March 2018 Blog
The core focus for all teachers at Crookhorn is to plan carefully and thoughtfully, to teach imaginatively and with passion, and to feedback to students in a low effort, high impact way to ensure strong progress. We are passionate about making sure everyone can concentrate on these pillars of teaching and learning, and hopefully, this is now evident through the way the teaching week is structured, the daily dialogue we engage in and the focus of our training over the last 18 months.
In this blog, I want to concentrate on planning. In our Progress partner meetings and our CPT, it is important we consider some key points when it comes to future planning. I want you to really consider these points below and reflect on where you are with your planning and ultimately enable you to have a greater impact on your students learning:
- Be clear and precise about the knowledge and skills you want the students to learn, not what you want them to do. It is important to shift the focus away from what activities can I get the students to do, to what we are learning and why. This is why the learning outcomes and reference to them in the lesson as a progress check are key. Nicky Smith is a master at this- so if you are worried about not understanding how to do this learning outcomes check effectively and you get a chance, pop in and go and see it in action.
- Apply the ‘why’ test to all learning activities, including homework, so your planning is designed to facilitate learning and not to keep students busy. The students also need to understand the relevance of the learning, otherwise, it is very hard to get the 'buy-in' from them.
- Integrate imaginative teaching strategies, such as storytelling, into your lessons to keep your students engaged, but think carefully about when you use them to ensure they have an impact. I watched a fantastic lesson from Samuel McGinley this week, which included a quiz for them to check for understanding that was fun and got the Year 11s to really consider what they had and hadn't learnt.
- Embed ‘stick-ability’ into your lesson planning. What are the key aspects that you want to stick in the minds of the students at the end? Make sure you are clear in your plans what the key questions you have planned to allow for you to know the students have learnt. This for many teachers has been the turning point in their planning, and once you have got those key questions you can then design the lesson around them.
- Plan to keep students in the ‘learning zone’ to ensure they feel sufficiently challenged but not stressed or anxious. In some of the books I have recently seen, I have seen so many worksheets that I don’t think stretch some of our high attaining students. If they are not asking questions in the lessons and not struggling slightly, you know it’s too easy and they should be challenged further.
Expert teaching requires challenge so that students have high expectations of what they can achieve. Keeping students in the learning zone means walking the fine line between students becoming apathetic due to boredom and students giving up because of stress or a feeling that they are incapable. This learning zone is ‘High challenge, low stress, thinking required, effective learning’. Think about your upcoming assessments, is the challenge, pitch and structure going to challenge all students?
- In lessons, plan to get them off to a flying start, so students learn purposefully from the beginning. ‘Do now’ tasks should be an easy way to get the students engaged and learning from minute 1.
- Use seating plans based on your knowledge of the students and don’t be afraid to plan a change, such as home and away seating plans based on different activities. Tim Bezant is the master of this and speak to him if you think this is something you want to add to your planning.
- Plan for when you are going to feedback and then when students are going to respond and show progress. Add this onto your MTP and annotate these plans with the outcomes of this feedback. We have recently seen some brilliant examples of these MTP's in English, with MTP's that were really detailed and considered. Tina and Martha showed SB and I the class books, to show how their planning was influencing the student body of work. It was amazing to see where the planning of the feedback then developed into students reflecting on their work, and then how they improved their future writing. In science, we are now seeing teachers looking at 3 books at the end of each lesson to really understand how much learning has happened and what needs to be planned into the very next lesson. In PE, Chris Watson has looked into how Carl is marking in English and is now really considering how he gives live feedback to the students so they can make progress, which he feels has improved him as a teacher.
I hope this helps when you consider your future planning, and I apologise in advance for probably embarrassing the teachers who I have mentioned in this blog! As SLT, we are committed to making sure our teachers can concentrate on giving good feedback, planning good lessons and then delivering high-quality lessons to our students and I am so pleased that at Crookhorn, the focus is now on how we improve the day to day quality of education our students get. As usual, any comments gratefully received and have a lovely Easter break.