Blog Archive

Monday 27 April 2020

Lockdown inspired CPD - what are you reading?

Another morning waking to the birds chirping, the sun peaking through the clouds and my phone loaded with notifications from twitter of key educationalists and their overnight musings! Whilst we are all getting used to this new normal, I wanted to utilise our Mango Moments Teaching and Learning blog to focus on the opportunities we have to pursue research into areas of our profession we have the desires to develop.

Like many of you, my working days have taken on a new guise, with two small children it has been a balancing act to find the time to read, let alone blog, but I am hoping in time that some of you will be willing to share synopses of the books you have chosen to read so we can all share the load!

To begin with I opted to read 'Retrieval Practice: Research and Resources for every classroom' by Kate Jones. Its billed as 'smart and sustainable recommendations and resources that can shape retrieval organically into your classroom'. Whilst, like many other departments, we are in the midst's of a curriculum review (all be it via zoom), it was important for me that this book deliver quickly on specific strategies that we could build into our new spiral curriculum where now, more than ever, we are building in opportunities for students to revisit learning across three years. I was delighted that within minutes, I was presented with a plethora of techniques that were easily adaptable.

My highlight was 'Challenge Grids'. In Geography we start every lesson with a retrieval exercise, mostly low-stakes quizzes or concept maps, so this presented a positive alternative which I know our students will enjoy. This task combines retrieval, spacing and interleaving. You decide how much time is allocated to this activity in the lesson, and that is dependent on the number of questions you ask as well as the depth of retrieval you wish to go into. An alternative twist is that students create their own challenge grids and alternate them around in the class. 

The grid contains several boxes, each one colour coded for the time when students first encountered and encoded the new knowledge. The grid can be self or peer assessed, lead to teacher or class led
discussions and form a hinge point to allow you to identify gaps in knowledge and the ability to move forward. 

Dylan Wiliam ( once wrote 'if you make learning too easy, students don't have to work hard to make sense of what they are learning, and as a result will forget it quickly'. However, if you make it too hard then students can become disengaged - I truly believe these grids strike the right balance, embed differentiation throughout and as Wiliam put it 'present difficulties to children that are accessible and desirable'. 

The other strategy I wish to share from this book is the Retrieval Relay Race. This task is designed to promote retrieval whilst also stretch and challenge students to remember as much information as they can, but without repetition. For each relay race there must be a key topic, event or individual idea that is posed to the class. Pose, Pause, Pounce, Bounce questioning can be used here to formulate an initial discussion, as well as other Kagan Structures to support the LAPs primarily. 

There are then four boxes, representing the four members of the team. In the first box, the student writes as much as they can recall about the specific topic. They then need to find three other members of the class to complete the next three boxes, they key being that no repeated information is allowed. Similar to an all write round robin, this task requires the students to carefully read and retrieve what has already been written by their colleagues to ensure new knowledge only is stated. 

To conclude I will finish with a quote from Oliver Caviglioli (2019, Dual Coding with Teachers) 'The more organised the information is when it is encoded, the easier it is to retrieve it and transfer to working memory'. My belief is that this also applies to the retrieval phase - the more organised we are in providing opportunities for our students to retrieve knowledge, the more likely they are to retain it in their long-term memory whilst managing their cognitive load.

I will be making contact in the near future, with the hope that others wish to share synopses of the texts you have chosen to read. In the meantime, keep an eye on the blog as I will be sharing links to key curriculum planning thoughts in the near future, as well as opportunities for further reading. Stay safe, stay well and look after your loved ones.

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