Monday, 30 April 2012

Secret SOLO'ist part 2

I seem to have caught the SOLO taxonomy bug lately and am looking to develop its use in my lessons.  If you haven't already read my previous post, in a nutshell, I am going on a bit of a trial run with my classes in secret before I roll it out properly in September.  The aim in this trial is to get a bank of ideas, resources and activities (which work).

On my second SOLO attempt, I thought I'd have a go at something called 'Fact in Fiction'.  Now this came about after reading @DKMead's blog and seeing an activity that really fits into our GCSE PE Physiology unit.  This unit tends to contain a lot of facts and details which can become a little heavy and uninspiring at times.

If you never heard of this before, @DKMead explains it very well here, but here is my very simplified overview:

As @DKMead explains in his blog, " it involves writing a fictional story inserting relevant facts"To begin with you need to pick a topic with lots of factual information.  For this purpose I chose both the muscular and skeletal system in our subject.  After you have moved learners up the taxonomy, you can use Fact in Fiction as either a Relational or Extended Abstract task as it forces learners to apply their knowledge in an abstract way.  You need to create an opening to a story and leave it at a point where key information about the topic is about to be shared.  At this point, learners take over and finish the story, including a checklist of key terms or facts.  They are forced to explain the topic in detail, using relevant terminology and linking all of the processes, but using their creativity to fit it into the theme of the fictional story.

One of the FIF tasks I created
Click to enlarge

This is one I created based on the Muscular system.  The story leads up to a point where the main character will need to explain the system to another person.  In this case it is to a younger cousin.  By having such a specific angle, in this case a youngster, learners will need to carefully select appropriate language and use analogies to make it clear. 

At the bottom of the story is a list of key points that the learners must include in their finished story.  These must be underlined or highlighted in order to reinforce understanding as my learners complete the task.

I also allow learners to choose whether to complete the task as either a script or as a story.  This allowed them some flexibility as they attempted this for the first time.

Learners then go off and finish the stories as set out.

I set this as a homework task as I knew that it would take time and asked learners to upload it onto Edmodo for marking.  Even though it was their first attempt, I am pleased to say that the quality of the work handed in was really good.  The way many of them continued the theme of the story so well or added extras such as humour was refreshing to read.  The use of analogies and simplified terminology to explain the systems to a younger character was amazing and demonstrated the learners had a real understanding.  The quality of the Skeletal FIF task I set (the class had an option to choose) was equally as good.  I also had a real mix of scripts and stories which again made the marking of the less monotonous (I love it when homework surprises me and is unique!)

Students work page 1 - Click to enlarge

Students work page 2 - Click to enlarge

The one aspect that a few learners missed out was the highlighting of key words but this was easily rectified in lesson when I got them to do it retrospectively.  Two learners also missed the story part and simply used the checklist as sub headings and put relevant information underneath.  Not what I asked for but they still showed understanding.

Even though it does take some thinking to write out the opening of stories, the reward and depth of their understanding is really clear to see.  Definitely a SOLO task that I will use in the future!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Secret SOLO'ist Part 1

A few years back I undertook a whole load of reading and research to develop the quality of my teaching.  I was introduced to a number of different strategies and teaching methods.  I am very confident in the fact that if I don't believe in something or can't see it having an impact, I won't add it to my teaching repertoire.  One thing I did come across via Geoff Petty which really caught my interest was SOLO taxonomy.  I really liked the principles behind it and knew it meant adapting the way I approach teaching.  At that point, I was still fresh into the job so I decided to take a smaller step and introduced a combination of the revised Blooms taxonomy and the Alite Accelerated Learning Cycle.  Both have served me well but I now feel ready to take another step up.

I have decided, thanks to all of the interesting posts by Tait Coles, Paul Mcintosh, David Didau, Darren Mead and Ben Horbury, that I am now ready to start introducing SOLO Taxonomy into my lessons.  I have already identified that I will run it with my GCSE PE Theory classes and this will commence from September.  This allows me a good amount of time to get up to speed with it.  At present, although I understand the idea behind it and the depth of learning it promotes, I still need to read up on it a lot more to fully ensure I am using it correctly.  One of the main things that I definitely need to do is get my head around activities that promote learning at the various SOLO levels.  I have therefore gone covert and slowly tried new SOLO styled activities to see how much of an impact to learning they have.  I ultimately would like to share the principles of SOLO with learners so they can gauge levels and progress, but will wait until September when I should have a better understanding myself.

The first attempt
Through Twitter I got in contact with Ben Horbury who is a PE teacher, also looking to develop his use of SOLO.  He initially gave me some PE specific examples of how he had used it and some activities that we could use with specific topics.  This was really beneficial as it allowed me to join the dots between what I had read, and what I could actually go away and do.  I would really encourage anyone reading this to get on Twitter, connect with people and see how much information, ideas and support is shared.  With this new inspiration, I trialled some SOLO stuff with my Year 11's during an Easter revision session.

Easter revision solo learning
The Easter revision session we ran that had a loose SOLO structure.
The session was loosely based around SOLO and used some slides that Ben Horbury had shared with my.  We started by getting them to mix and match a number of definitions that we had covered over the 2 years but were not directly linked.  I'm not an expert yet but I guess this is working at a multistructural level. 

We then went on and got the learners to start thinking about linking these (and other PE topics) to the subject of our pre-released material (a young sprinter called David).  We gave them one of three stimulus image sheets that had elements of David's story included.  This was very effective as learners identified a number of topics and linked them directly back to him and were able to link a number of similar topics together.  I would say we have now moved up to relational.

We then passed these around and asked other learners to peer assess them and add any relevant pieces of information that the previous person may have missed out (as seen by the blue annotations on the above image).  Finally, we handed out some Hexagons.  A number of them had key words on them which were from topics we had identified might come up in the exam (linking to the pre released material and David).  These were colour co-ordinated so the same topics were in the same colour.  We explained that they needed to create chains of information that linked back to the needs of David.  Every side of a hexagon that touched another one must relate.  The more links the better.  We promoted the use of blank hexagons which they could add their own notes or key words to.  We also stressed the importance of being able to identify overlaps between topics and encouraged them to find links between them.

After the allocated time was up, learners rotated around so they joined another group, leaving a spokesperson behind.  This spokesperson had to explain their thought process and all of the links/connections they had made.

This was our first loose attempt at SOLO.  The power of using this came at the end when learners were clearly explaining links between similar topics whilst searching to overlap others.  Everything was linked back to David and every connection was clearly explained in detail.  We hope that at this stage we have moved learners to extended abstract as they have made links to other concepts.

The buzz that both the learners and teachers got after this first attempt has made us catch the bug.  So much so that we have continued to trial it in GCSE PE Theory lessons.  Reflections of these are to follow.  This is not a fully finished attempt at SOLO but the first step along the ladder.  I probably have got the different SOLO levels wrong and have missed a few tricks but this is all part of learning.

In the meantime, if you are interested in SOLO at all, head to the sites that I have found most beneficial:

As usual, any help or guidance would be very welcome!!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Split Screen Teaching

As a Learning to Learn teacher, I am always looking for methods to help make the embedding process as effective as possible.  In our discrete Year 9 lessons and Year 7 unit, it is always very obvious that we are delivering L2L and we can easily reward or give process/effort feedback to reinforce good Growth learner habits.  But what about in subjects other than ours?  How can you ensure learners are aware that they are developing their L2L attributes/strategies in Science or Maths or PE or History?  And I'm not just talking about chucking in some 'Mindmapping' tasks and simply referring to them as an L2L skill.  What I'm talking about is how can we get learners to realise that they are developing an attribute or strategy, understand how can they be a more effective student by learning this way, why this is beneficial, where else could they use it and how will it make them a more effective learner.  How can we make this exposure to L2L part of the learning process and not just an add on or activity? (And definitely not just a tick box exercise!)  How can we make sure we teach the students the process of learning?

Now I am a massive L2L believer.  I am an even bigger C. Dweck Growth Mindset fan.  I honestly believe that helping the way individuals learn as well as what they learn is of massive importance.  Really focusing on developing learner attributes and processes has to be part and parcel of our job role.  Who is going to show them if we don't?  I have therefore been looking at ways we can embed L2L in our Yr 7 curriculum next year and have been trialling the use of 'Split Screen Teaching' in some of our lessons over the past few months.

Split Screen Teaching - Involving learners in the process of learning

I first came across this term when I undertook a lot of research and came across Guy Claxton.  He was the first main educationalist who helped me understand the structure of delivering L2L.  I took a few good lessons from his work and one of these was split screen learning objectives.  In a very brief summary, split screen teaching involves you creating learning objectives for your lesson that include both content and L2L components.  You still cover the content as usual and would have specific learning objectives to measure progress.  In addition to this, you would also have a L2L objective which helps individuals develop good learner habits.  This means that at various stages in the lesson, not only are you able to reflect and share on how well the content is being learnt, but also how well they are learning.  A very poor example of this is below:

Two content and one L2L objective

By presenting this at the start of a lesson, not only are you informing students of the learning that will take place, but you are also informing them that they will be involved in that learning and develop good learner habits (in this case, how to research more effectively).

So what can these L2L objectives refer to?  Well, after many years of trial and error, my personal piece of advice is link them to a bigger L2L framework.  You need a goal or aim.  The one we are embedding next year links everything back to C. Dweck's Growth Mindset theory and an adapted version of the 5R's.  From this structure, we can pick out areas relevant to our subject areas and embed them into lessons.  Whether it be something that promotes an attribute like responsibility or resilience, or a part of a Growth Learner such as how to tackle challenges and learn from mistakes (through self/peer assessment).  Either way, all of our split screen objectives next year will have a purpose and a goal to help benefit the good learner habits of our students.

So now you have an idea of split screen teaching, how do you use it.  To help our own staff next year, our L2L team came up with the following pieces of advice:
  1. Compare your subject or upcoming topic to the framework you have chosen (in our case, Growth Mindset and adapted 5R's).
  2. Would that topic or your subject benefit from your learners developing their learner habits? (e.g. if you had a big enquiry unit coming up, would learners becoming more resourceful benefit it?  If so, show them how to be resourceful by teaching them how to use sources effectively or research properly)
  3. Pick what learner habits you want to reinforce.
  4. Select when to build them into your sequence of lessons.
  5. Create split screen learning objectives and clearly link the L2L one to your chosen learner habit.
  6. Introduce your split screen objectives as you start your lesson.
  7. Create a success criteria for the L2L objective as you are about to use it.
  8. Refer to the L2L objective and your success criteria continuously.
  9. Highlight any good learning experiences when students use the L2L process (either through what you see or get some Learning Detectives)
  10. Reflect on it.
  11. Give process or effort feedback.
  12. Reinforce it (Using our Learner Attribute Reward Cards).
  13. Inform how they can keep using it.
We created the following guide as a result which we will give staff ready for next year:

Feel free to save a copy

These are simply designed to give some guidance and are by no means the only way to implement split screen teaching (see Alistair Smith for his version called Three Dimensional Learning Objectives).

I am a very reflective practitioner and if it doesn't work I don't use it.  This really works though.  Plan to use it right, adapt it to your own lessons and ensure you try to reinforce it.  I really think it is so important we build the process of learning in our lessons and actually reinforce good learner habits with our youngsters.  For another example, see the Maths presentation at the bottom of a previous post here from a colleague.  Her objectives are also using split screen as she embeds responsibility and teamwork.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Must reads for teachers!

I've been inspired!!

Over two years ago I compiled/crowd sourced a list of recommended books for fellow colleagues and our staff library.  I asked the Twitter community to post or tweet their own suggestions.  I was overwhelmed by the response from those who obviously feel so passionate about educational reading.  Most of these books are now available at our school for teachers to borrow, read and reference.

Now in 2014 I once again needed some suggestions for books that have again influenced many peoples thinking and practice.  Below is a pretty comprehensive list, all recommended by actual teachers for teachers.  Many have been suggested a number of times so it's safe to say that many of these books should be inspirational for you as well.

So here is the list (in no particular order):
  1. 'Practice Perfect' by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway and Katie Yezzi
  2. 'The Multiplier Effect' by Liz Wiseman, Lois N. Allen and Elise Foster
  3. 'Good to Great' by Jim Collins
  4. 'Teach like a Champion' by Doug Lemov and Norman Atkins
  5. 'Switch: How to change things when change is hard' by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  6. 'Outliers' by Malcolm Gladwell
  7. 'Leverage Leadership' by Doug Lemov, Paul Bambrick-Santoyo and Brett Peiser
  8. 'Why Do I Need A Teacher When I've Got Google'.  Ian Gilbert
  9. 'Mindset: How You Can Fulfill Your Potentia'l:  Carol S. Dweck
  10. 'Creating Outstanding Classrooms' by Oliver Knight and David Benson
  11. 'Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School' by Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan
  12. 'Bounce' by Matthew Syed
  13. 'Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us' by Daniel H. Pink
  14. 'Learning to Learn in Practice'. Alistair Smith, Mark Lovatt and John Turner
  15. 'Evidence Based Teaching'.  Geoff Petty
  16. 'Self-theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality, and Development (Essays in Social Psychology)'. Carol S. Dweck
  17. 'An ethic of excellence' by Ron Berger (Thanks @saidthemac)
  18. 'The Teacher's Toolkit: Raise classroom achievement with strategies for every learner'. Paul Ginnis
  19. 'The Little Book of Big Stuff About The Brain':  Andrew Curran
  20. 'The Lazy Teacher's Handbook'.  Jim Smith
  21. 'Full On Learning: Involve Me and I'll Understand'.  Zoe Elder (Numerous recomemndations)
  22. 'Teaching Today: A Practical Guide'.  Geoff Petty
  23. 'SOLO Taxonomy' by Pam Hook (Thanks @dockers_hoops)
  24. 'The Perfect English Ofsted Lesson'. David Didau (Numerous recommendations)
  25. 'Visible Learning for Teachers' - John Hattie (Thanks @damianainscough & @LGolton)
  26. 'High Performers' - Alistair Smith (Thanks @damianainscough)
  27. 'Creating Tomorrow's Schools Today' by Richard Gerver (Thanks @dockers_hoops)
  28. 'Inspirational Teachers Inspirational Learners' by Will Ryan (Thanks @dockers_hoops)
  29. 'Building Learning Power' by Guy Claxton (Thanks @dockers_hoops)
  30. 'What the best college teachers do' by Ken Bain (Thanks @pllatreille)
  31. 'Making learning whole' by David Perkins (Thanks @saidthemac)
  32. 'Understanding by Design' -  Mctighe and Wiggins (Thanks @damianainscough)
  33. 'Embedded Formative Assessment' - Dylan Wiliam(Thanks @damianainscough)
  34. 'Why students don't like school' by Daniel Willingham (Thanks @DrDav )
  35. 'The Big Book of Independent Thinking' by Ian Gilbert (Thanks @James1980Wilson)
  36. 'The Idle Parent: Why Less Means More When Raising Kids' by Tom Hodgkinson (Thanks @James1980Wilson)
  37. 'Hidden Lives of Learners' by Graham Nuthall (Thanks @Cinderhills)
  38. 'How to Teach' by Phil Beadle (Thanks @dockers_hoops)
  39. 'Closing the Learning Gap' by Mike Hughes (Thanks @dockers_hoops)
  40. 'Tweak to Transform' by Mike Hughes (Thanks @Cinderhills)
  41. 'Leading the Learning School' by Colin Weatherley (Thanks @Cinderhills)
  42. Dancing About Architecture: A Little Book of Creativity by Phil Beadle (Numerous recommendations)
  43. 'OOps!  Helping Childern Learn Accidentally'.  Hywel Roberts (Numerous reccomendations)
A big thanks to everyone that tweeted suggestions and contributed.  This is an excellent list and really shows off peoples passions and inspirations in the world of education.  I look forward to getting through as many of these as I can!  Hopefully many of you will as well.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Learning detectives and spies

There are lots of articles about something called 'Learning Spies' or 'Learning Detectives' around the Internet or in books.  If you haven't heard of them before, it involves setting learners off on a project, task or activity but having a number of individuals who observe the learning from the side.  They don't actively get involved in the task but go around the classroom, listening and watching how people work.  Armed with a clipboard or even a Flip Camera, they try and collect evidence of good learning which they can reinforce in a debrief.  They also go the other way and capture moments of bad learning which can be reflected on later.

This is a very powerful tool when trying to embed L2L into a subject.  If you have introduced a new way of learning to your class, the Learning Detectives can capture as much of this as they can.  At key points in the lesson, you can stop the class, get the detectives to share any learning experiences they've seen, compare this to the L2L principles and success criteria you created and create a new plan of action to move forward.

In Year 9 L2L lessons we used this during a teamwork and enquiry lesson.  As a class we looked at each of these skills and created success criteria.  When the students went off to work, I had two detectives armed with a clipboard and camera to capture moments.  As the lesson went on they provided me with snippets of what they had seen.  If something really good or bad was seen, we stopped, watched the video or listened to the comments, intervened where necessary and then continued.  At the end of the lesson we had thorough debriefs and planned how to progress.

A simple prompt sheet we used to begin with in Year 9 L2L
In PE, I usually use this with non-participants.  During my Year 9 Badminton lesson this year we focused on effective use of feedback as a form of assessment.  Again, a success criteria was formed based on a class discussion.  The class went off on an activity which involved AfL and peer assessment.  My learning detectives were given whiteboard markers and listened intently to the quality of feedback they were hearing.  On the main whiteboard they wrote up any comments or conversations they had heard.  When we reflected, the detectives fed back, we compared to the success criteria, discussed a plan of action and looked at how we could develop feedback next lesson. 

So is it worthwhile doing?  As you can guess, this method does have its ups and downs.  Some detectives, especially in classroom lessons, feel that they aren't involved in the 'content' learning of the lesson.  Although they are listening to information probably harder than before, they aren't fully immersed in the learning.  There are also those individuals who use this role as a distraction and it is up to the teacher to utilise the detective as much as possible and 'big up' the role.  Applying a sense of importance normally ensures the detective completes their role very effectively.

On the positive side, it gives very accurate and specific examples of good/bad learning.  Because it comes from a student, the rest of the class are normally very receptive.  Because you are constantly referring to an L2L skill, strategy or quality, that itself gets reinforced.  It helps promote the principles of L2L you are looking at.  The use of photos, video clips or direct quotes also makes the reflection process very real and helps to reinforce the good learner habits you want.  It works exceptionally well for me with non-participants in PE.  As long as there is a focus to identify, they can capture some learning which you naturally might miss.

Overall verdict:  As a tool to help identify and reinforce good learner habits/good learning in lessons, this is an excellent tool.  Make sure you create a success criteria so the detectives know what to look for and can check what they see/hear against it.  Make sure you choose responsible individuals first so you can demonstrate an effective Learning Detective.  Arm them with a camera or clipboard to ensure they capture as much as they can.  Add importance to the role.  Allow time in the lesson, both during and at the end, to reflect on what they have spotted.  As with all things, use it occassionally.

L2L Teamwork: From PE to MFL to Geography to Maths

As the lead teacher for L2L at our school, it's up to me to try and show teachers that getting L2L into their lessons are not only beneficial for students, but it is also incredibly easy to do. One of the biggest problems I have faced along the way is that some teachers become very apprehensive with L2L.  They worry that it involves reinventing their approach to teaching.  They worry that it involves using a lot of specialist jargon or needs advanced training.  They worry that as they don't know much about it, it may be a bit of a jump to fully take on the an idea of L2L.  Then, unfortunately, there are some don't understand it, don't believe in it or worry that it will detract from their subject.

My job then is to demonstrate how incredibly easy it is.  My main sale for L2L is that by using it in lessons, you:

a) Are teaching learners how to learn:  You're modelling good learning and good learner attributes.  You're actually showing them what is required of a good learner and teaching them good learner habits.  Isn't that what we want? Students to be more creative, resilient, independent, resourceful......?
b) Are teaching them how to do things which they'll need again and again: If you teach them the benefit of looking at an argument from alternative angles using a relevant strategy, they'll do it again and again and their level of thinking will be deeper (providing you reinforce it and get them into good habits).
c) Making your teaching much more efficient:  Like I will demonstrate using a very simple example of teamwork.

As a PE teacher, we use teams a lot.  It's natural to the subject and fits into so many aspects of our curriculum.  When I then talk to teachers from other departments about using teamwork in their lessons, there is always the comment "but you teach PE and it's easier to do teamwork in your subject".  Whether my subject allows more opportunity is here nor there, it's the principles of teamwork that can be transferred into any lesson and that's the essence of L2L.  Here is an example of how PE, L2L, MFL,Geography and Maths crossed over.

In PE, we looked at developing L2L in our Year 9 lessons.  We thought we'd start with the easiest thing we could do to get the ball rolling so decided to use teamwork.  In particular, we wanted to not just use teams in our activities, but teach them what a team was, the right way to work as part of a team, the different roles and responsibilities in teams and get learners to identify how effective their team was.  We wanted to fully harness the principles of L2L. We found something called Sport Education.  In a nutshell, Sport Ed involves splitting you class into small groups, usually with 5 in each team.  Each person in that team has a role for which they earn various points depending on how well they do it.  Teams have various practice and competition sessions.  Points add up over the season and finish with a festival or league winners.  The aim is to pass the responsibility of learning from teacher to student.

Sport Education Model
Presentation  created by Daryl Siedentop

We took most of the elements from this model but put a bigger emphasis on the role of the learner and skills that were required (L2L).  I picked 5 roles that could be used in nearly every sport and created a success matrix for each of them.  If students carried out the role as described they would get 3 points, if they did average they would get 2 and so on.  I also added additional bonus points for fair play, problem solving and creativity.  I wanted individuals to use their teams and really embrace the learning that was taking place.

As this was our first trial, I decided to choose the Team Captains.  This ensured that I had people I knew could do a good job and who would help launch this successfully.  As a class we also created an initial success criteria for what a good team is to get the focus of teamwork explicit to the students.  Each lesson I would mainly liaise with the Captains to organise their teams.  The Equipment Managers would always get the equipment at the beginning (some were bringing extra kit in case someone forgot theirs) and the Fitness Coach would always lead the warm up.  The skills coaches became experts of the various skills and led practices, guided by myself only when needed.  The Analysts would identify the progress of the individuals in their team and implement any intervention if needed.  There was lots of reflection and numerous chance for teams to create their own drills.  During the lesson I would inform individuals of their learner scores and gave any feedback if needed.  We also shared good examples of teamwork and reinforced the key principles that came up.  All the time we tried to embed as much L2L as possible.  Content never suffered at all.  In fact progress increased.

The students absolutely loved it. From an L2L perspective, the students really developed as teams and team members.  They were all able to carry out their roles and combine as one to achieve their goals.  Members supported each other and began to resolve any discrepancies in a more thoughtful way as the weeks went on.  More importantly, individuals could explain what a team was, identify what they needed to do better and saw how working as a team benefited their learning.
From a teachers perspective, my lessons became so much more efficient as a result.  Behaviour which was always good became outstanding because they were self managing themselves.  Most of the learners stepped up to the challenge and relished with the responsibility.  Individuals who might normally be quiet and stay on the fringes couldn't because they had a job to do.  The amount we got through also went up as our Coaches and Captains shared their knowledge.  And finally, the most important point for the teachers that I try to convince, the level of learning and amount of feedback they received increased.  It was like having numerous mini-teachers within the class who (with prompt sheets or scaffolding) could help others instantly. 

So what happened in MFL? (basic L2L)  One of our MFL teachers approached me and said she would like some help getting a number of the boys in her class more engaged in her lesson.  We talked about a number of ideas but she was particularly interested in the PE Sport Ed model.  On a very basic L2L scale, she decided to sit her class in teams of four.  She then created four generic MFL job roles which each member of the team had to take on.  Every lesson for that unit, each team member had a job to do.  The teacher talked about teamwork and reinforced the main principles when needed.  A very simple start to trialling L2L in a lesson.

So what happened in Geography? (A bit more of an L2L focus) I was working alongside an excellent Geography teacher and talked the Sport Ed model through at one of our 'Bring & Buy' sessions (like an internal Teachmeet).  This obviously got the ball rolling as a week or so later, she came back to me with a Geography specific Sport Ed idea.  Using the same principles and adapting some of our resources, she created mini teams in her lesson.  Each person in the teams had a specific role which she had created job descriptions for. 

The teacher used this with her Year 7 Geography class whilst undertaking an inquiry project at our on-site copse.  She, linking in L2L, discussed with the class the importance of good teamwork and introduced the roles.  She then put the teams together.  When working in the copse, each member had a designated job.  The Team Captain in particular had to decide which order they would complete the three learning tasks.

After the project had finished and they returned to the classroom, a reflection section was undertaken.  They spent time discussing how well the teams had worked (linking back to the discussion at the start of the lesson).  The aim of this is to reinforce good learner habits, in this case, working effectively and responsibly with others.  The Analyst provided particular feedback of positive or negative elements of teamwork (a good use of a Learning Detective me thinks!).  In particular, the teacher commented that this lesson stood out and:

" helped with engagement - all students on task as they had a purpose rather than not knowing what to do or allowing one/two students to do all the work"

In essence, she identified how L2L could fit in, adapted a simple strategy, discussed it, highlighted it in action, reflected on it and reinforced it as a good learner habit

So what happened in Maths? In our Year 9 L2L programme, different departments 'championed' different L2L focuses throughout the year.  Maths championed teamwork.  Here is an account from the Learning Leader of Maths:

"I decided to introduce the L2L teamwork ideas with my Year 9 set 5 (out of 7 sets).  We were currently working on a Graphs topic and I designed a new activity which would lend itself to introducing the teamwork ideas.  I split up the class into teams of 4, which I chose in advance to ensure a mix of boys and girls and a mix of abilities.  I then moved the tables into groups of 4 and introduced the activity.  Pupils were also given a post-it with a number from 1-4 which represented their team role. 
The four team roles which I used for the first activity are listed below.  These were specifically tailored for this particular activity.
1.  Lead Mathematician
 - makes sure that everyone is on-task
 - responsible for time keeping

2.  Equipment Monitor
 - makes sure that everyone is using the correct equipment

3.  Accuracy Monitor
 - checks that the scales of graphs are correct

4.  Conclusion Co-ordinator
- organises the sharing of results and makes sure that all your findings are included in the conclusion

Before beginning the activity, I asked the pupils to generate a checklist/success criteria of ‘what makes a good team’.  We wrote this on the board and referred back to it during the lesson. 

In the plenary of this lesson, pupils fed back on the Maths that they had learnt and also how their team had worked together.  I was very impressed with the quality of the work produced and the engagement from all of the pupils.  At the end of the lesson, several pupils asked if we could do another lesson like this again soon! 

Following on from the success of this lesson, I have used the teamwork model regularly with this group.  I have continued the structure of setting up the teamwork expectations at the start, giving team roles to each pupil, using interesting open-ended activities, and using the plenary to encourage pupils to feedback on teamwork skills as well as the Maths learnt.

I have designed a few new activities although this is not really necessary in order to use the teamwork ideas successfully.  I have varied the team roles depending on the particular activity.  As an example, the following roles are for an activity to design and make a probability game to be used at a fairground. 

1. Team Leader
- makes sure everyone is on-task and has a job to do

2. Equipment Monitor
- collects and organises the equipment that will be needed for your game

3. Time Keeper
- makes sure that the game will be ready by the end of the lesson

4. Poster co-ordinator
- makes sure that the rules of your game are clearly explained

Maths l2 l teamwork
PPT used in the Maths lesson to promote Teamwork
Successes have been:
  • Increased engagement and enthusiasm from pupils
  • Improved quality of work
  • A greater sense of pride from pupils in the work produced by their group
  • Greater engagement from previously disaffected pupils as they feel responsible for their part in  their group’s work. 
  • More independent work and less reliance on the teacher

So what is my point?  The point I am trying to make is that L2L can fit into almost any lesson.  It involves the process of looking at your subject and identifying key learner qualities/skills that you need to develop.  It then involves creating experiences/opportunities in these lessons to share these aspects with students and allowing them to gain experience working this way.  Continual reflection and modelling of good learning as you go is essential (using the 5R's is even more so).  Creating success criteria and referring to them as a sort of 'teacher-learner contract' is so helpful.   In a nutshell:
  1. Identify areas where L2L may benefit (not hinder) your subject
  2. Choose specific strategies or attributes that you want to teach to learners
  3. Include it in your learning objectives (further blog on this coming soon)
  4. Build a Success Criteria (and continually refer to it throughout your lesson)
  5. Do it
  6. Highlight good learning examples
  7. Reflect on it
  8. Reinforce it

What we have learnt is that now we have put in the initial groundwork, these learners are more efficient and better equipped to work with others (which links to Responsibility in the 5R's).  Engagement with learning has increased as distractions are being self-managed.  Collaboration and sharing with peers is also more constructive.  Because the learners now have a better understanding of how they should work or behave within teams, the teacher can focus on their role as an educator.  From a teachers perspective, if learners are better equipped, we can then get on a share the content (which is the main focus of our job).  We have also created an environemnt which has structure and can be remodelled if needed.  Individuals are now more efficient as learners, more independent, self managed and able to work cooperatively with peers.  Although some may disagree and say that content should be our main focus, I really do feel (and believe) that the concept of L2L, and the little bit of groundwork you need to put in, is so beneficial to the learning that is experienced in your classroom.  Don't look to create new schemes of work or units, instead just adapt L2L principles and incorporate them where they would benefit learners.

This isn't the only way to use L2L and there's much more to it than teamwork.  What it is are a simple first few steps as we embark on this journey.  If you have any comments of your own L2L experiences, please feel free to share. 

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Can displays help teach learning (and not just reinforce content)?

As a PE and Learning to Learn teacher, I live a nomadic life when delivering theory lessons.  As a result of these subjects timetabling, I use classrooms that stretch from one end of the school to the other.  What this has done is let me get a feel for the various learning environments that my colleagues create.  Many have tables together so learners can work in teams, other have tables in rows in a more old school/traditional layout.  These are flexible and easy to move and put back.  What I have longed for in these classrooms is some display board space so that I can actually promote some of the ideas from my lessons.  Understandably, as these aren't my rooms and I use them for only a small proportion of the week, I don't feel I have the right to request some space.  That was until I spotted an empty board in my regular GCSE PE Theory room last year.

So what did I do?  Well, I went on a journey to try and promote the Learning to Learn skills I use in my Year 10 PE Theory lessons.  As this was a trial and I was just testing the water, I simply wanted to add elements of thinking skills, questioning, teamwork etc at relevant times as I went through the course.  What I wanted to do though was get these to become good learning habits for my class and reinforce these continuously (teaching them how to learn - basic L2L).  After approaching the teacher who used the room, they agreed to let me have one of the biggest wall spaces in his room.  Time to put a plan together!

I had a big think about what I wanted on this wall space.  What I didn't want was basic PE related topics or a L2L wall that I wouldn't ever use.  It had to be interactive.  It had to benefit learning.  I remember reading about Learning Walls a long time ago when I undertook my L2L research and really liked the idea of having an interactive display space that became part of my teaching and not just something learners read as they daydreamed in lessons.  The basic concept of this is 1) It promotes learning and key L2L concepts 2) It becomes a tool for teaching & learning in your lesson.  I did a bit of research and came across an interactive learning wall from Abraham Guest School who were running with the Alite L2 programme.  This learning wall was in a powerpoint format and has numerous hyperlinks that took you from page to page.  It reinforced the 5R's, had thinking skills, questioning, 5R progress matrix, graphic organisers and many more L2L concepts.  This was excellent but I couldn't help thinking that if I needed to use the whiteboard for something PE related, I couldn't keep the interactive learning wall on the screen as well.  It might become a little fussy.  It was also a bit full on for my small trial.

I therefore went traditional and started to design my own display.  As I might have to move rooms in the future and take it with me, I decided to have it printed as a giant poster which I could take down and put back up as I needed.  I thought about the L2L tools that I wanted my GCSE students to use and included bits of teamwork, graphic organisers, Kiplings questions, De Bono's 6 Hats, a stuck wall (3plus me rule) Anderson's taxonomy and Medal and Mission feedback (G. Petty).

Throughout my year in that room, I could quickly refer to it when I needed.  If I designed a task which required learners to use their reasoning skills, I could remind them to use the 6 Hats or Spectacles (G. Petty) as they were working.  This made actual learning conversations with the individuals more constructive and I could easily use the wall to help guide students through their learning.  If I saw someone had not thought an argument through fully, I simply had to refer to the 6 Hats and like a light bulb, the students remembered what they needed to do. 

As part of my role requires, I shared this with our Learning and Teaching group with the idea of getting something similar into all classrooms next year to support our new Year 7 L2L programme.  What happened a few weeks later was amazing!  As I went into the humanities block, I walked into a member of the L&T group's classroom and saw this amazing Learning Wall.  Wow!  The wall was the next stage up from mine.  This teacher, also a member of the L2L team, had made it fully interactive.  Not only did it have key L2L concepts like the enquiry wheel and the 6 hats, but it also had a row of plastic wallets along the bottom, each filled with some of our L2L learner mats ranging from 'Questioning Success Mats' to 'Teamwork Success Mats'.  In lessons, if she is doing a task, she simply gets out the relevant mats, hands them out to each group and reinforces a variety of L2L concepts.

The amazing Learning Wall created by a member of our L2L team.
This is something that I will be sharing with every teacher in preparation for our new Year 7 L2L programme next year.  If we can have something similar to this in every classroom, maybe on a smaller scale, it might help support those teachers who will be delivering L2L for the first time.  Because we're going for L2L in all of Year 7 in every lesson, something like this on their wall may help remind them of what to do.  It's just one way to help promote and develop L2L in our school.  What do you think?  Do you use a similar type of Learning Wall?  If anyone has any experience of something like this I would love to hear from you.

Guest Post: Displays and learning spaces @data_fiend

I love a good display. They can be a contentious issue in schools, and yes, putting up displays is one of the 28 tasks that, as teachers, we are not meant to complete. However, displays are a fact of life in schools and, I rather like them, and the process of creating them.
Years ago, my displays would mostly consist of pupil work, often from KS3, to show good pieces of work. They would be lovingly mounted on several layers of coloured paper, checked for mistakes and sometimes they would be annotated, but mostly they were part of the decoration. They were pretty, sometimes interesting, but rarely an integral part of the learning going on in the classroom.
As the years have passed I have begun to think about displays in more detail, moving beyond the decorative and ‘Oh hasn’t Jilly done well’, to creating something with a specific purpose. I have come to the conclusion that, in my classroom at least, displays are used for for a variety of purposes – 5 in total.

The Marketing Tool
Firstly, I have my in corridor display, part of the marketing for my subjects at A-Level – encouraging students to continue with their education, and remain at our school, is key. Obviously this is not entirely a ploy to improve the finances of the school (although in this day and age it is hard to ignore the need to maintain post-16 numbers), I like to think that it gives all the students lower down the school a sense of progression and to start them thinking about the future and aspiring to study at A-level and beyond.

This particular display remains relatively untouched, occasionally being updated with the latest changes to the course and more recent pieces of work.

The Text Based Display
This display is to prompt students to remember key texts – for example my ‘Animal Farm’ display (still somewhat a work in progress):

The arrows contain a brief summary of each chapter, which can be referred to during revision quizzes. Sometimes I will use this in class with students producing additional elements, for example key quotations for a particular character or theme - post-its are good for this, or those with artistic talents can produce characters.

Student Research Display
This is really where I have to control my perfectionism. When we are studying a topic, either at the initial introduction, or as a revision task I hand over a display to be completed by the students themselves.
This particular display was created by students in A2 Media Studies, exploring a range of texts on feminism. I allocated each group a text and they had to identify the key elements and then collaborate to complete the whole display. Knowing that their finished work would be displayed for the group, as well as other students encouraged them to produce a more polished piece of work.
I have extended this style of display as a revision task, so far only used with Year 12 and Year 13 students. I roll out a monster piece of backing paper across a group of 4-6 tables (sticking the ends down with blutack) and their revision task for the lesson (or sometimes two) is to cover it with everything they need for the exam or topic. We do it round a central table and the group can decide which topic areas or which points to include. This has worked really well for revision, and the finished product can be used as a temporary display to refresh their memory prior to the exams.

The Learning Wall
One of our school policies is to display L2L posters (in our case BLP). I wanted to go a little further and have adopted a learning wall – shamelessly borrowed from Cramlington Learning Village (Click here) and the fantastic David Fawcett ;) (Click here).

This, hopefully will be used more next year to encourage the groups to seek their own solutions and give them some suggestions for when they are stuck.

The Next Stage
I have probably spent more time this year thinking about displays than at any other point in my career. Following twitter links and reading blogs have given me lots of ideas so my final display is my new experiment. I wanted a display that covered all phases (KS3-5) and suggested the connectivity between them - the subjects as well as the effort needed in order to achieve good results – so I chose to create a mountain range with successively higher peaks.
In addition, to keep the powers that be happy, I have included some exemplar student work, however I have been careful to highlight the features that make it a good piece. I had a really helpful discussion with @HThompson1982 who was kind enough to share some pictures to help with this.

It is not yet finished, as I need a KS3 exemplar piece and hope to include more HOT maps. I  incorporated SOLO Taxonomy (thanks to @arti_choke’s great site (click here) and the colour symbol generator) with key verbs, brief descriptions and some examples of hexagon work and HOT maps as this is something I am aiming to embed in my teaching next year. The ideal would be for students to refer to the board during the lesson. I also hope to cover it in plastic and ask pupils to stick post its onto the SOLO line at different points during the lesson to identify their level and demonstrate progress.

Friday, 6 April 2012

A New Beginning

Well here we are.  This is something I've been thinking of doing for a very long time but haven't had a chance to sit down and get it sorted.  Now it seems (thanks to the Twitter revolution) that the importance of reflecting on my teaching and sharing ideas has become quite high.  Anyway, most of what I will post will be a chance to think out aloud.  I'm sure that some of the stuff I will share will be of little or no interest to some people.  Some of the ideas from my lessons that I talk about probably don't work.  There will probably be a few spelling and grammatical errors as well.  But that's not the point.  I have a passion for learning and want to make the environemnt that I teach in as rich as possible.  Learning is my life and what will follow will be a few ideas and accounts that I have used.

Rewarding learner attributes

This year as part of our Learning & Teaching group, I headed up a mini team and looked at ways of using feedback in our school.  As if I had planned it myself, our Director of Learning asked us to specifically look at using feedback to promote Growth Learners (C. Dweck).  This was already something I was looking into in our Year 9 L2L lessons and tied in nicely for our new course with the Year 7's next year.  Amazing how things fall nicely into place.

First of all we looked back at the idea of Growth Learners.  We went through some of Dweck's work and pulled out key components of her theory.  It was interesting to see that we probably talk about these things in lessons very loosely but have never actually rewarded it.  Do we actually promote them explicitly with learners?

Fixed v Growth Learners

So I then thought about the way we reward at our school and all of a sudden my L2L hat came out again.  We have a very good system that uses a package called SIMS.  Simply click on a students name on the register and assign a merit to them.  Merits = points and students work their way up a rewards ladder.  Doing this is the quick way and simply assigns a merit for 'classwork'.  If you want to give a more specific comment on why you've given a merit, you have a few more clicks so naturally this isn't used as much.

Without conducting a whole school review, we generalised from our own departments and teaching experiences about why people handed out merits.  Three areas were identified. 

a) Merits were given for things like giving correct answers in lessons, getting good grades in tests or homework, completing all of the tasks in a lesson.....  Looking at Dweck's work, many of these things were promoting Fixed Mindset Learners.  It is still good to be rewarded when you have got a good grade, but do these students always get good grades?  Were they challenged or could they do this well anyway?  Did they make progress? Did this recognise the effort and process of less able students who probably made a lot of progress even though it wasn't of the same quality of the more able students?  Is it always the same students who answer every question?  Do they put their hands up when they don't know the answer (or like Dweck says, they are worried about looking unintelligent if they get it wrong).

b) Merits were given out for effort, progress and outstanding work or contribution.  We agreed that this was a good step as rewarding effort reinforced that to be successful you need to work hard. Outstanding work and contribution linked with progress and rewarded learners who had pushed their learning forward.

c) Merits for 'naughty' students who aren't naughty in your lesson today.  I reviewed this a few years ago and found a lot of 'good' students who follwed the rules and did as they were asked were being 'out-merited' by the naughty ones who behaved.  They were caught in the middle ground between them and the 'exceptional' students.  For some it felt like complying with the rules got you no recognition (and nearly made one of my tutee's go down the wrong route in Year 11 because of this frustration!).

The next problem we identified is that to promote being a Growth learner through feedback, you actually need time to give it.  You need the time to actually explain to them why you are awarding them a merit based on a positive learner attriubte or quality.  Unfortunately, doing this either gets forgotten as you get on with the teaching or gets missed because teachers don't manage to fit in time to give constructive learner feedback.

After looking at these points, we started putting ideas together.  One strategy that came out was one I remebered from working with our excellent Science team.  The local AST had come in and looked at feedback with them and did something similar to what we were about to do.  The AST set the Science team on a task as you would do in a lesson.  As they got on independently, he simply watched and observed with a pack of post it notes in his hand.  This observation allowed him to see the good things going on.  He identified good leaders, people who got themselves unstuck, those who were good at planning the task, those who used the resources they had in front of them effectively... He then wrote a comment based on this on a post it and simply popped it on the desk in front of one of the Science team, let them read the comment and then walked off.  A big smile came out, that person knew that they should continue to work/learn in this way and develop it into a good habit.  He could do the same to challenge behaviour if needed.

So, we needed a quick way to do something similar, to reward good learner habits, to give clear feedback and to reinforce being a Growth Learner.  This is what we created:

Based on our version of the 5R's for next year (I am responsible, I am determined....) we came up with these reward cards.  We broke down each one of of attributes and identified key points that helped promote good learning.  We then colour co-ordinated them (Green - Responsible, Blue - Determined, Pink - Resourceful, Grey - Deeper thinker, Orange - Reflective), laminated and cut them up into small cards.  Without the need for a post it, we simply drop these in front of individuals when we see good learning going on.  It gives them that instant bit of feedback and reinforces good habits.  In the last few minutes of the lesson, learners bring these up to me and I trade them for a merit and a one sentence explanation about why/when/how they got it.  I reinforce that this is good Growth learning and off they go.  At home I update this to a spreadsheet which makes a multi coloured bar chart for each student, showing them who has been rewarded for which Growth learner qualities.

How I record their cards.  Learners can look at this and see what qualities they're good at and which ones they need to work on.

So far, my Year 9 L2L class are loving it.  It's quick and simple.  If I need to spend more time with a learner giving specific feedback I can, knowing that I am able to still give instant feedback to other learners using the cards (it gives me time).  All of a sudden the children are talking about learning and are asking how they can get a merit.  I can now say things like 'by staying focused when working on a task' and talk them through strategies to help them do it.  As a result, I also have them fully embedded in my Year 10 GCSE PE class who actively try to demonstrate these qualities to get them.  The actions of these learners has massively improved and I love going to these lessons because of the learning environment that has been created.

Overall verdict: We like them.  They're a quick way to reward individuals for good learner qualities and attributes.  Highlights exactly why they have received a merit.  Helps us quickly promote good learning and gets them talking about what good learning is.  Next is to trial them with the Year 7 L2L programme next year and linking them explicitly to our version of the 5R's.  Anything you would add or do differently?  These are just ideas so happy to have help developing them.