I looked around my year nine class yesterday and despaired a little. Not a fan to admit to moments of anything but positivity in the classroom, I thought that it would be best to take stock and work through to offering/seeking a solution to said despair. Little Johnny not even listening to the question until the fourteenth time, other little Johnny making what unfortunately are rather hilarious comments about little Johnnetta’s rather prominent eyebrow control, big Johnny in the corner retorting that Peter Kay made 34 million last year, and so his own career is SET.
My question- how on earth am I going to drag this angelic collection of Johnnies through the first linear GCSE spec in 2017? I have rather plainly stated that unfortunately no, I am not Alex Mack, I do not collapse into a pool of mercury and so therefore cannot segment out my being to reform terminator style as them to sit the exam papers. There has to therefore be another way.
The shift towards linear has challenged my usually positive and proactive outlook to my profession. In a perfect world, I need students who are focussed, well read, used to working independently, controlled with their written responses, able to interpret non fiction texts, a wide knowledge of poetry, a genuine enjoyment for the subject and an ability to work at their finest in exam conditions.
Now I know when I say this how surprised you will be; this is not the description of my Johnnies.
I realised that I was asking the wrong question. How are THEY going to drag themselves through it? I sincerely believe that it is my responsibility to fully equip and prepare them for such a condition, but they need to be actively involved in the process. Beyond a mother- style lecture, how do I get the commitment that I need from students that have already disengaged from my subject, a subject that is so imperative to their future?
I don’t have the answer to that. But I am on it, I can assure you.
Students need to recognise FOR THEMSELVES the importance of y9 as a preparation year. This is the year to understand the exam, the texts, and form targets that they can take into year ten with a clear expectation of what they need to do to achieve. They need to read, anything, and preferably a variety of texts to grow that word bank before 2017 sneaks up on us. They need to be able to look objectively at their work. They need to collate information along the way, preparing tools and records for themselves to be able to cll upon during revision time. They need to remember what they have learned and be able to apply it to a text that they have never seen before.
They’re going to do all of this, unaided, with an unabated eagerness to succeed. Right?
Ok. Here is what I am doing. I have prepared a ‘what can I do?’ Outline and hand delivered to all my y9s with a star next to the one that they should personally focus on first. You can find this on my twitter account, @saysmiss, but the actions are generally those in the paragraph above. We have a weekly spelling test, collecting the words that we struggled with the most for a lesson on strategy later on in the term. With 20% resting on SPG and a separate reference to formality within analysis on the mark scheme, I’m not taking any chances Johnnies, no no no. All students are sent the assessment cover sheet at the start of term, with the task that they will be completing. They are encouraged to look at this, work out where they feel they can currently meet or exceed the mark scheme, and an area that they want to focus on as a target. Again, this will be visited during the planning lesson prior to examination with a ‘Genius Bar’ lesson; those with specific strengths will advise those who have set that area as a target. We have a weekly non fiction news based starter, using news sites as inspiration for a correction task. We have #takeawayhwk to create and store revision tools for each unit, so that the end of the summer term can be based around those tools.
Both I and the students need to feel that not only are we prepared for this huge shift, but that we have done everything to equip ourselves for every eventuality. I still don’t know the answer to my question, and don’t feel that it will be answered until those exam results come through, but I need to feel that I have gotten off my lazy dependent bum and done something about it. Right Johnny?