Blog Archive

Thursday 5 December 2019

NATSA Newsletter - Term 2 by John Bowyer

Please check out the latest NATSA newsletter, written by our very own John Bowyer. With a specific focus on SEND, his bitesize research focuses on how we can best support our SEND students moving forward.

Within our classrooms:

Cognitive Load Theory 
1) Students gain a lot from studying worked examples and this reduces cognitive load. Before you ask students to complete a problem or a task for the first time, pair it with an answer to a near identical question. The aim is to gradually increase the independent student practice as the students become more proficient. 

2) Cut out all inessential information and present all essential information together. For example, if you are presenting a step by step approach to students on PowerPoint, ensure that all the steps are visible together on one PPT slide and not spread over several. 

3) Talk over pictures to describe them to students but not over text. Students will not be able to read and understand the text on a board while the teacher is talking to them. 

Dual Coding 
4) One suggested way is to use dual coding with students when revising materials. For example, when coming up with a flow chart on the lead up to the First World War, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand could be a note on the chart and a simple drawing of a stick man being crossed out. The idea is that combining words and visuals gives the brain two ways two remember something and improves retention. 

Children won’t gain a complete understanding of probability by playing dice, for example. But, if children learn in fits and starts and we leave off teaching something until children are able to understand it perfectly, we might be leaving it too late.

Maximising higher order thinking in the classroom.

In order to maximise higher order thinking students need to feel challenged, excited, motivated and fully involved in the lesson.

Zoe Elder ‘Full on Learning’ has the tagline to her book: ‘Involve me and I’ll understand’. ZoĆ« Elder starts (and ends) Full on learning with a metaphor about boat-building. It was only when humans were faced by a river and decided the best way of getting across it might be by floating, that we began having a go at constructing something to do the job. In other words, the skills involved in boat-building only came to the fore when they were needed. No problem, no skills.

She explains, taps into this ability to “learn new things as a way of overcoming problems.” It’s long been argued – from this site included – that we’re sending our students out into a rapidly-changing world and so it’s our duty to develop skills that will help them out there. Which is difficult when the only two things we can predict are “the unpredictable and the unexpected” (Full On Learning, p.4).
During last Fridays Teaching and Learning briefing, Tiff Partridge expertly demonstrated some effective strategies for how we can overcome these challenges and engage students in higher order thinking. 

1. Six Degrees of Separation: This activity is designed to give learners an opportunity to very deliberately practice creative and connective thinking. The activity can be developed and adapted in a multitude of ways - you can reduce the degrees of connection; you can place strict time limits on the activity to add a different kind of thinking pressure; you can insert your own topics/concepts/key words or you can add your own 'stop-off' points.

2. Speculation, Knowledge, Speculation:

With the speculative learning method, the idea is to try and have learners invent the future by employing and, in doing so, immediately contextualizing the variety of things they have learned to shape their speculation.
Basically, the goal is to answer the question every student has ever asked which is “why are we learning this?” 

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Let's be inquisitive!

At which point is it in a child's life when they stop asking why? Whilst my own young children are endlessly questioning the world around them (to the point where I sometimes limit them to 10 'why's' a day), I have come to the conclusion that more of my classes are becoming increasingly less inquisitive, too accepting of the knowledge they are taught and are not always challenging me to explain the why.

This has led to some frustration on my part, and triggered some investigation into how to engage them into asking why. As a result, I present to you my top six strategies for how to make students more inquisitive in your lessons:

1. Who would have THUNK? Driving Questions are at the forefront of the Mangotsfield Way, stimulating the students interest and challenging them to think deeper to be able to answer a higher order question. However, THUNKs can be used alongside to challenge the creativity of our students - what does a rainbow taste like, if a tree falls does it make a sound etc? The key idea to this activity is to encourage discussion, with that idea that no one answer or person is correct.

2. Inference Diagrams. Give students am image, quotation, diagram, graph or table in the middle of a sheet of paper. Use a number of concentric squares around the stimulus working their way out towards the edge. Ask questions such as:
a) What does the source tell me?
b) What can I infer?
c) What does the source not tell me?
d) What questions do I need to ask in order to investigate the source further?

3. Goldfish Bowl Debate. A small group of students are selected to discuss ideas/summarise their learning in the middle of the classroom. Remaining students positioned around the edge of the room then observe and provide challenge at certain points. Roles can be reversed and students can take it in turns.

4. Fascinators. Place an image/diagram/graph on the board in order to initiate a discussion. Students given post it notes - what do you notice? What questions do you have? What do you need to know more of in order to understand the image/diagram/graph?

5. Q&A Turned Upside Down. Provide students with a set of answers (such as key vocab or knowledge checkers) and they have to write a question to match each answer. Extra challenge can be provided by asking students to write as many questions as possible for that answer.

6. Remove the obvious resource. When students are completing a task, remove the resource that students would normally rely on so that they must consider what else they could use. This might be especially useful if you would like students to use their notes rather than automatically refer to a textbook. 

Challenging Passivity and Engaging Students

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. They centre around the use of PIEs Principles:

1. Positive interdependence is the most well-established principle in the study of cooperation.  When positive interdependence is in place, individuals are almost certain to cooperate.  In the absence of positive interdependence, they may or may not cooperate.

2. In the cooperative classroom, there is an “I” in team, and that “I” stands for Individual Accountability. In the cooperative classroom, students work together as a team to create and to learn, but ultimately every individual student is responsible for his or her own performance.

3. Equal Participation:  In the cooperative classroom, students participate about equally.  Participation is an integral part of the learning process.  Students learn by interacting with the content and with fellow students.  For equitable educational outcomes, we need participation to be relatively equal.

4. Simultaneous Interaction Active engagement increases student learning.  If students are off task, they are less likely to learn.  If students are only occasionally engaged, they learn less than when they are regularly engaged.  Simultaneous interaction is the most powerful tool we have for increasing active engagement.

Following Hetty's excellent INSET session, we might find it useful to remind ourselves of examples of Kagan Structures that can be applied to multiple classroom scenarios but most importantly as strategies that can be used to challenge the more passive learners we might face. There are multiple strategies but the first five are outlined below.

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 RSC if you wish to borrow the books!

Welcome Back!! Lets challenge passivity and engage our students.

Despite a mini hiatus, Mango Moments is back to brighten up your Teaching and Learning lives. We start with a bumper edition of ideas, with thanks to the research completed by the Love of Learning group as well as CPD and INSET sessions. Remember, we must challenge the students passivity and explain the deeper why if we wish to engage them in their learning journeys.

Please take some time to read through the new posts, including this NATSA bitesize research newsletter written by our very own John Bowyer in which he discusses the 'Are there things you can teach without words'? A great discussion centering around the use of synonyms in lessons.