Blog Archive

Friday 19 February 2021

Exploring a love of learning in an online environment - how to adapt our favoured approaches at Mangotsfield.

When deciding on the direction that this terms' CPD should take, utilising feedback from staff voice was a must. As a result of the 33 members of staff who generously offered their thoughts on adapting to an online environment, Mango Moments considers how teaching strategies favoured to promote a love of learning can be easily adapted to engage our students whilst supporting our established routines. This blog post includes strategies to retrieve, model, engage and provide whole class feedback. It's a plethora of modified initiatives, partnered with the outcomes from my half term reads of 'The Feedback Pendulum' by Michael Chiles and 'Retrieval Practice 2' by Kate Jones. Please do let me know if you wish to borrow either of these books.

How can we encourage retrieval?
Retrieval practice is the art of trying to recall knowledge when it is not directly in front of you. As Kate Jones writes 'all information stored within short-term memory which is not rehearsed will be lost within 18-30 seconds'. Throughout term 6 of the last academic year, a great deal of time was invested in the sharing of strategies to promote opportunities for students to integrate knowledge from their working memories into their long-term memories. 

Many of the strategies we share on this blog have emerged from evidence based practice and the need to interleave our curriculum's. Our knowledge rich curriculum is built around routine moments in students learning episodes where low stakes quizzes, challenge grids, think-pair-share and brain dumps encourage and rehearse this retrieval. In Term 1 templates were shared, strategies suggested and many departments worked tirelessly to identify those that supported their individual curriculum's. But then this new lock-down appeared and based on staff and student feedback, many of these strategies were not utilised in our new live lesson format. So let's shine a reset light on how they can be adapted to work online. Below I share examples of two strategies I have trialed with my GCSE classes last term; Challenge Grids and Cops and Robbers/Memory Lane. 

In this past Mango Moments blog, Challenge Grids were discussed as a tool to allow students to revisit learning from previous topics and years. But how this can be used during live lessons involves a simple GoogleSlides twist. Produce your challenge grid as normal, my example is shown opposite. Ensure you indicate to students which questions require more depth to their answers or are retrieved from a longer time period ago and therefore equate to more points. Once formatted, copy and paste the slide multiple times, and allocate each slide to one student in your class. So my Year 10 version has 30 slides whilst my Year 11 has 27, dependent on the number of students I have.  As you can see within my second image, I can then select grid view (a small icon in the bottom left) and see every students copy of their slide. When assigning this to students, ensure you select 'every student can edit the file' and then they all have permission to work on the one document.  

The benefits of this approach? You are able to see every students work simultaneously (I can't be the only one who grows frustrated by the need to open 30 separate GoogleDocs). This saves great time when sampling students work to provide live whole class feedback, encouraging students to view each other's work and provide peer feedback and most importantly enhance engagement through the obvious public accountability of work completion. 

The drawbacks? Setting the ground rules is a must - students must be respectful of each others slides. Copy and paste is obviously a hazard, but with a quick discussion regarding the ability to look at the 'edit history' I have found students to be courteous of each others work. 

Memory Lane/Cops and Robbers is a two for the price of one. Do you need a strategy that acts as a 'do now', ensures student engagement can be moderated and also offers opportunities to retrieve - this is my go to! Providing a series of sub topics that link to the key learning for the lesson and ask students on arrival to the session to note down anything they can recall underneath these headings in the boxes provided. This is the cops part of the session. 

Once students have been given an adequate amount of time to retrieve, provide them with the opportunity to steal ideas from each other. If you format the activity as I have previously mentioned on a shared GoogleSlide, then students can skip between each others slides to steal said ideas. A note of caution here - ensure that what students are stealing is correct! Direct them where necessary to specific students who demonstrate a strong grasp of subject content, providing live feedback and demonstrating positive reinforcement in action! 

Surely there is no fix for engagement when students have their screens off? #eduwitter has been transfixed with the debate regarding safeguarding versus engagement on this exact matter over the past few weeks. Whilst the comparisons between primary and secondary school GoogleMeets has led to the creation of many hilarious memes, it is scarily apparent that with screens off there is a huge challenge over guaranteeing student engagement. I for one have been subject to those tumble weed moments when you cold call a student to be met with silence, a blank GoogleChat and then the ultimate line "Sorry miss, my hamster just ran over my keyboard and shut my computer down!" - then "How are you writing in the chat?" I always want to ask?

Cold calling
is great for keeping students on their toes, I often utilise this in partnership with the chat function. All students start their live lessons with a low stakes quiz in Geography and naming specific students to share their answers in the Googlechat has generally produced positive responses.

Whiteboard fi has been one of my top discoveries. Issuing each student with their own digital whiteboard, it allows for every student to display their answers to low stakes quizzes, worked examples live and you can instantly see which students are not engaging despite being online. I am aware there are colleagues who use similar post it note style apps with their classes, all of which follow the same premise of sharing ideas and collaboration. 

Try asking all students to share their views, opinions, ideas by posting in the chat but the catch being they can only press submit when you ask them to so there is less tendency to write whatever the first student to press enter has written. As I mentioned in my previous blog, the raise hand function is also ideal for those moments when a hinge question (true or false style) is needed to ensure the lesson can move forward, whilst also checking students haven't snuck back off to their beds once they've joined the meet. 

Guided Reading can also be utilised to encourage engagement - assign an article, poem, text, source etc (shared for all students to edit) and ask them to collaborate in small groups to highlight key words and phrases, create a suitable heading for each paragraph and produce summative comments/annotations for their peers. Whether on a GoogleDoc or a Google Slide, producing the 'Group Annotations' column and asking students to type in different colour fonts allows for quick recognition of participation. 

Setting documents for all students to edit promotes opportunities for Kagan structures. Consider using think-pair-share or All Write Round Robin as structures that are adaptable to an online environment in which students record their thoughts in the chat or on a shared document. 

Can I do, we do, you do still be used to model?

Of course! I have given it a small rename for the online environment - I have asked my students to 'make it better'. Whilst in class producing a live modeled answer to your classes might be a natural go to (especially if you have a visualiser), it is often harder to produce the I do 'live' if you have even a touch of a lagging internet connection!

Reading through the I do with the class has a limited level of impact, so following feedback from my Year 11 class in particular I found that producing an answer that was slightly sub par that they had to develop or re-write was a more effective approach when they were not physically in front of me. 

As you can see from my example above, my intention was for the students to apply their knowledge from earthquakes to an 'evaluation' style exam question. I produced an exam answer (seen in red) that would be worthy of 3 marks out of 9. Students were then asked to use the paragraph plan suggested to make it better as a class - this was the we do. Students were then presented with a very similar style exam question to that shown and asked to produce their own independently for the 'you do'. 

And how about feedback? Are these strategies promoting efficient opportunities to utilise whole class feedback? 

James Gilpin was wonderful enough to trial the shared GoogleSlide approach at a similar time to myself. I know he won't mind me mentioning that following a telephone conversation between us, he was ready to try something new with his GCSE classes. Opposite is a screenshot of his class working concurrently on an exam question. James was able to live mark to show students where they were accessing specific parts of the markscheme, provide whole class feedback and scaffold their next steps. 

As Michael Chiles states in his new publication 'The Feedback Pendulum' "create opportunities for pupils to read their peers work, which will generate greater awareness of the solutions required for their own pieces of work". As with my earlier example of 'make it better', showing students each others work alongside one where you have made deliberate errors will inform students on what they should not be doing and help them to prepare not to repeat this in their own work. 

To provide whole class feedback on work produced online is not new. After a lesson in which students produce a piece of extended writing, I will make notes on the strengths, a list of errors or common misconceptions, spelling mistakes and any other areas of improvement.

Feedback that is shared as close to the learning episode as possible is the most effective and the aim should be to move learning forward. When providing this during this current online environment it can naturally be in the Try Now format. Alternatively, produce a feedback guide such as that shown opposite. Review the responses to key knowledge checking questions and alongside the correct answer (in green), note the common class misconceptions in red. 

I fully appreciate that there are multiple strategies to digest in this particular blog. The final point from me, as is always the case, is find a strategy that works for you and your classes. What works for one cohort, does not always naturally transfer to another. Take time to trial, modify and adapt. Be prepared to make IT mistakes, I frequently have and the students have been wonderfully supportive. Throughout this term we will be asking for your ideas - please do consider the adaptations you have made. We would love to hear of your strategies, maybe you are even willing to share a snapshot of a lesson with us in a future CPD. Please send any ideas to either myself, Tiff or Clio to be shared in forthcoming CPD elearns. 

Thank you all for taking the time to read this post.