Wednesday, 15 May 2013
Here's another Lit poetry lesson that combines skills needed for both Part A and Part B of the second GCSE Literature paper (AQA). It's not a particularly formal, exam-y lesson; instead it looks at embedding the skills students will need in including key assessment objectives in their writing, in a short amount of time.
It's very quick and also transferable to any texts you choose.
It focuses on song lyrics on a theme. I based it around songs I've used in the past when teaching "My Last Duchess", all based around a certain kind of misogyny and unsettling behaviour, but disguised in harmonious, disjunctive or gentle music.
I put copies of the lyrics of three songs on the tables, colour-coded so you can ensure students read the right poem at the right time. I played each song in turn and they read the lyrics during each song. The songs:
Every breath you take - The Police
Under my thumb - The Rolling Stones
Run for your life - The Beatles
Whilst they were listening to the three songs, I put AOs and a title on the board:
AO1: Ideas and attitudes
AO2: Quotations and analysis
AO3: Language and structure
"Explore how both women and men are portrayed in each of these texts."
I gave the students 10 minutes or so for initial discussion and swapping of ideas; highlighting those quotes they thought might be most useful to analyse or examine more closely.
Most of them had heard the Police song at least, but they'd all heard of the Stones and the Beatles even if they hadn't heard these particular songs before. They were shocked to realise the attitudes behind each of the sets of lyrics.
We talk about how the music could disguise or enhance the meanings in the lyrics and we explored how this might be done in the rhythm of poems. A few of the students take music GCSE and they stated that, if they had been given these lyrics and asked to create a score, how unlikely they would have been to create the music of the Beatles track in particular!
Some of the students wanted to know when the songs had been written and they found links to the social and historical contexts through this information.
I was impressed how much they were able to glean about structure, even though they recognised that songs would contain more repetition than other types of poetry. Kris made a brilliantly insightful comment about Every Breath You Take:
"Look how it just goes on... and on, with that repetition of Every at the start of each line in the second half. He will not give up. Even thought the song eventually finishes, you just know he's going to keep going. Ugh!"
After the discussion, I gave them 15 minutes and they then worked in silence, answering the question, with the objective to include all 4 AOs. I suggested a concluding paragraph might look at which speaker they found most threatening...
After the 15 minutes they either peer or self-marked, annotating the AOs, and then we shared the level of insight and analysis shown and attempting to match it to Band descriptors that they all have a copy of in their books.
One more thing:
A brilliant tip that I picked up from the wonderful @JohnTomsett is the use of 'Janus sentences' when writing comparisons. At the end of a paragraph making and exploring a point, you start the next paragraph reflecting on what you've just written and looking forward to the new paragraph's linking point. I've drummed it into my Y11s and they're pretty good at it now. Here's an example:
"In the opening verse of 'Under My Thumb', the speaker refers to 'The girl who once had me down'. This implies that the girl he is referring to treated him badly at one point and this is given as the reason he now behaves the way he does. The word 'down' relates to his status in the relationship at the time; later on he repeats that she is now 'under my thumb', so she is not only lower than him now in status, she is actually being held or controlled; pinned down.
In contrast to the speaker in 'Under My Thumb' who uses past mistreatment as an excuse for his current behaviour, the speaker in 'Run for your Life' states: "I was born with a jealous mind" implying that he cannot help the way he is, as he was born to be jealous and possessive. This feels less of an excuse and more of an arrogant assertion."
Saturday, 11 May 2013
I divided my whiteboard into 3 and headed them according to the 3 AOs:
Friday, 12 April 2013
A few years ago I came across the methodology known as Lesson
Study. It’s been used with great success in the
- In pairs, teachers plan a lesson together and identify focus for lesson /learning
- The focus students are identified; typically 3 students, working at the highest, middle and lowest abilities for that group
- Each stage of the lesson is developed with those learner is mind
- One teacher teaches and the other observes
- Focus is on the behaviour and the learning of the case students, NOT the teacher and his/her performance.
- Following the lesson or during plenary, observing teacher and case students discuss their learning and gain their feedback
- Not a ‘lesson critique’
- Students are encouraged to identify WHAT they have learned in a lesson and, more importantly, HOW and to what extent. I usually do this during the last 5-10mins of the lesson; this works well as it acts as a type of plenary for them to reflect on their learning
- Students are asked to discuss “what went well” and “even better if…” for the methods used in class, NOT the teacher
- Post-lesson, teachers then discuss and plan how they can improve their practice in a collaborative and non-threatening way
- When progress is made by students, lesson study also provides the evidence of this, which is invaluable
- The joint planning
- The focus on the students, NOT the teacher, which immediately takes the pressure off the teacher and allows them to relax and teach as they normally would, without fear of judgement
- The post-lesson discussion that allows for gentle but effective coaching and a model for moving forward, again with the needs of individual students at the forefront.
Thursday, 11 April 2013
And what does 'intervention' mean?
It should mean what you do in the classroom to promote progress. It means marking, oral feedback, making learning outcomes explicit and then measuring how far they've been met.
Firstly, FSM/PP students may not catch up completely with their higher-achieving peers, but even though they have more ground to cover, their progress tends to be more rapid and gaps will narrow. Giving previously mute students the chance to safely share in a paired discussion task or giving responsibility in group work to a usually noisy and attention-seeking member of the class can have surprising and very pleasing results. Here is an area where just changing your questioning strategies from hands-up to random names can vastly improve engagement.
Secondly, if other strategies are employed at the same time as in-class intervention – like the flagging up and awareness of the issues surrounding FSM under-achievement and like the significant adult programme of mentoring, this will give those students even more of a leg-up in terms of the progress we want them to make.
Year 11 cohort for % FSM Gap between FSM/non-FSM
They are all shire county schools that have mixed catchments.
They are all in urban areas within a rural county setting.
School E is our school, 3% less than last year too. I hope this pattern continues. We’ve still got a way to go: finding time to do Lesson Study effectively is an issue, there’s no doubt.
What does this look like in the classroom?
How can we do this?
· Teacher credibility
This is a tricky one to define but if you think back to your own school days, you will be able to pinpoint which teachers had credibility. Why do you think this was? It might come down to some of the following:
How well do you know your students? Do they trust that you have their best interests at heart? Do you do what you say you are going to and always follow things through? How well do you know your subject and impart this to your students?
· ‘Quality First Teaching’
Planning key lessons carefully – when you’ve been teaching for a while, you wouldn’t use a full lesson plan for every lesson, but maybe revisiting this process for, say, the first lesson of a new scheme; or to re-energise a scheme in the middle, would help you to pick the lesson apart and think about how it is broken down, how it caters for the students in that particular class; how often you use AfL; what you want from the plenary, etc. Plan it with or show it to a colleague if you like, for a fresh set of eyes.
Here, I would highly recommend the Lesson Progress Maps developed by the wonderful Headteacher and Clash fan @JohnTomsett. They encourage putting the students’ needs first in a way that other traditional lesson plan pro formas do not. I think they’re invaluable. Links to these below.
· High levels of engagement
Easier said than done… But planning would help with this, again. Another good tip would be to use the ‘lesson study’ model and pick out 3 contrasting students that you know in that class and imagine what their experience of the lesson might be. Include one of your FSM students: how can they be included without necessarily feeling self-conscious? How well will they progress in the lesson you have planned?
Use a wide range of questioning techniques (see here for ideas, as gleaned from Geoff Petty)
· Active learning
Group work; PLTS; helping students to take responsibility for their own learning; using rewards throughout the lesson; lots of praise for positive behaviour and effort. Resources in the Box of Tricks are designed to help management of group work (see my blogpost on group work)
· Mini-tasks within lessons
Instead of one long activity, sometimes it might be possible to break it up into smaller tasks. Many FSM students need to see they are achieving things before they engage, and this could help.
· Immediate feedback
AfL is crucial and cited as one of the most important elements of raising achievement for FSM (and all other) students. Think about how you praise: make it ‘real’ and praise for effort and actual achievement; give out rewards as you go along and say specifically what it is for.
Diagnostic comments are proven to be far more effective than ‘praise comments’ and giving scores/levels
Creating a dialogue by marking their books after tasks to show whether LOs are being met – and to what extent. Use questions in your marking rather than stating what has gone well or what needs improvements: the student can then answer these questions.
Set aside lesson time for them to act on feedback: for them to check and correct spelling and grammar, answer your questions, develop further points.
Use stickers to record oral feedback that you might give in class to individuals or groups (“Mr/Ms X gave me some feedback: what was it?”). If they then summarise your feedback in their books, you then know that they understood what you discussed with them.
Don’t accept RAG feedback until you know it’s being used properly: use questioning to check how far they’ve understood.
Use Blob trees (mini ones are good for sticking in books - see below for link). These are brilliant at showing to what extent students have understood a concept and how they feel about it.
Give opportunities for students to feedback as well. Be brave and ask for “Two stars and a wish” on post-its from all or selected students: How was the lesson for them? What bits did they like or not like? Why? Lesson Study is a brilliant way to get this kind of feedback in a controlled environment where you won’t feel too ‘picked on’!
· ‘Chunked’ lessons
Be specific about how the lesson will be structured. Even in longer tasks/project work, give deadlines and undertake ‘audits’ and reviews to show students that signposts should be reached.
FSM students often find more open-ended tasks very difficult to stick at and are more likely to give up easily.
· Personalised learning
Know your students; know their needs; fit your lesson to them.
Even generic lessons that are part of a scheme of work should be tailored for that group’s, and those students’, needs.
Use and display key words.
Vary your resources and methods to accommodate a variety of learning styles.
· Explicit learning outcomes
Make your Learning Objectives really meaningful, not just ‘board decoration’
Use the “So that…” rule. Add “so that…” (as championed by the fabulous Zoe Elder @fullonlearning) to your LOs, to remind yourself why you are doing particular tasks and to show students the relevance of their lesson. It’s an easy habit to get into, to write LOs as ‘general headings’. Look at them from your FSM students’ point of view: do these LOs really tell them what is expected of them in the lesson and do they know why they are doing it? (see below)
· Helping students to recognise the significance of their learning
Many FSM students are unable to see ‘the bigger picture’ about their learning; they don’t see the relevance of much of what they do at school and they fail to make the connections with the skills they might develop at school with those they will need in later life. When you introduce the LO, tell them why they are doing this, e.g. What part of the exam does it relate to? How important is it in building skills for their coursework/controlled assessment? What real life examples could you give them to show how this skill might be needed outside of school? Can the tasks be related to ‘real life’ scenarios?
In a nutshell: What’s the point?!
Make your starting point your year 7s - this is an area I'm looking into now. We've asked our main feeder primaries to flag up those students who are already falling behind with 'symptoms' such as those we now recognise. We've also had a middle leaders meeting at a key feeder primary school to look at the work Y5 and Y6 have been doing, so we get a much better idea of the standards they are used to. As a result of this we are reviewing our schemes of work for Year 7 and we're setting our expectations much higher.
The 3 levels of progress expected by Ofsted now should maybe take the focus off those D to C students and look at ALL students and what their potential is. It's not a popular move with everyone, but I think it will make a real difference to FSM and PP students. And it will make NtG strategies even more crucial.
I hope this has been helpful.
One of Pip Wilson's blob trees
Pockets of Poverty
Education Endowment Fund Toolkit
Evaluation of London Challenge