Thursday, 29 April 2021
Sunday, 4 April 2021
Retrieval improves retention, it seems simple really. But not for everyone. Whilst I have written many times about the merits of retrieval and the need to relay knowledge from our working to long term memory stores, we do not often consider how this strategy should be adapted for an SEND audience.
12 times. That is how often the average human must retrieve knowledge to feel it is competently stored - but what about SEND students? Many assume it must be more, but is that always the case?
On occasion I mention my own children in this blog and it is them I should give credit to for this piece. Bear with me! My eldest (7) is dyslexic and my youngest (5) has HFA. I do not reveal this for sympathy - my boys are amazing. I say this as it is them who have given me the biggest insight into how learning for an SEND student must be 100% personalised, modified and adapted. Whilst they have been intermittently home-schooled like thousands of other children, I found my usual teacher techniques had little effect on their progress. Despite the 2.5 year age gap, my sons are reading at a very similar level. Whilst my youngest merely seems to have to glance at words to have them committed to memory, my eldest has to retrieve, retrieve, retrieve which results in a huge amount of frustration.
Long story short, this opened my eyes to the need for retrieval activities that fed into the stimulus to succeed for every child. With emphasis on low stakes/low pressure but ensuring continual looped retrieval and interleaving.
In a 2019 blog post for the EEF, Prof. Rob Coe warns that 'teachers might generate retrieval questions that focus solely on the factual recall rather than promoting higher-order thinking' when designing a low stakes quiz with SEND students in mind. He goes on to state 'questions might be too easy and boost confidence without providing real challenge' - which leads me to question are we producing retrieval tasks for SEND students to ensure they feel they are making progress whilst remaining engaged? Are we prioritising confidence boosting over challenge and therefore doing little to actively close the gap?
To avoid focusing on service level knowledge, I have trialled a few alternative retrieval techniques that I found provided the appropriate scaffolded support for SEND students whilst still promoting the standard to 'teach to the top'. The first is 'Go for Gold'. Taken from a podcast by Kate Jones (guru of Retrieval Practice), she outlined how providing the tiered vocabulary of gold, silver and bronze ensures that all students recognise the complexity of terms needed, whilst not switching off those who may struggle to use the higher tier vocabulary appropriately. We have used this with our Year 11 students in geography in preparation for the ICA's, alongside the use of I do, You do, We do. I have had SEND students producing more structured and complex paragraphs as a result and their first batch of ICAs show students with complex SEND needs producing logical paragraphs with clear attempts to use subject specific vocabulary.
I have shared the 'memory lane' concept before. This was a new strategy for me during our most recent session online, that has successfully been transferred from live lessons to the classroom. Using another Kate Jones idea of 'Cops and Robbers’ but adapted to specific foci, memory lane provides the opportunity for five key sub topics or knowledge segments to be retrieved. It provides the necessary challenge of 'what can you retrieve independently', partnered with the 'now share with a partner and steal some ideas'. Again, this provides the correct level of challenge and engagement for all students but my main tip is to ensure it is used close to the initial learning episode of the new knowledge - one week to two weeks afterwards seems to work best. If you wish to extend this task, prompt students to use their memory lane to write a ‘Speedy Summary’ in which they must articulate their knowledge using compound sentences in 50 words exactly.
The next idea is called 'Two Things' - the quickest and easiest strategy I have used yet. It requires minimal teacher talk and can be used at any time in a lesson. Simply pause and ask any of the following:
1. What are two things you learned so far today?
2. What are two things you learned yesterday (or last week)?
3. What are your two takeaways from today?
4. What are two ways today's topic relates to previous topics?
This strategy supports cognitive science research that states that retrieval should be interspersed throughout the lesson, and students can benefit from quick retrieval without taking up too much lesson time. In addition, if you feel feedback should be provided on these 'two things' then ask students to pass their books to each other, noting down their 'two things' using one of my favourite Kagan structures 'Simultaneous Round Robin'.
The ultimate aim with retrieval practice is to avoid cognitive overload. This is especially important with SEND students, who when faced with the bombardment of lots of information can result in creating learning stresses. In chapter 4 of 'Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning' the authors outline the need to avoid an environment where students don't make errors. Errorless learning, as they call it, is not conducive to progress and in fact we learn better from mistakes we have made. Relating back to my children now, this one was most pertinent for my eldest. His complete lack of confidence with all things literary led to minimal progress being made. He was reluctant to make even a single mistake and therefore reverted to not trying at all. The same can be said for a core group of students in my Year 10 GCSE class. They are inherently convinced that making a mistake is embarrassing and as a result shrink further away from independent learning. I have had to build strong 1:1 relationships to harness any opportunity presented to check their knowledge and understanding away from the whole class questioning moments.
This meant a culture shift within the classroom (and around my dining table!) was needed. To show it is okay to make mistakes, I needed to do so myself. This is where 'make it better' came in. Instead of producing the perfectly modelled answer, provide students with an imperfect piece of work and ask them to consider how they would improve it. Remove the mental block that arises from a blank piece of paper, steer more towards the tools needed to develop a piece of work first and then reduce the quantity you provide students with to 'make better' each time.
My final thought for this post considers the fine balance between retrieval, challenge and offering the appropriate scaffolded support. 'Think and Link' is a strategy that promotes retrieval of tier 3 vocabulary and knowledge whilst also carefully blending the requisite challenge that comes with exploring the links between what were previously compartmentalised pieces of knowledge. Identify two to three key pieces of knowledge, ask students to recall as much as they can about said content. Then ask them to explain how they think they are connected. It may be wise to start with two concepts first, and to model said links using I do, We do, You do again - before bringing in a third or even fourth idea. For example (using the key vocabulary below):
Consider the class and each student within it - building relationships that allow you to recognise which personalised approaches work best.
Consider small tweaks and quick wins - retrieval should be low stakes and low stress, but with optimum challenge.
Build in retrieval practice throughout lessons, not just as a tag on. Retrieval does not have to be fancy templates, consider adapting hinge questioning to build in some interleaving.
Shy away from a culture of errorless learning to ensure students recognise the importance of learning from mistakes.
Keep it simple - teach to the top, model and scaffold (Michael Chiles, The Feedback Pendulum, 2021).
Please do get in touch with your own ideas and strategies for supporting SEND students and with any examples you are able to share.
Friday, 19 February 2021
Exploring a love of learning in an online environment - how to adapt our favoured approaches at Mangotsfield.
Reading through the I do with the class has a limited level of impact, so following feedback from my Year 11 class in particular I found that producing an answer that was slightly sub par that they had to develop or re-write was a more effective approach when they were not physically in front of me.
James Gilpin was wonderful enough to trial the shared GoogleSlide approach at a similar time to myself. I know he won't mind me mentioning that following a telephone conversation between us, he was ready to try something new with his GCSE classes. Opposite is a screenshot of his class working concurrently on an exam question. James was able to live mark to show students where they were accessing specific parts of the markscheme, provide whole class feedback and scaffold their next steps.
Feedback that is shared as close to the learning episode as possible is the most effective and the aim should be to move learning forward. When providing this during this current online environment it can naturally be in the Try Now format. Alternatively, produce a feedback guide such as that shown opposite. Review the responses to key knowledge checking questions and alongside the correct answer (in green), note the common class misconceptions in red.
Sunday, 24 January 2021
DQ: How do I ensure I plan effective lessons for an online environment?
It was Wednesday of the first week of this new lockdown when I stumbled across the diagram above on edutwitter. It instantly spoke to me, its simplified, cyclical approach provided much needed reassurances for how to approach the planning of live lessons. I assume that we all felt an element of panic in that first week, despite my 16 years teaching experience I felt decidedly disjointed. The main concern I had was over how to ensure my live lessons closely mirrored the routines and expectations I had established in school, so that minimal learning was lost. Let’s explore the elements of the above that are to do with planning...
Plan the curriculum: Ensure that the students are informed of the bigger picture. What are they learning and why are they learning this? Closely mirroring what students would have received should they be in school naturally feeds into greater engagement. This might look different depending on whether you are live teaching specific key stages or using e-learns but what is allowed for is support for both the students and you as a teacher to check for completion, gaps, next steps and engagement.
Plan the inputs: My mantra here - do not overplan! Keep to the basics;
Promote retrieval by starting with a do now task - knowledge retrieval, low stakes quizzing, GoogleForm etc.
Introduce the content but with minimal teacher talk - the feedback has been that listening to a ‘lagging’ teacher can cause students to switch off straight away. If its new knowledge, can you find a video clip that delivers the much needed content or an article the students can read and discuss in a Guided Reading format? Just ensure you present the new information in small chunks and with worked examples.
Ask lots of questions - cold calling has taken some adjustment when you wish not to lose time to students writing their answers into the chat. In the classroom, posing the question and then stating the students name ensures all are kept on their toes but online naming the student first and then posing the question is more effective for maintaining the pace.
Model excellence (see I-We-You lower down).
Explicitly teach vocabulary - by my own admittance, this I neglected in the first week and it came back to haunt me with vengeance. Whilst delivering a discussion on mitigation and adaptation to Year 11, I immediately launched into a discussion of strategies and asked the students to categorise them under the headings above. But how could they when we had not retrieved and consolidated what the two ideas meant to start with. After my do now task, I now explicitly pick the three key words for the lesson and check/reinforce their meaning in the GoogleChat.
Check for understanding - ensure students have the same opportunities you would afford them in class to apply their knowledge. How are you going to ascertain their level of understanding if they do not produce any written evidence?
Provide regular feedback (listen to the feedback video in the e-learn).
Plan the students tasks:
Consider setting up a GoogleSlide document that the students all have editing access to. Allocate each student one slide (named) but formatted the same way on them all. As they produce the work, under your instruction, you can observe their progress and they can collaborate with each other. This also provides great access to whole class feedback that is live and mid lesson as you can switch from slide to slide with ease and pace.
With KS4 producing exam questions from scratch has proven tricky to produce to a good standard. Students have therefore benefitted from the use of ‘say it again, say it better’ but in a written format. Provide them with an exam answer that is not quite good enough - ask them to make it better by focusing on developing the answer, improving its SPAG and rearranging its format. The feedback from this approach has been overwhelmingly positive, as long as students are provided with their own GoogleDoc that they can edit and adjust easily.
Continue to model using I-We-You. Ensuring that students have the standard required modelled is teaching 101. Using the tools at your disposal, produce the ‘I’ (the part you as a teacher write) and display throughout the lesson on a GoogleSlide or GoogleDoc presented on the meet. The ‘We’ can easily be built upon in the GoogleChat. Ask students to produce their own answers by typing in the chat, but do not let them press enter until you instruct them to do so. Read through all the answers submitted and produce an answer using the ‘best bits’.
Often students are nervous to share ideas in the forum of a chat or verbal contributions. A good way to pose a question, give a time limit and then a countdown to hit enter. Impromptu polls are best developed using the raise hand - this is a great tool to support that important hinge question before you move learning forward. True or False quizzes work well with the raise hand also (click it if you think a statement is true, don’t if you think it is false).
Please be reassured, these are all suggestions and this is a steep learning curve for us all. My final word of advice, what works for one class might not work for another. You must adapt, mould and trial new ideas one at a time. Give them time to embed and do not expect results immediately. Be aware of student wellbeing, IT access and the general level of engagement so far - reflect at the end of each lesson on what went well and what you would change. Finally, talk to colleagues, talk to your mentors, talk to your departments. Share the workload, share ideas and engage in the camaraderie that Mangotsfield is known for.
Sunday, 8 November 2020
- To establish pace and rhythm in every lesson.
- To enable us to recap content or embed vocabulary without eating into too much lesson time.
Before we begin that content we recap Macbeth and analyse a Macbeth quote using the retrieval grid quote combination seen above. We have then, in the space of ten minutes recalled information about one topic, practiced a skill for that same topic (language analysis) and prepared students for the skill they will be using in the main focus of the lesson (language analysis again). It is a lovely way to make every moment count.
Sunday, 11 October 2020
As shown opposite in this excellent PE department example, all books should have:
1. Clear driving questions throughout, underlined with a ruler, showing evidence that students have been provided with the opportunity to respond and reflect on their learning.
2. Evidence that students are regularly exposed to Tier 3/ subject specific vocabulary - whether this be through the use of glossaries, guided reading, word banks or the expectation that students include specific words within their writing.
3. Be presented in a way that makes them readily accessible for retrieval work and for revision. In other words, that students are able to use them as a source of knowledge - no loose sheets, use of DIRT time to ensure classwork is complete.
4. Contain Try Now tasks routinely and often (every 8 lessons of learning) to allow students to reflect on their work and challenge them to extend.
5. Corrections are made where necessary, with the use of green pen to provide peer or self feedback.
How have departments been maintaining these standards?
A unified approach to achieve some of these areas is necessary in order to jointly reinforce and support each other with these expectations across the school.
Use your Recognition Boards and Displays: Through the use of positive recognition, we can model the standard expected. Despite the need to socially distance from students, there is nothing preventing us from displaying to students how we wish for books to look. Classroom displays that contain student work with DQs underlined, key vocab used routinely and with student led corrections made can be a powerful tool. Referring back to said displays may be necessary frequently to begin with, but soon the routines and expectations will filter down to everyday classroom life. The Science department have displayed their recognition board in a prominent location, visible to all students who enter the D block, and thus developing a culture of peer led expectations presented through positive reinforcement.
Sharing Best Practice: As mentioned in the previous blog on this topic, physical examples of other students' work is often the easiest and quickest solution. Keeping copies of books from previous years might not be an immediate solution, but if a colleague has delivered the same task/lesson at an earlier point to you and can share a strong example from their student cohort, physically sharing that book with your
Provide checklists to those students who require more support: A selection of departments are utilising the use of checklists shared at the starts of lessons, either on students' desks, embedded into PowerPoint's or on a post-it to remind the more forgetful students. Please see the example below from the English department:
Open the book to the next page or draw a line under the last lessons work.
Copy out the driving question.
Copy out the date.
Underline the driving question with a ruler.
Underline the date with a ruler.
Complete the DO NOW/Settling task.
Do we know what individual students 'best work' looks like?
Tiff Partridge has kindly shared some research from her previous visits to primary schools. As a result, the English department in the past have trialed an 'expectations' lesson, in which students are asked to produce a uniform piece of work. Whilst we recognise there are issues with asking some students to copy out work, as a singular activity, to ensure a benchmark of that students' standard is recognised, it has its merits. If you wish to have a look, please visit the following link and consider as a department discussing what you might ask of students if you were to create a 'benchmark task': https://drive.google.com/file/d/12DEsFFlkUzwDaYxYWpNq-Fsh05rNXCgY/view?usp=sharing