Archive for the ‘reboot’ tag
Sometimes, if I get stuck on something, I’ll write out a blog post. They usually descend into stream of consciousness and I either find a solution or get a headache and stop. Either way I usually then delete the post.
This time I’m going to publish it. Partly because it fits in with the stuff I’ve been writing about rebooting my teaching and partly because Bianca just tweeted a link to this:
This sums up my last 2.5 years of teaching. #plsm13
“Unless the whole school is convinced this is the way to go, you’re fighting this huge uphill battle,” he says. “No one else has the students working together in teams. No one else asks students to make presentations or assesses them the way you do. Your class is significantly more rigorous and more challenging, even though you may assign less homework.”
and it chimes with what I’ve been thinking through this evening.
I’ve spent the last couple of years reinventing the way I teach to incorporate more technology and a more project based learning. I’ve been doing it with the blessing of the school and my Head of Dept, but I’ve largely been left to my own devices. I teach in a block away from the rest of the dept, and everyone in the dept is a very experienced teacher in their own rights. While I’ve mentioned what I’ve been doing, and people have been down to see the projects from time to time, I haven’t had to worry about writing it up for other people. In fact, I suspect it’s the freedom FROM that that has played a large part in being able to try out lots of new ideas without worrying to much about having to get other people to follow in my footsteps.
However, for a range of reasons, we’re now reconsidering not what we teach, but how we teach, especially at KS3, and the time has come to start sharing my experiences and starting to spread some of that practice across the department.
But I’m aware that where I am NOW, is in large part because of the experiences of the last two years. The time spent volunteering in one of our feeder primary schools, the connections I’ve made online, reading up on Project Based Learning and sharing ideas with people at conferences and teachmeets.
I’m worried that dumping these projects and these approaches on teachers who haven’t shared that journey with me might not work. Will they get the ‘why’? Will they make the investment in time and passion?
On the other hand, reading that last paragraph back, I sound like a complete idiot. Of course they’ll make them work – they’re professionals.
So why the nagging voice?
Ah, maybe this is it…
I think it’s because it’s not about the projects. It’s my view of ME in the class and in relation to the class that’s changed so much over the last two years. That’s one of the things that makes the projects work and I don’t know how to write that into a scheme of work, or deliver it in an inset.
I’ve written before that one of the biggest problems with the idea of ‘sharing best practice’ in education is the underlying misconception that you can something that works in one school (or one classroom) and put it into another school (or classroom) and will have the same positive effect. It doesn’t. And it’s partly because the people are different. Not that the second school or classroom has worse teachers in it, but it has teachers with a different view of themselves and education. So like taking a tube of deep heat because it made your back better, and applying to your haemorrhoids in the same hope, sometimes it’s just the wrong cure.
So, I’ll write up the projects, share them with my friends in the department and try and find some time (that most precious of teacher resources) to spend with them – just talking through how it’s gone, sending the odd link or video clip now and again and try and see if I can share the buzz that you get when something just works and the wall that you need to put up to block out the nagging voices about whether or not they know enough facts or if they have enough written in their books!
If I’ve been willing to try and fail and learn with my students for the last two years, I’m going to need to the same now with the staff.
I’m conscious that I’ve been talking in the abstract in many of my ‘rebooting’ posts, so I wanted to try and be a little clearer about what I mean and how some of the things I teach have changed this year. This is the second of several posts that will hopefully outline how I’ve changed what and how I teach this year.
Unit: Yr 8 – Tudor Life
How I used to do it -
A series of stand alone lessons that covered things like the structure of Tudor society, Tudor schools, Crime and Punishment etc etc. At the end of the half term, students would produce answers to two questions of their own choosing which they researched and presented on a page of A4 per questions.
How I switched it
Driving Question: What should go in a museum exhibition on life in Tudor Wales?
Structure: Research project moved to the start of the unit, with a greater opportunity for AfL and improvement between two research questions. Followed by a team based, body smart challenge to create an exhibit suitable for a museum.
Go for five – Medieval Life (what do they remember from last year?)
Textbook Challenge – What was different about life under the Tudors – students build on the things they remembered from last year and use a range of textbooks to find out what stayed the same and what changed into the 16th century
Homework: At somepoint over the next two weeks try and visit a museum and post some examples of how they get the information / ideas over onto a class wallwisher or linoit board.
What questions could we ask about life in Tudor Wales?
Brainstormed possible questions. Discussed the difference between Open and Closed questions, and looked at why we may not be able to answer some questions.
Students wrote down 5 possible personal inquiry questions, and selected one to research first.
Homework: Complete first research task
Group peer assessment on the first research target.
Share good examples from around the room
Individual targets set for each student to put into practice for their second question
Homework: Second research question
How were things different in Wales
Nb – This lesson didn’t work as planned. Next year I’m likely to do something more teacher led looking at the Act of Union and the translation of the Bible into Welsh
Lesson 5 – Nb – Tables moved from islands to one large square and pupils sat around the outline looking inwards.
Hand in second research question
Review linoit board of museum ideas.
Over the course of the lesson students had to put themselves into groups and identify a question they wanted to address in the museum. Groups who wanted similar topics had to agree a different focus to avoid duplication.
Students produced rough plans of how what they would need to research and bring in to build their exhibits. These were signed off by me by the end of the lesson
Students had the hour, in their groups, to produce their exhibits. At the end of the hour we spread them around the room and people walked round and reviewed and commented on each others. The rest of the history dept, form tutors and Head of Year were all invited to drop by to see the work.
Work was photographed and put on the class blog and the items that could go on perminant display were put up.
Homework: Print off a copy of the photo of your work to stick in your book.
Evaluation of their work, each others work, and the project as a whole.
Feedback was very positive, although many students would have liked more time to construct their exhibits.
I’m conscious that I’ve been talking in the abstract in many of my ‘rebooting’ posts, so I wanted to try and be a little clearer about what I mean and how some of the things I teach have changed this year. This is the first of several posts that will hopefully outline how I’ve changed what and how I teach this year.
Unit: Yr 8 – The problems of monarchy – Elizabeth I
Nb -This is a slightly idealised version of the lessons as they unfolded between my two classes and the version I will try and deliver next year.
How I used to do it:
A series of lessons (some of which I really liked and were really good!) on marriage, Mary Queen of Scots and the Armada. Also a lesson looking at sources and answering the question ‘What did Elizabeth I look like’?
How I switched it:
How successfully did Elizabeth I solve her problems
Lesson 1 – Review previous terms work and update log books. Divide class into 7 groups. Each group gets one topic from the following list: Marriage / Money / Beggars and the Poor / Foreign Trade / Religion / Mary Queen of Scots / Spanish Armada.
Homework: Initial research into topic.
Lesson 2 – Using netbooks – 1 per group .
All groups access a shared Google Presentation via the classblog. Each group has a slide waiting for them.
Run through the ground rules (only write on your own slide. Remember I can see everything)
Start throwing out questions and let students try and find the answers. Add to their slide.
Regular debriefs about what people have found.
Focus on how they’re using the internet to search, common misconceptions and different approaches.
At the end of the lesson show each group the link to their own shared presentation.
Lesson 3 – Students bring in their initial research from lesson 1, plus have access to a netbook and a stack of textbooks.
Explain outline of presentations (need to focus on three things – what the problem was, what Elizabeth did that was successful and what wasn’t)
Lesson is planning outlining and working out what else they need to find out.
Homework – Begin building their presentations
Lesson 4 – Review presentations so far. Give WWWs and EBIs. Focus on content and on presentation (no long text on slides)
Sourcework lesson on what Elizabeth looked like.
Lesson 5 – Group presentations. Homework: Improve the slides based on feedback from the class (Nb – In one class this ran into two lessons)
Lesson 6 – Show off improved slides.
Each group score Elizabeth out of 10 for the problem they studied. Create a success continuum – each group represented by one pupil. I try and persuade them that their score is wrong. They have to argue back. At the end groups can change their score based either on what I’ve said or on their relative position (although they don’t have to).
Lesson 7 – Conclusion
Piece of writing that answers the driving question. Students select three case studies from the seven and summarised the extent to which she succeeded.
Generally really happy with this as an improvement. While it’s true that some topics weren’t covered in as much depth as before, I think the students got a better sense of the historical debate here (which they didn’t before) as well as more focus on effective research and presentation.
Other things to consider next year.
- There are some ways to improve the netbook lesson outlined in yesterday’s post.
- Some kind of framework (KWL grid maybe) might help during the construction of the presentation.
- Can I try and fit this into a bigger picture of development over time? (this is true for most of my yr 8 units)
- Make the presentations publicly available at the end of the project.
Last month Olchfa was visited by Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education in the Welsh Government, as part of a visit to Swansea to see how technology is being used in teaching and learning. As part of that visit, he dropped in to my room for a few minutes to see the kind of things we’ve been doing with technology in History.
The lesson he saw was inspired by the work of Sugata Mitre and the experiments he’s done bringing his experience of putting computers into walls in New Delhi slums, into classrooms in the UK. (TED talk / Keynote from UK Partners in Learning)
Each group of 4 students get one netbook. One student logs into the Portal and accesses a shared Google Presentation which has been set up waiting. Each group has one slide on the presentation, which is also being projected onto the whiteboard.
Following a quick check for understanding and ground rules, I start putting questions onto the first slide and the students go off and try and find an answer. These are added to their side (in their own words) along with a link to the website(s) they used to find the answer. These get regularly reviewed as the lesson goes on, and are used as a platform to talk about research strategies, reliability of websites, techniques for summarising etc etc. The key point is that these ideas arise naturally out of their work rather than being artificially introduced. Feedback from all pupils I’ve done this lesson with is than an overwhelming majority feel they were better equipped to use the internet outside of school as a research tool than they were before.
I repeated the lesson the following week for my Head of Department observation. To be fair it didn’t go as well on this occasion (isn’t that always the way?), so at the end I asked the students for some suggestions as to how it could be improved. To their credit they nailed most of the problems. They suggested that the groups needed to be changed (and to be fair this is an issue that Prof. Mitre addresses, I just didn’t follow his advice), and that the addition of offline resources (eg textbooks) would encourage everyone in the group to join in (I’m less convinced about this second one if I get the groups right)
To that, I would add that I need to go for less questions, but greater depth. An extra suggestion that came from Emma was that giving the questions out in advance would perhaps reduce the sense of rush and frustration that some of the students were showing.
Feel free to borrow and adapt the lesson, and remember to ask your students how to make the lessons better (Credit to Andrew Field for the idea) – they’ll probably come up with better ideas that you would on your own!
I’ve got a while pile of half finished blog posts I had hoped to finish during half term week, but with the failure of the school servers at county halls, it’s knocked out our access to Google Apps as well, so I can’t get to them!
Instead, I’ve spent a bit of time reflecting on how this whole ‘rebooting’ thing is going, halfway though the year.
In a tweet
Love it. More enthusiasm from me and students. Collaboration a big plus. Still need better Qs, more public outcomes plus investigate frameworks like KWL and SOLO
In more detail…
- I feel like my teaching is more focused, more relevant and more enthusiastic than it has been for a few years, and without driving myself into an early grave by making worksheets for everything.
- Having the class blog / edmodo have been great and have given the whole thing a backbone without which I suspect things wouldn’t have worked so well.
- Having the ‘logbook’ at the front of KS3 books isn’t working as I’d planned (we just don’t get the time to fill it in each lesson), but is making a great vehicle for recapping every few lessons and drawing out the main points again.
- My marking is more focussed
- Finally took the plunge and created a blank wiki for my sixth formers to turn into a revision guide. Probably one of the highlights of this last half term – Why didn’t I do it sooner?!?!?
Even Better If
- I want to find a way to put most of my assessment input mid way through a project where it can have most input. I need to redesign a few of the tasks with this in mind.
- Need to look into other frameworks (Eg SOLO and KWL)
- Need to make more little videos to support extended writing.
- I still need to turn my marking around faster – and contain to aim for the kind of ideas expressed here
- More work on questioning – especially moving to a completely no hands up rule for teacher led Q&A and aiming for more basketballs and less ping pong
One of the key things for me as I move towards a more project based approach is to try and get the student immersed in the period we’re studying a little more. So this week I tried an introductory lesson to Elizabeth I – had a massive pile of textbooks in the middle of the room, and after a few minutes talking a little bit about what we already knew, students set off to complete a fact file for display. They could choose what to focus on and how it was to be presented, but they had to get them completed by the end of the lesson. I wandered around discussing searching strategies with students and talking about what they had found, but at the end while I had some great pieces of work I didn’t think I’d got any sense of Elizabeth or the Elizabethian period. Thinking cap back on.
Cue tonight’s idea. Don’t know if it’ll work, but I’ll try it the next time I start a new topic.
The immersion wall consists of a long sheet of paper (probably wallpaper backing paper) with 50 (ish) questions on. It gets pinned up along the wall and the class need to find the answers to as many as they can. They add them to the wall with sticky notes? or sheets of A5? coloured paper. Initially with pins – later we can stick down the best answers (having discussed what they are)
Follow up homework – find me one picture that sums up what we’ve been studying. Bring in a picture for the wall, and write down why you chose it.
- Class effort will hopefully get more discussion and talking.
- Keeps the longer term visual element, but is more focussed.
- Maintains element of freedom but allows me to highlight key issues and ideas more directly
Help me out here – what have I missed. What could go wrong? How could this be even better?
Now, with a little more distance, how do I think I’ve done?
The most ‘different’ units have gone down the best, and that’s pleasing. It was also interesting to see from the students evaluations that little of this is going on elsewhere in the curriculum (or at least, that they’re aware of). I think I was expecting to find more.
Log books are starting to work. They got largely ignored in the first half term, but I’m starting to find them a useful way of regularly recapping (and hopefully consolidating) students learning
Online – Blog and Edmodo have gone down well. Blog in particular for KS3 students. Put together a quick 3 minute video reminder of how to write a recent essay for Yr 7 and got a very positive response, so will try more of this if I can.
I wish I’d set myself some success criteria – how do I know how well I’ve been doing if I didn’t know exactly what I wanted? – Something to come back to perhaps.
Online – Blog needs a new theme to better show off student work. And I need to get better and putting it up there. I also need to make sure I don’t slip out of the habit of posting the homework during the lesson. Leaving it until afterwards is almost always a recipe for disaster!
Merits – I’ve never been a massive fan of an system that promotes extrinsic motivation, but one my year 7 classes did bang me to right on the last week of term for more awarding enough merits. One of my targets for this half term.
I’ve got a few good ideas for projects for next term, around the idea of infographics. I also want to explore the idea of the SOLO taxonomy, but that might be one thing too many at this point – maybe one to come back to in the third term.
I started by explaining that I was going on a mystery holiday and wanted some help as I could ask 5 questions to help me pack. They brainstormed in groups and we got a selection on the board, which I then answered with info about Tudor Wales and asked if they could guess where I was going!
I then explained the project, why I was doing, and the difference between what I had done in the past and what I was proposing now. We took a vote as to which they wanted to do – the old version, or the new, and the voting was unanimous in favour of the project.
I then handed out the textbooks and gave them 25 minutes to come up with a list of possible topics or questions, while I went round and talked to them, set a few on the right lines (mostly of focus – lots wanting to talk about Henry and the six wives) and answered some questions.
We then started feeding back to the board, and turning topics into enquiry questions – From ‘Tudor food’ to ‘What did people eat in Tudor times’ etc etc. This also allowed us to talk about the difference between closed and open questions, and unanswerable questions (‘How many pets did they keep in Tudor times?).
So far so good, but at one point something happened that I wasn’t expecting.
One of the girls asked a question along the lines of ‘did they go on dates?’ which we reworded as ‘How did people get together’. For some reason that seemed to open the flood gates to much more genuine questions, rather than ones culled from text books topics, including ‘Did they have condoms in Tudor times?’ and ‘Could you be gay in Tudor times?’.
Writing it down now doesn’t quite do justice to the buzz that seemed to in the room. And this was Friday last lesson! The reality that they could genuinely ask questions and be rewarded for it, rather than playing ‘guess what the teacher wants’ seemed to be genuinely liberating, for them and me.
Someone later commented that it was the kind of feeling you wish you could bottle. I know there are going to be plenty of missteps along the way, but for a first step on the road this was way better than I was hoping.
Even Better If…
In the cold light of reflection there were two things I would have changed. Both to do with the way I want to try and use exercise books this year. The first was that I got them to draft their questions in the back of their books. In hindsight, this is a key part of the process and deserves to be recorded as such. There will be no more ‘back of the books’ work.
The second was that I messed up the timing so they didn’t fill in their logbooks1. This is something I need to work on.
- I’ve got them to leave the first few pages free to keep a summary record of each lesson. Note to self: Blog about this ↩
My original plan had been to drip feed these posts out. Originally last week, then next. But who am I kidding? Something will happen and I’ll be sat here next week with them still in draft. So, they’re all out, and linked in below, as well as some other resources I’m building as I go. This post will serve as an index and a place I can direct people to in one link.
I’ll (hopefully) be blogging loads more short evaluative posts over the next few weeks.
Google Doc ‘sketchpad’ of ideas (Nb – I’m using the new ‘anyone can comment’ feature in G Docs. Please feel free to do so)
Edited to add: All relevant future posts will be tagged with ‘Reboot’. You can view them here
The first thing to say is all of this is liable to change based on feedback and experience. These are at best some sketches to base projects around.
The second thing is these are currently all History, Key Stage 3 lessons. I’m going to be trying to incorporate elements of this in my ICT lessons and my KS4 and 5 classes, but probably on a slightly smaller scale. We’ll see how it goes.
Anyway, some examples.
Note the further down this list we go the less happy / sure I am about the projects!
Year 8 History – Half term focus – Life in Tudor Wales
Old Way – Series of one hour lessons, each on a facet of life in Tudor Wales / Eng. Homework project at the end to include an element of student choice.
Problem – Too teacher led. Lack of cohesion. Doesn’t really draw out idea of diversity – “Tudor period” over 100 years and lots changed!
Driving Question: What should go in our museum exhibition on Tudor Life in Wales
Overview: Students will work together to research, plan and build in my room an exhibit to show off their findings. They’ll invite people to attend an after school show, and we’ll video / photograph the exhibits for the classblog
L1 – Introduce the topic. Start initial research. Brain storm enquiry questions
L2 – Personal investigation into one question. Peer marked. Second personal investigation for homework
L3 – Planning lesson. What should we include. How will we show it off? How to ‘real’ museums do it? Group and individual action plans
L4 / 5 – (6?) – Research and build. Work on team and individual action plans. Who should we invite.
L7 (?) – Build the exhibit and show it off
L8 – Evaluation.
Year 9 History – Focus: Decades of the 20th C
Old Way – I put students into groups. They research and present posters of their decade. Best one from each of my classes gets displayed.
Problems – Tends to end up being ‘biggest events of that decade’ – would like some deeper historical thinking.
Driving Question: Which of the decades of the 20th Century would you most like to have been a 14 year old in?
Brainstorm the kinds of questions they will need to consider to answer that question
Divide class into ten groups. Each group get a decade to research. Plus, Minus & Interesting (includes key events)
Pair groups up – present to each other and pass decades on. Further research and create presentation.
Class vote – into individual write up
Year 8 History – Aztecs
Old Way: Great scheme of work by a colleague,
Problem: Not enough pull together
Solution: Students will use the information from the lessons to produce either a piece of historic fiction about a European visitor to Tenochtitlan or create a history text book on the Aztecs
Year 7 History – Battle of Hastings
Old Way: Series of lesson culminating in extended writing on why William won the Battle of Hastings
Create a version of the Bayeux Tapestry that tells the truth about what happened at Hastings?
Some of these are still too teacher led or contrived for my liking, but I’m working on it!