Last week, some members of the Leadership Team ‘walked through’ our core subjects, English, maths and science. These three departments all get very good outcomes, so the purpose of these ‘learning visits’ was very simple – to look for and share their best practice. Another example of ‘looking for the bright spots’.
We saw some brilliant teaching. Recently, I’ve been thinking a great deal about teacher explanations – I blogged about it here. So with this in mind, I thought I would use this as an opportunity to focus on what our teachers were doing to make their explanations great. Some examples follow.
- Teacher opens up the learning ‘gap’ to build anticipation at the start of the lesson i.e. ‘this is what you’ll be able to do by the end of the lesson….’ This hooks the students in to the explanation.
- Using images of place e.g. Mumbai to ‘tell a story’. Story telling is such an important part of the explanation process – it can captivate students.
- Teacher tone of voice and body language made the content come alive and seem really important – showed a passion for the subject, which makes it memorable and also gives importance to the learning.
- Well structured & clear explanation of what students needed to know and what they will be doing in order to learn it. The explanation was clear because it focused on the key learning points – it wasn’t cluttered.
- When working in groups the identified group leader, without being prompted, checked that his group all knew what a metaphor was before starting the task. Where they didn’t, the leader explained. Good example of the student embedding the explanation from the teacher.
- Students were able to confidently work through problems – showed evidence of good, clear explanations from the teacher.
- Student answers to problems were shared and used to enhance the explanation process.
- Good responsive explanation – so at points where the students weren’t getting it, extra layers of explanation were added e.g. ‘let’s think of this another way’.
- Images were up on the screen on entry, to generate discussion about the topic. This hooked students in to the explanation and activated what they already knew.
- A YouTube clip was used really well to illustrate the use of brand new nanoparticle technology – generated great discussions and gave the explanation a real context.
- A tricky concept – natural selection – was explained well using a practical activity to support it i.e. how many pieces of plain paper and newspaper can you pick up against a newspaper background? This was then used to develop the explanation of natural selection and evolution further.
- Students were asked to share their existing knowledge of the topic – which was then built upon by the teacher, allowing them to anchor their explanation to the existing knowledge of the students.
- Familiar items were used to anchor students in e.g. a Scotch egg and the layered nature of the Earth.