Wednesday, 11 April 2012

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. 

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