Friday, 2 January 2015

Verbal Feedback - in practice

I don't read dirty books 

I wanted to really keep up to date with my blog, however as other things go in the way it kind of fell by the wayside and I got out of the routine of updating it with anything of worth.  New year and all that though so I thought I would give it a whirl again! lets see how it goes. 

This year I have really tried to develop my practice as a middle leader, being a teaching leader fellow this has helped me to reflect upon my work as a middle leader but I also wanted to develop my practice in the classroom as I believe that teaching and learning is the ‘bread and butter’ of our job and this underpins everything.  Being a teaching leader fellow involved an intensive week long residential focused around developing an impact initiative part of this training was an in-depth look at the Education Endowment Foundations toolkit, this identifies studies that have found improvements in ‘narrowing the attainment gap’.   I was intrigued straight away at the ‘months gain’ verbal feedback offered students and I wanted to explore this further.
Time management
This was my biggest fear/ concern of this academic year.  I teach three subjects (One of them new this year) as well as my middle leadership responsibility as a head of year.  I was worried that making big changes to my practice would only lead to me being stretched further and it actually being detrimental to the student in my classes.  However I saw a way in which I could develop verbal feedback and it be a tweak to my practice rather than a big change.

After listening to @Martin_Clee during one of the Barnsley teachmeets I immediately saw an opportunity to combine this with verbal feedback.  DIRT – Dedicated improvement and reflection time, can be used to give students specific areas of improvement and the time to actually make the improvements suggested after marking.  This then dovetailed well with my schools marking policy (Praise, Action, Response and Check) When marking work I would give students specific ways to improve their work and highlight areas that could lead to them stretching themselves to really deepen their understanding. 
DIRT lessons
The lesson immediately after I have marked a piece of work would be a DIRT lesson.  Students would have feedback on their work and specific, personalised and tailored actions set which they would them work on independently throughout the lesson.  I then focused my time on speaking to each student individually about their work rate, habits, things they are doing well, ways to improve. All of this things I was previously trying to put in w when marking their books.  This made students engage with their work and really take ownership of it. Students responded in many ways some students had tears in their eyes as they were proud of their work other responded with setting themselves challenging targets to improve, One student came to speak to me two days later and asked if he could re-do his work.  I said that of course he can however it wouldn't alter his grade.   I believe this is the right course of action because I know that next time is will make the changes we spoke about before he hands it in to me. 

Has it helped?

I believe that building a DIRT lesson into my SOW has helped to give students the chance to reflect on their work, work independently and speak to me (by me, I obviously mean A TEACHER, im not so egotistical that I believe it is a benefit to speak to me!!).
It has also helped with my time management – my marking has become focused and a know that some things I will discuss with the student whilst some aspect would be part of the action points wrote in there books.

Did I bottle it?

We had a section 5 inspection during December, one of the lessons during the two days involved a DIRT lesson, however I chose not to have a lesson in this way.  I believed that fear was the biggest factor in this as I thought that the HMI might not has grasped it, or not liked it Do observer project their favored learning styles? So I thought I had bottled it.  However I believed that quality of teaching would not have been evidenced for an observation even though student achievement would have been.  I then read @LearningSpy ‘s blog on this subject and he put forward the notion that if quality of teaching as a factor was taken away then this problem would not be an issue.  A DIRT lesson is not a ‘bells and whistles’ lesson and very much the guide on the side rather than the sage on the stage, and why shouldn't it be?

Time spend marking their books was minimal in comparison to time spend responding to the actions, who was working harder? Me speaking to each student whilst sat down or student engaged in a personalised task for an hour?   I firmly believe students should be working harder because learning is hard.  Thank you for reading; hopefully I will keep this up this year!!

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Social Issues In Sport Enterprise Day

Just after Easter I walked up to my Head teacher and asked if I could run an enterprise day about the social issues in sport (Looking particular at Race, Gender, Sexuality, Religion)  I wanted to think big and make the day as interactive as I could with guest speakers and activities which the students would engage with.

The day involved Key Stage three so I wanted to make the activities appropriate for each year group.

Years 7s spent time looking at what are the characteristics of a positive role model are.  This was initiated by the students doing a diamond9 of characteristics of role models they began in groups by finding the 87 key words about role models (there is not 87 but if I said to the kids find as many as you can they would stop at 15, by putting a high number on it, generally the kids will react in the following way ‘no way is there 87 words!! But they then begin to think a little more creatively).  They will also start cheating and try to copy other tables but this isn’t a problem as they are still learning! Yes that’s right cheating is progress!!!

When they begin to reach around 50 you can sense their attention waning so allow them to have a spy in each group.  The spy will walk around the room trying to look for answers other groups have which his team could copy and add them on.  Once at 87 ask them as a group to rotate around all of the other groups trying to pick up ideas.  When returning to their own list they now need to pick out the 10 key words and write them onto a post it note.  They then discuss each key word and place them into a diamond9 (discarding the tenth word).

Split the group into two, one stays with their own diamond 9 and the other group rotates around each of the other diamind9s it is their aim to try and change the other diamond9.  After this has been done the class should all generally agree on what a good role model is.

I then gave each class 6 biographies from the sporting world

Joey Barton
David Beckham
Jessica Ennis
Victoria Pendleton
Didier Drogba
Michael Jordan

Each class discussed these when compared to their own individual set of characteristics as I was running the day I tried to call into as many classes as I could to see the quality of answers.  One student’s response will always stick in my head as it was quality! He said that Andrew Flintoff must be a positive role model even though he was involved in the fred-alo incident because he does the morrisons and jacamo adverts.  If worded a little better that could and would  be a fantastic answer about role models for a GCSE PE exam so I was pleased with how the year 7s element of the day panned out/

The year 8s had a look at gender and how an important role it plays they created a solo double bubble hot map about the different perceptions of women in sport, the stereotypical views of women throughout the year and how that has changed, this section I didn’t feel work as well as I hoped and my initial thoughts were that the students had not really grasped the initiative and didn’t really go deep into the learning.  However when I returned to school in September I couldn’t believe how many of the students spoke to me about women in sport although I think this was largely down to the success of the amazing women in team GB.

The year 9s split into three sections, they were either looking at race, religion or sexuality. 

The students who were looking at race met a company called FURDS (Football Unites Racism Divides) these are a Sheffield based charity and I would strongly recommend you get then into school they were fantastic and discussed issues with the students who in turn struck up a good debate within the environment.  This is one of the key things I wanted to develop during the day = students looking at a serious issue and discussing it with levels of maturity.  FURDS also brought in a giant inflatable football pitch which the students also loved!

For more information on FURDS please visit

The religion discussion was lead by Bruce Dyer, Brice is genuinely one of the nicest people I know and as I am a Barnsley fan he also is a bit of a hero of mine! Bruce came into school and discussed Christianity and how his religion helped him through sport.  He also runs a charity called love life and works tirelessly to give people the chances they deserve more information on love life can be found here

The final section was the sexuality in sport part, I wanted to really get the students talking and discussion the issues and I had mixed responses, some really positive however some students just switched off and did not want to discuss it at all.  The stimulus I used for this was the BBC documentary about homophobia in football.  The students worked independently to write down their thoughts of the video before discussing it in a class setting. 

Overall I feel the day was a success – I wanted students to be discussing the issues and forming their own balanced opinion and I think I achieved that. It was nerve wracking at times as it was the first time I have done anything like that but I would do it again and would recommend it to anyone!

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Hints, tips & things I have picked up - differentiation

Over this last year I have looked to develop my classroom style to suit the individual needs of my students for example I am completely different when with my year 7 low ability history class than I am with my Y10 top set GCSE PE class.  This may sound the basic of things but when I first started teaching I genuinely thought I could stand at the front of the lesson and act in the same way.

This year I have made a conscious effort to improve student independence in lessons and to differentiate each students learning to allow for good and outstanding progress in each lesson.  I used a Y7 History class to act a guinea pigs for these trials as I felt I had built up a good enough relationship with them to try different things and they would be on board with it rather than it going completely wrong mid lesson.

The first thing I looked to do was to group my learners this is something which i have always done in PE and i thought it would work really well in a classroom based lesson also.  I put the students into groups based on progress targets and gave them all names, as we were doing 1066 at the time, I gave them names such as William, Harold, Alfred.  This allowed me to set objectives for each student within the group and also a bonus objective so everyone has the opportunity to make outstanding progress.

I had to think long and hard about this I wasn't trying to kid myself that by putting names of the groups the students wouldn't realise which group they were, but I reasoned that it was in the students best interests to allow them to make the progress needed.  I wasn't capping the students learning because I at no point said you can only achieve this.  The beginning of every lesson involved the students discussing their target of good progress and then stetting themselves a target to make outstanding progress.  For example if a student was in the 'WIlliam' group good progress would be Level 4 and their outstanding target would be to achieve the 'Harold' but I was in no way saying they couldn't achieve 'Alfred'.

Within the lesson I pointed out which section of learning allowed for good and outstanding progress. especially with extended pieces of writing.
This system allowed me to structure my lessons in a clearer way which allowed for me to never stop the whole class which would result in lost learning time and some students would find the questioning pointless as it does not relate to their learning.  I was also able to improve my questioning as I could tailor it to each group.

The next step I took in this method was to select group leaders on each table they would facilitate the learning of the group and would allow for me to set each task off again without stopping the whole group. It also allowed for a better quality of break-out time to use embed deeper learning and understanding.

The next issue  wanted to answer was the classes ability to work independently.  I began by putting in different techniques to alter their mindset, now none of these I claim to have 'invented' I have picked them up from teach meets, Twitter etc.... I first of all used a traffic light system when doing independent work.  As i set a task I turned my background red, this signalled that it was their time to work alone, they could not ask me or their peers questions and if they were 'stuck' they would have to work it out for themselves.  I altered the way in which I this, sometimes I looked simple at a time period and displayed the time remaining sometimes I changed as I felt it warranted.  The first time I did this is really panicked, as I walked around the classroom seeing some students busy working away I was really pleased, however the students who did not pick up a pen for the first 5 minutes really got me worrying, you know they ones - OFSTED or some member of SLT always seam to be drawn to those students during observations.  I wanted to go straight to them and help them and had to stop myself.  I was asking several questions at this point - can I handle it? have my students previously learnt nothing as I have spoon fed them? what do I do if the headteacher walks in and that student, who they WOULD be drawn to, is still doing nothing?  I then moved my students into the amber section, where I allowed them to ask peers on their table.  I was amazed at how more structured the questions were, these students had worked on a subject for 10 minutes and were still as engaged without me doing anything really! Once in the green section the floodgates opened and I was back to the students asking me every question possible and expecting me to spoon feed it to them again.

This needed a little work so I began to put in the following ideas - again I don't claim any of them to be my own.  When in the green section I used things such as 'ask 3 before me' to ensure the students were asking me higher order questions and then the discussion within the group was more focused and allowed me to bounce ideas from one student to another.  I only allowed the students to ask me one questions per table, which enabled the students to review the questions and they could act as moderators.  If a students asked me a question I would write it on the board and then but their initials on it so if someone asked me the same question I directed them to the student who asked it first.  This developed into students who read the question on the board and then wrote an answer. The final piece I looked to implement was getting students who had finished their work to help others instead of completing an extension task.

I feel that all of these things have really helped progress my learners not only in History but in all lessons as they will hopefully use these simple techniques in other lessons.

I shared these ideas wit another member of the school who taught many of the same children and she was able to put in several of the techniques discussed with greater ease as the students already knew what to expect.

As i keep saying none of these are groundbreaking ideas and I do not claim any of them to be my own, but they have worked for me, so hopefully someone will find them useful!!!

Cheers Ben

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Sky Sports 'Living for Sport' Program

For the second year running we have taken part in the Living for Sport project ran jointly by the youth Sport Trust and Sky Sports.  This years project has had a makeover and as you maybe aware a lot of time has been spent on the launch and marketing of the project.  This is something which I feel has been a benefit to the project.

The students chosen to be involved this year were identified by the leadership qualities they have shown in PE lessons throughout Key Stage Three.  The project launch was also run differently this year and a mentor from the youth sport trust came to meet the students straight away.  We were really lucky in this respect, as we met Jenna Downing (Xtreme Inline Skating World Championship & World Number 1) and Paul Broadbent (Captain of the Sheffield Eagles Challenge Cup Winning side).  Jenna led the session and Paul shadowed, as Paul is new to the process and was their to (in his own words) build up his confidence speaking to students in an educational setting, now i'm 6'3" and Paul towered over me, his also is the size of a door so quite what he was worrying about I do not know!!!!

This session went really well and all of the students were engaged in the learning and came out with lots of ideas of how they wanted to structure the learning.  It was decided that the students would do six after school sport sessions which they would each take turns in leading sections of it.  All the sports were chosen by themselves and I simply facilitated it.  The sports chosen were:-  Boxing, Circuit Training, Tennis, Trampolining, Boccia & Volleyball this allowed for a number of team and individual sports being catered for and multi abled sports.  The key thing which we wanted the students to get out of it was the confidence to deliver extra curricular sport to younger members of the school and then some of our primary partner schools. 

After the six weekly sessions were complete Jenna was invited back into work with the students, this day visit had a specific focus on goal setting and a session what Jenna termed 'the six keys to success' this allowed the students to set their own targets, both sporting and academic.  they also spent time having a go at Inline skating and trying some jumps and tricks.

The final part of the session involved the students intervewing Jenna for the school newspaper.  I also used this time to interview her using specific questions to GCSE and about the David scenario which has been a great help to my GCSE class.

Next Steps

The students all had a positive experience during this project and i would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to promote independent learners and promoting a growth mindset.

The project has now led to the students delivering extra curricular clubs and leading primary events which include the planning of a sports day!!

for further information on Jenna, Paul and the project see the links below.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Developing SOLO in my classroom

During an Easter revision session I wanted to develop the use of SOLO not only for stand alone lessons bur for use from now until their exam at the end of May.  Using the Pam Hook book 'SOLO Taxonomy: A guide for schools' I searched out for a way to use SOLO for section B of the AQA GCSE PE exam.  Section B consists of a scenario and then questions ranging from 2 - 8 marks available.  These questions could be from any topic within the GCSE spec.  The first thing I wanted to do was create a wordle of the scenario so the students would be able to pick out possible topics.
Once they had worked through this we then discussed possible questions which may appear in section B.  Using Kiplings questions (Thanks to @Davidfawcett27)  the students wrote their own questions about several topics 
I then introduced the Hot Solo Maps - to do this I again used the wordle of the scenario and looked at the mind map they had produced this showed understanding in a prestructural form.  I then got each student to pick out one topic to concentrate on.  For example they may have picked out training methods.  They would then show their understanding of the topic in general forming closer to a unistructural understanding.  In the third box I then asked the students to relate it back to David and how training methods affect him.  This showed more of a relational understanding of the topic and would ensure higher marked when answering the questions requiring extended pieces of writing. 
Finally I asked the students to link a further topic to the idea meaning the students are able to develop their answers and are in the extended abstract phase of their understanding.

Next Steps

During the next six weeks I intend to continue to use the hot maps so the students eventually build up a bank of answers showing deeper learning which will mean the students will achieve a better grade in the longer questions.

The SOLO taxonomy learning is something which is relatively new to me but I can only see positives from it.  It lends itself to allowing the students to work independently and also with regards to scripting longer answers in the exam.

I am planning on using this as an example at the Barnsley TeachMeet as I a feel this type of  SOLO has got potential to transfer into all subjects.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Jigsaw Collaboration

This was idea was given to me through twitter (As is the majority of my recent lesson developments!)  I wanted to cover quite a large chunk of the spec (AQA GCSE PE) in a short time but i didn't want it to turn out to be a 'chalk and talk lesson'.  Watching the following YouTube video I began to plan a jigsaw collaboration lesson.

 The video is really simple and explains clearly what you need to do.  As the students are working in 'expert groups' it allows for you to move around the room and question the students and deepen their understanding.  It also allows for students to become experts in certain aspects  of the learning and they are able to pick out key areas of the learning.  This enables students to become independent learners and they also become the teachers as they develop ideas with their peers.

As this lesson took place I did very little in terms of 'teaching' I was there to support and develop students but not as a traditional teacher.  As you are aware from the title of my blog this is something I am trying to develop in my classroom.  This did take a lot of planning because I wanted to provide for every possible situation.  However the reward for this planning was clear when you saw the students working and the fact they were still engaged in the learning and topic walking out of the lesson (90 minutes later) was a testament to the learning strategies used.

Happy Easter to you all

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

First Attempt at SOLO Learning

As a teacher of PE I feel it is important to promote independent learning wherever possible.  I always structure my practical lesson in a fashion which allows me to set tasks which will show the students making progress and also build up their confidence in the sport which we are doing.  However this is something, which on reflection, I could improve on my theory side of things.  My GCSE group are fast approaching their exam. Previous exam analysis has shown that students in the main have not got the highest grades because they do not answer the longer questions because they do not look at the bigger picture of what the question is asking.  To help combat this I spoke to an AST in school (@JaneH271) who pointed me in the direction of SOLO taxonomy. 

The lesson I choose to trial SOLO was a lesson about Health and Safety, with particular focus on clothing, equipment and footwear.  Rather than introducing the topic I simply gave the students a picture to act as a stimulus for the topic.  The students then went to work annotating the picture with any details they could think of, this is what is termed as the preconstructral phase as the details have no link and therefore only show shallow thinking.  I then introduced the hexagons as a way of linking the learning, this was the only time i modelled the process as I gave an example of how it can link to other topics within the GCSE PE spec.

As the students went about setting up their hexagons I walked around the room and questioned students to ensure their understanding was there.  I was amazed at how the students began to form links and the hexagons began to branch off into different directions and moving more towards the extended abstract phase which would ensure students have a better understanding of the topic and what the examiner is looking for.