Now that exam season is fast approaching it is worth having a quick refresher on all the digital tools available to you and your students to support the revision process and make use of anytime, anywhere learning.
With exams upon students in a matter of weeks, it is important to consider which revision strategies can be implemented – and which are successful.
The key to revision is ensuring that students are using the cognitive part of their brain i.e. thinking about their own learning. Three commonly used revision techniques that appear to have very little impact on learning because they do not use cognitive thinking, have been identified as:
- Highlighting texts
- Summarising texts
However, five key revision strategies that use cognitive thinking are as follows, (edited from https://classteaching.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/supporting-learning-through-effective-revision-techniques/):
1. Practice Testing
This technique is pretty straightforward – students keep testing themselves (or each other) on what they have got to learn. This technique has been shown to have the highest impact in terms of supporting student learning. Some ways in which students can do this easily:
- Create flashcards, with questions on one side and answers on the other
- Work through past exam papers
- Quiz each other on key bits of information
- Create multiple choice quizzes for friends to complete
2. Distributed Practice
Rather than cramming all of their revision for each subject into one block, it’s better to space it out – from now, through to the exams. Why is this better? Bizarrely, because it gives them some forgetting time. This means that when they come back to it a few weeks later, they will have to think harder, which actually helps them to remember it. Furthermore, the more frequently you come back to a topic, the better you remember it.
3. Elaborate Interrogation
One of the best things that students can do (either to themselves or with a friend) to support their revision is to ask why an idea or concept is true – and then answer that why question. For example;
- In science, increasing the temperature can increase the rate of a chemical reaction….why?
- In geography, the leisure industry in British seaside towns like Barry Island in South Wales has deteriorated in the last 4 decades….why?
- In history, in 1929 the American stock exchange collapsed. This supported Hitler’s rise to power….why?
So, rather than just trying to learn facts or ideas by reading them over and over, students should get into the habit of asking themselves why these things are true.
4. Self Explanation
Rather than looking at different topics from a subject in isolation, students should try to think about how this new information is related to what they know already. This is where mind- maps might come in useful – but the process of producing the mind map, is probably more useful than the finished product. So, they should think about a key central idea (the middle of the mind map) and then how new material, builds on the existing knowledge in the middle.
Alongside this, when they are solving a problem e.g. in maths, they should explain to someone the steps they took to solve the problem.
5. Interleaved Practice
When students are revising a subject, the temptation is to do it in ‘blocks’ of topics. Like below:
The problem with this is, is that it doesn’t support the importance of repetition – which is so important to learning. So, rather than revising in ‘topic blocks’ it’s better to chunk these topics up in their revision programme and intertwine them:
With exams and coursework deadlines looming, it is a particularly busy time of year. It is always important to remember that not all our learners enjoy the same content and that they need a variety in delivery methods, in order to sustain their concentration and learning focus. Below, you will find a combination of learning styles with a ‘Goffs Idea’ that can hopefully be easily adapted for any lesson.
Article retrieved from learning-styles-online.com
Research shows us that each learning style uses different parts of the brain. By involving more of the brain during learning, we remember more of what we learn. Researchers using brain-imaging technologies have been able to find out the key areas of the brain responsible for each learning style.
- Visual: The occipital lobes at the back of the brain manage the visual sense. Both the occipital and parietal lobes manage spatial orientation
- Goffs Idea: As students to See – Think – Wonder using an image
- Aural: The temporal lobes handle aural content. The right temporal lobe is especially important for music
- Goffs Idea: Listen to and recreate a tune, or content to a tune
- Verbal: The temporal and frontal lobes (in the left hemisphere of these two lobes)
- Goffs Idea: Explain a theory or a solution to a classmate
- Physical: The cerebellum and the motor cortex (at the back of the frontal lobe) handle much of our physical movement
- Goffs Idea: Ask students to form a physical learning wall as part of checking their learning
- Logical: The parietal lobes, especially the left side, drive our logical thinking
- Goffs Idea: Get class to debate a topic or have to justify a controversial idea
- Social: The frontal and temporal lobes handle much of our social activities. The limbic system (not shown apart from the hippocampus) also influences both the social and solitary styles. The limbic system has a lot to do with emotions, moods and aggression
- Goffs Idea: Allow students the opportunity to Think-Pair-Share
- Solitary: The frontal and parietal lobes, and the limbic system, are also active with this style
- Goffs Idea: Independent work, class tests and exams fall into this category so it is important that all learners are trained in solitary learning
We are finally in our New Build – and what a lovely teaching environment to start the new year in. With that in mind I am sharing some strategies that Dr. Harry Wong, educator, educational speaker and author, claims work with any class.
At the start of a new year, whether it be academic or calendar year, it can be difficult to feel prepared for school—in fact, can you ever really be ready for a class of students you may never have met? Or maybe last year was particularly rough, or you’ve heard rumors about your upcoming class, and that stress gets carried over into the new school year.
Whatever the reason, experts agree that the best antidote for a bad case of back-to-school butterflies is a detailed classroom management plan—one that outlines your every move from the first day of school. So we asked for advice from the experts’ experts: Harry and Rosemary Wong, authors of “The First Days of School” and “THE Classroom Management Book.”
“Just as a pilot has a flight plan and a coach has a game plan, effective teachers have a classroom management plan that students learn and understand,” say the Wongs.
This plan is more than just a list of teaching strategies. It’s a way of operating in the classroom that allows teachers to be proactive rather than reactive. Do it right, they say, and you never have to waste time repeating what students should be doing or reprimanding them for misbehaving.
Just follow the following three simple steps:
1. Establish ground rules
Procedures govern everything we do in life. Without procedures, these otherwise orderly activities would create mayhem. Students require similar constructs. They learn best when they know what to expect.
To that end, the Wongs recommend starting the first day of school with a script, or better yet, a PowerPoint presentation, that explains procedures, walks students through their responsibilities and ensures every student understands how to be successful. In fact, according to the Wongs, successful teachers have procedures for everything from selecting seats to exiting the classroom at the end of the day.
2. Consistency is key
Students thrive in a safe classroom environment that is predictable, reliable and consistent. “One of the most important gifts we can give our students is to be consistent,” say the Wongs. “Students need to feel that someone is responsible for their environment—someone who not only sets limits, but maintains them.”
While the agenda may change from day to day, the classroom procedures and transitions remain the same. It’s an ideal construct for learning—and retaining—new information since kids don’t have to waste precious brainpower wondering what’s next. Instead they can focus their attention on their learning.
3. Be positive!
Just saying, “hello,” “welcome,” or “I’m glad you’re here,” can make a dramatic impact on a child’s learning.
When students meet your expectations, call attention to their actions with specific praise. It’s not enough to say “Good job, Nicole,” or “Nice work, Johnny.” You have to identify the specific behaviour you want to encourage. The bonus: Students who weren’t paying attention have another opportunity to learn what’s expected of them.
A structured classroom also improves your attitude and leadership, which projects outward. If you view your glass (and class) as half-full, your kids will, too.
What is a more able student?
More able students are identified on SIMS in the Key Stage 2 column as those who have come in as HIGH on entry. A large number of our cohorts are classified as most able on entry to Year 7 and although this varies between year groups as they go through the school, their progress can be affected if we plan to teach ‘to the middle.’ Instead by teaching both to the top and by supporting the bottom, we can ensure that all students in a given class can make good progress.
Sutherland and Stack: Guidelines for addressing the needs of highly able students
According to Sutherland and Stack’s article, challenge for more able students can be provided in the following ways:
- Identifying the student’s next steps and creating cognitive dissonance
- Injecting elements of novelty and variety into the learning experience
- Encouraging metacognition
- Offering opportunities for independence and self-direction
- Encouraging risk-taking
- Providing opportunities to work with like-minded peers
Strategies: What could we do?
To build on some of the ideas presented at the most recent INSET a few weeks ago, here is a list of strategies suggested by staff in order to support the more able:
- Teach to the top and support through middle and lower abilities
- Give extension tasks to more able students that specifically target analytical skills
- Ensure that learning objectives are tiered through Bloom’s Taxonomy and that they achieve levels for more able students
- Encourage talk between different groups of students in the classroom. This will encourage more able students to take on a lead or, in fact, nominate them as Lead Learners
- Build higher order thinking skills into every lesson
- Develop seating plans based on ability to encourage inter-ability conversation
Overall, we must ensure that more able students, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, receive specific support to overcome barriers to their learning. There will be nuances relating to subjects and personal teacher preferences as to how this is achieved.
Let me ask you a question: who do you have in front of you in your year 12 class?
Is it a bright student who has coasted through GCSE without ever really working, or is it a set 3 student who isn’t sure they fit into this group?
Maybe it’s an external student who is worrying about making friends, or an A* student who doesn’t know how to learn from mistakes, because they’ve never really made any?
My experiences as an A level English teacher and a Sixth Form pastoral leader have taught me that for the most part, successful year 12 students are made, not born. So in a year where multiple curriculum changes have made giving our Sixth Form students the very best chance, just a little bit harder, I set out to try to identify some key strategies for delivering outstanding courses at key stage 5.
Let’s return to our first question, because our A level or BTEC year 12 class have not turned magically into polished Sixth Form students over the summer holiday and if we assume that they have, we are missing out on both an opportunity and a responsibility to train them in how to work effectively in our subject. To gain an insight into the students’ perspective, I decided to start by surveying them in early December on their initial experiences of their year 12 courses.
The good news was that 90% of students were finding their lessons pitched at either the right level or were finding them challenging, but accessible. With a mixed ability cohort across a range of subjects, these statistics were encouraging. However, another area of feedback struck me as needing further thought. Although 89% of students were finding lessons useful, only around 20% of students felt that they were always shown how to make progress, and nearly a quarter lacked confidence about meeting their targets. To get a fuller picture, I enlisted the support of a colleague, Olya Iasisen, and we set about carrying out some student voice with different ability groups. The feedback was both revealing and surprisingly consistent. Students liked:
- Teachers who project confidence about their knowledge of specifications – especially new ones.
- Information on exam structure, assessment criteria, past papers or example questions.
- Explicit guidance about how to structure and word answers, including model answers.
- Detailed feedback on homework and mock exams.
- Explicit guidance about what to do to reach the next level.
- Access to powerpoints, so that they can listen rather than taking notes.
- One to one conversations.
It became clear to us, that building confidence was central to creating a resilient and positive mindset in our students. This was particularly crucial in the case of phase 1 subjects, where some staff had unwittingly undermined confidence by revealing their own anxieties about teaching a new specification or by highlighting the lack of past papers and exemplar material. And of course, as we all know, students don’t want to share our stress, our job is to make them feel safe and secure.
Over the next few weeks we fed back to staff and also worked with Heads of Department, Sixth Form students and the Sixth Form Pastoral Team to identify key strategies for ensuring good practice. Unsurprisingly, we found that clear planning, knowing our students, and building confidence and independence were all interconnected and underpinned successful teaching and learning. Below is a summary of those ideas, and some practical ways in which they might be applied.
Ensuring that students know how to progress and that they are aware of how we help them to do this:
- Provide mark schemes, including student friendly ones. Refer constantly to assessment criteria in lessons and on work. Be explicit in wording feedback – for example, “In order to reach the next level, you need to…”
- Get students to RAG the mark scheme or syllabus so that they have a visual record of strengths and weaknesses. Return to this regularly, so that students can see that they are progressing.
- Use personalised check lists so that students can identify which areas they need to work on.
- Provide differentiated exemplar answers – get students to mark these so that they are familiar with the mark scheme.
- Teacher modelling of answers. Write the response “live” and get the students to suggest ideas and improvements.
- Ask students to write an exam answer using the mark scheme as guidance.
- Ask students to create exam questions and mark schemes following the exam board format.
Building student confidence about meeting targets
- Use confident language when discussing the course – explain what you have done to prepare for the new syllabus rather than saying that you don’t know what might come up!
- Take time to have one to one conversations with all students in your class at some point at least once a term.
- Don’t forget to acknowledge progress and use praise and rewards, rather than always focusing on what students need to improve.
- Give students time to consolidate their work through specific class / homework activities.
- Make it safe to say they don’t understand eg use a “stuck board” / post-its on the board. Use this information to inform teaching and revision sessions.
- Pair most able with least able for some activities.
- Get students to teach each other in areas where they are strong.
- Break down large tasks into more manageable chunks to build skills gradually.
- Include short tests on key facts and vocabulary which all students can excel in with the appropriate effort.
- Ensure that you are aware of any students in vulnerable groups and that you give additional support where needed.
- Acknowledge the value or risk taking and making mistakes as part of the learning process.
Covering content / de-stuffing:
- Place a strong focus on lesson preparation and make students accountable for this by testing knowledge in starters / quizzes etc.
- Give students a list of activities which need to be completed during study periods. These could include group work tasks.
- Set specific background reading and tell students which websites to use for their research.
- Get students to create starters and plenaries or to write worksheets based on what they have researched.
- Encourage students to work ahead in their text books / lesson content. Be specific about activities or reading that they should be doing in their study periods.
- Provide powerpoints or photocopies of notes so that students can spend more time listening and engaging, rather than taking notes.
- Focus on higher order skills and questioning in lessons, by finding alternative ways to deliver content.
- Publish and stick to interim deadlines, rather than just giving one big deadline at the end.
- Make use of any external workshops, performances, lectures which will guide student.
Differentiation / stretch and challenge:
- Provide specific literacy support / scaffold tasks for students in your subject. Give guidance on how to structure answers. Teach other key study skills needed for your subject eg numeracy, research skills.
- Ensure that students understand the meaning of key vocabulary that occurs in your exam questions eg analyse, evaluate etc.
- Follow up students whose combination of subjects / prior experience make them less well prepared to study your subject. Make provision for students who did not study your subject at GCSE.
- Teach students how to revise in your subject. Set specific revision tasks for homework.
- Vary groupings, so that students sometimes work on different tasks in ability groups and are sometimes in mixed ability groups.
- Create activities where students can work at their own pace ie by selecting particular tasks to complete.
- Set up study groups and ask able students to lead these.
- Provide links to specific websites, lectures and articles to stretch able students.
- Run a surgery at a set time each week.
Fundamentally, both students and teachers were worried about the same things – covering large amounts of content in a short time and bringing about the rapid progress demanded on level 3 courses. We may not be able to use all these suggestions all of the time, but if we give our students a clear timeline and the key tools they need, then we might just succeed in differentiating not only by ability, but also by confidence, organisation and work ethic.
The CamSTAR project was not one that initially interested me as I knew that it would involve a lot of hours researching around a project area and presenting to a group of teachers as well as producing an essay about the research carried out. However, after speaking to Sophie and others who had previously been on this programme, I chose to continue with this as an option to complete my disaggregated hours.
By going through the process, I can honestly say that I have gained a great deal of professional knowledge about the students that I teach and their individual needs. This project enabled me to research my chosen area of the “Gender Gap” in subjects involving extended writing at KS5. I completed a lot of background reading, but not as much as I thought I would need to do. This gave me an insight into the area of interest and also gave me ideas on how to conduct my research. The support from Sophie and the CamSTAR team was excellent and I had access to their advice when required throughout the programme.
I found interesting facts about the “Gender Gap” and how boys and girls differ in their learning and expression of work that we see on a daily basis. One example is the fact that boys’ brains go into a “state of rest” during the day. This may be when they do not take in as much information as we would like them to. As well as this, there are differences in brain structure development between the genders.
The main reason for my investigation was to try and find out if there was a “Gender Gap” at Goffs in a number of subjects and if so, why; and how we could try to bridge this gap. It turns out that there are no significant gaps between genders within Goffs; in a number of subjects, that is present nationally. This brought me to the conclusion that we at Goffs must be doing things to prevent this gap from forming or expanding when it is present. A number of excellent practices are currently taking place at Goffs to prevent/minimise such a gap from forming. These include, having male-female pairs in a seating plan, treating male and female students the same, providing all students with the same level of support, carrying out personalised intervention where necessary, and many more.
I would recommend this project to anyone that is keen to develop their own professional practice in the classroom and as this programme can be very personalised.
For more information on CamStar, visit the link below or speak to Sophie Enstone
Think about routines that you have at home e.g. routine in the morning or getting home from work…how does it make you feel? How does it make you feel if that routine changes suddenly e.g. you sleep through your alarm clock?
Routines make us feel comfortable, safe and secure. It gives us a sense of purpose and contentment. For our students, it gives them that sense of security too. Hence, our classroom routines are important, so we need to establish them at the start of the year and remain consistent throughout the year with them.
What routines should be established?
- Meet and greet – with you being on time for your lessons, you have the opportunity to interact with your students and converse with them in a positive, calm way whilst doing the usual uniform checks. This is not time to discuss who did and didn’t do homework.
- Bags, coats and equipment – ensure students have removed coats and placed all equipment (including planners) on desks. Your settler activity is ready to get the students thinking which is followed by your lesson objectives, starter and the register being taken.
- Seating plan – for all classes and your form should be in place and changed every half-term, at least. Many options are available to you based on gender, ability, behaviour, tasks and group activities. Carry the seating plan around as you learn the names of students which adds to building relationships with students and allows targeted questioning.
- Structure of lessons – ensure there is a smooth transition between tasks/activities/mini-plenaries so to avoid ‘dead time’ where a few students will grab the opportunity to play around. Think about how you are going to hand out books/scissors/glue/worksheets/practical equipment as well as collecting it in…could you use students to assist you?
- Rewards – use of effective praise is important not just the ‘good work/well done’ comment. Comment on how well the student has completed a piece of work and what skill they may have used e.g. resilience. Use the R2/R3 on Classcharts and of course, the phone call home is always a rewarding one for both student and us.
- Follow ups – if you have said to a student you will ring home or mark homework you must do it otherwise students will lose trust in you and even respect (not following through with a sanction) which could lead to behavioural issues.
Behaviour for Learning Routines also should be used by yourself. Here are some examples:
- Short cues e.g. eyes this way, listening thanks
- Give direction to the behaviour you expect e.g. sit down, thanks
- Take-up time (reflect on correct choice)
- Non-verbal cues (tap the desk or eye contact)
- Instructions you give should be DOs not DONT’s (positive language)
- Don’t label the entire class or punish an entire class
- Focus on primary behaviours
- Task-focussed e.g. what can I help you with? (when students are off-task and chatting)
If students see that you are being consistent with your routines most students will fall into line easily. It becomes second nature to you and as for your students, they become used to your style of teaching along with your routines. You can then focus on building good relationships with your students and enjoying teaching your lessons – as the students will enjoy being in your lessons.
Two weeks into term, I interviewed some Year 7 students in order to ascertain which strategies used in lessons they have especially enjoyed. Among them were Ross Haggart and Victoria Ashton.
Ross Haggart is a fan of History and Learning Power. He vividly explained to me how in History, the starter activity captivated the class’ imagination, with an outline of a dead body on the classroom floor, as the students entered. The class had to use their imagination and noticing skills, in order to determine what type of job the ‘character’ may have had. To aid them with this, a leather pouch, some pottery and a dice were used as props. Questioning featured heavily in the lesson, as the students were asked to consider what the ‘character’ did for a job, the possible causes of death and what hobbies they may have had.
In a recent Learning Power lesson, Ross described how their main activity involved a set of pictures relating to famous people. For this activity, the class were asked to spot the difference – once again, putting their noticing skills into practice.
Victoria Ashton listed PE and English as her favourite lessons, “so far” (in her words). For PE, Victoria described how she and her classmates had to pretend they were a flamingo, in order to test their physical balance and strength. Whereas for English, she enthusiastically spoke about the use of a still image that was to be used as a springboard for a piece of descriptive writing, as part of a baseline test.
It became apparent very quickly that Year 7 students have not only been immersed into BLP habits but that they are definite aspects of learning that they enjoy. In more general terms, the following aspects of lessons were commented on, by our learners, as strategies that make learning fun:
- An engaging settler, perhaps something unexpected
- The use of pictures or images to explore, discuss or ‘decipher’
- Clear and concise explanations provided by teachers
- Learning through games or through problem-solving opportunities
- Improving on previous work
In general, it was fantastic to hear our new starters comment so enthusiastically on their newly embarked-upon secondary school experience.
Written by Cindy Long in 7E
Roughly two weeks ago I had a very motivating, enjoyable and fun packed English lesson! Every minute I was thoroughly gripped and could not wait to learn more. However, as well as it being a very intriguing lesson, I also learnt quite a lot too! Firstly, we kicked off with a challenging starter in which we wrote a detailed prediction of what we thought the ‘SOW’ would be for our new term. This excited me as I love using my noticing skills to infer new topics. Moreover, as a stretch and challenge task we were told to summarise our prediction in just fifty words! Then, later on in the lesson, Miss Stewart introduced us all to an AMAZING acronym. AFORESTER is its name; however, for each letter there is a word and for each word there is a meaning. Importantly, they were all key features that are needed in a successful speech. Furthermore, a little bit later we were given the challenge of writing our very own persuasive speech. This was the main activity of our captivating lesson.
I always enjoy a demanding challenge when it comes to my English lessons and I embrace every opportunity to explore my inner creativity when it comes to writing!