Andy Tharby and I took a first ‘bright spots’ walk of 2016 around the school today. As usual, there was some fantastic stuff taking place in our classrooms – summarised below.
In geography, Ben Crockett was in full flow with Y8. His explanation of v-shaped valleys was being supported by the use of an image, helping to make the idea concrete. As students were identifying particular features, they were encouraged to develop their responses, by simple probing questioning such as ‘why do you think that?’ When students used phrases such as ‘worn away’ they were told to rephrase it using subject specific terminology such as ‘erosion’.
Across in MFL, there was a demonstration of the simplest, but most effective, form of differentiation. Students were working on a task, where they had to categorise time related vocabulary and phrases. Whilst most students were confidently working away, one student in particular was struggling. So teacher, Emma Bilbrough, sat beside him and worked through the task with him. Eventually he was able to continue unaided and with confidence. A great example of all students being given the same challenging task, and the teacher using their skill and judgement to ‘unstick’ individuals, to help get them back on track.
Chloe Gardner has been developing the use of work portfolios with Y7 computing students. These are physical, plastic folders that students use to present and store the final outcome of their work. However, what’s different is that they are also including the previous drafts, as well as the final piece. This is a great idea, as it shows students the improvements and steps that were taken to get to their final piece – so encouraging them to reflect on the importance of responding to feedback and redrafting.
There was more good questioning with Y7 in SME (Social & Moral Education), with Harriet Peach. Students were looking at the complex issue of friendship problems and two things struck me about the lesson. Firstly, Harriet had created a great atmosphere in the classroom, where students felt safe and confident to discuss complex issues with their peers. Secondly, rather than settle for simplistic answers, Harriet was encouraging students to deepen their thinking, through probing questions – Why do you think that? Do you agree with that? How could you develop that answer?
In history, Y11 were preparing for their controlled assessment, by practising writing essays. Rather than writing it all in one go though, Jack Tyler was chunking up the task. So, students had written one paragraph, which Jack had given them feedback on, that they then used to improve that paragraph, before moving on. To support them with writing their paragraph, Jack was modelling the thought process he went through, when presented with a source cartoon, that he would have to analyse in an exam question. This then supported students with their own writing.
There was some great work going on in maths, where Morwenna Treleven was starting her Y8 lesson. Students were shown two written attempts at answers, by students of the same mathematical problem – neither student had got full marks, but to different degrees. Students had to work out what was wrong with each one and why. This is an interesting development of the idea of ‘comparative modelling’ – where normally students would be shown one good example of a piece of work and one poor one. This makes it easier to identify what is weak about the poor one. Morwenna was doing this, but the two examples both had mistakes with them. So they had to work out the different mistakes that could be made.
In English, Tod Brennan was also at the beginning of his Y10 lesson. Students were doing a knowledge quiz on ‘A Christmas Carol’ – however, the students who were doing the quiz, were the ones that had scored 70% or less on the same quiz, the previous lesson. So this was being used as a check to see if they had addressed this knowledge deficit. A good example of simple, low-stakes tests being used to support knowledge retention and recall.
Over in science, Alex Mohammed was explaining the role of plant hormones in shoots responding to light. This process is quite tricky to explain, in terms of auxin redistribution and the subsequent unequal growth on either side of the plant. Rather than just showing students a diagram of this on the board and attempting to explain it, Alex was drawing the diagram himself, building it up one step at a time, as he was explaining particular aspects and questioning students on it. This meant that Alex could build the diagram up, only when they had understood the process up to that point. The explanation was also punctuated with good, academic vocabulary too – such as ‘redistribution’. So, a complex idea, explained well with the careful construction of a diagram and supported by strong, academic language.
Finally, in PE James Crane was teaching volleyball. What was evident here, was how the pedagogical principles, when implemented well, interlink and support each other. For example:
- Modelling – James showing the students how to ‘dig’ the ball well.
- Questioning – James then questions the students on what he was doing -‘What did you notice about how my hands were placed? Where was I looking?’
- Practice – students them try out the technique, whilst James watches.
- Feedback – James then gives the students very specific and personalised feedback on their technique – there and then as they are doing the task.
- Further Practice – students then try the dig again, using the feedback to improve their technique.
Over the course of two hours walking around the school, we saw many great examples of the six pedagogical principles, being implemented effectively in lessons – within the context of each subject. No gimmicks, just great, solid teaching.