At our last INSET day, Andy Tharby talked about using a planning framework for high starting point students, that focused on three areas – content, thinking and shaping – you can read about it here. Like many schools, we have been guilty of flitting from one topic to another each INSET day. In doing so, we don’t really give teachers the opportunity to return to, reflect upon and engage with deliberate practice, in just one area of their classroom practice. With this in mind, we stuck with the same topic for today’s INSET day – challenging high starting point students.
Andy has been working with a group of Durrington teachers who are interested in developing their teaching of high starting point students. The group have already met once, and have had an interesting discussion, raising some interesting points that are worth all of us reflecting on.:
- Is it socially desirable to be a very high achiever at school? (Or is a B good enough).
- The answer lies in changing the culture – as well as in classroom practice. What can we all do to create a more aspirational culture in our classrooms?
- Trips, assemblies, form time, outside speakers and enrichment all play an important role. We don’t often have subject themed assemblies, where we talk to students about what makes us passionate about our subject and what career paths our subjects can take us down.
- The requirements for reaching A/A* and 7/8/9 are very different in each subject – e.g. practical versus academic subjects. Subject Planning & Development Sessions are an ideal time to discuss and share ideas around this.
- High starting point students need to investigate the links between topics. we need to support them with this through our teaching.
- Further challenge needs to be available to all, not just the high starting point students (otherwise we are in danger of ‘capping’ them).
- What are they reading? Can we do more to encourage them to read newspapers and other thought provoking material.
The starting point is for subject teachers to talk explicitly about the subject knowledge that students need to know, if they are going to reach the highest grades. Andy shared this example of some of the key challenging content that students need to know about ‘An Inspector Calls’:
Teachers can then use this as a checklist of key teaching points to explore in their lessons. Similarly, the science department have been thinking very carefully about the higher level content that students need to know, in order to access the highest grades:
So whilst it may sound obvious, if we are going to be successful when it comes to teaching to the very top we need to do two things:
1.Define A/A* content as a subject teaching team – discuss it, unpick the misconceptions and make sure everybody is confident with it.
2.Make students aware that it is A/A* content.
Andy then went on to share two other ideas that are key to success when teaching at all levels, but need some thought when we are teaching high starting point students. They are both simple and require very little preparation – so are sustainable as well as effective.
- Think Hard
If we want our high starting point students to be challenged, we need to think about getting them to think hard! If every teacher gave some thought to asking one extra ‘think hard’ question every lesson, across the course of a day/week that would create a far more challenging and richer experience for these students – an extra 25 really hard questions to challenge them every week!
2. Break it down
Whilst showing students examples of excellent work is useful – it is not enough on its own. They need to know the complexities involved in the process of getting there. In order to do this we need to do is to break expert performance into its component parts and practise these separately. In the same way that young people learn how to play football. They don’t go straight into an 11 a side game, but learn how to master the basics – trapping the ball, passing, staying in position, tackling, shooting etc. Similarly, we shouldn’t expect students to produce a perfect piece of work, such as a piece of extended creative writing, first time. We should break it down and discuss each part in turn and then allow them to practice each part, as we build up to the whole.
Finally, Andy shared some examples of how teachers have been using the ‘Planning for Challenge’ framework to develop this area of their practice. One is included below:
Posted by Shaun Allison