Sunday, 9 September 2012

Engaging meetings

Managing meetings or other training sessions so that they are valuable CPD for all attendees can be difficult, but learning for adults is a similar process as for our students - and we would never dream of asking students to sit for an hour listening to us reading out a PowerPoint!

The same techniques you use to enthuse and engage your learners in the classroom can be used to structure meetings to ensure participation from all those taking part.

Have a look at the activity on group work that I posted on discussion work and try and incorporate one of these ideas, or any of the group work activities you use in your lessons to engage everyone at the meeting you are involved in for one of the agenda points. You could even think about differentiating the groups to make them mixed ability if you have a big enough group.

Let us know in the comments how it went. What were the pros and cons compared with how you would have initially planned to deliver that item?

Monday, 6 August 2012

What makes a lesson outstanding?

We all want to make sure that our lessons are allowing students to make outstanding progress, and sometimes it can be hard to have inspiration about what changes to our teaching could make a difference.

Have a look at the 2012 Ofsted criteria on teaching.  (follow the link below, pages 12-13 have the table, and I have inserted a picture of the relevant parts at the end of the post). This is not designed to be a checklist to judge individual lessons, rather a description of the components that add up over time to outstanding teaching.

Think about just one of the components (assessment, planning of tasks, marking and feedback, etc) and jot down some things you would observe in an outstanding lesson that would be different in a lesson that was not outstanding.

It may make it easier to first pick apart how the criteria is different for 'Outstanding' and for 'Good', and then think about how this would look in a lesson, using the grid below:

Think of a lesson you will teach in the next week (or in the first week back if you are doing this is the holidays!) where you could plan to incorporate one of the ideas you have had here.

What one thing are you going to try to improve your lesson next week? Let us know in the comments, and it would be great to hear when you have tried it out what the impact on your students' learning was too.

(click to see the criteria here...)


Friday, 3 August 2012

Discussion work

There are many benefits of students working in groups, and for some activities it can be essential, but how do you organise students to get the most out of these activities?

A few of ideas, which you may already use with different frequencies (and with different names):

Think-pair-share. Students are used to reflect on a question individually for a few minutes, then to share their ideas with a partner in pairs.  These pairs then share their ideas into groups of four, or as a whole class. This can also be used to whittle down a variety of evidence or sources into most useful or

Rainbow groups. students work initially in 'rainbow' groups where each student has a different colour, but then for the second part of the activity move into 'colour' groups - with all other students of the same colour.  This can be useful where different groups are doing different parts of the activity but you want the class to have an overview of all ideas.

Group brainstorming. Give each group a big piece of paper and get each group to record some of their ideas, each group on a slightly different topic/point of view/etc. Pass the paper from group to group, each one adding new ideas. This could be good as a revision activity too.

Envoys. Similar to the above but instead of passing on the work, one member of the group moves to another group and shares their group's ideas before they complete the last part of the task. This can be good if you give different groups different information or viewpoints to work from as a way to share that amongst the class.

Obviously, setting up groupings can be time-consuming, but thinking carefully about which students are working together can really maximise the progress students make in group activities.  It may be worth setting up some groups (assigning each student a colour, number and letter or the like) initially, and then using this as a way to get them quickly into different types of groups whenever the activity calls for it.

Chose one type of group activity to try out in the next fortnight.  What do you need to consider in the planning of this? How did it work out when you tried it? Any other group activities you know work well? Let us know in the comments.

Motivating the middle to behave

One of the challenges facing teachers can be behaviour.  Have a look at this discussion:

To what extent do you recognise his classification of the different 'groups' of students? Think about your classes and some of the questions that are posed to evaluate your use of praise and sanction to motivate this 'middle group' to behave.

What one thing could you try in your next lesson with a class that has this 'middle group' which could help manage the behaviour of the class? Let us know in the comments what you are going to try, and the impact it had.

Setting up your classroom

For those of you who are about to start your NQT year in September, what should you be doing during the summer to prepare? If you can spend some time in your school one day over the holidays, then arranging your classroom will be a useful task.

You may have little flexibility in how the desks in your classroom are arranged, or you may not have your own teaching space to arrange, but it is still worth thinking about the advantages and disadvantages of different arrangements.  Basic rule, students will be encouraged to work with each other, but be more difficult to re-focus if they are sat in groups rather than rows.  Have a look at this discussion:

Start off by thinking about how you want to organise the learning in your classroom, and then pick an arrangement that supports that, and remember, if it doesn't seem to work, change it!

And like with seating plans, you should plan this out when you're sat in your classroom as you can plan for things like awkward angles to the board or things that would stop you moving around the classroom.

How are you going to arrange your classroom for next year?

Monday, 30 July 2012

New Year's Resolutions

So, another academic year is over, and it's time to focus on enjoying the break and getting set up for next year. But before we completely stop thinking about 11/12 it's important to reflect on the successes we have had, and what we want to do differently next year.

I suggest that you get yourself a notebook to use to jot down your reflections on the activities here, and other CPD you are involved with this year.  Not only does it allow you to focus more on what you are thinking, but the act of writing something down makes you more likely to do what you have committed to. Also, having a separate notebook will make focussing on your CPD will become a bit more special and hopefully a bit more important.

So, be really honest with yourself - you don't have to tell anyone else!

  1.  What are you most proud of this year? (These things don't have to be massive, and try and think of at least 5 things).
  2. For each of the things you have identified in 1. What are the reasons you were successful here? What or who helped you? How are going to maintain these successes?
  3. What is one thing that you would like to have done differently? (one thing only please - it's too easy to start focussing on all the negatives here!)
  4. Why did this not go well? Who or what could have helped you? How will you tackle this in september?
  5. What steps do you need to take to make next year even more sucessful?
Jot down your ideas and try and focus on what you will do in the future, rather than just what happened.

So now you have had a think about what went well this year and what you are less pleased with, what's your New Year's Resolution?