On our January INSET day, five teachers presented to the rest of the teaching staff, about how they had taken the research evidence that had been presented to them at previous INSET days and other CPD activities and mobilised it in their classrooms. These presentations were themed around our whole school evidence-informed teaching and learning foci:
- Our six evidence informed pedagogical principles.
- Aspects of cognitive science, brought to life by the Learning Scientists.
- Explicit vocabulary instruction.
You can read more about this here.
We did the same at our INSET day today. Our teaching and learning focus hasn’t changed and won’t – gone are the days of flitting from one topic to another. Four teachers shared approaches they had been trialling in their classrooms, summarised below.
Effective Revision – James Crane (PE)
James talked about how the PE department have been focusing on making their revision sessions more effective. They do this by:
- Providing opportunities for students to practice retrieving the knowledge that they need during the revision session, often by using mind-maps.
- Once they have done this, deepening their understanding of the topic through questioning them on their mind maps – the idea of elaborative-interrogation.
- using this knowledge to then answer specific exams questions – supporting metacognition by discussing why they have answered the question in that way and then annotating their answer accordingly.
This process is illustrated in the example above. The student has recalled the knowledge from memory and produced a mind-map, which has been further developed underneath, following questioning and discussion. This has then been used to frame a response to a related exam question, which has then been annotated, again following a discussion, with points that they would include to improve it further.
Modelling writing & writing practice – Kelly Heane (English)
Kelly shared the problem she (and many other English teachers were trying to solve:
- English Language C1/section B: students have to write 450-600 words in 45 minutes (one draft only/unedited).
- Students do not read enough good models of creative writing/fiction.
- Students are doing many ‘mocks’ but not improving in areas like ‘having good ideas’ / ‘responding to the chosen title’.
- Students are given clear DIRT targets and great feedback but do not practice them enough to make a habit of something like controlled sentences/correct punctuation/ambitious vocabulary/methods
In order to address this, Kelly wanted to implement a strategy that would meet the following objectives:
- To tether them to a ‘good start’ and act as a springboard for their own writing.
- To model the writers’ methods, sentence structures, grammar, punctuation and vocabulary expected at a certain ‘level’ (GCSE grade 5+).
- To not show models of heavily edited/perfect (unattainable) pieces of writing.
- To structure each hour we spend on writing and cover key areas of the writing Knowledge Organiser.
In order to achieve this, Kelly was inspired by Sam Atkin’s presentation from the last INSET day. Sam talked about using a piece of stimulus writing that he would use to get students to think about and then produce their own piece of writing. Kelly adopted a similar approach.
Kelly selected a piece of writing from our KS3 Anthology and shared this with the class. They discussed and annotated as a class, what was good about the piece of writing and was worth doing themselves and where the errors were – and how they would correct them. They were given some options about what they could do:
- Continue this piece of writing (flashback/flashforward)
- Emulate the style of the piece using a different character.
- Plan and start their own piece with the same title.
Students then did this individually, having had it modelled to them by Kelly. here’s an example:
Since adopting this approach, Kelly has noticed the following:
- Prior tasks essential (characters, vocabulary and sentence work)
- Students use the right hand side as a tool kit– would work well in KS3 too
- Writing on right hand side is high quality and clearly emulates some of the strengths from the model.
- The process fits into 1 lesson and the second lesson can be used to extend/continue the piece to reach the word count (if necessary)
- Students developed good habits quickly – by the second time, some were ahead of me in terms of spotting/annotation and constructing their page
- Students liked the use of ‘student friendly’ models, especially the one which had mistakes/minor plot holes
- Knowing what ‘elaborate’ means, does not always mean knowing how to do it effectively. Modelling and practice were crucial.
- How to slowly withdraw the model to leave students with just the title- reflective of the actual exam task
- To create a clear sequence of lessons for a writing unit (incorporating this activity as well as the prior/foundation work mentioned)
- To make sure students have practiced enough in-class (as well as practicing peer and self assessment) so that they will be able to achieve something similar at home for revision.
Retrieval Practice – Becky Owen (Science)
Becky Owen talked about the main challenge that is facing science teachers up and down the country at the moment – how do we get students to remember the huge amount of content (including over 20 physics equations) over the course of two years, in the new specification?
The answer? Strategically planning and implementing opportunities for retrieval practice seems to be a pretty good bet! Becky has done this through providing opportunities for retrieval at the start of all lessons, with a focus on:
- Quick, low stakes quizzes at the start of all lessons.
- These include questions from previous topics, subjects (in terms of biology, chemistry and physics) and years.
- Specifically learning physics equations.
- Maintaining this routine every lesson.
The two examples above illustrate this approach. There are also some more subtle approaches within this. For example, in the first slide even though Becky is teaching physics, the second question goes back to biology, which is indicated by the question being in green. This reassures students that this is a question from another topic that was covered a while ago, so is going to present a challenge to students – and that this is OK.
With some classes who are finding science a challenge, Becky uses multiple choice questions. She has found that this is less threatening for some students and allows them to experience success more readily – which in turn has a positive impact on their motivation:
Becky has also introduced a new approach that she gleaned from Kate Jones on twitter – retrieval grids:
This grid contains different layers of questions:
- Green – on the current topic
- Yellow – from last term
- Red – from the start of the year
Students then score a different number of marks (that aren’t recorded) based on their responses to different questions. This element of competition seems to be attractive for some classes, although Becky doesn’t use this all the time because firstly, it is more labour intensive than just asking questions and secondly it deviates a bit from the idea of a low stakes quiz. What it is useful for though is making you as a teacher think about a good range of questions.
What has Becky noticed since adopting this approach?
- Regular low stakes quizzes have shown students how they are progressing, as they know themselves how much they can remember from previous topics.
- Having a routine at the start of al lessons has improved engagement and focus from less motivated students.
- Students are able to recall key content quizzed on much more quickly.
Next steps? Ensuring that questions that are regularly answered incorrectly are returned to at different points in the year.
Tier 3 terminology in KS3 – Louise Wallis-Tayler (PE)
The final presentation was from Louise in PE. The PE department want their students to be using tier 3 vocabulary fluently, to support better written responses to questions. A common approach to this is by implementing a rushed intervention in Y11, involving lots of key-word lists, however, by this time it is probably too late. If we want students to be fluent with this vocabulary, we need to be embedding it in KS3. This is the approach that the PE department have adopted.
Having identified the tier 3 vocabulary they want students to be using, they ensure that they use this in their teaching. One strategy they have employed is to subtly alter the way PE staff question students at KS3. Instead of asking students questions such as ‘what is an axis?’, Louise encouraged teachers to incorporate the vocabulary into the discussion. For example in a lesson a teacher might ask ‘what axis is the dancer rotating around in this movement’? This is important for two reasons: a) It puts the vocabulary in context, which is what creates meaning and therefore understanding, and b) it does not add to the workload of the teacher but rather enhances what they would have been doing anyway. You can read more about this here.
PE have also introduced homework in KS3 that support the retrieval of this vocabulary:
Students have to learn the key words and definitions, and then be quizzed on their meaning.
As a result of these approaches the PE teachers have found that when students get to KS4, they find recalling this core knowledge much easier and are using this tier 3 vocabulary more fluently.
Posted by Shaun Allison