Blog Archive

Saturday 11 July 2020

Guided Reading - there's more to it then just decoding key words!

All new vocab is stored for approximately two seconds before it needs to be rehearsed to be retained. This leads to barriers if you wish to present to students a complex piece of text, containing an abundance of new vocabulary, unless you have a plan for how to tackle it. That is where guided reading comes in; "Guided reading is an instructional approach designed to help students build an effective system for processing increasingly challenging texts over time" (@MrHand_, Twitter 2020).

At primary level, it is done in small groups of students (4-6) and benefits from the learners being near the teacher. The readers then receive immediate feedback on their interpretations of the text and the students are primarily responsible for reading. At secondary level, it has evolved into whole class practice, through carefully structured tasks where the teacher focuses on vocabulary as well as extended text. To develop students confidence with vocabulary it is important to:

1. Ensure all key words are shared at the start of the lesson, and built on throughout the lesson with definitions, concrete examples and even challenges of 'what it is not'.
2. Complex words are broken into parts so their context or origin is discussed.
3. Retrieval activities and quizzes are regularly used, include concept mapping, to encourage students to revisit the vocabulary.

'Say it again, say it better' is an excellent tool to use in this scenario ( In this example, students have to reframe answers to demonstrate their understanding of the vocabulary for the lesson to then progress. It can form a great hinge point in the lesson. It is also important to consider the 3 Tier Hierarchy of vocabulary when planning. Plan which words we need to teach. Which tier 2 and 3 words do students need to read, comprehend and remember? Which key words are intriguing? Which are important? Which are compulsory to the students making progress?

"Word rich students, come from word rich classrooms which are designed around word rich curriculums" (Alex Quigley, Closing the Vocabulary Gap). He argues that vocabulary is one of the most important factors in academic performance. This is why we at Mangotsfield have redesigned our curriculums to be knowledge rich and culturally broad, to allow those students who are 'word poor' to become 'word rich'. 

So what practical strategies can we explore? 

In Geography, we have designed our new KS3 curriculum to include more frequent opportunities for students to engage in intriguing non-fiction challenging texts. We are using a set format that allows the text to be the central focal point of the work, but 'guides' student through its content using specific questions, as shown below.
These are best printed on A3, to ensure students can truly focus on the text centralised. Most importantly, the directed questions go in order of the text and include an arrow that links to the specific section the question is asking for reflection on. This allows for students to avoid misconceptions or confusion over which part of the text they are exploring. 

In is also important to ensure that students engage with key words presented at the start of the lesson. Presenting students with the opportunity to record both important and impressive words, allows them to build their own word bank that can be referred back to at their own discretion during extended writing tasks. 

For fiction based texts, the Guided Reading spinner is an interesting approach to take. Whilst the questions appear fairly standard on the example opposite, they can be made more specific based on the chosen text and also randomly generated in class to provide a more spontaneous period of discussion (or with the use of a Kagan Structure such as All Stand Consensus or Numbered Heads Together). 

As always, if you are interested in any further reading can I recommend the following two blog posts:
1. A discussion by Alex Quigley on why its important to train teachers on how to deliver vocabulary.
2. An interesting post by David Didau on the important of teaching to Tier 3 vocabulary and its importance in academic success.

CPD - Week 7 - "Effective teaching relies on honest introspection" - how far have we come?

"Effective teaching relies on honest introspection", a philosophy adhered to by Education Professor. Matt O'Leary (Birmingham University, 2014). This quote epitomises the theme of the final blog post for this academic year. If we do not take the time to reflect on the journey we have all been on this year, professionally, we might not fully appreciate quite how far we have come as a T&L community.

For me, one of my greatest professional achievements during this extraordinary school year, has been my involvement in developing our virtual CPD platform. Starting in Term 5, an urgent agenda item focused on how to best prepare ourselves to tackle for the huge gaps in learning our students were developing. Through carefully planned CPD, we hoped to trigger discussions that centred around a strategic approach to closing the gaps for all Mangotsfield students. Due to your overwhelming willingness to share good practice, we now have an extensive bank of strategies for retrieval practice and formative assessment and for the application of both via Google Classrooms. 

I want to extend my thanks to each and everyone of you who has contributed, shared, discussed, debated and engaged with the weekly CPD. I have proudly observed how far our T&L community has evolved during this time. 
To that end, I have handed a large section of this final post over to you, my wonderful colleagues, with your own views and reflections on this terms CPD and most specifically the implementation of Google Classrooms, We hope to continue the momentum with this virtual platform into the next academic year, and will continue to deliver 'soundbites' of T&L discussion through it. If you wish to post your own reflections on the Google Classrooms discussion board.

Laura Markwell recalls: "Google Classroom is a tool I have used frequently over two years and have very much become absorbed in it since school closed. In my mind it is like the gateway to the student brain, gone are the days of students 'losing' work on their computer and missing their deadline because as a teacher we have access to all of their work all of the time. This is one of the biggest perks of it, particularly for coursework based subjects. Yes it takes time to grasp how to work, however it is time well spent. We need to move with the digital times and I am looking forward to making the most of it next year with both KS3 and KS4 using multiple different tools". 

Caroline Bates recounts: "I've enjoyed rediscovering Google Classroom. It does so much more than when I first used it which has made the process of communicating with students easier. I really like that I can pin point the areas I want to feedback to a student on. There are of course still teething issues with helping the students to understand how to use certain features, but this can be ironed out over time as we all become more familiar with it". 

Gemma Gilpin summarises: "I love how simple it is to set a task/assignment and add resources. This includes that it can be kept very simple or that you can choose to add layers to make it so much more interactive. I’ve been using Google Classroom for at least four years now and I’m no expert, I still make mistakes and I’m learning how to do it better/easier/quicker all the time. The tips and video’s shared by colleagues have been inspirational - thank you". 

Tristan Hawkins celebrates: "I've really enjoyed using the Google Classroom, especially for the virtual sports day. It has developed into an online community where students and staff have been able to share achievements and experiences using various forms of media". 

James Gilpin expresses: "I like Google Classroom. I was sceptical at first, however having used it both as a History teacher and as part of setting the Prefect Programme up for this coming year (and more recently for making a fool of myself in sports week), I have to say I am a fan. I like its versatility but also its simplicity. It is not overly complicated to use and if you get stuck you can just ask Google!". 

As the much needed summer break approaches, I want to wish you all a very well earned rest. Next academic year I would love to welcome more of your contributions to the blog so please do send me any of your thoughts on readings, blogs, articles, video clips that you stumble across. We hope to launch in Term 1 with some exciting news on professional development and the expansion of the Google Classroom community. Please look out for my additional blog post this week on Guided Reading, an area requested for further investigation by some colleagues. 

Stay safe and have a wonderful summer rest, 

Sunday 5 July 2020

Cops and Robbers - a 'soundbite'.

"Understanding the research around retrieval practice is important, but it is only half of the puzzle because it needs to be implemented and embedded in the classroom to ensure impact" Retrieval Practice, Kate Jones (2019). As many of you have fed back via our Google Forms and Exit Tickets, the burning questions for many of you are 'What does this look like in my classroom'. 

Cops and Robbers was mentioned by a couple of departments as an avenue they wish to explore further when it comes to formative assessment. As such, here is a brief instructional piece. The 'cops' column is for students to record as much as they possibly can on a previous topic, within a specified period of time. Once they have completed this column, they move to complete the 'robbers' section.  This is where everyone needs to move out of their seats, swapping and sharing their ideas and content. The tope is that students will read a peers 'cop' column and will identify something they have missed, or not had time to write down themselves. They should therefore record this information in the 'robbers' column. An additional task, as shown on the left, can include encouraging the students to consolidate their information into a succinct summary in which they identify what they perceive to be the most important knowledge.

What is most important of all is that students are encouraged to collaborate. This should not be sold as a competition, but as recall and encouragement to work with others. This strategy can be adapted for those that require more support, as shown opposite. LAPs in particular, might benefit from support through headings, as shown opposite. The principle of retrieval is still the same with collaboration and specific memory recall and structure.