Clearing out my teachers toolbox

Image credit: Toolbox by Royalty Free. CC Licensed on

I’m currently on secondment to the Hwb team, so I’m not in school. One of the things this break has given me is a chance to reflect on some of the things I’d be keen to take back (or just take) into my classroom. Some of these were things I was already doing that I would definitely want to maintain. Others were things that on reflection I wasn’t doing enough (or at all) and I’d be keen to fix

Regular low stakes testing.
I started my teacher careers very opposed to the idea of tests, but a growing appreciation of the need for some core knowledge, and my experience of using things like Zondle with my KS4 classes has helped refine that view. I’d also be keen to give QuickKey a try.

‘That needs more work’.
Again, I started as someone happy to accept work that students were happy with. When we started SMART I loved the idea of ‘even better if’, but over time I grew to appreciate that that was useless unless pupils could act on it in a meaningful way. Being a History teacher I was also opposed to the idea of there only being one correct interpretation, but early in my career I think I took that too far and would accept anything that students would come up with. Going back I’d like to think I’d be more willing to challenge interpretations that couldn’t be supported by evidence or explanation, and build a culture (and timetable) around students being able to wanting to redraft and improve work

Student projects
I’ve blogged in the past about large, open ended, student led projects. These would stay. I’ve considered all the evidence that suggests they may not be the most effective way of learning, and for areas where there were a specific set of things to learn then yes, they may not be. However it’s also my job to enthuse students in the learning process, and to get them to set their eyes wider than the school curriculum. For those reasons above all others, these would stay.

The big picture
In the last couple of years I’ve been interested in one of the missing elements of school history, which is the way in which we help students build up a big picture of the past. People like Ian Dawson and others at the Schools History Project have done a lot on this, proposing a shift in KS3 history from a three year trot through the last 1000 years to a series of thematic studies which would go over the same period of time, building up a chronological understanding of the past in doing so. I also love the ‘Big History Project’ stuff that looks to try and answer some of the really big questions over a really big timescale.

Online learning
Making work available at a place and time that it suits students is a must for me. I’ve been a big user of Moodle, Google Apps, Edmodo, Blogs, Wikis and now Hwb+ and Office 365. I’m also keen unlock some of the possibilities offered by cloud computing, especially online collaboration. All of this would stay and hopefully continue to develop.

I started to use the SOLO taxonomy with students over the last couple of yeas, and while I would never adopt it as my only tool it makes a useful scaffolding for student understanding of the complexity of their work. I’m not massively in love with the hexagons (although they have their place), but the taxonomy has been useful from Yr 7 to Yr 13 so it stays.

Hinge questions
Not one I’ve used, but one I’m keen to try and explore. Have a read of this by David Didau if you’ve not come across Hinge Questions before.

Communication with parents
Again, something I wasn’t very good at, but I’d be keen to make much better of, especially email, to communicate successes and achievements home to parents and careers.

I’m sure there may be other things, but my 28 minutes is almost up, and these appear to be at the top of my head, so they’ll do as a starting point.

So, what’s in your box?

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