memory.
We have come a long way since the days of the WALT and WILF at Crookhorn and I think given the importance of objectives in bringing focus, discipline and measurability to a lesson, it’s worthwhile to think about what makes an objective useful and effective. In Teach like a Champion, they build their objectives around the ‘4 Ms’. The strategy is designed to help with planning that ensures academic achievement; it uses four simple criteria to determine if a lesson will be effective at reaching the required goals. The 4 Ms are: Manageable, Measurable, Made First, and Most Important. Each aspect is simple, which makes this an easy strategy to implement, yet extremely effective in classroom planning. By combining the four aspects, it ensures that a lesson is effective from start to finish.
As with any lesson, it is important to decide before beginning a lesson if it is manageable for the class and for the time allotted. Too often, we see teachers set learning objectives that might be set over a couple of lessons or even over a topic, but we would have a much greater chance of success if we build a series of day to day objectives that are achievable and realistic which supports the process of conceptualising the steps necessary to achieve mastery. I believe this is vital for many Crookhorn learners, as they build up their confidence and belief as they work through the smaller, more manageable objectives.
This strategy suggests that teachers create objectives in such a way that the outcomes can be measured at the end of the day. This lets the teacher measure how well he or she achieved the objective, based on how well the students grasped the material. This also lets the teacher know if the class is ready to move on or needs to spend more time on the material. There are many ways our coaches are encouraging how we as teachers check for understanding and one of the suggestions given is to use an exit ticket, or a short CFU at the end of class to gauge the understanding of the material taught during class. Alternatively, it can be focussed around the students response to a key question that is then live marked during the independent part of the lesson. As we know with our current exam structure, one of the most prominent aspects of education has become the students’ abilities to remember information given to them and recall the information on a test. If a student does not remember the information immediately after it is presented, the chances are very high that the information will not be accessible during the following assessments either. By making sure each objective is measurable, it allows the teacher to see how well the students can apply the information learned, in order to use it as a basis for further planning and learning.
This aspect addresses a common mistake amongst teachers – choosing an objective off a pre-planned activity. “Made first” suggests that teachers choose the objective before anything else. By doing this, it allows for teachers to base the activities around the material that needs to be learned, which is the most effective way to design a lesson.
This aspect is short and straight-forward. Each objective should be designed to help students on their path to success. Only the most important information needs to be presented, in order to leave room for other information that is considered most important as well.
I hope this blog helps you consider how to use lesson objectives when planning out your future MTP’s, and please talk to your progress partner about how to do this in the future. As usual, any comments gratefully received.