As we approach the end of another academic year, what better time to celebrate what went well? We’re lucky to have staff members who are willing to share tips and tricks, so the Teaching and Learning Champions thought we’d add a thank you into the mix and introduce the element of a mystery prize! Teaching Tombola didn’t work, apparently it doesn’t count if you don’t give out tickets, so it was a Learning Lucky Dip – and even with the odd distraction (it’s hard not to spend a few minutes marvelling at dried peas) we still came away with a selection of ideas to sample.
Firstly, we went over to Team Biology for some consolidation ideas; Retrieval Grids, colour coded based on how long ago the content was covered – extra points for answering questions taught last year. Simple but effective, particularly in subjects with reams of content to cover. Answers are jotted down on a whiteboard and peer marked. Mr Livesey claims it takes just a few minutes at the start of a lesson. Another retrieval idea from Team Bio was a simple exercise in dividing a piece of paper into four, and heading each quarter ‘LAST LESSON’, ‘LAST WEEK’, LAST TOPIC’ and ‘LAST YEAR’ respectively. The teacher then put a similar grid on the board, with their questions entered into each quarter – students then answer on their paper. Reinforcing the idea to students that ‘revision’ doesn’t just happen once in the summer term, but continually through the year.
Our outdoor learning focus this year, championed by David Alcock – he’ll be thrilled!, has been thoroughly embraced by the D.T. department. They’ve been using BGS’ fantastic outdoor spaces to present work to each other, auditorium style on our quad steps, and working with the National Trust Tree ID app to encourage students to recognise the different trees and wood types around them. Apparently this will be invaluable for the Biology Year 7 A-Z treasure hunt, so watch this space for acorns, birches etc…
Live marking was suggested as a real success from the year from Team R.S. – demystifying the exam marking process and talking students through an examiner’s thought process when awarding marks. The ability to take images of work before and after seemed to appeal to the group. Maths seem to have been targeting quick starters to minimise lower KS3 years fussing upon entry, and there were a variety of starters involving working out loose change that Year 7s can compete to complete first. Minimising fuss seemed to be a common theme, with team English promoting an online resource that allows you to create two seating plans per class – Home and Away positions (a hit with football fans in Year 10!) This allows for a wider variety of conversations in group work, whilst ensuring optimum behaviour for learning.
Independent Learning has been a real focus for BGS staff this year, so unsurprisingly there were numerous activities that sought to promote student autonomy and withdraw the reliance on staff. To start us off, three different subjects outlined how they minimised teacher talk and handed time over to the students to speak to and teach each other.
Modern Languages focused on promoting peer talk; pupils are given 3 strips of paper and they write 1 sentence per strip (1 x past, 1 x present, 1 x future tense). They then move around the room to work with other pupils, each time saying a different sentence from the Sentence Builder displayed on the white board. If a pupil says one of the sentences written by the person they’re “interviewing”, they take the strip. Play for 7 minutes – winner is the person with most strips. Extension: remove the Sentence Builder from display and repeat the exercise. Pupils are now working from memory to recreate the sentences.
Source: Active Learn.
In a similar less-teacher-talk vein, another science idea involved the use of a picture story. Students must describe the process in front of them, using the key terminology listed at the side (adaptable via differentiation). The other student in their pair has a separate list of ‘ingredients’ student 1 should cover, and they tick them off as their partner explains. They then swap roles and perform the same activity again, hopefully with even more success now they’ve seen the listed questions etc.
English suggested withdrawing any teacher talk at all for a period of 15 minutes – providing a small section of text (maybe a stanza of a poem) with some structured questions, and ‘refusing’ to comment with ideas. This way, students are encouraged to provide a personal response that might not necessarily match what their neighbour might put.
Of course, as always, there were a few not-for-every-lesson ideas! Team R.S., evidently big fans of Only Connect, had found an online version of the popular T.V. show where students are asked to group similar topics, figures, ideas, numbers into four categories – and most importantly, they need to have a justification ready. Apparently the trick to this one if to make it fiendishly difficult, with potentially more than one ‘correct’ answer and use as a revision activity!
Perhaps the award for the most adventurous and engaging idea came from the Classics Department – Mr Reeson, in an effort to spice up his summer exam feedback lessons – created a series of Escape Room esque lateral thinking puzzles. Yes, really. These involved no instruction sheets, only the students’ common sense, and required translation of commonly misspelt words to unlock number puzzles etc. There were UV torches, and a safe to unlock at the end.
Everyone who shared an idea came away with a small token, usually loosely linked to teaching (!), and a selection of ideas to maybe take for a spin next year. It’s fantastic to see so many practicioners within school experimenting and on the look out for new ideas to trial – hopefully a trend we can continue into 2019-20.
If you’d like more information on any of the ideas outlined here, drop us an email on HLH@bradfordgrammar.com