As the new school year is well underway, I went on a walk around the school yesterday, searching for bright spots. This is what I found.
In science, NQT Josh Beckwith was addressing some identified difficulties with Y10. Director of science Steph Temple has carried out a full question level analysis of the summer GCSE papers, and identified topics that our students struggled with. When these topics are due to be taught this year by the science team, they meet and discuss the best way to teach them – so making sure that the same mistakes aren’t repeated (the feedback loop in action). In his lesson, Josh was teaching pathogens – and really stressing the key terminology that in the summer a number of our students didn’t seem to have a handle on.
Also in science, Bex Owen was supporting her Y9 students to write a detailed description of an experiment – making copper sulphate crystals. Students had been given a list of key words to include in their write-up – providing a bit of a scaffold. Once they had done this, Bex then live modelled, using extracts from their own write-ups, how to write a perfect scientific piece. As they did this, students were editing their own piece to improve it further.
Down in English, Tod Brennan was using feedback and modelling to great effect. Y7 students were working on their horror story. In the previous lesson, they had written a first draft of their own story, and had received some very specific written feedback about how to improve it. At the start of this lesson, this support was developed further, by Tod showing them an exemplar paragraph from a horror story. The class discussed and highlighted the descriptive language in the text, that added that extra depth to the writing. Armed with having deconstructed this text and their own feedback from their stories, they then went on to re-draft their own work.
In maths, NQTs Morwena Treleven and Frankie Pimentel were in full swing! Morwena was stressing to Y7 the importance of self-checking their work, and how to do this with accuracy. She was then checking their understanding of key mathematical terminology, before progressing with the task and giving them very specific verbal feedback about their responses e.g. ‘I really like the way you used an example to explain that meaning of fraction’ . Frankie was working on cumulative frequency graphs with her class. What was impressive here was the way in which Frankie was moving around the class, giving them specific feedback about how to improve their graphs – challenging them to ensure that their graphs were absolutely perfect.
Also in maths, KS3 Leader Shane Borrett was modelling to Y8 how to do grouped frequency tables. Shane modelled the construction of this on the board, with good questioning of students along the way e.g. ‘Why do you think I did that? What’s the next step?’ Students transferred the finished product into their books, so they had a perfect worked example, to support them when it came to constructing their won.
PE teacher James Crane, was working with his Y7 class, exemplifying what so many PE teachers do so well – high quality, personalised verbal feedback that students are expected to respond to immediately. e.g. ‘take a look at your wrist, it’s bent. Make it straight (James then models this) and then your return will go where you want it to’. The student then executed a perfect return. James then used feedback to challenge his high performing students to get even better e.g. ‘use topspin to put your opponent under pressure, then aggressively attack their return’. Again, the student executed this perfectly and then James asked him to articulate the improvement he had just made ‘Do you understand why that worked? Tell me”.
In Product Design, Emma Wade was challenging her Y11 students to think deeply about their table designs. Students had gathered a number of photos of tables (so modelling of the finished product) and were asked to think about what made them so good. They then had to use the best features of their favourite ones, to inform the planning of their own. It’s easy to imagine how this strategy could be used in a number of subjects e.g. looking at a range of historical essays, identifying the best bits of each and using this to plan your own.
There was a great example of questioning in MFL by Emma Bilbrough. Having asked a student question, his response was ‘I don’t know’. So Emma then asked a nearby student a related question, that she answered perfectly. She then went back to the original student and asked him the original question again. He got it right – and looked very pleased with himself! This was so skilfully done – it would have been so easy to just have left him and let someone else answer the question, leaving him feeling demotivated. Instead though, the response from the other student was just enough to prompt his thinking.
I also saw two examples of contemporary film being used to add depth and breadth to student understanding of a topic. In English, NQT Kelly Heane was watching an extract from ‘The Butler’ to add to Y9’s cultural understanding of the book ‘Of Mice & Men’. Meanwhile in history, Jack Tyler was arranging to take his Y11 on a trip to the local cinema, to watch ‘The Sufragettes’.
It’s not surprising that our new Y7 and 8 students are saying such lovely things about their teachers: