And finally, a #Teachmeet

Around two years ago, when I discovered the potential of Twitter for CPD, I began to hear about the concept of Teachmeets and last night I finally managed to attend one, #TeachMeetYork at Archbishop Holgate’s School across the city from my own school. 

What I liked:

  • The variety – combination of big picture, values, leadership and practical teaching ideas. I went away having been challenged to think, but also equipped straight away with some new ideas to use. 
  • The presenters – they were all carefully chosen, mainly serving teachers or people who were strong in their field and commanded respect.  No consultants with smug “I’m telling you this but I don’t have to actually teach any more myself” expressions.  People with chalk on their fingers still, metaphorically speaking. 
  • The pace – no nodding off in twilight when you have to move on after 8 minutes. Forces people to be really succinct  at the same time. 

What I didn’t like

  • The pace – contradictory, I know. Sometimes there just wasn’t time to hear what needed saying. Some subjects don’t suit the format. I wouldn’t change the format; I’d be a bit more selective about what was shared. 

What I learned: 

I’ve condensed it into a mind map, having been reminded of the usefulness of Popplet. 

  
What I will do next:

True to form, I got home and immediately tried to cram the ideas from the sessions into all my lessons for the following day. (Cue students groaning “Miss, did you go on a course yesterday or something?”) 

My aim is to reinvigorate my teaching by branching out in the world of apps, and to think about some different ways to transfer information, more active than the stagnant defaults I have slipped into at the end of the year. 

Further info: 
#TeachMeetYork or @TeachMeetYork on Twitter 

Dr Jo Clarke from the University of York for insights into stress. 

https://tltahs.wordpress.com for Explain Everything.

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Teachers’ time management – a few ways I have learned to survive

“But at my back I always hear

Time’s winged chariot hurrying near…” (Andrew Marvell)

Regular readers of the Secret Teacher column will be familiar with the themes of teachers and time. There isn’t enough time to do everything, or to do most things to the high standards decent professional educators would like to maintain. Coming up on 10 years in the profession, however, I do still believe it is possible to have a reasonable work-life balance in the job. Every mentoring relationship I’ve experienced as a teacher – either as mentor or mentee – has seen time management as a hot topic, so I am writing this post to share the approaches that I have come to rely on myself, and seek to pass on to my mentees. I hope some of it helps you wrestle with your own teacher time demons.

I should add a bit of context here. I’m head of an English department in an 11-16 school. I’m a wife, sister, aunty, daughter but not a mum. Those who balance teaching with their own offspring, I salute you. I hope some of these ideas might still help you but feel free to snort at how self-centred I am when it comes to allocating my time.

I must also pause at this point to credit the Give Up Busyness For Lent campaign for shaping a lot of these ideas, and recommend that you read more about it here. The campaign’s ebook was hugely inspiring for me; I will attempt to emulate its quick-read/summary style by condensing my key ideas into the first 2 sentences of each point, (as writing anything about saving time, which takes time to read, is kinda daft) but brevity has never been my forte!

So, how do I manage time and cling on to my work-life balance as a teacher?

  1. Get on with it!

Ask yourself: am I about to spend time moaning/fretting about a task, which could be used to actually do that task?

I frequently find that once I start a job I’m dreading, it’s not as bad as I first thought. Even spending 10-15 minutes starting it a little bit makes me feel immeasurably better as then I know where I’m going with it.

  1. Harness the power of the list

Replace ‘To-do lists’ with ‘Must do’ and ‘Might do,’ break larger tasks down into smaller bits, and tick things off with a flourish (in colour. With your fanciest pen).

Being a stationery addict, I use a pretty book for my lists, one page per day. (I like the Orla Kierly range with tear off pages.) I often used to get to the end of the day and copy 5 items from today’s onto tomorrow’s list, feeling inadequate in the process. Writing a list instead of what HAS to be done today and ticking all those things off, then a separate list of what MIGHT be good to achieve today but CAN wait, is a much better approach for me. Boy do I feel smug when I tick off things that don’t have to be done yet.

Each holiday I tend to find I’ve got a lot of quite large jobs to do and so I’ll use a mind map or table to break these into smaller steps (e.g. a scheme of learning might break down into: decide assessment foci; gather resources; outline lessons week by week; create first week’s lessons; write assessments; plan homework.) Way more manageable and upping the ‘tick to job’ ratio. The what? Let one of my favourite contemporary poets, Jude Simpson, explain here.

  1. Guard your non-contact time carefully.

Leave meetings on time with your bag packed, plan how to use your ‘frees’ in advance and signal when it’s not OK to be interrupted.

You know how it goes in schools. There’s the main meeting. Then there’s the meeting after the meeting. The gathering of colleagues in someone’s classroom or the staffroom where people say what they really wanted to in the main meeting, but didn’t dare to. It often goes on as long, or longer, than the main meeting. It’s hardly ever positive or constructive. So, pack your bag and shut down your computer before the main meeting, and aim to leave school straight away at the end. It’s your evening, which often means precious time with family/friends/yourself that you’re protecting. Spend an hour dealing with your workload or looking after yourself, not an hour listening to someone grind their axe.

Another reality of school life is that you rarely have the luxury of working in your own classroom uninterrupted during a ‘free.’ If you’re not careful, you can spend about half of the non-contact time gathering your belongings and moving to another space to work, deciding what you want to get on with, finding materials you need etc. If you plan in advance what you will do with that non-contact time and get everything ready, you can sit down and get on.

You are entitled to this PPA time, even if you are in a position of leadership, so learn to say/signal if you need to get on. I often use my headphones to politely show that I’m working and wish to be undisturbed. In the past, I’ve also discovered various hiding places (like the librarian’s office) which provide a haven from interruptions. As long as there are other times of the day/week when you signal you are open to conversations and interruptions, I think that’s OK. Try saying “I need to mark these books now but I can talk properly at____ instead.” (If you’ve planned your ‘free’ as  in Point 3 above, this becomes easier)

  1. Learn your own patterns of productivity

Work out if you’re an early riser or a night owl, a short burst or long slog worker, and don’t fight it.

I’m most alert at my desk in the early mornings, particularly if there’s sunshine and dew on the grass. I’m OK in the evenings. I’m hopeless at working between 2pm and 4pm (coincidentally the traditional school meeting slot – Zzzzzz). Once I’ve sat at my desk, I am better going for quite a long stint.

As a result, I often try to get to school early and tick a few jobs off the list before school starts. If I’m working at home in the holidays/at weekends, I’ll try and get up and get on with things. I’ll work all morning but then give myself the afternoon off. If I try to keep working between 2 and 4, I will take ages doing things not very well and will get frustrated. No point.

Think back over your recent experiences and when you have been most productive and energised. Then go with it! Likewise, find the places that suit you best for different tasks. I like marking in a busy coffee shop as I feel more relaxed and less isolated (and can reward myself with caffeine and baked goods), but prefer to plan in school where I can spread things out on tables and use whiteboards to sketch out a big picture.

  1. Rewards and incentives.

Sometimes we all need a carrot so practice the art of delayed gratification and treat yourself once the jobs are ticked off.

Back in days of yore, I marked Y9 SATS. One day, even the thought of the extra money I was earning (which would go on to fund a holiday and a new sofa) was not enough to motivate me. So I worked out how many papers I had to mark to buy the ridiculous pair of shoes I currently hankered after, marked them, and went off to buy the shoes.

This is my most extreme example, but I often use the promise of a cake, a TV programme, a visit from friends and family, time for a hobby, (or something in the White Stuff catalogue) to motivate me. “When I’ve completed w, x and y, I will reward myself with z.”

  1. And finally, marking.

It’s a fact of life so divide/conquer and speed it up.

If you’re going to moan about marking to the point where this really has a negative impact on your mood, you’re going to make yourself miserable. You have to mark. Get on with it. (See point 1).

Of course, I’m not going to leave it there. There are ways to make it much, much more bearable. For me, marking a pile of 25-30 of anything is overwhelming. Instead, I divide this task into smaller units. If it’s a class set of books, 7-8 at a time is bearable. Then I go off and do something else, before resuming. (At the end of 14-16 or even 25-30, I’ll have a reward in mind. See point 5.) If marking longer essays, I go with a pile of 4-5 at a time and put a strong student’s work at the bottom of each pile so I can look forward to that. I am a bit sad, yes.

I’ve blogged here and here about my own approach to speedy marking. Whatever you do, find a way to stop writing out lengthy comments and above all, make sure students respond to your marking. That way, you’ll know that the precious time you are investing is going to have an impact on their progress, and therefore on your performance.

So, to summarise:

  1. Get on with it! Ask yourself: am I about to spend time moaning/fretting about a task, which could be used to actually do that task?
  2. Harness the power of the list. Replace ‘To-do lists’ with ‘Must do’ and ‘Might do,’ break larger tasks down into smaller bits, and tick things off with a flourish.
  3. Guard your non-contact time carefully. Leave meetings on time with your bag packed, plan how to use your ‘frees’ in advance and signal when it’s not OK to be interrupted.
  4. Learn your own patterns of productivity. Work out if you’re an early riser or a night owl, a short burst or long slog worker, and don’t fight it.
  5. Rewards and incentives. Sometimes we all need a carrot so practice the art of delayed gratification and treat yourself once the jobs are ticked off.
  6. And finally, marking. It’s a fact of life so divide/conquer and speed it up.

I’d love to hear your own ideas on the same topic.  If you can spare the time… 😉

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All change

It’s been a half term of change again for me as I’ve moved to a totally different part of the country and a very different school. Still head of English but with a smaller team, a strong Church of England ethos and – still pinching myself – an almost new, purpose built school building. I no longer have a desk in an office, but have my own classroom instead where I teach the vast majority of my lessons and can work at the end of the school days.

This has reminded me what a difference physical working space makes to your experience at school, one of many things I have observed, realised, remembered etc. during this first few weeks in the job. I’m intending for this post to be a reflection on how the first few weeks have gone with some ideas and tips for anyone making a similar shift in the future. Two years ago, as a new head of dept and in a new school, I wish I’d known a few of these things!

Introducing…
I started this time round by making sure I introduced myself to my new team. Any teachers are going to feel wary about who their new leader is and what changes are likely to result, so it’s very important to share this openly. I did this with a simple graphic ‘map’ of my journey into/through teaching so far – why did I choose it, where has it taken me along the way. I added my strengths and passions, and my weaknesses and struggles – very important to be honest about the things I am not strong on. Finally, a summary of why I’m an English teacher as these driving values are so telling when you’re first working with someone new. I think taking time to share this with the team on our first training days helped them to feel more at ease and accepting of my leadership.

My territory
I felt a lot more confident going into this role about marking out the physical space where I would work. (Even went for table groups rather than rows – daring!) Although I was careful not to trample on anyone or anything that was there from previous years – never, never throwing out things without checking with the previous inhabitants – I invested some time in the holidays in making the space work for me so that all resources are there within easy reach when I want to sit straight down to work at the end of a school day. The space in which you teach, if you’re lucky enough to have a base, also speaks volumes to your students and colleagues about you, so I’ve added posters, photos, quotes, my Lego Shakespeare minifig etc.

Getting to know them
The next chunk of time to invest was in asking my team to share their journey with me too. I gave them the same ‘journey’ sheet to fill in and bring to an initial 1:1 meeting with me. (This also established an important principle of how I lead – I won’t ask you to do something unless I’m prepared to do it too.) This led to some excellent conversations and insights into how people tick, along with what their circumstances outside school and their career aspirations are. This has helped with the building of open, trusting and authentic professional relationships, albeit still in their tentative early stages. Time really well spent, especially the 1:1 conversations.

Asking questions – the big and the banal
I was lucky enough to have two days and lots of email contact last term with my new colleagues. Some of the big questions I made sure to ask were:
• How is the learning organised – content, groupings, etc.?
• How is assessment carried out? What? When? How? What is the whole-school expectation and how does this then transfer to English specifically? Where does Literacy come in?
• What are the additional responsibilities within the department? Who does what and how does it all fit together? Who line manages who? What are the PMR arrangements?
• What is there in the way of CPD? How much time will I have with the department to use over the year?
• What does the department development plan need to include? How does it fit with the whole school plan?
• What are the department’s policies on all the above, and additional things like AG&T, encouraging reading etc?

Then there’s the nitty gritty – smaller scale but just as important! These are the things that, day to day, build the team spirit and help people focus on the bigger things.
• Tea and coffee?
• Stationery ordering?
• Toilets?
• Socialising, birthdays etc?
Part of my new school ethos, which the Leadership discussed proudly at my interview, is the idea of ‘servant leadership’ – the school equivalent of washing feet. So I’ve tried to roll up my sleeves, support and serve others – washing cups, swapping duties, baking cakes, getting the fridge defrosted, organising leaving gifts, as well as the more conventionally expected things like providing teaching materials for new CA tasks.

Making changes
There’s a huge temptation when you enter a new role to want to make visible changes quickly so that you have made your mark. I’ve tried to approach this with caution this time around, mainly because of the answer to this key question: how strong and successful is the department already? The answer, in my current, fortunate case, is very strong and successful. Therefore, why would I change things straight away? I have a lot to learn about how things have been done to lead to highly successful results and I both want and need to gain my colleagues’ trust before wading in.


The litmus test for immediate change

This being said, there have been one or two things for which I have brought in a new approach from the outset. The litmus test for me is this: if there is something you were questioned about in a couple of months’ time (by a ‘visitor,’ say) and you would be ashamed to admit you had not had the courage to change it, it ought to be changed now instead. Not wishing to ruffle feathers or lose trust is a good reason for leaving most things as they are, but it is not an unbreakable rule.

A collegiate approach
Partly because I have come into a very successful team, partly because it suits my leadership style, the changes I have pushed through have been approached in a collegiate way. We spent some CPD time sharing ideas, discussing honestly how to respond to certain challenges, and coming up with a verbal ‘draft’ of a new policy. My deputy and I then circulated this as a draft and asked people to trial a new approach during the first half term. Follow-up took the form of a mixture of department time and 1:1 ‘catch-up’ meetings after 7 weeks had gone by. The former took 30 minutes and was not very useful; the latter took much longer but felt invaluable, because I got to hear directly from each team member how they felt about the changes I had asked them to make.

I’m back in tomorrow to a defrosted fridge, different schemes of work and a shorter half term. Despite the darker evenings, things look bright.

Footnote: another huge part of starting any new role is establishing yourself with your classes. I could not possibly put better how to approach this than Tom Sherrington does here so do read that!

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Fun with John Boynton and William

It’s been a long time since I’ve had inspiration and time to write a post. Life has been dominated by CA administration, exam preparation, and a big party which saw MsMoose become MrsMoose. But now it is that wonderful part of the year when the sun shines, the evenings are light, two yeargroups have left, and we have just a smidgen more time to devote to lesson planning.

My Y8 and Y10 class are benefitting. They’re studying The Scottish Play and “An Inspector Calls” respectively and enjoying some active, creative approaches to the texts. Here are a few you might like to try.

WHOOSH!

I read about this first of all in wonderful Stand Up For Shakespeare Toolkit resource book which the RSC sent to every school twelve months ago. (Just saw the price and thought again how fab it was that every school got one for free. Thanks RSC. We have used it, honest.)

A whoosh is a one page summary of the whole play, focusing on character and action. The end of each phase of action is followed by the word “Whoosh” which signals the stage area should be cleared again. I approach it by assigning parts, bringing in a few key props, having a slow run through while the kids work out how to use the space and interact, then a second go where the pace should be slicker. We used a crown for The Scottish Play to show how kingship passes from one to another. At the end, anyone who was killed had to come in a create a heap of bodies on stage, to reinforce the concept of Shakespearian tragedy.

The other half of the whoosh lesson was some quick research about witches in Shakespeare’s era; putting the two together allowed the students to make good connections already between action and context and to discuss the role of the supernatural in the unfolding of the drama.

Active Reading

The day after the whoosh, we tackled the text for the first time. We read Act 1 scene 2, using the excellent No Fear Shakespeare site from Sparknotes. But the students were struggling with the imagery, so we cleared some desks out of the centre of the room and acted it out. Then they got it. Wonderfully, lots more were volunteering to be in the action than had been in the whoosh lesson, suggesting they feel more comfortable and confident now.

Verbal P.E.E.s formed through a tightly structured discussion will follow on Monday, then they will write their P.E.E.s for me to assess.

Takeaway Homework

Many Tweachers are using this idea, among them the talented @saysmiss (who just happens to be in my department at the moment. Hi Kat!) The students have 3 deadlines to meet: starter; main; and dessert. Each ‘course’ has a choice of three tasks: the starters are researched based; the mains are creative responses to the main action; and the desserts are more focused on overall effect. There are also bonus after-dinner mints; these are additional tasks for those who get really into the learning. (We’re looking at sentence punctuation in this unit too and Monday’s lesson is on colons and semi-colons; can you tell?)

When I dabbled with this approach over half term, we got the amazing Gothic board games pictured below.  Travel Gothopoly – a teaching highlight of the year for me!

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Step Forward, Step Back

Y10 are also drama text based this term, studying the brilliant “An Inspector Calls.” I’ve taught it so many times now but still see fresh connections and details with each class that encounters it. At the moment Inspector Goole first arrives and encounters Arthur Birling, I like to use an idea gleaned from a workshop in Coventry several years ago.

The students stand face to face in pairs with about 1.5 metres between them. One takes on the Inspector’s role; the other plays Birling. As they read each line, they decide if their character is gaining power (in which case, STEP FORWARD), maintaining power (STAND STILL), or losing power (STEP BACK.) This has several advantages: they all have to read and engage actively with the text; it’s memorable, so it helps hugely with revision; and they get a kinaesthetic demonstration of character relationship which builds their understanding enormously.

[Enter Finger Puppets Stage Right]

I have a box of finger puppets of all shapes, sizes, species and themes which are brilliant for drama texts. (They managed to engage a seriously tough Y10 class in their study of “Romeo and Juliet” once, so much so that they were queuing up to get in to the lesson instead of drifting in ten minutes late. I know!) I got them out in the first lesson where my current – much more motivated – Y10 students really encountered the text itself.

Giving the students finger puppets and insisting that they ‘act out’ as they read helps to reinforce key concepts in their understanding. They have to focus on relationships and proxemics as they go, and must respond directly to the stage directions; this develops their ability to comment on the effects of these features when they then come to write about the texts later. It draws less confident students into reading the script when they’d rather die than take on a part in whole class reading.

Plus you can argue for ages about which character should be represented by the pink octopus and which the purple starfish. Always fun.

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We’ll also be using Twitter-inspired responses, which I’ve blogged about here. My advice would be to keep having fun and taking these sorts of risks in the classroom, because I have to say I’ve had some pretty fun days at work last week as a result.

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New Headship: Principles, people, priorities.

Lots of food for thought for anyone moving on in Sept.

teacherhead

Screen shot 2014-05-20 at 21.13.05

At this stage in the year, I’m usually preoccupied with my school’s development plan. Now that I am moving on, my main focus is on handing things over to make sure everything is under control.  At the same time I’m starting to look ahead to taking up my new post at Highbury Grove in Islington. My strategic brain is in two places at once. I’m about to make the transition I’ve been contemplating ever since I arrived at KEGS – applying what I’ve learned from working in a selective high-attainment environment to a diverse full-range comprehensive school. I’ll be arriving at a school with an Outstanding rating and one of the greenest RaiseOnline reports you’ll ever see so this will be a two-way exchange. I’m looking forward to learning more about the secret of success in a new context.

In the process of making this transition, I’ve been thinking…

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Teaching GCSE Creative Writing – without stifling the creativity

It’s been a term that gives new meaning to the adjective ‘busy,’ with an Ofsted, the aftermath, applying for and accepting a new job for September (more on that another time), oh… and some of that teaching and learning stuff. I’ve not blogged for ages but I have still been attempting to hone my craft as an English teacher and I’ve got a few more thoughts to share.

I tweeted a while back a #pedagoofriday moment “Knowing have managed to make Y10 firmly aware of CA writing markscheme but NOT stifled creativity in the process.” (I admit, I also added a “Woo!”) This drew an interested response and I promised to explain how. Here goes…

Not stifling creativity:
More than anything this year, what I’ve done differently is to give students the right sort of time, space and stimulus to be creative with their ideas, to try things out in low stakes situations before coming anywhere near assessments. We’ve done lots of free writing, brainstorming, word showers, characters ‘wandering around in our minds’ – bit hippy that one – and looked to fictional characters and film plots for inspiration. I didn’t respond to these low risk efforts with formal marking, but with responses as a reader myself. “I love this image,” or “What might happen to this character the next day?” and so on.

I’ve given them lots of choice, especially in their homework, using menus to let them decide what will help them best. OCR offer two tasks each year for the creative writing CA, with three ‘linked’ tasks for each, and I’ve given the students opportunities to try all but one (a transcript writing task that I think is hideous. Sorry kids.)

I’ve also modelled being a writer as much as possible too, so they can see what I’m looking for and that it doesn’t always come straight away. I used inspiration from “Romeo and Juliet” to show them how you might “write about a time you experienced a clash of loyalties” and wrote my own slightly teen-angsty story to fit the other title stimulus, “Under Pressure.” If you only do one thing differently after reading this post, choose doing the writing task before you expect students to do it. It’s invaluable for unpicking the creative process and facilitating it more effectively. Plus you have a ready-made WAGOLL.

 

Making them firmly aware of the CA markscheme.
What I’m really alluding to here is making sure the students have a solid sense of what makes great writing. I’ve done all the things that any competent teacher should do, such as giving them a copy of the markscheme and using it to mark example work with them, and their own practice work. I’ve highlighted relevant sections of the markscheme in each of our lessons, so they can really see the purpose of what they’re doing in that hour.

To bring it alive for them more, we’ve used the analogy of spinning plates. A great writer has to keep a lot of different plates spinning all at once: ideas; vocabulary; literary devices; structure and paragraphs; spelling; punctuation; grammar. We use the same picture of some plates spinning in each lesson to reinforce this idea. Each lesson is about adding another plate, but reminding them to still tend to the others.

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Mentor texts came in very handy too. Students need to see really good examples of the sort of writing they are expected to produce. With each of these, we picked them apart very explicitly in order to define what makes the writing great.
How has the writer combined vocabulary and devices in this paragraph to create an overall effect?

  • What is the effect of all the short sentences here?
  • How does the focus of this paragraph switch halfway through and why?

Colour and models are great for turning some of these quite abstract concepts into a more concrete and accessible format. We built the paragraphs of a piece of writing out of Lego, representing the different elements that writers can use to produce variety in paragraph structures. (Unsurprisingly, a VERY popular and memorable lesson.) When a text is projected up on the whiteboard, I colour in the features I want them to identify and comment on.

Once the students have unpicked these techniques, they need opportunities to try them out in their own writing, then to refine and improve these attempts. We watched the Austin’s butterfly video together on YouTube to reinforce the idea that writing should be consciously crafted, and to help them give each other feedback. I use an image of a tiger swallowtail butterfly (“I knew it!” – watch the clip if this doesn’t yet make you chuckle) to signal the need for crafting and refining. They built models of their own paragraphs out of Lego too.

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Finally, I’ve prompted their planning carefully to try and make them consider the explicit features that they want to appear in their final piece of writing.

  • What sort of images and semantic fields do you want to use to describe this character?
  • Where can you consciously structure a paragraph for effect?
  • Whereabouts in your writing will you intentionally manipulate the sentence structures for effect?

When it came to the actual CAs, I let them vote over how they wanted to divide the time over the two tasks and we tried wherever possible to still have some thinking and warm-up time before they started to write each session. No one can walk into a room and be told “coats off, bags at the bag, mobile phones in the box on my desk, now BE CREATIVE!” (I did have to do this to them once because we are victims of timetable slots and CA time limits, but only once.)

The students have their heads full of spinning plates and butterflies. But their shoulders are back and their heads held high as they come into the CA room. I have a pile of 56 pieces of creative writing to mark over Easter. But I think I will enjoy quite a lot of them. (See how I consciously crafted my sentence and paragraph structures there. I’ve learned things too.)

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Drawing Cars and Butterflies – student-led feedback and response

Every once in a while, something comes along which fundamentally alters my teaching.  Something that makes me revisit and re-evaluate how I approach getting my students to learn.  It gets into my bloodstream and means that I cannot possibly contemplate carrying on as before. 

The first such example was an activity of dazzling simplicity which two colleagues at my first school, Ruth (a psychology teacher) and Helen (a science teacher), brought back from a course.  I call it ‘Peer and Self-Assessment Car’ and use it with most of my groups most years.  It is brilliant because it crystallises into a fun, memorable activity the fundamental principles of AfL.  Here’s how it goes.

You give students one minute to… draw a car!  (A bit of PowerPoint animation creates that all important anticipation for the task.) 

P&SA car1

 

After a minute, they stop and swap.  You then show them a 4 level markscheme, ranging from ‘Robin Reliant’ (which is deliberately so poor that virtually noone ends up at the bottom) then from ‘Ford Fiesta’ up to ‘Limousine’ and ask them to grade their partner’s work.  (Don’t get offended if, like me, you drive a Ford Fiesta.  We all have to start somewhere.)  Just before handing the work back, the peer marker writes some suggestions for how to move up to the next level.

P&SA car2

 

When the students get their work back, you discuss with them how they feel about their grade.  Are they annoyed that you didn’t show them the markscheme first?  Would they have done better had they known What We Were Looking For

And can they improve their work if you give them another minute?  That is always answered with an indignant “Well yes, of course I can.”  Off they go with another minute, armed with both the markscheme and some feedback to help them.  They can add to their existing drawing or start again, before finally grading themselves again to see the improvement.

I have used variations such as a different, more complex object, or asking students to highlight evidence of the improvements they have made, but the principle remains the same.

This leads really nicely into the students doing peer or self assessment of their own work in your subject.  You can underscore the principles of using the success criteria, being positive, being specific, and being willing to act on feedback in order to improve.  It also makes a great way in to a discussion of what happens when a teacher marks your work and how to respond to that feedback.  (I often use the activity in September before returning the first piece of formatively marked work to a new group of students and allowing them a D.I.R.T. opportunity.) 

The one thing that I have never really managed to get them to do well with any peer or self assessed activity is to make their feedback truly precise and specific.  I was excited, therefore, to stumble across this film on YouTube thanks to one of Shaun Allison’s ‘bright spots’ posts here.  I think it has real potential for taking student-led feedback even further in my classroom next half term.

 

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