Bright Spots

This morning, Shaun Allison and I had the pleasure of popping into several lessons across Durrington High School. The school felt noticeably calm and purposeful, and the challenging and therefore engaging lessons that were occurring at this time undoubtedly contributed to this excellent learning atmosphere.

In geography, Ben Crockett was making his year 10 students ‘think hard’ with a knowledge quiz. This retrieval practice involved questions from different topics, and Ben challenged his students even further by interleaving questions about topics that they studied at the very beginning of the year with work they had covered in more recent lessons. Likewise, further along the Humanities corridor, Tim Brinded was making effective use of the six learning strategies in history by asking his students to draw images in order to help them understand and explain new information – a great example of dual coding.

Along the corridor in Business Studies, Pete Kelly’s year 10 class were also retrieving knowledge from their prior learning with some targeted questioning. Pete then deepened the students’ thinking even further through elaboration, using prompts such as ‘why’ questions and asking students to explain why an answer is correct or how it can be developed. In drama, Tod Brennan’s class were benefitting from instant and pinpointed feedback in their rehearsal of a whole-group piece, thereby demonstrating some of the effective feedback strategies suggested by the EEF marking review.

Upstairs in MFL, the KS4 classes were busy preparing for assessments both in the near future and for next year.  Tim Gilbert was supporting his students’ preparation for their year 10 French assessment; this work had been carefully planned through reviewing what had been most challenging for students last year and thus making these areas the focus points for lessons. In Spanish, Dannielle Walters’ class were also preparing for assessments (this time for questions they will encounter in a year’s time), and were able to work independently due to the succinct and precise feedback they had received for the work in their books. By providing this feedback and giving clear opportunities to respond, the students clearly felt confident in organising knowledge and ideas so that it will be useful for their future learning. It is clear that the MFL department have planned their curriculum so that every lesson enables students to move a step closer to achieving their end goals.

Downstairs in PE a very vibrant and energetic Year 10 boys volleyball lesson was taking place in the gym. Tom Pickford explained to us how the boys had developed multiple skills through the short volleyball programme, for example how to control the power in their movements and think about their formation as a team. Although volleyball is in many ways a more complex sport to master compared to previous ones practised in PE, the boys were clearly engaged and able to rise to this challenge. This was a great example of how teachers’ high expectations enable our students to perform at their potential and beyond. It would also be remiss to not mention the gripping game of petanque in play just outside the gym. Always ready to model a task for students, Mr Allison limbered up and gave his best shot, but was easily ‘smashed’ out of the game with a killer bowl from Ms Haynes.

Finally, in English, Kelly Heane’s year 7s were working hard on a DIRT task following an assessment on an extract from Dickens’ Great Expectations. Again, the high expectations of students were clear to see in this lesson, not only in the choice of content but also through Kelly’s modelling of the level of writing that she was expecting her students to produce in the lesson. With challenges such as these being set and achieved early, it is evident that these students will have very successful futures at Durrington and beyond.

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