The Move From Primary to Secondary

I have been thinking a lot recently about the transition between primary and secondary school. As well as recently running a module on my EEF KS2/3 Maths course all about it, I have also been involved in a Sussex Maths Hub project aiming to look specifically at supporting teachers of year 6 this year. My oldest son is coming up to his own move to secondary as well and this is making me see this from both sides. Unfortunately, in our busy teaching lives we don’t often have the opportunity to cross phases and really look at what and how children learn either before they get to us or after they leave us, but every single time I have had the chance to work with my primary colleagues I have found the experience very rewarding and helpful to my practice. I will outline here some of the main things that I have learned.

Firm foundations

Our recent webinar and Zoom meetings with Sussex Maths Hub were led by Jenny Stratton (Primary Deputy Head and Maths Hub Assistant Lead) and aimed to look in detail at the specific knowledge and skills that are most important for our year 6s to have as they move to secondary school, given the gaps they have had in their schooling this past year. We surveyed local secondary teachers and then were lucky enough to have input from Alison Hopper, Primary Mathematics Specialist from MEI (Mathematics Education Innovation). She spoke about how important it is to have firm foundations and fluency in manipulating number and also a deep understanding of structure. We looked at activities which can help us to develop this in both primary and secondary, and we were also reminded of the wealth of helpful resources available such as the NCETM’s powerpoints focusing on the Ready to Progress criteria for Maths. In Brighton and Hove, both Jenny Stratton and Ruth Astley (Secondary Assistant Head and Mastery Specialist) have been involved in bringing together the secondaries and their feeder schools to decide which aspects of the year 6 curriculum should be prioritised this year.

Consistency

The EEF Guidance Report on KS2/3 Maths recommends that “Primary and secondary schools should develop shared understandings of curriculum, teaching and learning” (Recommendation 8). In both our Hub Zoom meeting and my EEF course module teachers have been tasked with looking at questions from KS2, 3 and 4 assessments and trying to guess which key stage they come from. This has made for interesting discussion and is extremely difficult! Secondary teachers are often surprised at the complexity of questions from year 6 SATs papers, and primary teachers sometimes feel that all of their pupils would be capable of some of the easier Foundation tier GCSE questions, so ask why are some of them still at that level 5 years on? There is a well-documented dip in performance on transition from primary to secondary which can be attributed to a number of factors:

  • Emotional and social adjustment to a very different school environment (Galton et al, 2003)
  • Discontinuities in curriculum
  • Variation in how the curriculum is taught, and how learners are grouped (Symonds & Galton, 2014; Jansen et al, 2021)
  • Y6 focus on national tests (Galton et al, 2003)

We have an opportunity this year without the national tests in year 6 to try to address some of these, and trying to ensure consistency of approach is one important aspect. Alison Hopper talked about approaches to ratio in our Zoom meeting and I was surprised that although we would now teach ratio in a very similar way at Durrington, our primary feeder colleagues said they tackled it in a very different way. Could it be that our new intake children do know much more than we sometimes think, but they don’t realise this as topics are sometimes approached in such a different way at secondary school?

Collaboration

Collaboration is therefore going to be a key way that we can start to solve this problem. At Durrington we are finding that the more collaboration that goes on between maths staff, the better and more consistent our lessons and teaching are becoming. As we jointly plan lessons during our SPDS meetings, or informally chat about them between lessons in the office – what went well, what could be better next time – we are giving students are better deal: they can build upon their learning when moving between classes, teachers and year groups without feeling everything has changed. We need to be doing this much more across the primary / secondary divide, and this is why these webinars and meetings, and the contacts we are now starting to make with our feeder schools, are so important.

Confidence

The change from primary to secondary is a really big one. My own son will go from being one of the oldest 60 children in his school of just over 400, to a massive institution where there will be not far off 400 children in his year group. It is no wonder that some students who flourished at primary lose much of their confidence and start to believe that they “don’t know anything” – there is so much that is new and unfamiliar. We need these children to enter secondary school being able to build on previous knowledge, to make useful connections with things they have previously seen, and for their teachers to be aware of these to get the best out of them.

Having now made the initial connections with our feeder schools and started the ball rolling we are hoping this project will continue to grow: this should not be a flash in the pan, a couple of meetings and a visit by a year 7 teacher 3 weeks before the end of term, but an ongoing collaboration. We need to discuss pedagogy, share teaching methods and look at different ways our students will approach questions. Being now used to meeting remotely might be the lynchpin in this: of course it will be great to meet face to face when we can, but Zoom meetings do allow us to get together on a much more regular basis and keep those contacts going during our busy lives. It is so important that we make this a priority so that we can give as many of our students as possible the confidence to thrive at secondary school.

Deb Friis

Deb is a maths teacher at Durrington High School. She is also a Maths Research Associate for Durrington Research School and Sussex Maths Hub Secondary Co-Lead and is currently delivering our training on the EEF Guidelines for KS2 and 3 Maths.

Thanks to @AlisonHopperMEI @ruthastley @SEMathsHub @JennyStratton3 @NewickSchool

EEF Guidelines for KS2/3 Maths can be found here https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/tools/guidance-reports/maths-ks-2-3/

This blog from Aidan Severs also has some really useful thoughts on the transition to secondary http://www.thatboycanteach.co.uk/2021/03/making-secondary-schools-primary-ready.html?m=1

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Weekly Round Up – 3rd May 2021

Blog of the Week

‘The Power of “By”’ by Adam Boxer

In this blog Adam encourages us to think about the rationale behind particular teaching approaches that we might be looking to focus on.

You can find the ‘Blog of the Week’ archive here.

On Classteaching Blog

‘How to pre-empt poor behaviour and avoid unnecessary confrontation’ by Shaun Allison

A summary of strategies that teachers can employ to prevent problems with behaviour

‘Disciplinary Reading in Real Life’ by Fran Haynes

This blog looks at how we are implementing disciplinary reading here at Durrington

On Research School Blog

‘Do Now Better’ by Jack Tavasolly-Marsh

‘Do Now’ tasks are commonplace at the start of lessons these days.  In this blog, Jack explores how they can be even more effective.

Other Useful Links

Classteaching Podcast

Subscribe to the ClassTeaching podcast:

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/class-teaching-podcast/id1553470551 (Apple)

https://anchor.fm/james-crane39/ (Other platforms)

Episode 8 available now: Responding to Misconceptions

James Crane talks to Deb Friis about how she identifies and then responds to misconceptions.

Next FREE CPD Twilight Webinar

  • Theme: Disciplinary Reading
  • Led by: Fran Haynes
  • Date: Tuesday 11th May
  • Time: 3.30pm-4.00pm

Registration:  

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScP69-gfQO0W55SgfmCbb0aHqxj3KE_7334AjEHbpOEp2xjDg/viewform

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How to pre-empt poor behaviour and avoid unnecessary confrontations in your classroom

Last week I came across a brilliant video by Adam Boxer entitled ‘Setting Students up to Succeed’.  In the video, Adam shares some approaches he uses in his classroom to prevent problems arising.  The approaches are taken from Doug Lemov’s superb book ‘Teach Like a Champion 2.0’.  You can watch the video below – and I strongly recommend that you do:

In just 20 minutes or so, Adam does a superb job of summarizing these incredibly useful approaches.  Irrespective of your teaching experience, I’m pretty convinced that they will make a significant difference to your practice.  With this in mind, I thought I would share them here.

  • Narrate the positive – teachers often use a countdown, when they want their students’ attention e.g. ‘I want you all silent in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1’.  The countdown should be punctuated by you emphasising students doing the righ thing e.g. ‘…5, 4, I can see John putting his pen down, 3, I can see Sarah looking at me now, 2, 1’.  By doing this, you are normalising compliant behaviour.  Narrate the positive can be used in a variety of contexts e.g. whilst watching students as they start a new task.

  • Least invasive intervention – when you are doing the above, you might notice some students not complying.  Rather than drawing attention to this and calling it out in front of the whole class e.g. ‘Nick….stop talking now!’, take the least invasive intervention.  This might be a nod of the head, in the direction of the non compliant student, or a raised eyebrow etc.  They get the message that you have acknowledged their non-compliance and want them to stop, without bringing it to the attention of the whole class.

  • Be seen looking – as you are waiting for students to settle, as you are narrating the positive, make it clear that you are looking around the room to monitor their behaviour.  Do this by making it obvious that you are looking around the room, by deliberately moving your head around.  Again, be stating the positive and negative behaviours that you observe.

  • Pastore’s Perch – once you have set students to work on a task, move to a position in your room where all students will be in your field of view.  This might not be at the front and centre of the room.  Often it will be the left or right corner of the room.  When you are there, stand there and scan the room, to check that all students are on task.  If they are not, again use the least invasive intervention to get them back on track.

  • Means of participation – often, students don’t carry out a task in the way we want them to e.g. in silence, for a simple reason – we assume they will do it this way, without telling them.  Pre-empt this by signalling and cueing how you want them to work beforehand. For example:

“By putting your hand up in the air, who can answer question 2?

“Working on your own and in silence, I want you to work through questions 1-10”

  • Front loading – this is where you put your means of participation at the front of the instruction, before the point at which a student might stop listening and thinking about something else.

  • Step away from the speaker – when a student starts to answer a question, step away from the student answering the question.  This is important because it signals to the rest of the class that they are still a part of the conversation.  If you move towards the student answering the question, it becomes a one to one conversation and you risk switching off the rest of the class.

  • Brighten Lines – when you are giving students instructions, make sure the instructions are very specific and clear.  Give the instructions once, then twice and ask students to repeat the instructions back to you.  Give a clear time limit for a task and ask if there is anyone who is still not clear about the task.  Then set the students off on the task.  As they do, assume Pastore’s perch, be seen looking and narrate the positive.

  • 3:30:30 rule – when students settle into an independent task, the teacher should go to Pastore’s Perch and just stand and watch the class for three minutes – being seen looking and using least invasive intervention as required.  Even if a student hand goes up straight away, tell the student you will be with them in a few minutes – don’t go to them before the end of the three minutes – they will probably unstick themselves!  Following the three minutes, start circulating the room.  Interact with individual students who need support for 30 secs and then stop and scan the room again for 30 seconds, before engaging with other students for 30 seconds again.  This intermittent scanning, with you ‘being seen looking’ stops students drifting off task, as they know you are still monitoring the whole class.

I hope I’ve done a good enough job of explaining the approaches that Adam shared in his video.  I think they are great.  You can read more from Adam on behaviour here.

Huge thanks to Adam and Doug.

Shaun Allison

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Disciplinary Reading in Real Life

Disciplinary literacy, particularly as a strategy for secondary schools, is justifiably advocated by the EEF as a priority for the curriculum. However, it is sometimes tricky to negotiate the theoretical aims of this approach with the messy real life of the classroom. The underlying principle of disciplinary literacy is that members of different disciplines read, write and talk in different ways and this directly impacts understanding of the subjects within those varied disciplines. As teachers, we need to explicitly teach these literacy practices to all students so that they, too, can gain that understanding and are able to engage with the different disciplinary communities. You can read more about the research behind disciplinary literacy here.

Perhaps the greatest element of disciplinary literacy is its crucial focus on subject-specificity. This means that the approach draws away from the traditionally limited understanding of literacy that has been prevalent in schools for years, i.e. that it is something about apostrophes and fronted adverbials that pupils are taught in primary schools and then get reminded about occasionally in KS3 and KS4 English. Yet, this subject precision can be a double-edged sword. Whilst on the one hand it makes literacy a relevance and requisite for every subject (which is, of course, a great thing), on the other hand insisting that every subject uses symbols to mark for capital letters and full stops is a whole lot easier to explain and monitor. This divergence between lofty ideals and practice is often a challenge to the implementation of any evidence-supported strategy, but it seems to be a very steep mountain to climb in the case disciplinary literacy.

A possible way forward might lie with Doug Lemov’s ‘micro rules’ for reading. You can read more about Lemov’s ideas here, but in short Lemov reminds us that when experienced readers read, they tacitly apply and appreciate rules that help them to understand the text. For example, when reading a science text, readers used to this discipline know that the text will use finite verbs in the present tense. Furthermore, experienced readers of scientific texts will know that this grammatical form is used because science, in general, is interested in ongoing situations. An apt example of this can be found in a recent online edition of ‘New Scientist’: Humans aren’t the only animals to cut the umbilical cord – cats and dogs bite through them when their offspring are born. Whilst is it unlikely that all scientists understand the ins and outs of finite verb usage, what this example does demonstrate is how understanding the literacy practices or micro rules of a discipline – i.e. that scientists use verbs in the present tense – is a fundamental part of understanding the discipline itself. 

Lemov argues that making these micro-rules explicit is critical to effective reading instruction. Inevitably, as the rules differ across the different disciplinary texts, teachers in the different subjects would have to identify and teach unique sets of micro rules. Whilst this is by no means easy, it is eminently possible. In this way, a whole-school approach to literacy can be implemented that still enables subject-specificity to be at its core.

How might this look?

At Durrington, we are currently in the early stages of implementing this ‘tight but loose’ whole-school literacy strategy, specifically with a focus on disciplinary reading. It is the next step following our work on explicit vocabulary instruction, which you can read about here. Below is an outline of our plan:

  1. Curriculum leaders have all chosen one authentic disciplinary text that they are going to read with KS3 students as part of a unit in 2021-2022. This is a text that will support and deepen the students’ understanding of a topic that is already part of the curriculum.
  • With their teams, curriculum leaders will conduct a ‘read aloud’ at one of their calendared fortnightly subject planning and development sessions. The read aloud will be an opportunity for the subject teams to read the selected disciplinary text and collaboratively identify and agree the micro rules that they are applying as they read.
  • Next, the curriculum teams will plan lessons where these micro rules for reading about their subject are explicitly taught and modelled to students.
  • After reflection, evaluation and no doubt some tweaking, the curriculum teams will look for other points in their curriculum where students can be given the opportunity to read authentic disciplinary texts and practise applying the micro rules.

Our fantastic Durrington art and design department is leading the way with disciplinary reading and have stared working on identifying what might be their micro-rules for ‘How to Read in Art and Design’. Here is a snippet of their work so far – still in its early planning phase:

Guide for How to Read in Art and Design

  1. Consider the era/ timeline of art to pinpoint when the work was created.
  2. Consider the context. Where & who? Political/societal influences at the time (micro rule 1 – ‘generic numbers’)
  3. What is it? Where is it? Sculpture, Painting, textiles, mixed media, ceramics, glass etc . Inside gallery, outdoors
  1. What materials and techniques have been used? (Printing, scratching, dripping paint …) Look out for visual descriptions of formal qualities (line, form, shape, texture etc) 
  2. In the text look out for the themes or meanings of the piece to give you a deeper understanding
  3. Try and link to your own experiences
  4. Consider how these ideas/ concepts could influence your own work.

Whilst there is still a great deal of thinking and planning to take place in terms of disciplinary literacy at Durrington, we feel confident that we are beginning to create a literacy culture that is neither a dark tangle of nettles nor a regimented flowerbed, but rather a colourful meadow where each subject can flourish in its own way.

Fran Haynes

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Weekly Round Up – 26th April 2021

 

Blog of the Week

‘Gateway Questions’ by Kat Howard

In this super blog Kat discusses how she threads what she knows about the common misconceptions students might have, through her teaching, using multiple choice questions.

Classteaching Blog

React to Misconceptions’ by Deb Friis

Deb Friis explores how she is diagnosing and then responding to misconceptions with her classes.

Research School Blog

Troublesome boys and compliant girls’ by Ben Crockett

Ben Crockett summarises the key findings from a research paper on gender underperformance by Jones & Myhill.

Other Useful Links

Podcast

Subscribe to the ClassTeaching podcast:

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/class-teaching-podcast/id1553470551 (Apple)

https://anchor.fm/james-crane39/ (Other platforms)

Episode 6 available now: What has remote teaching taught us about…modelling

James Crane talks to Shaun Allison about how the recent period of remote teaching might have improved the way we think about modelling .

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React to Misconceptions

Whilst planning for the next module of my course on the EEF Guidelines for KS2 and 3 mathematics I came across Simon Cox’s latest blog on Misconceptions in Maths. He uses the REACT planning framework which I had not come across before and it seems to me that this is a useful model to be used in many different subjects across the curriculum, not only in Maths.

The first two letters are about understanding the issues before beginning to plan a topic.

R – RESEARCH

Do some research into common misconceptions about the topic you are about to teach. Experienced teachers may have come across the same misunderstandings many times before. Newer teachers and non-specialists will need more support. What concepts are pre-requisites for the topic you are about to teach and how will you check that these are already embedded? Find out what misconceptions students may already have and also which may arise during your teaching. Investigate trustworthy sources of literature about misconceptions in your subject – STEM Learning has a collection of resources for Science and the Geographical Association has compiled a list of common misconceptions in Geography. Misconceptions in maths are discussed in great detail on the NCETM website.

E – EXPLORE

Explore why these misconceptions exist. This will help you to understand their basis – our ultimate goal will be to stop misconceptions arising in the first place if possible. Many misconceptions may arise due to misunderstandings about the meanings of words and understanding subject-specific vocabulary is very important. It also is vital to be precise about the way we phrase things – particularly in maths – I have lost count of the number of times I have heard students (and often adults too) saying that to multiply by ten you “add a zero”. Of course adding zero to any number will have no effect on its value, but this is not what they mean. Whilst many people manage to correctly multiply by ten despite this inconsistency, only just before Easter one of my year 7s told me that 8.06 multiplied by 10 was 8.060!

Polysemous words sound and are spelled the same but have different, but related, meanings. There are many of them in maths and in science in particular which give rise to some great teacher jokes. However the serious side is that the curse of knowledge can mean that as teachers we assume the second meaning is obvious, and overlook the fact that our students may not understand the context-specific meaning of the vocabulary that we use.

Alex Quigley has recently written about language in maths in this useful blog, and Fran Haynes discusses vocabulary teaching across different departments here.

The final three letters are about planning the learning.

A – ADDRESS

Make sure that you address the misconceptions head on. Consider where in the learning it would be best to explore them with your students. You will certainly want to check for prerequisite knowledge at the start of a topic, but you will need to consider how to start introducing new information. Asking students “what do you know already?” can bring out previous misconceptions about a topic, but there is a danger that students then get hung up on these and this is what they remember. Sometimes it could be better to teach new subject matter correctly first. For example I have learned not to ask year 7 students what they already know about calculating with negative numbers as they invariably respond with “two negatives make a positive!” and then it is very difficult to dispel this unhelpful phrase once they have all been reminded of it.

A great starting point would be to discuss these at a department meeting or shared planning session. The diagnosticquestions.com website has a “Plan a lesson” feature where you can search for data on the most common wrong answers – and whilst there are now over 50 thousand maths questions on the site, there are also more than 30 thousand for other subjects. Because the questions are all written with common misconceptions in mind and contain distractors and plausible wrong answers, this is a very useful source of data.

C – CONSIDER

Consider possible issues that could arise in the future. Whilst tricks or shortcuts might help students to remember things in the short-term, they may actually give rise to further misconceptions later on. Teaching for deep understanding should mean that students can think logically about why a method works, give reasons and evaluate the feasibility of their answer, rather than relying on memory alone. There is a great book: “Nix the Tricks” which is freely available to download and covers many of these for Maths.

T – TASKS

Choose tasks to specifically draw out and address misconceptions. There is a temptation, especially with students who might be slower to grasp a topic, to give them tasks that they can “do” and so only expose them to straightforward questions which specifically practise the concept that has just been taught. These are the same students who are likely to be most confused when the topic is approached in a slightly different way. In my example earlier about multiplying by ten, I uncovered this student’s misconception through presenting the class with a set of multiple choice questions particularly designed with this in mind. If the questions had just involved standard calculations with whole numbers I would not have discovered it. True / False questions can also be a really useful and quick way of checking for understanding and that misconceptions have not arisen during your teaching. Incorrect worked examples where students are shown some work (often of a fictional student) and asked “what has this person done wrong and why?” followed up with “how would you explain to them how to answer this correctly?” also make good tasks.

Misconceptions and dealing with them really are at the heart of good teaching. For a really concise summary of the REACT model see the link to the pdf at the bottom of Simon Cox’s recent blog for the EEF:

https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/news/eef-blog-integrating-evidence-into-mathematics-teaching-minimising-misconceptions/

Deb Friis

Deb is a maths teacher at Durrington High School. She is also a Maths Research Associate for Durrington Research School and Sussex Maths Hub Secondary Co-Lead and is currently delivering our training on the EEF Guidelines for KS2 and 3 Maths.

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Weekly Round Up – 19th April 2021

Blog of the Week

‘How we change our expectations’ Pete Foster

In this post Pete explains how our low expectations for some students manifest themselves in the classroom and what we might do about it.

Classteaching

‘What remote learning has taught us about: Challenge’ by BenCrockett.

As we look to ensure that we are challenging all students to think hard, what has remote learning taught us a bout this?

Research School Blog

‘Leaders: Become an expert in your teachers’ by Shaun Allison.

Why we need to make teacher development a priority and how instructional coaching might support this.

Other Useful Links

Podcast

Subscribe to the ClassTeaching podcast:

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/class-teaching-podcast/id1553470551 (Apple)

https://anchor.fm/james-crane39/ (Other platforms)

Episode 6 available now: What has remote teaching taught us about…modelling

James Crane talks to Shaun Allison about how the recent period of remote teaching might have improved the way we think about modelling .

Free Twilight CPD Webinar

  • Theme: Tackling Gender Underperformance
  • Led by: Chris Runeckles
  • Date: Tuesday 20th April
  • Time: 3.30pm-4.00pm

Registration:  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfvgw98RVuBAdj46PT6fOGG-BVxCN7m_V7gPigZLFvJaP3frA/viewform 

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What remote learning has taught us about: Challenge

In this, the sixth and final blog of the series, we will be examining the lessons learned from remote learning with regards to challenge. Effective challenge is, by its very nature, hard to pin down and must really be considered through the lens of an ethos or culture rather than as individual practical strategies. As such ensuring a high, but also appropriate level of challenge, in the remote class room required a careful degree of thought. While the return to class room will enable staff to re-set the ethos of challenge through face to face teaching, there are also several approaches developed during the lockdown that we should not just abandon

.

What we have tried:

When thinking about challenge I regularly return to Professor Robert Coe’s questions regarding “the number of minutes at students spends thinking really hard”, “whether we really want our students to be stuck” and “whether or not our students would really care if they knew the right answer but not why”. These questions frame a significant amount of the work we do in relation to challenge at Durrington in more normal times and seem to have done so during the period of remote learning as well.

  • Teachers have explicitly stated in pre-recorded videos (i.e. looms) and live lessons when they expect students to “think really hard” about a concept or question such as the hinge question(s) for that lesson. Our Geography department used a series of icons embedded into their PowerPoints to explicitly guide students to spend “X amount” of minutes thinking about the content of that slide before moving on and answering the question posed.
  • Teachers have gone to extra lengths to assure students that it is “okay to be stuck” – for many of our students being stuck is perceived as failing and can result in them giving up. In response to this, in pre-recorded and live lessons, staff have explicitly discussed the benefits and normality of getting “stuck”. Such discussion can be particularly beneficial for our highest attaining students who may have spent much of their school journey in the “comfort zone” and as such are not used to struggling.
  • Asking “why is that correct?” – the knowledge that students could easily be “googling” answers has put greater emphasis on these follow up questions, asking students to justify their responses and explain why they are correct.
  • Chunked learning – one of biggest changes between the two periods of remote learning was teacher’s realisation of the need for greater chunking, especially with complex concepts, for remote learning to be successful. As such difficult concepts were taught more slowly and understanding of these carefully checked before moving on.
  • Prioritising learning over performance – with the confines of the 1-hour lesson within 4 walls having temporarily disappeared, combined with the growing realisation that less is perhaps more in regards to remote learning, there seemed to be an increasing focus on how to revisit and revise previous material, meaning that learning took place over several lessons rather than just one.
  • Maintaining high expectations of language and vocabulary through explicit teaching of tier 2/3 vocabulary and giving students the opportunity to engage with disciplinary texts.
  • Topic experts within subjects have recorded lessons for whole year groups, meaning that the subject knowledge of the teacher is second to none, allowing them to ask more challenging questions. Staff have been able to watch these videos to improve their own subject knowledge.
  • Setting and promoting the benchmark – through social media channels and the Google Classroom streams we have been perhaps even better placed than normal to share both worked and students’ examples of outstanding work. Our Art Department for example had a regular “Lunch time” gallery where students remote work was displayed on social media and also used an App that showed how the work would look if it was hung on designer living room walls.

What we have learned:

The difficulty of creating an ethos of challenge was perhaps made even clearer during the period of remote learning, however remote learning has served to re-emphasise some of the core principles we need to keep returning to when thinking about challenge:

  • Avoid the bombardment technique – challenge is not effectively created by simply throwing multiple sources of information at students. This will only serve to panic and overload students causing them to disengage.
  • Showing students the very best examples of work produced by their peers, and then breaking it down to explicitly show how this has been achieved is of fundamental importance.
  • Asking students why an answer is as important, if not more so, than the students actually giving you the correct answer. Not only does this give you a greater understanding of their learning it also creates a high level of expectation and challenge in the room.
  • Multiple choice questions can be very challenging as long as careful thought and planning is given to the quality of the distractors in the answers.
  • That the need for complex tasks and concepts to be broken down into smaller chunks, is unsurprisingly vital in maintaining student engagement in challenging tasks.

What we will keep:

  • Expert teacher videos to support the subject knowledge development of other staff. For example, our Head of Social and Moral Education, Harriet Peach, has already begun using pre-existing or new looms, to explain the knowledge and model to her wider team how she would teach complex issues such as unhealthy relationships and sexual exploitation. As such staff’s base knowledge should be more secure enabling them to challenge students more with their questioning in lessons.
  • High quality and challenging multiple-choice questions.
  • A focus on “the why is that correct” aspect of questioning, re-enforcing the need for students to care about this aspect of their knowledge.
  • The increased frequency of re-visiting and assessing previously taught material to prioritise learning over performance.
  • Using subject meetings to really focus on what students need to be presented with to make them think hard so that we avoid over loading them with multiple sources of information.
  • Explicitly guiding student to think hard when confronting them with challenging topics/questions and normalising “being stuck” so that students see this as part of the learning process.
  • Using videos and social media platforms in lessons, form time and out of school hours to share examples of excellence and create a culture of high aspirations and challenge.

Ben Crockett

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Weekly Round Up – 29th March 2021

Blog of the Week

‘Cancelling the Noise’ by Jo Castelino

Schools are very different places at the moment.  Bubbles, ventilated classrooms and staggered breaks whilst necessary, all bring their own challenges.  In this blog Jo shares how she is tackling these challenges.

Classteaching Blog

What remote teaching has taught us about: Practice’ by Chris Runeckles.

In this post Chris explores how remote teaching could help to sharpen up our approach to helping students with practice in the classroom.

Research School Blog

What we need to know about cognitive bias’ by Adam Robbins.

As we look towards assigning grades to Y11, we need to be aware of the biases in play and what we could do about it.

Other Useful Links

Podcast

Subscribe to the ClassTeaching podcast:

https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/class-teaching-podcast/id1553470551 (Apple)

https://anchor.fm/james-crane39/ (Other platforms)

Episode 6 available now: What has remote teaching taught us about…modelling

James Crane talks to Shaun Allison about how the recent period of remote teaching might have improved the way we think about modelling .

Posted in General Teaching | Leave a comment

What remote learning has taught us about: Practice

In this, the fifth blog of the series, we will be examining the lessons learned from remote learning with regards to student practice. In comparison to some of the other six principles such as explanation, practice would appear potentially less negatively affected by remote learning. In essence this is often the phase of learning in which students are most independent. However, without teacher scaffolding and guidance practice can often go wrong, and as we know, practice does not make perfect, but it does make permanent. Therefore, the work we have done over recent weeks on practice is sure to have provided some useful insights.

What we have tried:

  • Scaffolding student practice by providing worked examples. These completed or part completed versions of the processes students are attempting, help students to see how to work through the problem systematically.
  • Scaffolding student practice by providing procedural checklists. These come in a variety of forms, one being rubrics on Google forms, and help students to check their practice contains all the necessary component parts.
  • Scaffolding student practice through the format of lessons. Our remote lessons developed over time in terms of the clarity of instructions and the resources that accompanied them.
  • Modelling first before practice. Ensuring we get the modelling right before we ask students to practice helped to ensure they would be successful when working independently.
  • Building the lessons of metacognition into student practice. Explicitly teaching students how to plan, monitor and evaluate what they are practising helps them to self-regulate.
  • Retrieval practice. Building regular retrieval practice into remote learning ensured students would not forget what we had previously taught them.
  • Spaced practice. There was a greater degree of this in remote learning with an understanding that the pace of the curriculum needed to slow and substantial embedding needed to happen. Many topics were returned to re-caped during remote learning.
  • Practise with smaller chunks. It was harder for students to practise large pieces of extended writing effectively, so chunking the practice and only completing sections of writing was employed by subjects with high extended writing demands.
  • Repetition. Practising the same procedures over and over was often required during remote learning as students found it difficult to work with such independence.
  • Using multiple choice questions to support student practice.

What we have learned:

  • The practice continuum was thrown into spotlight during remote learning. It became clear as to the large amount of teacher guidance that is needed for independent and autonomous practice to be successful.
  • In order for students to be successful in practising long complex procedures they first need to practise with the composite parts. In the classroom we perhaps compensate for students by scaffolding them through the complex procedures, which can be unhelpful as when they finally come to complete them without us they are not able to. By ensuring the practice is chunked effectively we actually support them better in getting to the finished product.
  • Student self-efficacy is key to successful practice. Where students do not feel confident in a particular area they find it difficult to engage with deliberate practice where they push themselves to the edges of their capabilities.
  • As teachers we need to model our thinking as well as the process to aid effective independent practice. This helps build metacognitive regulation.
  • Without scaffolding practice can go very wrong. Some early remote lessons produced student outcomes that showed the students were not fully prepared for the practice they were engaging with.
  • The conditions of retrieval practice need to be tightly controlled. We knew this already, but it was notable how unsuccessful it was where students were using resources rather than memory.
  • Multiple choice questions (as long as they are carefully constructed) provide both excellent student practice in terms of retrieval, but also excellent formative insights for both student and teacher.
  • For some students, in particular high attaining, time and space to engage in highly autonomous practice can yield excellent outcomes. Some work of an extremely high standard has been produced during lockdown.

What we will keep:

  • Greater awareness of where students are on the practice continuum. Remote learning has given us a timely reminder of the importance of knowing when to intervene and when to allow freedom.
  • Tightly controlled retrieval practice. As we know, much that looks like retrieval practice simply isn’t because students are not operating solely from long-term memory. Therefore we must insist on the parameters being met.
  • A high focus on the importance of building self-regulating metacognitive learners. This is the biggest lever to developing effective independent practice.
  • Helping guide student practice with procedural checklist is already something we are seeing appearing in lessons now. It will be great to see how this develops.
  • An understanding that our students are often able to surprise us with their capacity to produce truly excellent independent work. Knowing when we should step back and allow that freedom is something to retain.
  • The continued development of multiple choice questions. We were on this path already, but the capacity of well-constructed multiple-choice questions to perform multiple functions has shone a light on why we need to incorporate them further.
  • The use of worked examples to support practice.

By Chris Runeckles

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