On Friday we held our second annual Festival of Learning following the success of the event we held last year. Once again we were delighted to run this collaboratively with our colleagues from Samuel Rhodes School, our co-located special school partners . Here’s a flavour of the ideas that were shared.
Teachmeet: A series of short presentations from teachers.
Angus: Motivation and mastery in Maths.
Angus told how he had tackled his ‘shoal of goldfish’ who would ask ‘why do you never teach us what’s going to come up on the test?’ (having forgotten everything). He’s had great success with repeated low-stakes testing using questions from his problem-generating spreadsheet and Bronze, Silver, Gold rewards system and repeated marks out of 10 test format. The talk referenced Bjork, over-learning and a joke about how we’ve seen enough of the Austin’s butterfly picture not to ever need to see it again. The motivational rewards linked to repeated tests has been very effective with scores improving and class attitudes changing. I liked Angus’ idea that instead of talking about ‘worked examples’, we say ‘I’ll do the first two questions for you’. Then off they go.
Max: Google Classroom
Max, our e-learning coordinator outlined the key benefits or adopting Google Classroom as our VLE and homework setting system. We’re in the process of discussing whether to do this from September. The potential is huge – the question is how quickly to go. The integration of document creation and storage, email, calendar features, homework setting and online assessment all linked dynamically to SIMS for class lists and timetables is very attractive.
Alex and Becky H: Reading in Humanities
Two History and RS teachers shared their contrasting views on how to teach reading, in the context of the whole school agenda to adopt a Michaela-style daily reading diet from September. This included the pros and cons of line-by-line comprehension, the process of chunking, paraphrasing a chunk to show understanding, the debate around Round Robin Reading, issues of accuracy and fluency, and the need to map out core knowledge as preliminary activity. This highlighted how important it will be for us to explore how to teach reading as an element of our CPD; it’s not enough just to decide reading is a good thing.
Becky K: Why does grammar matter?
Head of English, Becky, gave a quick and emphatic demonstration of the need for students to learn grammar including punctuation. The suggestion was that, when we focus on content and knowledge, we overlook grammar but we shouldn’t.
Let’s eat Grandma.
Alan: Stoicism – a philosophy for wellbeing?
Second year Science teacher Alan explained the philosophy of stoicism; the notion of rational pessimism and how this helps him to manage the challenges of early career teaching; to help him keep things in perspective, promoting well-being and mental health. Whilst this isn’t an approach we might all subscribe to (too negative/pessimistic?), the underlying issue of needing to look after ourselves deserves to be emphasised in the context of CPD.
Phil: Post-modern explorations in art.
Head of Art, Phil Diggle, explored some of his current thinking. This included the following quote from Tom Stoppard (one of the more accessible ideas in the presentation!)
“We’re more of the love, blood, and rhetoric school. Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can’t give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory. They’re all blood, you see.” Tom Stoppard,
Cecile: Rhetoric in French
French teacher Cecile gave a superbly detailed explanation of the process she’s gone through with her lower set Year 9 class, working towards every student giving a talk about themselves in French from memory. This included the initial challenge of self-belief and motivation, then the need to build up their vocabulary, the drafting and re-drafting of their speeches, a range of memory techniques as they learned them by heart and, finally, the presentation techniques including aspects of pronunciation. The final video clip was amazing; students who did not know they could do this, talking from memory in French. Stunning.
Muna. EPQ presentation
Year 13 student, Muna, gave us a sample of her EPQ presentation. This highlighted the EPQ structure, some of the content of her essay on radiography and the process of undertaking the research and structure of the essay. We’re going be running this for all Y12s next year so this was a fabulous taster.
Matt from Samuel Rhodes: Communicate in Print
Matt demonstrated their use of the programme they used to link words to symbols to help SEND students to engage with the ideas in text. He showed a framework for writing and illustrated how the approach could be used where, for example, a student has trouble processing day-to-day priorities such as how to manage time so they can eat and play during the lunch hour.
Jane: OB video
We wrapped up the teachmeet with a video of highlights from the most recent Outward Bound week; always fantastic to see our students in a different context, achieving and developing in new ways.
This is my favourite form of CPD:
Using a set of classrooms around the library, all staff had set up stalls highlighting just one aspect of their professional learning/thinking from the year. Happily, rhetoric and knowledge were prominent. Our Trivium focus is showing through in the conversations people are having and the work they are doing in the classroom.
With so much to see, I didn’t manage to see everything but here is a snapshot from my tour around the marketplace:
Art: Exemplar portfolios – a teacher produced a full exemplar portfolio and final piece to show students what an exceptional example might look like; another teacher showcased her unit connecting the work of artists to current affairs issues – e.g. the war in Syria.
Google Classroom: Max, was mobbed by staff eager to learn more following the earlier presentation.
History: A unit on medicine through time featured learning by heart and role-play to tell the story. The art/power of story telling was a strong theme. There were interesting discussions about engagement with the overarching story as a precursor to successful analysis of historical concepts and retention of knowledge.
Geography: Lots of excellent ideas about revision, note-taking, summarising knowledge – discussion around the needs of students with different abilities (is it making the notes or having the notes that make the difference?). Students at KS3 were making flash cards, detailed summary pages and, at KS4, using the Cornell notes system.
Sociology: A detailed exploration of the use of images to help with learning – the recall and application of knowledge. We had a great discussion about the research process; the problem with controlling variables etc. Some results were mixed whilst some students had made real gains and valued the process.
MFL: This display included language mats used to reinforce classroom dialogue in the target language; motivational competitive games using invasion maps of different countries; videos of rhetoric – the learning by heart in Year 9 highlighted by Cecile earlier. One teacher discussed how one major outcome was changing his own level of confidence in the process; he’d be sceptical but was delighted to see just how much students could learn and remember through this process. Next time, he’ll approach it with even more vigour, knowing what students can achieve.
Science: Here we had a demo of the robotics equipment and the hands-on value of making models of biological processes – e.g. model digestive system. Year 11s had made a superb revision tips video and there was interesting work on redrafting graphs. This highlighted how difficult some lower ability students find it to put numbers on a scale; for some it’s a big conceptual leap beyond simply writing them in order, equally spaced.
PE: The highlight for me was the use of students as coaches including in the swimming pool. This gives a role to elite performers to share their expertise in a mixed ability class as well and provides an opportunity to develop their confidence with speaking.
Maths: Ideas included the test, re-test process showing how much progress students can make; rhetoric – some fantastic example of students giving pedagogical inputs, explaining model answers; the process of redrafting graphs to produce excellent finished articles; the value of students re-drafting multi-step solutions. Of course, Angus was there again showing his infinite problem generator and rewards system.
Behaviour. The Behaviour Team show-cased the work students do in the Behaviour Support Centre – it’s an impressive programme with subject specific inputs and individualised weekly progress reports. An English teacher highlighted an excellent method for using the C1-C3 system to eliminate disruptive behaviours and specific ‘rude phrases’ – a case of highlighting a precise issue and being focused and consistent in giving sanctions at the lowest level until the frequency of this issue dropped. The evidence presented was impressive.
English: Ideas shared included how to conduct class reading in the BSC with reluctant readers; the idea of using diagrams to reinforce ideas (drawing language) in English with Y7 and 11; a research study on the use of Harkness tables for class discussion; an interesting approach to marking where the teacher used a number code to highlight common errors referenced against a key.
Student Support: The department show-cased the materials used in our Thinking Reading and Lexia schemes; the EAL team showed examples of work produced in Turkish and Bengali.
The Samuel Rhodes team had set up a Differentiation Station showing a huge range of resources and templates for scaffolding work, making it accessible to students with significant learning needs.
Drama. There was an exploration of the assessment process in a scheme of work based on image theatre; a record of the work done by students on rhetoric/presentation via a unit exploring their personal lives.
Music. This year teachers had explored Think-Pair-Share starter activities based around specific concepts; the idea of Class DJ where students have brought in their own music to be subjected to the formal process musical analysis. Evidently some bleeping out of certain lyrics was required! There as an exploration of the department’s focus on improving the quality of questioning in music via structured questions, no hands up method, TPS etc. There as an excellent resource devised to support the guided analysis of set-works at GCSE. Amongst all of this was a trumpet which we were invited to play; very hands-on!
To conclude the day we ran two excellent voluntary discussion forums. The first was on behaviour – attended by well over 40 people eager to contribute to our ongoing drive to improve standards of behaviour. The second was on assessment where we considered ideas about streamlining our reporting and assessment process in order to maximise the impact to effort ratio which is too low. Both sessions have helped enormously in the process of clarifying our ideas and working out priorities.