Blog Archive

Friday, 19 July 2019

Steps to Ditching Differentiation

Our final look at T&L ideas for the year focuses on how we can change the differentiation narrative towards a less prescriptive teaching style that does not involve planning individual activities for each ability. It focuses on the drive to 'teach to the top and then scaffold'.

We need a profession-wide acknowledgement that differentiation does not mean doing different things. via @TeacherToolkit

1. Don't bolt on challenge - build it in.

Make sure learning time is devoted to students securing their subject knowledge as opposed to stretch tasks that are seen as an add on.

2. Plan for the top and scaffold in.

Make the main activity sufficiently challenging - ask one student in one way and another student in a different way how to model their response.

3. Stop thinking differentiation = different routes through the lesson.

Teachers should expect all students to do the same thing whilst accepting that some will do it better than others.

To keep our workload manageable and get the best out of every pupil these are the steps we need to take:
  • We need to stop bolting-on ‘stretch tasks’. Instead, we need to build in the challenge.
  • We need to say no to outcomes: ALL/MOST/SOME, VAK, etc. Instead, we need to just give everyone the same success criteria and, if required, scaffold from the top down.
  • We need to stop thinking DIFFERENTiation = different activities, worksheets, etc.
  • We need to ditch our guilt.

Highlights of the year - by you!

Thank you to all who have supported the inaugural year of our T&L blog and I hope you have all taken something away from the fantastic ideas and strategies that have kindly been shared. To conclude this year, I requested your thoughts on what has been either the highlight of your year T&L wise or a specific moment from your classrooms where the learning just 'clicked' or the students were enthusiastically engaged! Here are some of your thoughts - thank you to all who have shared.

"I was 'wowed' by the power of using oracy as a teaching strategy earlier in the year, when a student who rarely writes anything down was able to articulate the most thoughtful and energising speech in front of the class. It reminded me that although some students find expressing their ideas on paper really difficult, the thoughts are still there in their head and we need to find a way of allowing them to express them! Hearing this student give his speech so confidently is one I'll remember".

Tiff Partridge

"I think that the strategies that have become part of my everyday teaching this year are linked to ideas from Cognitive Load Theory and Vocabulary Teaching. 

I've pretty much cleared the front wall of my classroom so that there are no posters, just the whiteboard and nothing to distract students from it. I've cut out all the fancy fonts and pictures from any power points that I use and, when I give the children a slide with writing on it, I give them time to read it in silence before I say anything about it. I've also learnt more about the power of the worked example and I might often design a slide so that a worked example is on the left hand side (e.g. a text to analyse and annotate) and, on the right hand side, there is an example for the children to do independently. This means that they can access the worked example as their do their own work.

I think that, in the past, I have focused too much on the minutiae of what the exam board is looking for in a good answer, and giving the students a framework to match that. I have moved to teaching the children a range of vocabulary which will enable them to express their views or make a point in a formal way. So, now I will tell students to use three of these words in their answers rather than insist from the start on a certain paragraph structure. 

An example of a students' work from this morning is from a Year 10 student. We had learnt the words: amused, disgusted, indignant and questioning. Students had been given several goes at using these words before they wrote an analysis of two articles. One of them I had annotated myself as a worked example and the other had been annotated by the students independently. 
In contrast, Emma Brockes starts as amused saying 'one leaned over and snatched the dummy from the other ones' mouth.' This is all sweet innocent and harmless. However Emma soon changes her mind when she found out about parents who have 'pepper sprayed and locked [their children] in cupboards for forgetting their lines'. This makes her feel disgusted and indignant for the kids as well as that the parents do it because its 'making their parents sizeable incomes' which makes Emma question if its safe to put a harmless innocent video of her kids up.
She needs to develop greater control over sentence structure and to analyse language in depth but I am really pleased by the way in which she has confidently expressed the views of an unseen text and embedded quotations without any framework or sentence starters. She is also beginning to use more 'attitude' vocabulary of her own since learning certain works in class.

I'm always looking out for ideas or research which will help me to develop my teaching but I think an emphasis on worked examples and vocabulary teaching will stay firmly within my day to day practice"

John Bowyer

My highlight of this year has to be the school show "We Don't Need No Education". Students demonstrating creativity, independence and resilience by the bucket load!

Helen Wooltorton

Always show enthusiasm in every thing that you teach as it motivates and engages the pupils immediately. Yes it can be tiring but it can make a world of a difference to your classroom environment, something I am very passionate about.

Laura Markwell

"The highlight of the year has been when the driving question has permeated everything in the lesson and has 'done what it says on the tin', i.e driven learning and thinking. Students have had their curiosity wetted and it has really moved learning on".

David Spence

And my personal favourite:
"The installation of the new laser cutter in DT"

Joe Williams.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Communication and Interaction Difficulties - Mike Marsh explains!

Speech and language needs do not always involve students struggling to say words or phrases correctly. The majority of our students have difficulties with their expressive language - their ability to use language to communicate effectively, to find the rights words to convey meaning, or receptive language- their ability to understand spoken language. 

Although I will go through more detail the key phrase is ‘Say less, show, slow, stress.’ 

I’m always struck by how fast we all talk and the range of instructions we give out, ‘Sit down, coats off, write the driving question, today's date is…’ students struggling to process this information will get lost. 

So, what to do? 

· Slow down
· Repeat important phrases or instructions
· Break instruction down into chunks
· Cue the student in by giving advanced notice of a question, use their name before asking them something.
· Back up instruction of key sections with written re enforcement. (Write on the board the key instructions)
· Key words lists and knowledge organisers are vital here- they allow students to process the words at their own pace, they provide clarity for the key words used in lessons and they are an opportunity for students to pre learn key terms before a lesson.
· Think about the clarity of you language; say things you want to happen as an instruction not as a question- eg ‘Sit Down’ rather than ‘ When are you going to sit down’.
· Pause and then check for understanding- ‘Tell me what you need to do please.’ 

Further reading, the IDP document below has several simple strategies to try. 

Friday, 17 May 2019

Using emojis to support student engagement.

Katie Hawkins writes:

Using emojis in the classroom is something different, modern, and it keeps your students engaged. Just take the jump!

Emoji exit tickets:
When you think about teaching with emojis, your first thought is probably “exit tickets!”. Yes, you’re right. Emojis are often used in exit tickets.  But I use them as a more organic method of finding out how the students understand in a non-threatening way. Most students hate to put their hand up if they don’t understand. This mean they can use one of three symbols to show their understanding and you can walk and check afterwards. They are asked to put the emoji next to the area, idea or key word that they don’t understand.

Beer Pong - a revision technique?!

Many thanks to Laura Markwell for this excellent guide:

With GCSE’s in full flow we may be asking ourselves what is the best way to revise with year 11 (or for that matter any year group). One effective teaching strategy that has great success is the use of ‘beer pong’ in the classroom, with the new name of ‘revision pong’. This is a perfect tool for focusing on key words or revision questions. From my own experience it builds a sense of excitement and competition in the classroom and it even has the benefit of engaging those pupils who often seem disengaged. I have had many positive experiences using the game from Year 9 to Year 11, with the pupils bursting at the idea to play it. So how do you set up such a revision game?
  1.  You will need to buy 2 or 3 beer pong sets. Having multiple sets will allow group sizes to be small, therefore increasing the number of questions that the pupils will have to answer. This will also limit the possibility of pupils going off task as they wait their turn.
  2.   In each of the cups there is either a question the pupils should answer or a key word the pupils should define.
  3. The ‘revision pong’ is laid out as the picture shows and the pupils assemble themselves into their small groups of 3 or 4.
  4. The aim of the game is to throw the ping pong ball into the opposite teams cups, with the winning team being the first team to remove all of the opponent’s cups.
  5.  If the ball lands into a cup on the opponent’s team, the opposition must either answer the question or define the key word. If they struggle the team should alert the teacher who will give them assistance. Once the team has answered the question or defined the key word, the cup is removed from the game and it is now their turn to throw the ping pong ball and the game continues until all cups are removed.
I have attached examples of keywords and questions. These are relevant to the GCSE Food Preparation and Nutrition specification but could be adapted and changed for other subject areas:

What is the difference between shortcrust and puff pastry?
What is a deficiency of vitamin C?
Enzymic browning
How can you prevent cross contamination of meat products in the fridge?
What is required by law on a food label?

If you want any more insight into how to use this teaching strategy please do not hesitate to contact Laura Markwell.

Building a positive culture within our school - a focus on vulnerable students.

What do we know about our most vulnerable students?

The HoH team write: Everyday we teach students who have suffered Adverse Childhood Experiences. This could include abuse, bereavement, parents with mental health issues or domestic violence. A student’s mental health and well being is fundamental to their ability to focus and engage in learning.
We know that our SEND and Pupil Premium students are more likely to suffer from mental health issues and experience trauma during their time in secondary school. These students have suffered and some continue to suffer Toxic Stress which physically affects the make up of the brain and has a direct impact on its function. This can make a child anxious, edgy, impulsive, hyper vigilant and unfocused. These behaviours link to the reasons why a disproportionately high number of SEND and Pupil Premium students are sent to RTL.

Does this mean we should accept poor behaviour?

We absolutely need to continue to challenge behaviour that falls below our expectations, however we must also hold ourselves to account and question whether we are doing all that we can to support their individual needs. 

What strategies do we deploy after a student receives a first warning that will prevent them from receiving a second?

As a HOH team we considered this question and agreed that as frustrating as a poorly behaved student can be, we need to be able to have more opportunities to take a step back and question what is driving that behaviour as well as reflect on our own actions in responding to it.
For example, an anxious child can present in many different ways.  The most obvious way is to avoid the situation that is making them anxious (flight).  The other less obvious signs of anxiety are dissociation or work-refusal (freeze) and conflict (fight).  If we know that a particular student will respond with conflict when we introduce a new seating plan how do we avoid this? As a HOH team we were all able to share examples of when we had responded in a way that escalated negative behaviour rather than improved it. 
Following this discussion we decided that we would value more opportunities to discuss with all staff the different factors which contribute to creating positive learning environments for our most vulnerable students. As a result, we have collapsed our HOH briefing session twice a term so that we can hold whole staff sessions on this topic.  We also hope to use this blog to signpost further reading and guidance.

What is a good book to read on this topic?

In When the Adults Change, Everything Changes: Seismic Shifts in School Behaviour, Paul Dix upends the debate on behaviour management in schools and offers effective tips and strategies that serve to end the search for change in children and turn the focus back on the adults.

Drawing on anecdotal case studies, scripted interventions and approaches which have been tried and tested in a range of contexts, from the most challenging urban comprehensives to the most privileged international schools, behaviour training expert and Pivotal Education director Paul Dix advocates an inclusive approach that is practical, transformative and rippling with respect for staff and learners. An approach in which behavioural expectations and boundaries are exemplified by people, not by a thousand rules that nobody can recall.
Each chapter is themed and concludes with three helpful checklists – Testing, Watch out for and Nuggets – designed to help you form your own behaviour blueprint. Throughout the book there is indispensable advice about how to involve all staff in developing a whole school ethos built on kindness, empathy and understanding.

If you would like a copy of this book please make Clio Corpe or HOH aware and we will order you one. 

What was covered in the first HoH briefing?

We discussed the Theory of Language & Interaction section from the Paul Dix book. Below is an example of a suggested strategy.
'When you come to see me today get as close to 3.30 as you can so we can resolve this quickly and both get home in good time'. As opposed to, 'Meet me at my room at the end of school'.
The trust in the student that this statement implies, combined with the clarity of the expectation, often results in immediate action without protest. It is almost a closed request which leaves no 'hook' to hold onto and argue with.
You are assuming and encouraging a positive response; making it awkward for the student to respond negatively.

Thinking Point - Think of a student who you need to approach in a different way. Set a target for the end of term to use different language/interaction with them. In our HoH briefing on the last week of term we will come back together as a team and share and reflect on the strategies that we have tried out. We look forward to hearing from you!

Supporting Students with Autism

Mike Marsh writes:

As the cliche goes if you have met one autistic student, you have met one autistic student.  Autism, has such a range from those who cannot use language at all to those who present TV programmes or are paid public speakers.

There are some things that we can do in the classroom to support all of our students with autism.

Probably the best piece of advice is to speak to the student.  We know autism is a range of impairments that affect social communication, social interaction and behaviours.  Many autistic people also have sensory difficulties around, smell, taste, noise or textures.  The expert is the person themselves.  Where do they find it best to sit in your room?  What cues or prompts do they need from you?  It is useful to know if they have any specific interests which you could tap into during lessons. Whilst there will be some information in their student profile your classroom environment is unique and may present unique challenges- even if it is something as straightforward as feeling comfortable with the person they sit next to.

Some ‘basics:
1.  Have a routine for your classroom and give warning if this routine will change- a clear set seating plan, a driving question, whole class questioning. However you structure your lessons keeping to a routine will reduce anxiety which in turn increases students ability to learn.
2.  Have a To do list or lesson structure either on the board for all or in front of the student.
·   3.  Keep instructions simple give information in chunks.  For some students back this up with written or visual prompts.
·   4.  Regularly check for understanding.
    Further Reading:
A short introduction:

More detailed information , Units 11-20 are the most useful from a classroom perspective.

Information on why girls are under diagnosed and how to support girls in the classroom.

Dean Beadle excerpt from a talk about being Autistic.