Plants and Power: Teachmeet Ashby

It has been a while. Both for blogging about a topic of a more stringent sense of substainance but also my attending a teachmeet. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed listening to the ideas and could only recall the fear of talking in front of grown ups instead of small people; with both these fuzzy memories in mind, I presented about the elements of Plants and Power this week. Here is a general summary:

Last year, I did two things that have had a profound impact upon my teaching approach. I watched Dr Angela Duckworth discuss the essence of grit, a measure that she cerated to monitor the link between effort and outcome. I also read Mindset by Dr Carol Dweck, who outlines her extensive study into growth mindset when approaching not only education but all aspects of life. I went away inspired by both women and it led me to thinking; how could I use these two ideas to make an impact upon student learning?

Having been an advocate of growth mindset for a while, I knew that my tutor group alone were  not buying it, and why would they? Watching a cartoon that tells you to think differently might make you stop for a moment, to then simply return to your routined, fixed mindset as you go about your day. Talking AT students doesn’t work, I already knew that, so why did I continue to think that doing so would make any sort of impact?

In my presentation, I funnelled my new approach into six tips for using growth and grit to develop students:

  1. Promote growth mindset by creating an environment where failure is not only inevitable but expected of yourself and others. Praise the admittance of failure or the realisation of failure in others. Create a classroom culture (which can only be developed, as with all things, over time) where students feel comfortable and confident to know that this is part of the process. Enjoy the feeling of failure together as though it is one big collaborative puzzle.
  2. Use questions for a learning objective. This is as simple as it gets but one of the most valuable things that I was taught as a PGCEr. Why instruct what we are going to learn? Why not exchange that statement for a question that the student can take ownership of, work towards, where the question can always be answered, developed, challenged, counter-argued?
  3. Model peer assessment and develop this process as a student-led task that requires all to actively contribute towards. Ensure that the peer assessment is as elaborate and rich in language as the piece of work itself. Be generous with the time and frequency, praising those that dedicate an equal amount of effort to peer assessment as they did the task. Request that students include a specific suggestion for improvement, exemplifying how this would look for one another or giving signposting as to what could help them to make the next steps; it is the emphasis on next steps rather than checkpoints which has driven this for me.
  4. Make marking fast and as embedded within the lesson and not outside of it as you possibly can. Target mark (success criteria numbered, students write out the success criteria target themselves) and shift the marking time within your lesson, post assessment, rather than as a solitary act for yourself as the teacher. Once you have marked and taken the temperature of the learning, students can then be highlighted as mentors to set improvement tasks for those with specific targets. Allow students to lead the reflection work and include the time for them to consider what they can do next to move on their learning.
  5. Encourage self-auditing. This is an entirely different process to learning over time and should be led by the student. Create a regular slot where students can look over their achievements and make a comparison to an assessment last year, their report, their own recollection of confidence. Provide a way for such things to be recorded so that they have a clear, defined way of celebrating their successes beyond simply the data on the page.
  6. This leads nicely on to letting students reflect, in as many ways as possible. Make what you are doing meaningful to the student by allowing them to consider what the purpose of the unit of work was beyond an exam; incorporate student voice either through exit slips( I like to create an online method using surveymonkey or google forms) or student voice meetings. Give students regular, in-depth ways for them to measure their progression as individuals.

If you have any questions regarding how I carry out such things within the classroom or would like a copy of any of the resources mentioned, please get in touch via @saysmiss and I am more than happy to share/collaborate/babble.


#FiftyBookChallenge- 2015

For the first year EVER, I ended with time to spare. Granted, it was only a day but progress is progress! As ever, my exhaustive list followed by the highlights:

  1. Robert Graves- Goodbye to All That
  2. Patrick Ness- More Than This
  3. Jonathan Coe- The House of Sleep
  4. Pierre LaMaitre- Alex
  5. Very British Problems
  6. Michael Grant- Light
  7. Anonymous- Go Ask Alice
  8. Charlie Higson- The Enemy
  9. Ray Bradbury- Fahrenheit 451
  10. Lara Williamson- A Boy Called Hope
  11. Sabine Durrant- Remember Me This Way
  12. Brothers Grimm- the Robber Bridegroom
  13. John Williams- Stoner
  14. Carol Dweck- Mindset
  15. David Almond- Savage
  16. Tom Baker- The Boy Who Kicked Pigs
  17. Tim Bowler- Night Runner
  18. Tess Sharpe- Far From You
  19. Ann Kelley- Runners
  20. Anne Holm- I am David
  21. Gillian Flynn- Sharp Objects
  22. Sophie McKenzie- Girl, Missing
  23. Siri Hustvedt- The Sorrows of an American
  24. Banjamin Zephaniah- Teacher’s Dead
  25. Matt Haig- The Humans
  26. Sarah Crossan- The Weight of the Water
  27. Jessica Kane- The Report
  28. Mary Kingsley- A Hippo Banquet
  29. Marcus Sedgewick- Cowards
  30. Albert Camus- L’etranger
  31. JP Cavafy- Remember Body…
  32. Glen Duncan- The Last Werewolf
  33. Piers Torday- The Last Wild
  34. Dr Seuss- There’s a Wocket in my Pocket
  35. George Taylor- 1 4 Sorrow
  36. Paula Hawkins- Girl on the Train
  37. Paint me Like I am- Poetry for Young Adults
  38. E.Lockhart- We Were Liars
  39. Keith C Blackmore- Mountain Man
  40. Jay Asher- Thirteen Reasons Why
  41. James Thurber- The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
  42. Natalie Babbitt- Tuck Everlasting
  43. Diana Hendry- The Seeing
  44. Jennifer Niven- All the Bright Places
  45. Gillian Flynn- the Grown Up
  46. Jasmine Warga- My Heart and Other Black Holes
  47. Andy Weir- The Martian
  48. Michael Acton Smith- Calm
  49. Neil Gaiman- How the Marquis Got his Coat Back
  50. Matt Haig- A Boy Called Christmas

It seems the overarching themes for 2015 were war, YA fiction, dystopia, poetry and a couple of wildcards in between! I will pick out some highlights for those that want to take something useful from this list. I would like to start by saying I did persevere with a couple of books even after my initial enjoyment waned, but I won’t dwell on these. In the same way that I would not introduce someone by saying, ‘he’s not my type,’ it would be rude of me to sway your opinion of a book. It is simply not fair.

YOU MUST READ The Martian by Andy Weir and Humans by Matt Haig. I have been standing on my soap box to anyone who will listen about both and they show a completely alternative insight to our existence as humans. They question the importance that we place on what we perceive to be extraordinary and open our eyes to the wonder of the ordinary.

ONES FOR THE BOYS if you teach are 1 4 Sorrow, Teacher’s Dead and The Enemy. Charlie Higson’s sequel has been on my shelf for a month now and is on the list for 2016. Michael Grant’s Gone series is another fantastic set that will keep anyone hooked for a considerable distance.

NOT FOR CHILDREN’S EYES but definitely worth picking up (on the basis that you are not easily offended or squeamish) are Sharp Objects and the Last Werewolf. Brutal, brash and unapologetic, Glen Duncan tells a convincing tale of the supernatural.

GOOD FOR WAR IN THE CLASSROOM are I am David and Sedgewick’s Cowards. Holm tells a story equal in poignancy to Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and places emphasis upon the impact that adults have upon children. The Report also shows the conditions that people faced in the aftermath of the war, based on an original news report of a tragedy that took place in Bethnal Green in 1943.

IF YOU ONLY WANT ONE, read Pierre LaMaitre’s Alex. It warped my brain cells in the same way that Under the Skin bent them inside and back out again.

Interested in a reading challenge for 2016? Join me (and my school!) in #fiftybookchallenge. No rules, no list- most of my reads are YA fiction as the library is free in school and kids often recommend books to me. Anything goes- as Dr Seuss demonstrates- non fiction, fiction, self help, educational… you name it. Our students started this September and one is leading on 36 books so far! For the fifty book pledge resources, please email me for access to #litdrive. Happy New Year!