Blog Archive

Monday 26 November 2018

Questioning to Embed Understanding - Tom Sherrington

Check out this fantastic blog post above by Tom Sherrington on the use of questioning to promote memory recall and deepen students understanding. 

In a nutshell, Tom discussed the vices surrounding students ability to 'know' new information, commenting that "We're not just throwing stuff into the room and hoping it lands. 'Making it stick' isn't something you hope for; its something you plan for and drive through. And 'know' means - recall, use, apply, explain - also known as "understand"."

He advises the following steps; Specify, Check, Apply.

1. Specify the knowledge even more precisely - what exactly do you want students to know before the end of the lesson, what are you learning intentions (not tasks).  Build in multiple occasions where you recap and consolidate. This is where good knowledge organisers can come in.

2. Check for understanding even more, in varied ways - Use no hands up questioning, Kagan Structures and hinge questions to ensure students are able to run through and reflect back on what has been learned. 

3. Apply the knowledge in more ways - more examples, more independent practice and more synoptic practice. Students need to be able to do things by themselves to gain confidence and fluency in their thoughts.

Using Authentic Texts - An MFL Approach

Yann Deplechin writes:

Using authentic texts raises the linguistic expectations of students, appeals to all sorts of cognitive functions, and it motivates and engages. I always introduce the texts in this way: "this is not a text aimed at students studying French, this is a text from a real French magazine, aimed at people who already speak French. There is no way you will understand everything. But you will, with knowledge and intelligence, manage to translate a fair few words, maybe a few sentences, and possibly find out what the text is all about"
These words are chosen to raise their interest, and to emulate them (in brief, I appeal to their pride, which makes most or all of them want to engage). Introducing the text like that is, I think, is vitally important. Also,  there is a theory, which I find to be true, that students will better memorise new information (or here, a word or expression) that they "catch" themselves, rather than one that is delivered to them by their teacher.

When approaching this in class, the text is displayed uninterrupted on the screen and each line is numbered with the interactive pen. Students are then randomly selected to define meanings of specific highlighted words.

Students engagement and effort is then rewarded with a house point in the following ways:
1. A single house point for a word which they have studied in school.
2. Two house points for a word which students have had to guess.
3. Three points if students add the conjuncture "this one is a verb, and it is in past / present / future tense, or three points if a whole sentence is translated. 

After 5 minutes the following questions is posed:  "What will be on the photo when the text is zoomed back out". Finally, the whole text is translated into English, in front of them, following each word of the text with step by step.

Monday 19 November 2018

Kagan Structures - Active Engagement

Kagan Cooperative Learning Strategies embed structured group work alongside long term learning to make classrooms more effective spaces. These structures are instructional and designed to promote collaboration and communication in the classroom, boost students confidence and retain classroom interaction. At Mangotsfield School, they have been in operation for a few years but it is always useful to have a refresher!

Following Hetty's excellent session on the necessity of Hinge Questioning during our Term 2 INSET, we felt it useful to share examples of Kagan Structures that can be applied to multiple classroom scenarios but most importantly as strategies that can be used to demonstrate the degree of students understanding before lessons are moved on. There are multiple strategies but the first five are outlined below. For further information remember to contact CIG for guidance or attend our Teachmeets.

1. Timed Pair Share - superb for debate and discussion themed learning and ensuring all students are accountable for sharing their views.

2. Timed RoundRobin - encourages the depth of discussion that is not always possible in paired work, in a structured manner.

3. All Write RoundRobin - great for decoding subject specific vocabulary, exam questions or key themes/concepts in a supportive mixed ability environment.

4. Rally Coach - vital when embedding collaboration or supporting peer assessment into lessons.
5. Stand-N-Share - perfect for that 'hinge' point when you want all students to demonstrate their understanding whilst ensuring collaboration.

For further information regarding Kagan visit or speak to a member of CIG to borrow the books from the T&L Library.

Memory Recall - Cognitive Load Theory.

If you recall (!!) Dylan Williams tweeted that 'Weller's Cognitive Load Theory' was the single most important theory that all teachers should know. 

During the CSET Conference sessions at the end of Term 1, a session was delivered that explored the complexities of this theory - notably what techniques we need to consider employing with our own students to ensure that knowledge that is committed to their long-term memory is routinely recalled into their working memories. Sweller outlines three types of load that we put on our brains:

1. Intrinsic cognitive load, which is basically how hard the work is to understand.
2. Extrinsic cognitive load, which considers how the information is presented: what does your PowerPoint look like? How many sheets of paper are you asking students to look at? What other distractions are there in the classroom environment?
3. Germanic cognitive load - this is the ‘thinking’ involved in the learning. Essentially we want students thinking about the LEARNING, not the task. 

So as teachers our aim needs to be to adapt the tasks to manage the difficulties of the task. Manage the intrinsic load, minimise the extrinsic and maximise the germanic. Highest impact tasks include:
1. Lagged homework's - or known as spaced practice is the concept of encouraging students to recall knowledge from previous learning with a time delay between learning in class and the completion of homework tasks.
2. Distributed Practice - when learning is broken up into a number of smaller sessions over a longer period of time.
3. Retrieval Practice - practice bringing knowledge from long-term memory into working memory with frequent low stake quizzes.

Linda Ferris has very kindly sent all colleagues through a link to a followup guide on the use of the theory. Please find the link below, also accessible via GoogleClassrooms.

Sunday 18 November 2018

WOW Wall - Engagement

Ever considered how to engage students in structured and challenging assessment, whilst embracing the house competition ethos? Consider a 'Wow Wall' to transform your classroom displays and celebrate success.
A simple adjustment during group, assessed or independent learning tasks will engage students whilst stimulating their competitive edge. All they need to be provided with is the opportunity to work on the coloured paper/card of their house, alongside the motivation of reward and praise. 

Year 7 and 8 students in Geography have been experiencing the 'Wow Wall' for a series of terms and commented: 'What I enjoy the most is the chance to represent my house whilst also hoping my work will be displayed, I love it when I see a piece of my work on a classroom wall'. 
To extend this task for HAP students consider providing students with a more open ended outcome that allows them to direct their own learning. Students are awarded for content, presentation and level of engagement as well as consolidating their understanding of content learned in class.