Make it outstanding……Marginal learning gains

During an INSET day on Friday a group of teachers met to discuss strategies they had tried in their own classrooms to secure outstanding learning.  The theme for the day was that of marginal learning gains – small changes to teaching that can make a big difference to student leanring.

The stratgies shared have been summarised here – many thanks to all the brilliant teachers involved for an inspiring session.

Students created an exit card at the end of the lesson, where they identified what they had learned and questions they still had.  The teacher then sorted them into groups with common themes, and at the start of the next lesson, students taught each other (according to what they had identified on their exit cards). Supports the development of independent learning and peer learning and closes the learning gap.   Maurice Lynch – ICT

Use ‘What if?’ questions to develop discussion and debate e.g. What if chocolates were replaced by apples? Students then have to decide which way they feel about the question and go to the corresponding side of the room – then think of a counter argument.  Encourages participation and develops communication skills. For other examples, see Tony Ryan’s ‘Thinkers Keys’ and ‘Thunks’.  Andy Tharby – English

Make students ‘struggle’ with their learning by giving them a challenging task, so they have to collaborate and discuss what they are doing.  For example, give them a very difficult historical source e.g. a cartoon, to interpret at the beginning and the end of the lesson and see the difference in their interpretation, as a result of the learning input that happens during the lesson.  Get students to come up with their own questions about it.  Great for building confidence and resilience – as students see they can tackle a challenging task, that they struggled with at the start of the lesson  Jack Tyler – History

At the end of the lesson a sticker (pre-produced) is put on the back of each students book with a question printed on it (students have different questions depending on their ability – question may consolidate the learning of the lesson, or prepare students for the learning in the next lesson).  Students have to answer the question before the next lesson and be prepared to discuss what they have found out.  Great for developing students as independent learners and getting them to discuss their learing.  Carole Marsh – Business Studies

Use contemporary video clips (I’m a celebrity get me out of here) as a hook at the start of the lesson to get students engaged in and discussing a related issue e.g. the morality of using the discomfort of others as entertainment, that links to the lesson e.g. The Hunger Games. Jo Crimmins – English.

During group work, students have to communicate with each other in a way other than talking.  Encourages students to think carefully about their written communication skills.  Gill Luck – MFL

Sit students in ability pairings (weak and strong).  Ask them to discuss a long answer question e.g. 6 marks, and then begin to construct an answer together – verbal discussion –> bullet points –> prose.  Each person in the pair has to make a contribution e.g. 3 points each.  Develops dialogue, peer support and writing skills.  Rebecca Chambers – RS/PSHCE

Use mini white boards to gather the response of the whole class to key learning questions – good strategy to get feedback from the whole class.  Plan questions beforehand so they get increasingly difficult – and ensure all students hold them up at the same time.  Beth Maughan – Music

Create a storyboard of diagrams that show a particular idea, event or process e.g. ionic bonding – with very little writing.  Get students to discuss the meaning of the storyboard and come up with a written explanation of what is being portrayed.  Encourages students to discuss their learning and develop their written explanations.  Angie White – Science

Use SOLO taxonomy to develop student responses to key learning questions.  Students can begin by discussing key ideas/words that they will need to use to answer the question, then link these together into sentences and paragraphs.  As they become confident in using SOLO they can then peer assess and set improvement strategies for each other.  Simona Trignano – Science.

The ‘Science is Awesome’ Facebook page contains a number of science related cartoons and jokes.  These have been used to stimulate discussion amongst students, who then have to create their own and share with the rest of the group (making sure that the scientific content is accurate ensures that students have to fully understand the science behind the joke – but in an engaging way!). Hannah Whittington – Science

Use engaging you tube video clips to get students to come up with the learning objectives for the lesson e.g. Cigarettes and alcohol by Oasis, for a lesson on the damaging effects of drugs on the body.  Pat Sculley – PE

As students are developing their work, give them written feedback on post it notes.  At the end of the task, encourage them to reflect on how the feedback on each post-it enabled them to develop and improve their work.  Develops their understanding of specific assessment criteria and how it needs to be exemplified.  Lauren Fray – Dance

Get students to disassemble an old example of student work e.g. a photo frame and as they are doing so, discuss and note down how and why it had been made in that way, and how it could be improved.  Gives them a real understanding of the processes involved when planning their own work.  Michelle Laroche – DT

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