January 2018 Blog
Improving teaching and learning is at the heart of every good school and I hope it is clear to all teachers here at Crookhorn that this is the number one priority which will allow us to achieve the ‘Excellence as Standard’ vision. I can’t speak for you, but I think my teaching has improved through the CPD time, the collaborative planning I do with colleagues on Tuesday and the reading I have done which has made me really think about how I deliver my lessons. I want to share with you each month some of the ideas, articles and strategies I have seen and I promise I will always try to keep it brief as possible as we all have busy lives, please don’t feel you have to read on if it’s not for you, I will never know and therefore I can’t take offence!
Recently Dave Lemon asked us to read an article at Academic Board about teaching to the top, an article Tom Sherrington wrote about teaching to stretch all students in the classroom https://teacherhead.com/2017/05/28/teaching-to-the-top-attitudes-and-strategies-for-delivering-real-challenge
A big part of that article was about Synoptic questions. Synoptic questions encourage students to combine elements of their learning from different parts of a programme and to show their accumulated knowledge and understanding of a topic or subject area. A synoptic question normally enables students to show their ability to integrate and apply their skills, knowledge and understanding with breadth and depth in the subject. It can help to test a student's capability of applying the knowledge and understanding gained in one part of a programme to increase their understanding in other parts of the programme, or across the programme as a whole. The coaches in the College have also read about a technique called ‘stretch it’ from ‘Teach like a champion’ which also highlights the technique of asking students to apply the same skill in a new setting (p108 to p116) through questioning and we will be working on this with teachers in the classroom over the coming weeks. Here are some examples for you to consider to help you when planning your questions.
Rewrite the following sayings in your own words, explaining, as you do, exactly what you think they mean:
Seeing ourselves as others see us would probably confirm our worst suspicions about them. (Franklin P Jones)
2. Advertising may be described as the science of arresting human intelligence long enough to get money from it (Stephen Leacock)
3. The flush toilet is the basis of civilisation. (Alan Coult)
4. Loyalty to a petrified opinion never yet broke a chain nor freed a human soul. (Mark Twain)
5. Beware the fury of a patient man. (John Dryden)
This is a synoptic activity because it combines the need to be able to analyse language with the capability of being able to reorganise it to show a clear understanding of meaning, thereby being able to interpret the author's original intentions.
As part of your Medium term planning, I want you to consider where you can use synoptic questions to promote student progress in the classroom. Try working with your Progress partner to get some examples you can use and then give them a go and then sit down and discuss how they went (or ask your coach to observe you giving this technique a try).
Consider how climate change has influenced extreme river flooding and the impact this has had on affected communities.
This one is good because it challenges the idea that flooding is the result of random weather and instead asks them to make links with the effects of climate change, namely that increased global temperatures result in increased evaporation leading to enhanced monsoons in the Asian subcontinent and the amplification of Atlantic hurricanes. They can also consider the positives e.g. the flooding of the Ganges and Nile provides fertile silt to farmland that improves production. It also expects consideration of the impacts e.g. the need to build more sturdy homes and the need for flood defences.
I hope you have found this useful and thought provoking in terms of the questions you can pose in your classrooms. This is a key strand of looking to stretch our students in the classroom and hopefully, you will see this as you practice the technique. As part of your Medium term planning, I want you to consider where you can use synoptic questions to promote student progress in the classroom. Try working with your Progress Partner to get some examples you can use and then give them a go and then sit down and discuss how they went (or ask your coach to watch you giving this technique a try).
Good luck and feel free to come and see me or drop me an email to let me know how it is going.