A better way of planning – my first attempt

I was blown away by the post by @leadinglearner yesterday (which can be found here – and if you haven’t read it yet, it might be a better use of your time in the short term than continuing reading this). One of the reasons, I think, is that I can see how it links to things I have been trying to do (see my series of posts from last summer) but takes it to a completely higher level – but in a way that is easy to see. I was dead keen to try this out for myself, and so….I did!

Attached below you will find a document for a series of lessons I have designed for my year 7 bottom set. I am sure it can be improved (not least in terms of the SOLO learning intentions), but you have to start somewhere. I do wonder if it is a little repetitive in places, but I do wonder if that is sometimes the nature of the beast in maths, not least at such a low level.

Anyway, have a look, and if you think it can be improved, please let me know! I will continue using this model for my planning of all classes and so may end up sharing more on here, and any feedback will be most useful and helpful. Thanks

New SoW 7.3 – Adding and subtracting!

My pedagogical plan for 2014-15 (or how I intend to teach…)

I’m feeling really excited and confident about the new term. Brimming with a whole new set of ideas I’ve got a grip on most of the issues I had identified within my practice as needing refinement. And I also feel, this year, that I have a solid structure for operating. It isn’t 100% complete, and I’m sure it will need refining once term starts, but allow me to present my grand pedagogical plan….

(Quick note before I begin: there are similarities between my ideas and those of David Fawcett (@davidfawcett27) in his blog which can be found here. Whilst these are unintentional, I would recommend you read David’s blog at some point. It’s an excellent read).

1) It starts with ‘So that….’ and extends into visible success: This will surprise nobody. I have blogged extensively on this through the holidays and have had dialogue via this blog and Twitter with a couple of people. By taking the time, using Bloom’s Taxonomy, to think through why we are tackling a topic, and how we will know we have succeeded in that topic, I have a really clearly focused plan in the medium term which will allow me to plan day to day lessons easier. As a slight extension to this, I have revisited my medium term plans and started to add in key questions for each topic. David discusses this in his blog, and I have also seen the idea come up in Willingham’s ‘Why Don’t Students Like School?’ and Lemov’s ‘Teach Like a Champion’

2) The ‘So that…’ forms the basis for a pretest: I can honestly say that of all the blogs I have read this summer, the one I keep going back to the most is William Emeny’s Experiments with Visible Learning (this is the second part of a two part blog by William, so you might like to read part 1 for the context). One of the key issues I had from my teaching last year was about showing parents how much progress their child had made, particularly with the removal of levels. Well, now I have a ready made answer! Students will complete the pretest at the start of the block, I will then teach them the content, provide them with opportunities for revision through homework, and after a couple of weeks post-completion of the content, they will sit the pretest as a post-test. This will allow me, my line manager, parents, and most importantly the students, to see not what they have simply remembered, but what they understand and have committed to long term memory. I will also have the evidence right before my eyes! 

3) Day to day teaching: This is where I get to put all of my summer reading into action. I’ve already mentioned the key questions I will be planning into each topic, but I will also be making much greater use this year of Diagnostic Questions for hinge questions in class. I have created some answer packs (basically 4 cards, each labelled A, B, C and D, paper clipped together) for students to use and will be planning them into lessons on a much greater scale. The beauty of these hinge questions, particularly in Maths is that it is quite easy in many cases to provide convincing incorrect answers, revealing student misconceptions.

I also intend to implement a number of rules taken from Lemov’s ‘Practice Perfect’ – breaking down skills into smaller steps, and having 20% more practice than students need being just two examples. There are a range of resources out there (10 Ticks being one, although there are also a number of websites producing randomly generated worksheets) for this purpose. I also intend to continue, as I did last year, pushing students to use precise and technical language at all times. Teach Like A Champion provides some excellent examples of this.

Most importantly, however, is the need for factual knowledge. I wholeheartedly agree with Willingham that factual knowledge is the basis for skill, and so I aim to include factual questions in starters, in general questioning, and in homeworks, as well as in the pre- and post-tests, obviously. 

 

4) Making the maths explicit: Why Don’t Students Like School? was is an invaluable tool and has had a huge impact on my thinking for the new year. I had begun to consider at the end of last term the need to ‘interleave’ from some of the blogs I had read, and I am glad a now have a scientific back up for this. But equally powerful is the need to make the content explicit. ‘Memory is the residue of thought’ according to Willingham, and I intend to make a huge effort to lead students through at least one practical application of topics where applicable, highlighting where the maths occurs and showing that in all cases, questions can be thought of in purely mathematical terms. 

5) Reflections: This is, as I discussed in my previous post, a key aim for me outside of school (it is something I simply must practice, to avoid falling into the trap of merely being carried along by the busy school term), but I want it to be a huge part of my students’ learning, too. Whilst teaching I intend to ask students to consider why they have chosen a particular method for solving a question, whether there are any alternatives, and so on. And of course, I fully intend to continue using RAG123 with comments, to encourage students to let me know about any issues they may have had at the end of each lesson. 

6) Homework: Alongside assessment, homework is probably one of my biggest weaknesses. I have rarely set it in the past, and I want this year to be different. But I want it to be purposeful, too, not simply for the sake of setting it. A colleague in our department last year gave students an A1 sheet of paper and asked them to complete it on a weekly basis showing the work they had covered in class. This resulted in some excellent examples of student work and is something I intend to try with at least some of my students. In addition, I propose to use homeworks to encourage students to reflect on their learning. I also have a plan to encourage some students to teach topics to their parents, and then invite feedback as to how they did! 

I feel better prepared than perhaps ever before. I have a clear vision of how I intend this year to go. All I need now are some students! 

Visible success – developments

This is likely to be my last post on this topic before the start of term, but as I had promised to update you on how things were going, I thought I’d share this. 

Following post 3 (here) I revisited my existing plans and tried to update as much as possible with explicit success criteria. Where I have added and amended what I had before post 3, it is marked in red and underlined (as ‘Track Changes’). Anything else has been added since that post:

7Mt1 10Mt18Mt1 11Mt1

I will admit it has been easier to do for some topics than others, but at this early stage I guess that is only to be expected. The thing that has really surprised me (and excited me at the same time) is that I think it has led to increased creativity as I have thought about how students will show success. I will freely admit to being rather uncreative, and maybe it is this method of planning that has awakened my creativity. This is perhaps best demonstrated in the 2nd diagram (or top right, depending on how it is displayed) in the WAL sections ‘About 3D shapes’ and ‘How to show a 3D shape in 2D’. Because I had all of the ‘So That’ column filled in, I could see very quickly a link between the two which would allow students to produce one final, overarching piece of work (the report) which would satisfy all of the ‘So That’ criteria. My idea at this stage is that students will take a 3D shape and then prepare an expert’s report on it, meeting all the criteria set out. This then would seem to lend itself nicely to some peer teaching….! Added to this, and to my complete surprise, what was initially intended to help clarify outcomes and the assessment thereof has begun to take care of my lesson planning in some cases! What an unexpected bonus!

I don’t think I have much more to offer on this topic at this time. It is now a case of trying it out with students and seeing how it all works. But I would, as ever, welcome any feedback/comments/suggestions that you might have. This has been an interesting couple of days for me – I feel that at last I have finally ‘arrived’ in terms of blogging and tweeting teachers, and I am proud of the fact that I have finally been able to contribute something that many people have found at least interesting, and maybe even useful! 

My next blog(s) are likely to be a look back over this summer and a look forward to how my reading is going to inform my practice in the new term.

In the meantime, thanks for reading

Alex

OFSTED, and RAG123

This time last week I was feeling really pleased with myself. I had managed to plan what I was going to do every morning, every night after school, and in every bit of non-contact time I had in the week. All my books would be marked by the end of this week, and I would be able to begin returning to the gym to do some strength work to support my running (I am a HUGE running enthusiast – so much so that I am always up early at weekends, either for Parkrun on a Saturday or a longer (10 miles+) run on a Sunday. But I digress…). I had spoken to my HoD about using Kev Lister’s target approach to marking (which can be found here) and she had asked to me introduce it to the rest of the department in our Monday evening meeeting. This was a new stage in my evolution towards Outstanding – I had been able to strike a decent work-life balance. Everything from now on would be just great. 

And things started well enough. I was keeping up with my marking and planning exactly as I had intended. I decided against going to the gym on Tuesday, for reasons which now escape me. 

Wednesday lunchtime, everything changed. We received the dreaded call from OFSTED to say they were in on Thursday and Friday.

I arrived at school on Thursday for 7am and felt reasonably calm. I hadn’t been able to do all my marking, but I was sure my lessons would be fine. At break, I was told by my HoD that she had had a tip off that I would be seen during period 4. Stress levels began to rise and I began to panic in a way I never thought possible of myself. I checked and double checked everything during period 3, met the inspectors whilst waiting to go into period 4, and delivered my lesson. My year 11s were stunned into silence by the visitors. I knew the lesson wasn’t great, and would be a 3 at best. I turned up after school at my allotted time to get my feedback, eager to know where I had gone wrong and what I could do better.

What I got, on the whole, was very different. The inspector made my feel incredibly small and useless, and was, I think, suggesting maybe I should have stuck with my first subject. I felt useless, a fool, and I was furious with the manner in which I had been spoken to. Fortunately, I work in a school with a fantastic SLT, and various members (including the Principal) assured me that they knew how hard I was working and that, coming a few weeks after I had been graded a 2, they knew this wasn’t a true reflection of my teaching. This, although great to hear, was of little consolation to me. Here I was striving to be Outstanding, and yet just been declared Inadequate.

It was Friday night before I could reflect properly on MY part in the debacle. I realised I had been foolish in my lesson – rather than doing a revision lesson with the students and trying to rush through everything to do with fractions, decimals and percentages in a single lesson, I should have worked much more slowly, ensuring students knew what to do and how to do it. My resources weren’t used effectively enough. We rushed certain parts of the lesson and some students would definitely have been confused.

I suppose the point at which you can look back and reflect is also the point at which you can start to look forward again, and so that is what I have done this weekend. Having made sure I have had plenty of rest (which was particularly needed) and regrouped myself, I have a fresh resolve to ensure that this doesn’t happen again. My time is once again planned out for the week, my gym session is planned in, and with any luck I should have a weekend free of any work when I leave school on Friday – which would a welcome and frankly remarkable change.

I wrote last time about my use of diagnostic questions to produce instant feedback. Alongside this, I have now taken to checking my year 9 book after each lesson, to allow for a better planning experience. I have Kev Lister to thank once again, this time for this post here which I have been putting into place over the last week. My year 9s were immediately intrigued by the system, so we have quickly moved on to self assessment. Most of these proved spot on on Friday, although I would have preferred a comment of explanation from the students in some cases as to why they graded themselves as they did. 

The next stage in this evolution came from a different blog, mentioned in Kev’s post, which can be found here. The idea of having questions at the start of the lesson which relate to a student’s understanding of the previous day’s work is something I can’t wait to introduce into my lessons. At the moment I think I am spending too long checking over the books – although it is still early days – and I think a quick check, followed by a regrading on the RAG scale if necessary, and a plan for RAG questions for the next lesson will be a much more productive use of my time. Like I say, at the moment I am solely using it with year 9, but once year 11 mocks are out of the way, they will be introduced to the system, as will the rest of my KS4 classes.

So in the space of a week I have gone from high to low and now back to high. As I posted on Twitter a while back, the great thing about this job is that even if you mess it up, you never have to wait too long to put it right again. And that’s what I intend to do starting this week and next….