Student Led Learning- Final instalment and reflection

This week saw the final lesson with my Y9 group to consolidate their learning over the previous two lessons.

The groups had previously been given an extract from Shakespeare’s Much Ado to understand, analyse and be in a position to re-teach to the rest of the class through a task that they have the freedom to compile and test-drive. Our final lesson started with students taking a moment to consider their personal aim for what they hoped to gain from the lesson overall; the students are aware of the impending assessment question and what is required of them from the markscheme.

Tasks were set up by the students and then in their groups, they took part in a carousel around the various tasks. I stipulated that I would only give them a maximum of ten minutes per workstation, to ensure that the task was in keeping with the brief requirements, and to ensure that the activity did not lose focus. Students collected their findings as a result of the task and added to their records for planning that they will carry out independently at a later point. The groups had also compiled an essay style question to match their particular extract, and we shared these so that students could consider which one they would be confident to respond to upon completion of the lesson.

Tasks were pleasing, and incredibly varied. One group had created a treasure trail to break their extract into manageable segments that comprehension then assisted in solving the next clue, one group had compiled a chat-show style role play to explore Leonato’s disgust with his daughter, and another group had used art to mind map Benedick’s conflicting feelings towards Beatrice. It was interesting to see that one group used Head in the Hole, a task idea previously used with the class and pinched from @gemmaharvey73 which reinforced the effectivity of it! A group had created a game of character-emotion snap where players had to justify their ‘snap’ with the text, and another task was entirely compiled via Powerpoint and then an iphone was left for the group to access the Powerpoint to then respond to quiz questions. The variation was fantastic, and providing students with both a sense of ownership and active approach to their learning had demonstrated a level of confidence on their part to create tasks that showed both creativity and used their own ways of understanding and accessing a text to reach the end goal.

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Groups then returned to discuss their findings, and were asked to compile a list of three ways that pride or honour presented itself in different ways. Target questioning was used to share these within the class, and G&T students were given specific challenge during discussion time to compare their ideas with an earlier or later point in the play to encourage them to consider structure, and the development of Leonato’s emotions towards his daughter over time, as he allows her to ‘die’ in order to redeem herself. Individuals then selected an essay style question that they will respond to for me to have an explicit way of assessing their extent of their understanding of textual detail. TBC….

Students completed an exit slip to reflect upon the week and their learning. Positive feedback included:

-I enjoyed the fact it was different and creative

– I liked the freedom and it helped my understanding

– it was an alternative way of me learning the text

– i preferred this over other ways of looking at Shakespeare

The overall consensus was that the girls liked being in control, perhaps too much once we get to the improvement suggestions! I found it an invaluable way for the quieter students to really showcase their ideas and perceptive comments without necessarily being particularly conspicuous (every 14 year old girl’s worst nightmare).

What they would change?

Working together did not go down a treat with all, but then this is inevitably a side effect of any collaborative work. My general response? In the real world, this will happen all the time. Get your democratic decision sharing voice nailed early on, and you will have done yourself a huge favour.

Some students would have preferred a whole-class teach rather than leaving their task to the other group to then visit and attempt to understand- this was essentially where intervention took place; to ensure groups understood the task because certain elements were not clear, despite our practice run the previous lesson. I would remedy this with a trial run by one of the peer groups rather than them test-driving their own task, which would have helped them to visit another task (a general complaint was not having enough time to visit all tasks, but then ‘more time’ is always a factor for student feedback).

My thoughts?

I would have liked a more structured way of recording their findings- how do I know that the lower attainment have found the most value and kept at the same pace? However, this may simply be my must-have-a-sheet-to-show-me head on. I believe in this class’ case, recording and value is not essentially an issue, but if I were to extend this out to other classes, I would want to be in a position to be fully informed on their progress.

The proof will be in the pudding, and I am keen to read over their responses on Friday. Overall, giving students an active role in their own development and progress is something that I want to be able to do, irrespective of attainment or content. I think one of the key paths to engagement is by creating that ‘student-as’teacher’ role beyond peer assessment and this is just one way for students to take part in that as a whole-class experience.

Everything is just a little bit nicer…

Than the first term, right? I mean, sleep deprivation is still a massive deal and book marking resembles some sort of Polar expedition, but it feels easier. I think (and I don’t want to tempt fate for fear of walking into something HORRENDOUS on Monday morning) that i am simply getting a bit better at it. I know this because of the following things:

I do not end Friday with the panicked thoughts of how much work I need to fit into the gap between then and Monday

I do not spend all Saturday and Sunday planning

At times, I get the disillusioned idea for just a second, that I may be ahead of the game on my marking

I have lessons that took very little time to plan that go remarkably well

I no longer have weekend dreams that my Head holds a whole staff assembly that it turns out is in fact a ceremony to present my P45 to me (true story)

There are some days where staff tell me ‘you look nice today’ which must indicate that I washed my hair AND had make up on that day

I am not barking at children because seven weeks in, I’m tired, they’re tired, everyone is just so DAMN TIRED but we must must must plough on with our learning ways until Santa comes (come on Santa, throw me a bone)

I’ve moved house, and don’t want to check myself into some some of retreat

Lesson planning is still fun, and no longer keeping me awake at night. Write it in the ideas book Miss, and then go to sleep

I have successfully weaned myself off canteen cake and feel positive about keeping to this new, improved, non-dependent attitude towards sugar between the hours of 9 and 3

I still really like being a teacher.

PGCErs, chin up. I know they all say it, but guess what? It’s only ruddy true!

Please note, this was all written whilst having lost access to my email on a temporary basis. This is probably a reasonable explanation for what can only be described as ‘living in an idyllic bubble of ignorance.’

Student Led Learning- Part Two

So. After dreaming about this lesson (concerningly), part one of three took place on Friday.

My personal aim is to encourage responsibility for their learning; for the students to really get to grips with how they learn, and the different possible responses to a text. Rather than simply reacting to material within the classroom, I wanted to get them to have a pro-active approach in that they should be in a position to not only gather multiple interpretations to a text, but to be in a position to pass on that knowledge for their peers to react in perhaps a different way. Learning ping pong, ish.

With that in mind, I have created a three-part student led series of lessons that would test drive the process of students taking control of their own learning. The class is a y9 top set group, all girls, who are incredibly conscientious and driven within lessons on the whole, and so were my clear choice for this before extending it out to other groups at a later point. This is a group of students that are frequently driven to push themselves due to the competitive nature of the class, and G&T count is strong enough for me to have a large number of leaders working to micro-manage the collaborative groupings. The group are currently studying Much Ado About Nothing, and working on textual analysis and evaluation whilst working towards an assessment question that considers the themes of honour and pride within the play.

I asked the class to think about how they learn most effectively and to bring these ideas with them to the lesson or discussion. I offered suggestions linked to environment, stimulus and to perhaps recall a particular lesson in which they enjoyed but ultimately, that they took away a positive and enriched learning experience as a result.

The lesson opened with this discussion, using a learning styles visual aid to scaffold ideas. We discussed particular tasks such as role plays, step-by-step processes, examples and collaboration which were written up to use as support for the lesson.

I then outlined the agenda for the three lessons, explaining that each group would be presented with an extract from the play that they would analyse and interpret, before then creating a task/mini-teach for the rest of the class to complete to enable them to understand the language within the extract, and the significance of that extract to the assessment question that the class have had since the start of term. My only stipulation was that the task could be completed without the creating group being present; that way, the consolidation lesson could be set up as a carousel of tasks, with students selecting their particular focus. Each group would have a group director (student selected) that would have the task of delegating tasks out to the other members of their group, and compiling an essay-style question that could be answered using their particular extract. The question would provide a sense of direction for the tasks, and also act as evidence of learning at the end of the series of lessons.

Each group had an extract from a particular moment of significance within the play that could be used at a later point to respond to the assessment question, and a help sheet of questions to scaffold their analysis.

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I deliberately avoided providing any particular structure to the lesson; I simply outlined the intended (but subject to change) agenda for the week, and then stood back.

Observations showed that those that possessed strong leadership skills immediately took on the task at hand, and worked to understand the text in front of them. Individuals used the play script to indicate to them the context of the conversation, or used online reference tools to help them to understand the text. Admittedly, some students struggled without the guidance of a didactic lesson, but this was the minority; the groups that flourished and developed their own task prioritisation were the groups that had second-guessed my choice of leader.

Intervention was in place through visiting each group at a later point to oversee their initial plans, and to assist with the wording of their essay-style questions. For example, ‘how does Beatrice sounding like a man matter?’ was adapted to, ‘How does Beatrice’s masculinity present itself through her use of language?’

Each group focussed upon annotation and analysis of the extract before compiling their question and particular task. Naturally, each group had their own way of reaching the same end goal; selected groups collaboratively mindmapped, or discussed in turn the different ideas. I am pleased that each group seems to have created a completely different task for their re-teach, and the ideas are both simple but effective, without my input.

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As a plenary, each student was asked to select a way of demonstrating either their learning journey for the lesson, or what they predicted this journey to look like next lesson (preparation of their tasks). Some students chose to use the twitter wall to summarise their analysis, whilst others used the whiteboard to make a mini to-do for next lesson. Results were really pleasing overall, and the girls responded fantastically; it was almost a reflection of my own teaching over the last term, to see the plenary tasks that they felt were most effective put into practice without prompt which was incredibly useful.

Next lesson, the groups will create their own learning objective, finalise their re-teach, and trial their own task before the final lesson where students will select particular extract workstations to visit and select which essay question they wish to respond to to evidence their own learning. The class will then complete exit slips to document their feelings towards the experience overall, and help me to understand any tweaks before I give it a go with my other classes where independent learning isn’t quite a prevalent.

Gaps so far? Collaborative groups are key to this. The groups that required intervention were the ones where a natural leader did not surface. Beyond that, engagement was fantastic because of the element of choice, so I think that if this were to succeed with other classes, as with all great ideas, grouping is KEY!

Additionally, time. As always. The girls asked if they could prepare materials for their re-teach outside of the lesson, but clearly this would not always happen within a class. I cannot expect to have that reaction every time, so I think it is important to allocate sufficient time for effective preparation and time to respond to the final question through a piece of extended writing. The second (and possibly third) lesson will be observed, so I am looking forward to getting another set of eyes involved. Another colleague is teaching the same set of lessons to his group so I will be able to gauge success beyond my group as well. Pupils guiding their own development? Who’d have thunk it.