Time for a Moan

Does anyone else think it’s been a long month?
Apart from the weather (somewhere between miserable and dire), the lack of daylight and the inevitable comedown from Christmas, I’m feeling absolutely shattered at work. It would be fair to say that family issues of various kinds are also making life a little tricky, but that’s another story. I made the mistake today of listing what’s been happening in addition to a full teaching load.
  • new set of seating plans as I’ve moved rooms, plus displays etc
  • lesson observations for whole school on questioning.
  • whole school training on dyslexia (with the fatal words “learning modalities include visual, auditory and kinaesthetic”)
  • my own lesson observation for performance management
  • all staff being asked to break down class lists by gender, SEN, FSM etc and justifying/celebrating achievement for each category
  • deadline for assessment cycle data with effort grades for all classes
  • reports for year 9
  • parents’ evening for year 11
  • starting weekly afterschool revision classes
  • presentation to colleagues on homework and follow up email (see T&L posts, recent and forthcoming)
  • dept meeting to discuss the whole school focus this halfterm on planning
  • meeting for our peer-led, small group development – needs observations, discussions and recording of actions/targets
  • nominating students for specific target plans within subjects

And that’s all since we started back in January. Sometimes in our profession it feels like a relentless focus on all these tasks, promoting learning, means that we never get to make a good job of planning our actual teaching…

Normal service should be resumed soonish. In the mean time, please forgive the peace and quiet on Twitter and my slightly frazzled expression.

For interest:
#ukedchat survey
on why teachers leave the profession.


T&L 4: Starters Ideas

This is from last week; this week’s T&L Idea was about better use of HW, and I ended up presenting it to (a very small number of) colleagues, so will take a little longer to turn into a post.
Lots of different uses, from setting the scene to checking previous work, settling a rowdy class to introducing new words. No matter what, something that engages the class immediately is a good aim. Two practical links and one more theoretical one this week.
Anagrams – of key terms, parts of an objective and so on – can be great. To make this quicker, producing the anagram is made easy by using I, Rearrangement Servant (Internet Anagram Server).
There are many sites where you can produce flashcards or similar for a class to access. I’m putting together some for my classes at the moment, but in the process have remembered how useful Quizlet is for simple matching activities. Quickly enter Q and A (eg scientific term and definition) and you’ve a range of formats for learning and testing. There are loads of sets already available but registration is free if you want to sort out your own. Leave on the board and students will start making pairs despite themselves.
For when you have a little more time to think about the why and how of starters, I found this recent post by a history teacher very interesting over the weekend. (When I wasn’t cursing politicians of all parties for their ideas about teaching.)
Hope some of these are of interest – as always ideas and feedback not just welcome, but requested.

T&L 3: Video Ideas

These posts are pretty much copy/paste duplicates from the emails I’ve been asked to put together for my school. They’re going out to all teaching staff on a weekly basis, but responses so far have been limited. Any ideas on how to promote engagement? On with the show:


Morning all
As an antidote to Ken Robinson – who is indeed an entertaining and passionate speaker, but somewhat divorced from the reality of teaching in a classroom – some links and ideas about videos. [NB: I’m not necessarily criticising Sir Ken’s ideas, that’s another post – but I did wonder how useful it was to use as CPD in-house for teachers.)
For Students
How about a TV series for a starter or plenary? Have students write the five or six episode titles, then perhaps a single-sentence plot summary, for the topic they are studying. This could be a series of questions to prompt the topic, or a way to sum up and organize what they know. There’s an obvious link to groups for revision or recap activities for the main part of the lesson, putting together a concept map or similar. (I used to do this as ‘chapters in a book’ but got tired of the blank looks.)
Lots of BBC clips are available, searchable and free, intended for classroom use. As usual some are dated but they can be great starting points, or set them as HW for students to review at their own pace. Like any other video, it’s easy for students to switch off; studies have shown that having them make notes, giving them questions in advance so they’re paying attention to key words, or having them write a test sheet with answers as they watch can all boost recall. They can be useful to define the objectives for the lesson, much as David Didau suggested in September.
Making videos can be daunting but students can really get on board with it. Making a strict time limit and a focus – perhaps a 30 second or 1 minute TV advert – means they can concentrate on what they want to say, not just how they want to say it. If completed for HW, or set as an option for revision evidence, it can always be emailed to your work account for sharing in class. Unless they beg you not to.
Resources like Brainpop, Youtube for Schools, C4 Clipbank and so on may offer benefits, but you need to sign up and pay first. The usual problem is finding something good, as it normally exists somewhere. Don’t assume that because you know about it that colleagues in your department do also.
For Teachers
Who better to listen to than another teacher? This was the basis of Teachers TV, back in the day, but the archive is still available. Search, watch, be inspired – or at least relieved that someone else has ideas you can steal. Remember that we can divide educational ideas into methods (things you can change in your classroom), tactics (things a department or school can put into place) and strategy (for schools, LAs or Gove to worry about). There’s no point watching something about changing how schools in the UK teach less engaged students with a global approach if what you need is a way to stop Johnny shouting at Sarah during discussions.
If you want something less, well, polished, then check out TeachMeets. Attending them in person is best, but may not be practical. In the meantime, you can see lots of 2 and 7 minute presentations by colleagues who wanted to share (or were bullied until they said yes to sharing) something that can be used quickly in the classroom. More will hopefully be appearing sooner or later.
Would really welcome some suggestions, queries, requests from colleagues about what should be covered in these emails. Hope that more than one person (Thanks, you know who you are) found the revision ideas useful.


Too Much Applause?

A very quick one, because I’ve got marking looming as usual. I read an interesting post on Lifehacker about seeking feedback rather than applause. It reflected something we discussed at a recent department meeting, that we need to ensure that to help all students progress, we need to be specific with praise as well as constructive with criticism. I think we all know about giving students specific and measurable targets to improve when marking books; Underline all titles rather than Keep work neater for example.

But we need to do the same when we praise students too. We need to tell them why we thought that a piece of work was excellent, so they know to look back at it for guidance when they struggle with a related task or concept. Otherwise it’s just clapping. Applause is nice – but feedback is better.

My browser is refusing to let me add the link so I’ll just have to paste it: http://lifehacker.com/distinguish-between-feedback-and-applause-to-get-more-u-1500218034