Sailing away with visual anchors (Issue 8, January 2011)

– Using visuals to improve learning attributes

This is a really simple idea that will improve the learning attributes of an individual student and is easy to implement in any classroom.

In Learn to Learn the students have completed a profiling task that assessed where the students were currently at with respect to each of the 5Rs. At a recent L2L meeting Ken Brechin posed the question “So what are you going to do about it?” and gave us sections of Guy Claxton’s Building Learning Power in Action (2005, TLO Ltd) book to give us some ideas to try out. The visual anchor was one of the ideas in the book that caught my eye. A visual anchor is a prompt that the student will see every lesson that reminds them of the R they are trying to improve. The visual anchor shows what success in this R will look and feel like to help the student achieve their goal. In the BLP in Action book this idea was used solely for improving resilience but I believe it can be used to improve a student’s performance in any R.

In practice I asked the students to look back at their profiler and identify the R they need to improve the most. The students then drew a picture of what success in this R would look like with specific reference to the profiler. The picture just had to help that individual student progress and did not have to relate to the classroom environment. For example Ross, identified that he must be more resilient and to do this he should have a more positive attitude. He then drew a picture that will help remind of this in future lessons and stuck this picture to the front of his work book (see below).

This simple tool will see improvement in learner attributes and can be applied across a range of subjects. What does it look and feel like if a student is reflective and spots his mistake himself in Maths or English? What  does it look and feel like if a student shows reasoning and hits extended abstract on the SOLO Taxonomy? (See a description of SOLO Taxonmy on page 24 [in the article “Relay Review”, to be posted in the coming weeks. Ed.] ) What does it look and feel like if a student is responsible and listens to members of their team in PE? Reminding students of their vision of success each lesson will make improvement their next port of call.

Joe Spoor

Resilience

 

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Setting an expert’s challenge in 3D (Issue 8, January 2011)

– Stepping outside the comfort zone with ‘launch assemblies’, 3D experiences and project learning.

Any teacher knows that getting students engaged in their subject is one of the most vital parts of education; in maths we are constantly searching for new ways to hook students in to the topics being taught in class.

When David Price and David Jackson visited the school earlier this term to discuss our involvement in the new Learning Futures project, I was inspired to turn what was an enquiry module of work into a project learning opportunity through which students could learn the importance of using data presentation to form an argument.

Project-based learning is an approach to enquiry in which students explore real-world problems and challenges, with any challenges being set by an expert in the field. The students engage in design, problem solving, decision making, and investigative activities. It allows students to work in groups or by themselves and allows them to come up with ideas and realistic solutions or presentations.

Our new module of work covering data handling is organized around the question of ‘Can we save the Planet?’ and was originally planned to involve a series of small tasks based on the effects of pollution. Having heard from the two visitors, I re-evaluated this and decided to be brave, step out of my comfort zone and try to develop our first real maths project.

Jackie Stent was able to put me in touch with Phil Tomlinson, the Divisional Energy Specialist for a large company in Ashington. I arranged a meeting with him to discuss the ways in which he could support the module of work. He was full of ideas to help; agreeing to launch the project through a letter to the students, and to view the work the students created to give them a real audience. We agreed to base the module around the recent Cancun meeting, where governments will meet to try to create a new Kyoto agreement, with each group of students being assigned a country’s data to work with.

I then had to decide how to launch the project to year eight in a way that would engage them. I decided to hold the first ‘Maths Assembly’ and booked the hub for the first lesson of the half term; but had to solve the problem of how to give it a hook! Having already identified a series of video clips to introduce students to the dangers of global warming, I tried to think of a way to go even further. Having seen the 3D screen in action for the school production of ‘Return to the Forbidden Planet’, when a dancing alien joined in with the cast, I thought about making use of the 3D facilities to get the students thinking about the context of the project.

Graham Quince and I designed a 3D true or false quiz, which students would answer by showing hands in assembly. A variety of facts, designed to emphasise the severity of the problems our planet is facing, would fly out in front of students as they were flown around the planet we were discussing. Graham built this and agreed to help out on the day in making sure everything went to plan; a vital help, which I couldn’t have done without!

And so the day finally arrived. Having never led a school assembly before, I was more nervous than I had been since my NQT year! The students filed in, the excitement growing as they were handed 3D glasses upon their arrival.

Students were a little unsettled in the first assembly, but with small adaptations made to the running order the second assembly went much more smoothly and effectively. Students were desperate to wear the glasses; asking whether they should wear them for each bit of video. The enthusiasm they had for the task can be clearly seen and feedback from students has been extremely positive.

“I think that the 3D was amazing. I think we should do projects like this more often. ” – Luke, Year 8

There are still, however, further improvements to be made. I found it difficult to discuss the answers to questions during the excitement of 3D viewing; staff have suggested that they would like more time to discuss the questions and ideas promoted in the assembly when back in the classroom, which we will implement when the module next runs.

Only time will tell how the remainder of the project based learning goes, as we will be working on it for the remainder of this half term. The launch assembly brought this new maths project and the global issues it concerns, to the forefront of students’ attention; hopefully making all of the nerves worthwhile!

Ruth Christopher

 

Intervention in the Sixth Form: creating quality time with students (Issue 8, January 2011)

Welcome back to the Muse blog and what we hope will be an invigorating restart for it!  Over the coming weeks and months we are going to be working in reverse chronological order uploading articles previous published in the hard copy of Muse before the next new edition comes out.  We hope this will give you some great new ideas and help you to understand the journey we’ve been on.  – Ed.

Intervention in the Sixth Form: creating quality time with students

If I had a pound for every time the phrase “there’s not enough time” has been mentioned in relation to post-16 study I would be a very rich man.

Now, whilst we have always been able to restructure schemes of learning in order to absorb time constraints and therefore deliver the required content, what has had to take a back seat is the quality time – the time for reflection and consolidation.

It has become increasingly clear that if we are going to raise standards it is imperative that we “create” this quality time. That’s where our intervention programme comes in.

Our intervention programme is new and therefore embryonic, but what I am going to share with you is where we are at with it at the moment and more specifically address the following questions:

1. How are interventions triggered?

2. Who manages/oversees the programme and how?

3. Who runs the interventions? How and when?

4. What do we perceive as being the

How are interventions triggered?

Roughly 15 milestone assessments are planned into our schemes of learning both in year 12 and year 13. These assessments are not just marked and fed back with comments in the usual manner but scrutinized carefully in order to identify specific weaknesses for specific students.

The teacher will not only record the mark and grade in their mark book but also a note as to what the key misconceptions were, if any, in the students’ script. Interventions have also happened as a result of problems with homework and particular lessons but these have been much less in number.

Who manages/ oversees the programme and how?

A small team of three oversee the programme; myself, Anne Grant and Graham Macphail, but Anne really runs the show. All requests for interventions are fed to Anne in the first instance and she enters the name of the student and what intervention is required into a central spreadsheet in the department’s shared area. This allows us to store a wealth of useful information; useful not least for writing reports or when speaking to parents. Anne will then Frogmail the students, asking them to come to speak to her to arrange an appointment.

Who runs the interventions? How and when?

Each member of the sixth form teaching team has a shared responsibility for staffing intervention sessions. We try to ensure that we do not run interventions for our own classes where possible, as we believe that a different teacher’s approach may be more likely to hit home if the initial teaching did not in the first instance.

The sessions could be run either in the student’s free period, after school, before school (with Graham) or at a break or lunch time. It is worth noting that the sessions are not frequent enough to massively affect workload (in our opinion) and the benefits for the students in terms of confidence seem to justify the extra time spent.

What do we perceive as being the next steps for the programme?

The next steps for the programme will be to use it to enhance our schemes of learning, and not just in the 6th form. If we can identify topics that students of a certain ability struggle with, we can really nail down what the misconceptions are. Then we can strengthen our schemes of learning all the way through the school, so that the issue is addressed at the appropriate time. This information will almost certainly inform what we cover as part of our bridging course too.

Andrew Sargeson

From organisation to personalisation (Issue 8, January 2011)

As part of our continued professional development programme at school, we are undertaking professional enquiries from a choice of 12. These enquiries will be made up of groups of teachers enquiring into aspects of education, teaching and learning and hopefully engendering some positive change.

I was asked to facilitate the PEG (professional enquiry group) looking at personalisation, so as part of our two and a half day school conference staff could opt to go to a taster session for four of the PEGs before choosing the enquiry group we wanted to work with after half-term for the rest of the year. In my taster session, I started off by having a rolling slideshow of groups linked to a painting by a famous artist. Two of the groups had their first or nicknames and a picture of themselves on the PowerPoint, one group had their Mr/Ms name and a photo, one group had initials and no photo, and one group just had surnames. I was delightful to my first two groups during the Connect the Learning activity (draw what affects how you work on a daily basis), giving them sweets and praising them whilst I shouted at and ignored the other groups. In the first review, straight after the Connect, we discussed how that classroom set up made them feel. One colleague commented

“You treated us differently; you gave different things to different groups of people.” So I asked him, was that differentiation? We then discussed how one line of enquiry might be the difference between differentiation and personalisation. How can we ensure that school is personal to every child, not just to groups of learners? How do we ensure that we treat Amy as Amy and not just as CAT=108, MQT =B UQT=A? 

After a short video input we had some very interesting discussion about how we shift from organisation to personalization. What kind of shifts we might need to make in our school in order to achieve a personalised school which has 2,300 students in it? Not an easy task!

We then watched some excerpts of another video which is an animation based on an RSA talk given by Sir Ken Robinson last year. I watched the talk last year and thought it was great, but the new animation just takes it to another level! A fascinating, question raising talk! 

As part of our continued professional development programme at school, we are undertaking professional enquiries from a choice of 12. These enquiries will be made up of groups of teachers enquiring into aspects of education, teaching and learning and hopefully engendering some positive change.

I was asked to facilitate the PEG (professional enquiry group) looking at personalisation, so as part of our two and a half day school conference staff could opt to go to a taster session for four of the PEGs before choosing the enquiry group we wanted to work with after half-term for the rest of the year. In my taster session, I started off by having a rolling slideshow of groups linked to a painting by a famous artist. Two of the groups had their first or nicknames and a picture of themselves on the PowerPoint, one group had their Mr/Ms name and a photo, one group had initials and no photo, and one group just had surnames. I was delightful to my first two groups during the Connect the Learning activity (draw what affects how you work on a daily basis), giving them sweets and praising them whilst I shouted at and ignored the other groups. In the first review, straight after the Connect, we discussed how that classroom set up made them feel. One colleague commented

“You treated us differently; you gave different things to different groups of people.” So I asked him, was that differentiation? We then discussed how one line of enquiry might be the difference between differentiation and personalisation. How can we ensure that school is personal to every child, not just to groups of learners? How do we ensure that we treat Amy as Amy and not just as CAT=108, MQT =B UQT=A? 

After a short video input we had some very interesting discussion about how we shift from organisation to personalization. What kind of shifts we might need to make in our school in order to achieve a personalised school which has 2,300 students in it? Not an easy task!

We then watched some excerpts of another video which is an animation based on an RSA talk given by Sir Ken Robinson last year. I watched the talk last year and thought it was great, but the new animation just takes it to another level! A fascinating, question raising talk!