Take Away the Spoon

Linear assessment keeps me awake at night, and every day that passes feels like a lost opportunity to prepare students with the coping mechanisms that they need to function in the big, wide, real world. Here are a few ways of ensuring that the children that enter your classroom stand a chance if left to their own devices:

Mentor roles. The most rewarding and empowering thing that you can offer a student within the classroom. This does not have to rest with your more able student, but can simply be responsibility within the classroom. I find roles a fantastic way of ensuring engagement- administrators, class leaders, board writers, mentors that oversee tasks, annotators for whole class exercises using Word review. Everyone likes to have a moment in charge.

Student voice- regularly use google forms to take feedback. You can gauge the temperature of the previous term, get valuable ideas from the students (hwk suggestions, lesson planning) and again, empower them to take ownership of their learning. I like to open the new term with ‘You Said, I Did’ slides that show their responses, and how I have incorporated that within planning and assessment for the term ahead.

Student-led learning- they create the learning objective, they set the task that will help them achieve it, they assess their progress, they decide on the next steps. You facilitate, rather than instruct. Ideally, you just sit in the space of whoever has taken on the role as teacher.

Challenge yourself I encourage all students to create their own tasks, create questions linked to the learning objectives, add words as we read or discuss topics to the word wall within the classroom to stretch vocabulary. These aspects are now embedded that Y7 particularly are trained in the routine of seeking out the answer for themselves.

Create an independent classroom- students should have the resources available to help themselves; I have now set up an unstuck corner for both reading and writing, where students can fetch help cards that will assist them with their particular task or improvement during DIRT lessons. Again, by establishing routines, students are now equipped to seek out ways to improve without my input.

Provide the stimulus- especially at GCSE, non fiction texts are so alien to students, that the concept of formulating a report, or news article is incomprehensible. GCSE classes are now bringing in non fiction on a weekly basis that interested them, or they would like the class to discuss- this is usually an online blog, or news article. The only requisite is that they compile a question to accompany the text as a starting point. We are collating all of the texts to use during revision sessions at a later point in the year- again, students need to take ownership of the direction that they are heading toward.

Consolidate- each term, the final homework is to find a way of consolidating the learning that the student has experienced for that particular unit. We have explored different ways of achieving this- Prezi, a Ppt, a scrapbook, revision tool, mindmap…. whatever works. I have set the expectation that we will call upon this in Y10, and Y11 to see how skills have developed, what we could add or improve, or how the tool helps us to recall the specific skills in question.

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Cut It Out- Things we Forget about Behaviour

DISCLAIMER- this is my opinion. Do not pitch fork me out of town for something from my brain that doesn’t agree with something from your brain.

It is always week four- I look a little bit like a bedraggled spaniel, the kids are chucking anything on the damn page that resembles your WAGOLL in the same way that a hedgehog resembles a platypus, and everyone is on a plate spinning frenzy. I’ve spent the last week talking to a lot of teachers, and it all seems to centre around behaviour. Ladies and Gents, the honeymoon period is over. Year 9 are in full throttle puberty, Year 8 are striving hard towards that self fulfilling prophecy of the naughtiest year group award, and Year 7 have realised that now there are more than thirty people to a year group and they can access Facebook on their phone to passively aggressively demonstrate their hatred, the world is their oyster. The key concern is the impact of behaviour on classroom time, and Sir/Miss, they are gathering their armies for the biggest LLD since well, this time last year. Low Level is my ultimate pet hate. It turns me into a whinging old ratbag, makes me roll out that old chestnut about how its their time they’re wasting and not mine (lies) and that they’re being rude (using my own childhood threats doth not a quiet classroom make, FYI). So, I thought it may be useful to share some of the things that I do that do work, and that it would help me to actually do it rather than revert back to a pre recording of a teacher of the Victorian era, hunting about for my line book. Here we go:

Celebrate successes- this takes a variety of forms, and is really down to the child. I often get a whisper from a TA that little Jonny doesn’t like to be praised- yeah right. Everyone likes praise. Even Jonny, who looks like he is practically smoldering with teenager fumes at the back of the classroom. Praise can be simply writing names up on the board for a particular reward, volunteering particular students for administration jobs for reward or open praise during class discussion. My smoldering little Jonny edited and modified for the class using Word Review, under much duress and ‘I don’t gerrit.’ He loved it.

Ignore the hook- do not get reeled in to an open discussion about why why why why why. Tell the student quietly the consequence of their behaviour; if they challenge it, ask to see them at the end. Always. Don’t get all Braveheart/Dangerous Minds and see it as a challenge to a duel. No good can come of that.

Welcome feedback- students love being honest. Ask if they enjoyed the lesson, if they feel challenged, how they would have taught the lesson differently, what they enjoy the most. Ownership is the most powerful tool and it is very difficult to claim boredom when you have been given the opportunity to shape your own learning within the classroom. I like to use Google Drive to compile a student voice for this each half term- mainly to create a sense of closing the loop for the student following an assessment and feedback, but also so that they have a chance to provide meaningful feedback. We start our first lesson back with a ‘you said, we did’ starter, showing their comments and how I have tried to implement their ideas for the new term. Additionally, I take homework suggestions and credit their ideas on the #TakeawayHwk menus. You cannot complain about something when you are a part of its creation!

ET- phone home. It is time consuming, and you want to sprint for the door on Friday when that bell goes, but it is the smallest action on your part and means such a significant deal to the child. Positive calls home (I believe) should be part of any behaviour management policy, and directed time should account for this. I select one or two students from each class that have really impressed me or gone over and above their own expectations in some way that week. This is the chance for you to really sing the praises of the underdog. The ones that are quietly shining in the room.

Build- rapport. Show your personality. Demonstrate your boundaries within being stone statue teacher. Illustrate your limits, and your capability to allow for their own characteristics, and dynamics in relation to one another within the lesson. You need to work towards existing as a team, rather than you as instructor. I believe that this can only happen by embracing the strengths and quirks of each student in the room.