Archive for the ‘personalised learning’ tag
My second presentation to the recent Cardiff Teachmeet was supposed to accompanied by the slides below, but for whatever reason the filter wouldn’t let Google Docs through, so I scribbled down what I could remember and just talked about some of the stuff that I’d been doing and why I thought it was important.
In hindsight it may have been a little more preachy and less practical than I hoped, but it seemed to go down ok.
I’ve embedded the version I delivered below – you’ll need to scroll to about 3 minutes in.
The slide deck that should have accompanied this talk is below. I make a couple of references to a couple of the diagrams as I go through.
Yesterday I wrote about my plans for handing some control of the curriculum in my year 9 History classes to the students and the first of three activities, the personal project on any 20th century topic. Today, I’m going to look at the second activity which didn’t work quite as well!
In our revised schemes of work for this year one of the topics we have reduced the time for is World War One. As a result of this, as well as the range of issues and topics that it raises, I thought it would make an excellent topic to try my second idea, student led, mini-lesssons.
Following two lessons on the courses of the war, and an overview lesson in the form of the textbook challenge, students came up with a list of topics linked to the war that they would be interested in studying. They then spent five minutes walking around the room trying to find people with similar interests to form groups. These groups then agreed a topic and had two lessons to research and plan a mini-lesson of around 20 minutes. We talked (too) briefly about what makes a good lesson, and some of the ideas they could use. I asked each group to make sure they included some kind of starter, a main section which could include activities and a plenary that looked back and checked their classmates learning. At the end of each mini-lesson each group produced a brief evaluation.
Across the three classes we had an average of six groups ranging from two people to seven, and a full range of topics, including various aspects of technology, the war at sea, the home front, the effects on women, and the impact on professional sport. In each class it took three hours to get through all the lessons, some of which were considerably better than others!
What Went Well
- In some cases students were able to explore areas that were outside the traditional scheme of work, and certainly wouldn’t have been covered in a reduced version
- Some of the activities were excellent – one group brought in plasticine and made each group of students build a model of a trench as part of their lesson. Another gave a series of battlefield senarios and asked students to work out where they would focus their troops, or which weapons they would use. A third brought in headscarves and asked groups to produce 30 second commercials to get women involved in the war effort.
- There were some very good uses of Powerpoint to support talks (rather than as large print scripts), one group included a video clip that they had created and another had a flash starter that one of the students had created
- I suspect that the long-term recall of the topic they explored would be higher than had I taught this traditionally and many groups got to develop their communication and team work skills
- One student at least admitted to having a new found respect for teachers!
- In one case one of my SEN students ended up on his own for one lesson due to the absence of the rest of his team. I was able to work 1:1 with him for part of the lesson to help him write his script. He then decided to do a match up cards activity which he created and I copied, and then for homework he produced a powerpoint of images to go along with his talk. That 1:1 intervention to set him up led to an excellent talk for which he got lots of credit for from the rest of the class.
Even Better If
- Students time management of their lessons was poor and we wasted a lot of time over these three lessons. This is turn led to problems of disruption which led to further interruptions and slowed things down further. This led to a slightly negative feeling over the whole thing by the third lesson.
- Too many students relied on the same, relatively low impact methods, including word searches. And if I have to sit through another round of badly organised splat I think I shall scream!
- Too many students still insist on reading out their powerpoints
- There were a few cases of students ‘forgetting’ materials or having people missing. Despite my warnings that they would have to do it anyone, I had to improvise 30 minutes of one lesson when none of the groups were able to carry on.
- In some cases there were factual mistakes made, or only surface level learning seemed to have taken place. In one case a group had planned to show a film clip. From World War 2.
Would I do it again?
Yes, and no. Not in it’s current form, there was too much lost time and not enough focus, but I still think that the idea of letting students explore an issue they are interested in and take ownership of is a powerful one. If I was to do it again, I think I would make the following changes:
- Reduce the expectations from a ‘three part lesson’ to a presentation with activity. This will hopefully allow students to focus on the important points and get one good activity
- I would spend more time talking about what makes a good lesson and produce more structured success criteria to help guide students.
- Provide more focussed resources. Although I provided old text books, too much of their research was internet based and then parroted back with little understanding. Now I know some of the likely topics I can produce some ‘fact cards’ to help give them the basic information, and let their additional research fill in any blanks they have.
- I also need to think about getting students to break the process in half a little more – work out what’s important and then work on how to present it. Too many groups prioritised the presentation overt the content
- Set time limits and have a very visual clock for students to time themselves against.
In this and the next blog post I’m going to be looking at the first two of my three attempts this year to hand over some control of the curriculum to my students.
One of the things that seem to be increasingly important both with a skills focussed curriculum and with the massive growth in information available is pupil choice in their curriculum. We have done this on a large scale within the SMART programme, but I was interested in how this could be done within a normal classroom.
I decided to try three separate activities over the year, each with my year 9 History classes. This was primarily driven by the fact that by running the same project with three different classes I could hopefully get a more accurate reflection of the ideas, rather than just one classes reaction to them. I decided I would try the following:
1. An open research topic on anything within the 20th Century. This was to be presented back in a class exhibition, and so could be a poster, a book, a movie, an interactive powerpoint / animation and so on.
2. Group based ‘mini-lessons’ on any aspect of World War 1, where students with similar interests got together to research, plan and deliver a 20-30 minute lesson on a topic of their choice.
3. Repeat the first activity, but this time giving students any topic at any point in time to study!
The rest of this post will focus on the first project. Tomorrow’s post will (hopefully) focus on the second and I’ll blog about the third in a few weeks time when we’ve completed it!
1. The set up
We started with a lesson recapping all the questions that they have tried to answer in History lessons over the last two and a half year. From this list, they tried to draw up a list of ‘big’ historical questions. We wrote these up on the board, creating three lists as we did so:
What happened at…
‘Who do you think…’
‘What was the consequence of…’
‘What changed / stayed the same between…’
What would have happened if…
Each group came up with an hypothetical question themselves (I wouldn’t have introduced it to them otherwise!) and we discussed why they were so hard to answer.
I then explained the project and the fact that they would have three weeks to do their research and put their finished piece together. To try and make sure everyone was on track and completing something reasonable, at the start of the following lesson, each student submitted their title and brief outline on a slip of paper, which I then looked over and either approved, or suggested amendments to.
Each student made a note of my email address in case of questions / problems, and each lesson between this and the exhibition had a two minute ‘questions and update’ session in, where students could ask questions, and I would pick on people at random and ask them how they were getting on.
Each class got one lesson. Students had five minutes to set up their ‘stall’, and each exhibit had a feedback form along side it. We then split the class in half, with the first half going around for 20 minutes, asking questions and leaving feedback, before swapping over. Those people that had produced ICT resources swapped over at this point, and I was able to use the classroom computer, my laptop, one of the macs that I’d borrowed from SMART and one of the new Asus EEEPCs to ensure that everyone got a go at showing their work off. At the end of the lesson we talked about which projects we particularly liked, techniques and approaches that we thought had worked well, and their views on this approach.
Overall the quality was very impressive. Around 50% of them had really nailed the idea of finding a ‘big questions’ to ask and answer about their topic, and even those that hadn’t had clearly done some research.
What Went Well
- Overall, the level of engagement was over and above that of a normal lesson / topic. In some cases an exceptional amount of effort had been made. I put this in no small part down to the level of choice afforded to the pupils
- A range of topics had been explored, including some that would not normally find a place in the History classroom, including Fashion, the founding of the Red Arrows, the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb and the factors in Rugby becoming a safer sport over the 20th Century.
- The exhibition kick started some excellent conversations with and between pupils and had a very positive atmosphere
- Some students had clearly used the opportunity to try something new, including in one case movie making
- It opened up discussions about the nature of historical questions, something that is often overlooked
Even Better If
- Some were fairly copied and pasted, while others were about ‘facts’ rather than the history. However I hope that by repeating the process next term some of those students will understand this and be able to move beyond it
- In the case of one class the exhibition was not as well focussed and as positive as the other two. This may be in part down to the small class size and also down to some key individuals. I will consider providing more structure in the feedback, and perhaps a follow up sheet for the next one.
- Much of the feedback was superficial, and in the EBI comments in particular focussed on the number of facts or the presentation, rather than the quality of the history. I hope to address this by looking both at more clear success criteria, and some possible comments before the next exhibition
Would I do this again?
Absolutely! And not only will I do another one later in the year with these three classes, I’ll also be looking at ways of making this a regular feature of my teaching in future years with all my year groups.
Given that we spend half as much time on some topics than we used to in History, we need new ways of teaching some old topics. One example is WW1. In the ‘Old Model’, the teacher would work their way through a series of topics. The ‘old model’ reaction to less time is to teach less aspects of the war.
There is, as they say, another way.
Inspired by the ‘Thinkers Keys’ I’ve drawn up a WW1 Treasure Hunt. This is a series of tasks that students choose their route through in a lesson. It covers the gammet of WW1 related topics and students are free to select the activities that appeal most to them. All the information comes from the named text book (we’ve got a stack of them at the back of my classroom, although haven’t used them in the traditional way for years). Students have an hour to complete as many tasks as they can, checking their answers with me and their peers as they go.
- The class as a whole gets a good overview – this will be important as we’re moving on to students designing ‘micro lessons’ on a topic of their choice to be delivered to their peers
- Much more student choice over topics
- Focuses students on research skills
- When I started this the intial idea was that all students would do a series of simple tasks. As the idea developed I moved away from that, but perhaps the name is no longer appropriate.
- Most of the tasks are written. To extend the idea of choice I need to look into other ways the students can record the information they find.
Both the pdf and the pages file are included below.