#Litdrive Moves House!

huge_2_10682A year ago (almost to the day) I started up #litdrive, a shared drive for Literacy Coordinators (and all those who think it important that kids know their exclamation form their explanation) to share resources and initiatives. A year on, we have grown from a select few to a few more and I’ve shifted us over to Dropbox to celebrate. The reason? I’m paying for all this nifty storage and want something a little tidier for what is now a hefty bank of resources.

It is the collaborative nature of this profession that will aid teacher survival (I spoke about value vs time a while ago here: https://saysmiss.wordpress.com/2015/01/) and my aim is to teach students and help teachers.

The more the merrier- as ever- so please get in touch @saysmiss if you would like to share or benefit from the shared drive.



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.

Linear Preparation- Are We Ready to Rumble?

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?