Using student checklists to support metacognition

This week’s teaching forum was with science teacher Becky Owen.  Becky has been reflecting on how she and other members of the science team have been using content checklists with students with, a view to:

  • Improving student awareness of their own leaning and revision.
  • Improving student understanding of the content knowledge that is needed.
  • Ensuring content coverage by staff.

Students are given a checklist for every topic in science, in key stage 3 and 4, to stick in their exercise book.  Here is an extract from a GCSE physics checklist:

In the EEF Toolkit, metacognition is classed as high impact and low cost, based on robust evidence, in terms of having a positive impact on student attainment:

“Meta-cognition and self-regulation approaches (sometimes known as ‘learning to learn’ approaches) aim to help learners think about their own learning more explicitly. This is usually by teaching pupils specific strategies to set goals, and monitor and evaluate their own academic development. Self-regulation means managing one’s own motivation towards learning. The intention is often to give pupils a repertoire of strategies to choose from during learning activities.”

Source: EEF Toolkit

It is clear to see how these checklists would serve to support this.  Becky described how the science team use them in a variety of ways:

  • Every lesson to review the content they have covered, what is coming next and how far through the unit they are.  Becky tells them which sections of the checklist they will be covering that lesson – and over the series of lessons.  As well as being useful for students, this also makes Becky focus on very specific teaching points:

row17lesson

row17revision

Something else Becky has noticed about this, is that her students are taking much greater ownership over their learning.  They will look at the checklist, spot any gaps and say things like ‘have we missed out T4 and T5 Miss, or are we doing that later?

  • The relevant section of the checklist is added to the end of homework sheets and assessments, so that students can make a note of which sections they don’t perform well in – to help focus their revision:

row17hw

  • They can be added to written feedback ‘Remember to include what the wasted energy was (T13)’.  Students can then highlight this target on their checklist as something to focus their revision on.
  • Y11 students are also given a Y10 checklist, so that they can ‘check-off’ when they cover Y10 work during revision, quizzing in lessons or homeworks.
  • As a check for the teacher, to help them plan and ensure that they are covering the curriculum and at the right level of detail.
  • They can be used to frame quizzes to support retrieval practice – as most of them are pretty much phrased as questions anyway.

What difference has this made?

Becky says:

“I have a better understanding of individual students’ specific areas of weaknesses.  For example with my year 10 triple class I know there are still some students who are struggling with a particular target. I identified the targets following their assessment, prepared a DIRT lesson based on those key targets and then set practice questions to test their understanding after the DIRT lesson. Having marked these practice questions most students are now getting these calculations correct, however there are 5 students that still haven’t understood the concept. I can now use that to get them to come to a booster session on the skill for example.

I am more confident that I have covered all the content. The new GCSE science specification is content heavy and it is easy to miss bits out when trying to fit it all in – and teaching it for the first time.   I use the ticklists for each class and tick off targets once I have taught them. I also highlight areas I feel I haven’t taught well and need to cover again.”

What are your next steps in terms of developing this approach?

“I want to ensure the physics ticklist follows a suitable order to teach, in order to help with teacher planning.

I also want to improve student use of the ticklist during their personal revision by producing short revision guides/sheets using small sections of the ticklist to support students with chunking their revision into manageable sections,  so they can easily interleave their revision.

I am starting to use the ticklists to make quick questions (& answers) for students to use alongside the ticklists, to use as low stakes quizzes to support retrieval practice.”

What advice would you give to teachers who are looking to use this idea?

“Start by using the specification to identify the key knowledge or skills that students need in order to be successful in your subject.

Identify particular knowledge/skills that maybe just for higher tier/7+ targets etc

Start using them regularly  so that students (and you) become used to them and make sure you teach the students how to use them. Students won’t look at it or use if you don’t show them and tell them why it’s important.

Keep using it, the more you use it the more normal it becomes and students then start using them in their own ways for revision.”

This is a great example of teachers mobilising the research evidence (in this case around metacognition) in a practical and sustainable way.  Becky is convinced that these checklists have had a significant impact on her teaching and the learning of her students.  To summarise:

  • They help to ensure that lessons are focused on specific teaching points.
  • It helps workload – as they support efficient planning, quizzing and feedback.
  • They help students become more autonomous with their learning, by encouraging them to monitor and evaluate their own progress.

Posted by Shaun Allison

 

 

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Bright Spots: 9th November 2017

Today Fran Haynes and I walked around the school and visited a number of lessons.  It was great to see so much effective practice, that we will summarise in the ‘bright spots’ post.  We think it’s important to talk about this as effective practice and not best practice.  Is there a difference?  Yes we think there is.

Best practice suggests that this is the only way to do it, by all teachers in all subjects and with all students.  Of course this is not going to be the case.  Effective practice on the other hand,  suggests a teaching strategy that is likely to work in that particular context – for that teacher, in that subject and with those students – based on what the evidence suggests.  We can look at this effective practice and consider how or if it could be used usefully in our own classroom.

So what did we see?

In Computing, Ailish Hannan was teaching Y7 computing.  Students were producing a leaflet about safeguarding and staying safe.  From feedback they had received in previous lessons, students had a good understanding of the success criteria e.g. using the same font, including the key information in the right place etc.  Furthermore, they could explain why this was important.  They were then using this to frame their work.

Over in geography, Sam Atkins was teaching Y7 about 6 figure grid references.  Having explained this to the class, one student came up to the board and was modelling to the class how to do this.  What was particularly impressive, was the way in which Sam was questioning the boy who was modelling to his peers, to encourage him to articulate his thought processes (metacognition) e.g. ‘Why have you divided that box into ten?  Are you sure that is 2?’

Moving up the school, in art Y11 were preparing for their exam.  Our Head of art Gail Christie was giving very specific and personalised feedback to individual students by modelling particular techniques.   As Gail modelled to the student how to paint a face, she was explaining the various techniques she was using and why e.g. starting with the background; using solid lines with a thin brush to show structure; blocking with a large brush; asking the student to look at how she was holding the brush; asking the student to spot the direction that she was moving the brush and how.  A fantastic example of the power of verbal feedback.

There was another example of great and personalised feedback in PE with James Crane.  James was teaching basketball to Y9 and he had a very able player in his class, who plays at a good level outside of school.  In order to challenge him, James had to analyse his performance closely and give him very specific feedback about his performance.  He approached this by explaining and modelling to the student ‘aggressive run ins’ he wanted him to make towards the basket and precisely when to jump.  He then watched to see how the student performed with this, and then gave him further feedback.  The lesson here?  In order to give good, challenging feedback to students, we need to know them well.

In maths, John Mulhern was challenging his Y10 students with some very powerful use of retrieval practice. Students were completing a starter task in which they had to remember mathematical techniques learned in Year 9 in order to answer a set of questions. One of John’s students said that the lesson was ‘a little tricky’, indicating how well the content was pitched for this group of students: challenging but accessible at the same time, whilst making them all ‘think hard’. Similarly, in science Bex Owen was asking her Y7 students about food groups at the start of the lesson before going on to teach a different topic. Bex also used the retrieval questions to test students’ ability to use Tier Three vocabulary accurately. This is a perfect example of how literacy is integral and useful across the curriculum.

Along the corridor, Kate Blight was also teaching y10 maths. In this lesson, Kate was using very effective modelling at the board to work through a mathematical problem with the whole class, whilst also using precise questions to gauge students’ deeper understanding of the processes involved in completing the task accurately. In addition, Kate demonstrated an excellent example of how to support higher-level vocabulary use through her friendly insistence that a student improve their verbal response by using ‘multiply’ rather than ‘times’.

Michael Kyle was providing great challenge with his y7 science class through a fantastic whole-class discussion on the specialisation of cells. Students were using Tier Three language such as mitochondria with confidence and accuracy, and were pushed through follow-up questions that developed their thinking. What was impressive about this lesson was how Michael created challenge through his use of KS4 content, which he explained and used to frame questions that developed students’ scientific knowledge and understanding.

Finally, in English Russ Shoebridge was delivering a focused lesson in which he talked y11 students through a GCSE writing question. The students had practised the question type several times before, so students were realising the benefits of deliberate practice. In this particular lesson, Russ was supporting students by giving clear time limits for specific parts of the response process. This will result in the class having a much better understanding of the process involved in extended writing as well as the content knowledge required.

This was an enjoyable hour in which we saw many examples of effective practice across subject areas, demonstrating once again the wealth of knowledge and expertise that our students experience every day.

 

 

 

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Working effectively with disadvantaged children

3D Man trying to climb wall

The focus of this week’s Teaching Forum is working effectively with disadvantaged children. I spoke to maths teacher Sam Down – an assistant head with responsibility for raising the achievement of disadvantaged children – about how to go about this successfully.

Sam’s whole-school approach contains three strands: quality feedback; explicit vocabulary instruction; and metacognition and self-regulation strategies.

Quality feedback. Evidence from a range of sources (see the EEF Toolkit, for instance) suggests that feedback is a high-impact, low cost intervention. However, it is important to stress that not all feedback is good feedback. Sam stresses that purposeful feedback should be formative, specific and timely, and that effective feedback policies must be flexible – in other words, the methods of giving and receiving feedback must fit the needs of the subject and the students rather than the needs of an unbending whole-school policy. It is especially important to think of feedback as a two-way process. It is not all about giving; it is about receiving too. We gain instant feedback on our teaching from listening to our students thinking and reading their work – which should then inform our decision-making about our next actions.

Explicit vocabulary instruction. Sam referred to Isabel Beck’s three-tier vocabulary taxonomy:

  • Tier 1 words are basic words that young people will pick up through ordinary conversation: book, clock, run and table, for instance.
  • Tier 2 words are unlikely to be encountered regularly in ordinary speech but can be found in academic texts, broadsheet newspapers or challenging literary fiction. Examples include coincidence, absurd and industrious.
  • Tier 3 words tend to be limited to specific subject disciplines – examples from English, for instance, include anaphora, protagonist and tragedy.

Sam explained how many – but not all – socially disadvantaged students get very little exposure to Tier 2 vocabulary at home, especially if they are not readers. Unfortunately, as Daniel Rigney (2010) pointed out, while the word rich get richer, the word poor get poorer. Sam also pointed towards the work of New Zealand academic Averil Coxhead, who has created a list of high incidence academic words. These are Tier 2 words that are frequently found in academic writing – like factor, bond and distribute. While these words often cross over subject domains, they can be the cause of a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding – a bond in chemistry is very different from a bond in economics for example. By teaching these words explicitly and in a range of contexts, we can begin to bridge the word gap.

Metacognition and self-regulation. Metacognition (often defined as ‘thinking about thinking’) and self-regulation approaches have consistently been shown to have high levels of impact on learning – often leading to significant progress, especially for low achieving and older students. Students need to actively monitor the strategies that they are choosing to employ. During thinking and writing processes, these include goal setting, monitoring, self-assessing and evaluation.

I was particularly keen to hear how Sam puts these principles into practice in his own maths lessons:

Feedback:

  • Sam sits disadvantaged students near the front of the classroom so that it is easier to monitor their work and give timely feedback. Sam has noticed improved book work from these students since the start of September.
  • These students have also been made aware that they are a special focus group. Crucially, however, they have not been informed that this is due to their disadvantaged status.
  • Sam always marks the homework of disadvantaged students first – this way they get his freshest feedback.

Explicit vocabulary instruction:

  • Sam expects students to use key mathematical terms – i.e. Tier 3 vocabulary – during class discussions. If a student uses the word ‘times’ rather than ‘multiply’, he will ask: “What’s the key word?”
  • When teaching a new Tier 2 word with a meaning that ‘overlaps’ into other subjects, such as factor, Sam will always introduce it by making it clear that its meaning changes depending on the context and by explicitly stating: “In maths, this means …”

Metacognition and self-regulation:

  • Students receive regular DIRT (dedicated improvement and reflection time) sessions when Sam gives feedback on homework tasks. These sessions are designed to give students a chance to think about and evaluate where they have gone wrong and where they need to go next.
  • In Key Stage 4, Sam asks students to create flashcards every week and a half. Not only does this allow students to revise and reflect upon what they have learnt over a series of lessons, but the cards are retained for later revision. Sam often asks the useful question: “Is that going to help you in a month’s time?” Very often teachers will make the mistake of expecting students to already know how to revise; by modelling and scaffolding these processes, Sam provides valuable support to those students whose parents and carers are unable or unwilling to provide extra guidance at home.

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It is particularly encouraging to hear that classroom practice lies at the heart of Sam’s approach. There are many social factors that cause and influence the underachievement of disadvantaged students, and many of these cannot easily be solved by schools and teachers. However, as Sam shows, simple and sustainable changes to classroom practice are within our locus of control and they can make a genuine difference. Many thanks for reading.

Andy Tharby

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80-20 – paring down the knowledge

In the autumn of 2016 with the English Literature exam looming large on the horizon, English teacher Tod Brennan decided to alter both the curriculum he was delivering and the manner he was teaching it.  In this week’s teaching forum Tod shared how he used the ideas behind the Pareto principle in order to inform these changes and bring about a dramatic turnaround in results.

Image result for 80-20

The Pareto principle was first written about in Italy in the late 19th century and it takes its name from that first pioneer, Vilfredo Pareto.  However, it was made famous by management consultant Joseph M. Juran and became known as “the law of the vital few”.  Tod discovered it through the work of Tim Ferriss who has written about a number of methods of reducing what we do to the most essential components.

The basic idea is that 20% of what happens in a business, an economy, even a curriculum yields 80% of the results.  Therefore if you can identify this 20% and focus your energies there, then the overall result is disproportionally improved.  This has been applied to educational theory before, and is something Doug Lemov wrote about in his book Practice Perfect.  Lemov asserted that we should spend our time practicing the 20% of things that produce the 80% of results rather than trying to practice everything.  By doing so we would help our students master the truly vital elements of our subjects.

This resonated with Tod as he was finding students with a narrower section of knowledge (with which they were confident) could consistently produce answers of a higher quality than those with broader but perhaps less secure knowledge.  The inference he made was that the 80-20 effect was in evidence here, and if he could harness that then it would benefit all his students.  With this in mind Tod set about identifying the 20% within the English Literature curriculum.  He reduced the number of quotes he was working with on a particular text from 20 to 8 and the number of purposes associated with each playwright from 12 to 3.  This process continued until he produced knowledge organisers that became the foundation for his teaching.  He made these judgements both from his own experience but also based on those pieces of knowledge that were most adaptable and flexible.  In terms of quotes this would be those that could be used to demonstrate the widest variety of literary techniques or fit with the greatest number of themes within the novel.  He also taught interpretations of these quotes as knowledge rather than drawing them out from his students.  A section of the end result for “An Inspector Calls” is shown below:

Tod

He made sure the students knew these quotes back-to-front and inside-out, to the point where he admits they grew weary of them.  However, he said what he asked himself when making the choices was: “If a student joined my class tomorrow with no knowledge, what would I most want them to know before the exam.”  From there he put substantial time and effort into producing these resources, weighing each choice on its relative merits.

One beneficial, and according to Tod, unconscious consequence of this resource and the way he taught with it, was to deepen understanding through elaboration.  This is one of the six principles for effective learning written about by the Learning Scientists and has been shown to help students grasp concepts more completely.  Tod’s intervention achieves this by looking at the same piece of knowledge (i.e. a quote) from multiple angles, thereby creating connections between themes, techniques and interpretations.

This approach is not without controversy and despite not being an English teacher myself, I am aware that there is a debate about whether English Literature is essentially a knowledge-based subject or not.  One element here that might feed into this debate would be that Tod’s approach requires interpretations to be taught prescriptively rather than left for the students to develop.  However the correlation between Tod changing his approach and the outcomes for this class is clear, with the class improving by roughly 30% on the 4+ measure (comparing previous achievement in assessments with final exam results) and ultimately, as a mixed ability group, achieving 11% above national average at 4+.  While the number of variables means the improvement cannot be solely attributed to Tod’s intervention, something undoubtedly changed for these students.

As we all wrestle with increasing content and stuff our newly created knowledge organisers full to bursting with information, it may be worth reflecting on the 80-20 principle and how we can pare that knowledge down to that which is most useful, most flexible and is most likely to help our students succeed.

Produced by Chris Runeckles

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Good Teachers Talk: Better Teachers Listen

Listening

Working in an educational context with the worthwhile aim of reducing gaps between students from differing social backgrounds is a daunting task. Classrooms are inevitably sites of power asymmetry, and not just between the pupils. Although it can be awkward to confront, the social disparity between teachers and pupils is sometimes a tangible and influential factor in schools that needs sensitive, yet robust, handling.

Discourse

Gee describes Discourses (with a capital ‘D’) as ‘social practices’ that involve ‘words, actions, values and beliefs’ that members of particular social groups adopt in order to assert their roles and therefore identities. According to Gee, we are apprenticed into our primary discourses early in life through scaffolded support from people who have already mastered the discourse, usually our families. We are also apprenticed into a secondary discourse as part of our socialisation outside of our early homes and peer groups through social institutions, such as schools.

So what does this have to do with the gaps in our classrooms?

It all comes down to the concept of privilege.  Gee explains that certain discourses are privileged over others because they are the systems used to confer control of social goods such as money or cultural authority, and thus bestow the members of that discourse with greater power and elevated status in society. Significantly, schools (and academia as a whole) privilege a particular secondary discourse in the same way, and this is often incorporated into the primary discourse of particular children, traditionally from middle-class homes. As a consequence, these pupils encounter less conflict with the dominant discourse at school compared to pupils from homes where this secondary discourse is not integrated into the primary discourse. Gee argues that classrooms where this disparity is not recognised will ‘simply privilege those students who have begun the acquisition process at home, engaging those students in a teaching/learning process while the others simply fail.’

What Can Teachers Do?

Gee’s theories about the social influence of discourse seem to point to the notion that it is not just the pupils’ use of language that is critical for success, but also that of the teacher. Accordingly, below are four suggestions for practice outlining how teachers can try to overcome the potential discourse disparities in their classrooms. These are by no means absolute, and are perhaps better understood as gateways opening some exploratory paths into this complex social maze.

1. Don’t ‘dumb down’.

Explicit vocabulary instruction and not shying away from more sophisticated, conceptual language is key to overcoming this inequality. Methods for explicit vocabulary instruction are explored by Andy Tharby here and John Tomsett here.

2. Model the rules of the discourse.

Explicit modelling of the discourse in its own right is fundamental, and this must come from the teacher. Pupils need to experience the social practice they are aiming to achieve as modelled by a master – especially those students who are acquiring this as a new secondary discourse. For example, before pairing students together to discuss a set problem or question, the teacher can demonstrate the type of talk and interaction expected through pairing up with a willing student or other adult and acting out the discussion in front of the class. During the discussion, it is essential that the teacher explicitly points out the conventions (words and behaviour) that are in play, such as turn-taking or giving justification for a response.  Neil Mercer’s ground rules for exploratory talk provide excellent criteria for identifying the conventions required for successful classroom discourse.

3. Work on a spectrum between speaker and listener.

One of the main tensions at the heart of this practice is that in inducting all pupils into an arbitrarily privileged secondary discourse the teacher is supporting a hierarchy in which some voices are silenced. This clearly has wide political ramifications, the scope of which warrants extensive further consideration. However, one way in which teachers can begin to tackle this conflict is to consciously alternate their role from teacher-as-talker to teacher-as-listener. This entails sometimes handing over the expectation of talking to the pupils (after the modelling described in Suggestion 2 above), and stepping back from being a constant authoritative expert. One way of achieving this identify shift is to come unprepared to a lesson! For example, working on a poem in English that neither the pupils nor the teacher have read before. In doing so, pupils begin to see that their identities can fluctuate from learner to contributor, thus giving them the confidence to enact this discourse themselves in the classroom and beyond.

 4. Make it meta.

The EEF toolkit signposts metacognition as having a significant positive impact on pupils’ learning, especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. Similarly, in order to empower all pupils to confidently access privileged discourses and to be aware of their status as users of this discourse, teachers need to support pupils’ thinking about how they are engaging with the conventions. One method of achieving this is to use Mercer’s ground rules for exploratory talk as a success criteria. This involves explicit modelling of the ground rules in the first instance, followed by frequent referral to the rules in order for students to reflect on their learning experiences and set targets. This metacognitive process can help pupils to explore beyond what they have learned,  to how they achieved this new understanding.

Further Reading 

Alexander, R, Towards Dialogic Teaching: Rethinking Classroom Talk, 2008.

Gee, J. P, The Social Mind: Language, Ideology and Social Practice, 1992.

Sutherland, J, Developing Exploratory Talk and Thinking in Secondary English Lessons: Theoretical and Pedagogical Implications, 2010.

Posted by Fran Haynes

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Using You Tube to support learning

This week’s teaching forum was led by our geography Curriculum Leader, Ben Crockett.  Ben was getting frustrated with the lack of commercially produced revision resources available for his students, particularly ones that would support them with remembering the case studies.  He wanted to be able to provide high level instruction for his students beyond the classroom, that went beyond the bog standard BBC Bitesize videos and was of the same high standard that students have come to expect from their geography teachers.

To address this, he created a departmental ‘YouTube’ channel.  Ben and his team then created short videos of themselves creating and explaining case study diagrams, and started publishing them on the channel.  The videos also contain exam questions and model answers, narrated by a subject expert (their teacher).  During the videos, the teachers support metacognition by explaining their own thought process in the creation of the case study diagram and how this knowledge can be applied.  Here is an example of a video:

The channel is here.

These case study videos link into the ideas of providing visual cues to aid explanation and dual coding (using text and images to support learning).  By being able to have multiple exposure to these explanations at home (or wherever they like) and then practising drawing them over and over (and being able to self-mark their versions, by comparing them to the video version), they become fluent at doing it.  They also ensure consistency in terms of quality explanations across the teaching team.

It’s worth stressing that this is not flipped learning.  These videos are not used to explicitly teach complex ideas – that happens in lessons (as it should).  The videos are there to support what has happened in lessons, at home.

They have also supported parental involvement in learning.  Parents have given the geography team very positive feedback about the videos.  They like being able to watch the videos with their children and then asking them questions about the content – which of course, supports retrieval practice.  Most parents want to be able to support their children with their learning – but they don’t know how.  This provides them with an opportunity to do just that.

Is it working?  Views on the channel have been very high – 17,770 to date.  This suggests a high level of use by students, parents and other visitors.  Attainment in GCSE geography this year was very strong (84% A*C & 44% A*A – both 20% above national average).  When this is broken down further, students achieved very high marks on the specific GCSE exam questions that relate to the case study questions – when compared to national averages and ‘similar centres’.

In terms of next steps, the geography team want to further develop the You tube channel, so that is has a wider range of video resources, focusing on exam question response formulation and deconstruction.  Alongside this, videos will also be developed that focus on core geographic skills and statistical analysis.

Advice for teachers looking to something similar

It doesn’t have to be complex.  A simple stand (or clamp stand borrowed from the science department) and flip cam/iPhone will do the job.  Editing can be done using a simple tool such as ‘moviemaker’. The focus should be on the quality of the narration/instruction – you have to imagine that you are teaching the content to the students, but whereas in lessons you can question and review points, make mistakes and correct them, the videos are didactic.  With this in mind it is important that you phrase things carefully or model how to take a basic point and develop it into a higher level explanation.  This last point is vital – the videos are only a cue to memory.  The basic case study drawings only provide cues from which students need to develop and expand answers.

Posted by Shaun Allison

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Words

In ‘Bringing Words to Life’, Beck, McKeown & Kucan talk about three tiers of words that students will be exposed to during school:

Most students come to school with a good tier 1 vocabulary.  Those students who come from a ‘word-rich’ family, where they have been encouraged to read and have discussions about the world around them, will have a good tier 2 vocabulary.  At school, they will be exposed to a growing number of tier 3 words, from the subject specialists that teach them.  What about the students who come from a ‘word-poor’ background, where they haven’t been encouraged to read and so haven’t developed that more sophisticated tier 2 vocabulary?  The classroom will be a daunting place for them.

Here’s Dr Isabel Beck talking about tier 2 vocabulary:

Last week, Dr Brian Marsh and I visited some lessons around Durrington, across science, history and geography.  Within the short period of time that we were in lessons, students were exposed to an array of different tier 2 and 3 words. For example:

  • Absorption
  • Emission
  • Transfer
  • Temperature
  • Solution
  • Osmosis
  • Biome
  • Precipitation
  • Variation
  • Composition
  • Representation
  • Emblem
  • Dominant
  • Depiction
  • Masculinity

This was in less than an hour.  Multiply that up across 5 lessons a day, every day and it becomes clear what students are exposed to.  This is great to see – students being exposed to and encouraged to use challenging academic vocabulary.  We need to think about this though – those students who come from a ‘word-rich’ background will cope with this vocabulary well.  Those that don’t, will probably experience feelings of inadequacy and frustration, as their understanding of these words will be limited.  This will be a serious block to their learning.

Fortunately, we saw teachers using a number of strategies in lessons to help their students understand this new vocabulary:

  • Deliberate multiple exposure to the new words during the lesson – including chanting the word and definition repeatedly in a science lesson!
  • Asking students to explain the definition of these words, in their own words.
  • As well as explicitly teaching the definition of the new word, following this up by questioning students about the correct use of  the word in a sentence e.g. ‘So, Trinity, how would you use ‘biome’ in a sentence?’
  • Discussing words that have a different meaning, that students might think have the same meaning e.g. heat and temperature.
  • Encouraging students to use academic language in their response e.g. ‘Well done Sam, but instead of saying hot objects give off more infra-red radiation, what could you use instead of ‘give off’?’  Sam then thought about it and replied with ’emit’.
  • Discussing the derivation of words e.g. students had studied electrolysis before and knew that ‘lysis’ meant ‘breaking down’ so electrolysis effectively means using electcity to break down compounds.  This was linked to ‘plasmolysis’ during osmosis i.e. the shrinking and possible rupture of a cell.

Teaching vocabulary like this can often be overlooked, but is so important.  It’s empowering for students and grows cultural capital.  Put simply, it makes students feel clever.

Knowledge Organisers are a great way to support this, but more about that during our INSET day in November.

Further Reading

Posted by Shaun Allison

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