Double GCSE lessons all of a sudden become much longer when its revision time; both for pupils and teachers. This year I have, thanks to other people’s suggestions, stumbled upon a TOP TIP for getting pupils to work more enthusiastically and work for longer.
In between topics or tasks give your pupils sweets.
They will love you and then after a couple of minutes will restart the next bit of your lesson with renewed energy and vigour.
This article is not in anyway sponsored by the processed sugar industry.
I taught this lesson to both my 2 Y10 classes this week. One of the groups has abilities ranging from FFT D band grades of E to A* and the other from C to A. They are all taking a module of their Geography GCSE in a month’s time that is worth 37.5% of the whole of their AQA syllabus A GCSE in Geography. Both groups are therefore a mixture of pupils taking higher and foundation papers. I am very fortunate to be teaching at a school primarily made up of well motivated pupils; it is a secondary modern 11-16 Girls school.
I took some advice from @learningspy and decided to try using hexagons to follow up my revision work from last week. The credit for this revision lesson comes from tweets of his and others I have read. I must admit that there aren’t any original ideas here. Only the arrangement is mine
Here is the powerpoint I showed that has the lesson instructions on. The written description below refers primarily to slide 5 onwards. 1-4 only give the context of the lesson
The idea is simple.
- I reminded them of the differentiated SOLO-based and exam-grade-linked targets I introduced last lesson.
- I gave everyone in the class 1 of 4 case studies to revise
- I gave them 2 minutes to brainstorm everything they could think of about this case study
- I put them in groups of 3 to do each case study.
- They shared their lists and then wrote down all the words and phrases they had between them, putting each one on a separated laminated hexagon. This is the first target, what AQA mark schemes call Level 1 answers; normally relating to G up to D grade responses.
- I next asked each group to arrange all their hexagons into a way that made sense to them. They moved the hexagons around placing any words/phrases that were linked together next to each other. This is the second target, what AQA mark schemes call Level 2 answers; normally relating to C up to B grade responses. this took no more than 15 minutes
- I then reminded them of a revision checklist I had passed onto them last lesson which laid out the basis of each case study. (Look at this post on my student blog if you wish. We were revising the tourism topic in this lesson) This gave all groups the chance to rearrange their ideas in a way that may be useful for revision purposes. In each class only a minority of hexagons were moved; generally they preferred their own explanations. To ensure that this thinking wasn’t lost and that they all had further time to reflect further on it, I asked them to write up ‘into paragraphs’ what they had organised and linked (mark scheme words) using their hexagons. those who didn’t quite get this i asked to use the revision checklist prompts help organise their ideas. I would have hoped not to have to do this, but these pupils all produced well written, explained and linked work. Some pupils also took photos of their hexagons to use for their own revision.
- The third main task was for each group to write questions for other groups. They were to base these questions on ‘intersections’ where 3 or more hexagons met. The only guide I gave for this task was that they shouldn’t write Level 1 questions. This may have been a mistake because the questions i received back were all very exam-like. but maybe because the pupils knew this was a revision lesson and I had talked a lot about grades and levels already. We discussed rather than wrote possible answers to one question for each group. It was this section of the lesson that I felt was the weakest.
I asked at the end of each lesson for a brief feedback by asking pupils to raise their hands lifting up the number of fingers out of 10 they would give for “how much it helped your revision”. The results of this were all very positive. However I have better evidence that the lesson was a success: when the second group were coming in to be taught on Wednesday i was asked “Are we going to do the honeycomb lesson as well sir?” when i said yes there was a minor ripple of UNPROMPTED approval.
Next time i will not call them hexagons I will call them honeycomb.
I have y10 and Y11 revising for the next 3 weeks lesson. To help them feel more secure in revision I will be using the same diagram to structure their learning/revision. Again this is a mixture of SOLO and GCSE level descriptors from the mark scheme. Many other SOLO practitioners seem to talk openly about SOLO in their lessons. When I first introduced the idea to my pupils I said what it was.But I have found my pupils prefer to see the structure via heir GCSE grades. So this is the diagram i shall be using. I have also suggested they could use it to to help they own revision at home.
Its not an original thought I know, but I HATE marking. The only bit all year I enjoy is adding up the scores for my pupils’ mock exam scores and even that isnt really the marking part.
Additionally, the younger the pupils the more I struggle to motivate myself to mark. I think that’s because they are more likely to just regurgitate back what I said in the lesson or they read in the book or from the webpage. So this means I am even more likely to have to write the same things over and over again.
Then there is the question “Do the pupils read what I write?” Even when I remember to set aside some time in class for them to do this I am not sure if they do. Last month I read part of Dylan Wiliam’s “Embedded Formative assessment”
In there he quoted research to say that if you give a grade/mark/level and a comment then the pupils only look at the grade and ignore the comment. I have to say this backs up my personal experience.
So I have developed a plan to get round these two problems of me wasting time marking and pupils not reading what I write. I only use this for the more major assessment pieces where I am likely to give them a level. I dont think for more run of the mill marking it would save me time. Also It would then start to take up too much timje in the mere 90 minutes a week i have with KS3.
The Lazy Marking in Geography Technique
While I am marking their work I don’t write down any targets for improvement. Instead I collect these targets and put them on a document. This I then sort into levels and hand out to the students next lesson. All I write on their actual work myself is a NC level and a positive comment on something they have done well.
Then in the lesson, they read their work and look at the level I gave them. Then I hand out the target sheet and ask them to choose targets that they wish to aim for. I don’t limit them to the ‘next level up’ I tell them they can choose any 2 they wish.
I make them write these targets in the middle of a new page and then draw a simple unadorned box around them. nothing else goes on the page. that way it sticks out in their book and can be easily seen by pupil, parent, tutor and of course me. This target can then be referred to any time over the next half term. After that I find it becomes a bit repetitive.
I have attached below the various lists of targets I have set out over the last 18 months. You will notice there is much repetition in them. The trick is to find targets that relate back to what has just been covered AND to the next topic as well. all the below are my own.
Please steal and adapt them if you wish. If you have any comments or would like to tell me if and how you used them and how you improved them i would love to hear back. The only resource that is not mine is the “Geography Ladders” powerpoint. i cannot remember where on the internet i got this from. If you recognise it and know the author please tell me.
I am sorry they are in no order and their names dont tell much about them. I originally only wrote them for myself
When it was announced recently that a member of our SLT was being seconded to OFSTED and HMI for 12 months there were boos in the staffroom. It wasn’t connected in any way with that person, but rather at his destination. Much has been said about the negative aspects of inspection. Pages have been written by teachers and teachers representatives on every uttering of Sir Michael Wilshaw since he took his job as head of that organisation. I do not want to add to those topics here.
What I want to consider is why teachers are so affected by all observations of our classes. In any other job it is pretty standard practice for someone to inspect and assess your job every day and to observe you doing it. Yet recently teaching unions were unhappy when the 3 hour a year observation limit was dropped.
Teaching, we are often told, is a vocation not a job. Everyone knows how vital education is for individual children up to the whole nation. So teachers are acutely aware of the importance of what they are doing. There is a STATUS that comes from working in schools. Firstly it is seen as a key to the future and secondly because it is seen as a difficult job. Teachers are always being told by our friends “I don’t know how you could spend all day with that age group. I couldn’t do it.”
And that social standing makes us feel good. When we are marking books at 10:30 at night or never getting a response from the parents of a badly behaving pupil, when we have to buy the coloured paper we need as a resource for Monday’s lesson because there is no money for it in our budget or when we have to set cover again for a colleague who is off long term with the stress of the job, we can fall back on the fact that deep down we are appreciated and valued for what we are doing.
So when the inspector runs down what you do, tells you your school is no longer satisfactory, criticises your lesson because it doesn’t fit the way their piece of paper says all lessons have to be taught, or says that you should be adding more for EAL pupils in your department, then the pride part of our job, that bit that keeps us going gets publicly slapped and we don’t have any other comforts to fall back upon.
If most teachers did it for the money then an inspection that doesn’t affect your pay would be no big deal. But an inspection that tells everyone that you and your school is poor becomes a public humiliation for staff. Thats why we are vulnerable to OFSTED’s negative comments – they are a personal insult made in front of the whole community. OFSTED are like an insensitive teacher who cruelly and unfairly criticises a pupil in front of the rest of the class.
I am really good at getting excited about a new idea and not properly following it through. The fact that SOLO is still influencing my teaching and hopefully the pupils learning is a reflection of it usefulness in my lessons. Prompted by an interesting post from http://reflectionsofmyteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/secret-soloist-part-1.html#comment-form I have been reminded of when I started uding the SOLO approach only a few months ago. I have not prepared as well as he, nor have I reconsidered my teaching and learning styles as much This is something I hope to reflect onover the summer months. Isnt it good to read other teachers’ reflection in their blogs!
What I have done with my classes is to apply SOLO to the learning objectives I use. Our Head told us that we must include differentiated Los in all our lessons (she made it one of every teacher’s performance management targets for 2011-12)
I write 3 LOs for every lesson: the first is based around naming and being able to describe the features of the topic, the second around describing, explaining and linking these features and the third to more linking as well as comparing evaluating and applying to a case study. The first LO is associated with grades G to D, the second to C to B and the third to A-A*.
It has now got to the stage where, given the topic and a brief introduction to the work my Y11’s can write their own LOs using the key words. They can also state which grades these are associated with. To me this shows they know how to structure not only their learning in a lesson but also their answers in their GCSE exam. They now know what makes a C or an A grade answer. Interestingly my Y10s who have been using SOLO for a month or two less cannot quite do this yet.
I have included below a couple of my LO slides from GCSE classes
What I plan to do next is to use some hexagons in my lessons. I have taken some advice from http://learningspy.co.uk/ and plan to try them in revision classes this month. i will let you know how it goes