Concentrate on the learning not the teaching
- What do you want them to learn (related to curriculum standards – not personal preference)? How is this informed by your ongoing assessment of what they have already covered?
- Have they got the prior knowledge (key facts, contextual information & vocabulary) to access the next steps that you want them to take? Is there a way you can make this prior knowledge more explicit and accessible for parents who may be able to support at home? Knowledge organisers can help to ensure that key information and vocabulary is readily available – and you don’t then have to reproduce it every year.
- What did they actually learn? Will you find time to ‘assess through talk’ to check that their interpretation of what you said/planned is the same as your intention?
- How will you know they’ve learnt it? When will there be opportunities to revisit the concept or apply the skill in a different context?
Same starter and plenary
Goes back to first question – what do you want them to learn, what did they learn and how do you know? Can use same starter and plenary to show progress… BUT need to think about question carefully.
Start by placing a picture of Henry VIII on the table and children writing down what they know of him. Could then take pictures of the images to share and compare with those from the end. Image at the end could have Henry VIII in the middle with others around him. What have they learnt about Henry, what did others think of him – Catherine of Aragon, a peasant, Pope.
Plan your questions
Did you know that the NHS cut rates of MRSA in half and C Difficile by 40% by pushing hand washing – the most basic things are the most important!
Research (Wragg and Brown, 2001) suggests questioning is most effective when…
- questions have been planned, visually displayed and closely linked to the objectives of the lesson;
- the learning of basic skills has been enhanced by frequent questioning following the exposition of new content that has been broken down into bite-size pieces;
- each step has been followed by guided practice that provides opportunities for pupils to consolidate what they have learnt and which allows teachers to check understanding;
- where closed questions have been used to check factual understanding and recall;
- where sequences of questions have been planned so that cognitive levels increase as the questioning continues. This ensures that pupils have been encouraged to answer questions that demand increasingly higher-order thinking skills;
- where the classroom climate has been such that pupils have felt secure enough to take risks, be tentative and make mistakes.
Use mnemonics or songs
If you want to remember the speed of light… (count the letters in each word)
we guarantee certainty, clearly referring to this light mnemonic
Make up your own or search the internet
Give the pupils their own space
You could divide one of your display boards up into 6/10/30 sections and let the children take care of their own plot… a sort of display board allotment idea. They could place pictures from home, their own interests, content related to class work. You might be surprised how creative they can be!
Give instant feedback
Marking can often take place after the event and pupils may not get to see it until a day later… at the earliest. How can you change your system to ensure marking is more responsive?
- Use worked examples so that pupils can clearly see what they are supposed to be doing. Often pupils are thrown into problem solving too early. Providing models eases the load on their working memory and gives you the chance to see pupils without a constant flurry of requests for the answers.
- Pupils can mark their work as they go (every 3-5 questions). If they are struggling you can get to them after 3 mistakes rather than 30!
- Make time for them to respond to feedback. If you take time to mark their work and give next steps for learning, make sure they have time to read and comment on it.
- Get them to do their corrections. Time is always precious, but corrections allow them to consolidate learning, address misconceptions and respond to feedback. Find the time!
- Reward pupils who can contribute to a ‘learning conversation’ in their books. Can they explain what it is they don’t understand? Writing ‘I don’t get it’ doesn’t help you. But if they wrote ‘I don’t get how to use the bottom number of the fraction’ you are going to be able to help them. This skill is important as it helps children to become reflective learners.
Repetition, repetition, repetition
The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve
The brain is like a sieve, constantly leaking knowledge. Speed of forgetting can be affected by: stress, difficulty of material, sleep. But we all forget things exponentially. The more you repeat the learning and refill the sieve with the learning water, the smaller the holes are and the slower the knowledge is forgotten.
How often do you recap your learning?
- Use starters to recap learning: bring up yesterday, last week and last month
- Pop quizzes on topics already covered
- End of unit assessments to revise for – often tests are taken from published material which might not actually relate to what was taught. TEACH BACKWARDS… think about what you want the pupils to be able to do by the end of the unit. Write that test, then go backwards to ensure that your unit of work addresses these skills so that they will be able to demonstrate their learning in the test. Ideally, do a pre test so that you don’t waste time on areas where they are already very confident.
- Opportunities to go over marking from yesterday and react/respond to it
- Add to mind maps during a topic and then look back at other knowledge you have added already – this could be done as a class on a working wall.
Practice is the route to expert automation – the ability to do a difficult task or skill without even thinking.