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.