Learning Styles: Catering for all Learners

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.

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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

New Year, New Build, New Start

entrance2We 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.

Strategies to Support More Able Students

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:

  1. Identifying the student’s next steps and creating cognitive dissonance
  2. Injecting elements of novelty and variety into the learning experience
  3. Encouraging metacognition
  4. Offering opportunities for independence and self-direction
  5. Encouraging risk-taking
  6. Providing opportunities to work  with like-minded peers

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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.

Getting off to a Good Start at Key Stage 5 by Wendy Wilson

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.

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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.

 

Behaviour for Learning: Embedding Routines – by Luzaan Sparks and Rob King

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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.

Interested in Training to Teach?

Fancy teaching in East Herts or the Tring area? Whether you are considering a career in teaching or considering a change of career, please think about applying to the East Hertfordshire (and Tring) School Direct Partnership for a future shaping tomorrow’s citizens!

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What is the East Hertfordshire School Direct Partnership?

School Direct initial teacher training (ITT) with the East Hertfordshire School Direct Partnership (run by Goffs School) offers an exciting opportunity for highly talented and high achieving graduates who wish to pursue a career in teaching. There are five schools in the partnership that work together to design, develop and implement practical school based ITT programmes that will allow successful candidates to gain ‘hands-on’ teaching experience whilst studying with our higher education partner, the University of Hertfordshire, to attain ‘Qualified Teacher Status’ (QTS). Moreover, all partnership schools aim to nurture the next generation of outstanding teachers and school leaders.
Schools in the partnership
The partnership includes some of the leading secondary schools in East Hertfordshire, including Goffs School and Cheshunt School, which are both located in Cheshunt, as well as Sheredes School and The John Warner School, which are based in Hoddesdon. Our partnership also includes Goffs Oak Primary, which is near Cuffley and Tring School in West Hertfordshire.
Do you know of any interested ‘potential’ teachers?
If you know of anyone interested in joining the teaching profession, please inform them about the partnership. Information on becoming a trainee and how to apply can be found on our sister website: http://www.teachineastherts.wordpress.com. We can be followed @TeachHerts on twitter.

Challenging Misconceptions of Islam: Basic Advice for Parents and Carers

In May a survey of 6,000 schoolchildren was published by Show Racism the Red Card that concluded many students hold widespread misconceptions and negative attitudes towards British Muslims. The research found that 35% of the 10 to 16 year olds questioned ‘agreed’ or ‘partly agreed’ that ‘Muslims are taking over our country’ whereas only 41% ‘disagreed’. In addition to this worrying misconception, most students surveyed believed that Muslims make up around 36% of the population – when in reality the figure is closer 5%. And, sadly, 47% ‘agreed’ with a statement suggesting that there are poor relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in England.

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The Grand Mosque in Mecca. Muslims aim to visit this at least once in their lifetime – so long as they are able to financially and physically.

Although this survey does not – in any way – reflect our own school, it does raise obvious concerns about what students know and understand about Islam and British Muslims as well as how these misconceptions come about. Moreover, it also suggests that as teachers, governors, parents and carers we should all be aware of what Islam is and what it means to be Muslim, especially if we are to promote tolerance, respect and community cohesion within the school community.

Of course, one bulwark against Islamophobia is educating students about the religion in RS lessons. This is arguably the case at Goffs where all students are taught the life of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in Year 7 as well as the five pillars of Islam, which are the key foundations of the Islamic faith. However, it is also important that teachers in other subjects are constantly aware of misconceptions about Islam – even if they do not come across as malicious or even Islamophobic – as they could create misleading perceptions of Islam that eventually lead to Islamophobic views. Furthermore, it is also important that these misconceptions are avoided at home, too.

A good way of challenging misconceptions is to fully understand the language used to describe Islam and Muslims and to challenge the use of that language when it is misused. For instance, a key example is the use of ‘devout’ and ‘jihad’. These two words often get invoked to refer to extremists and a minority of Muslims committing terrorist attacks, but in essence they are not negative things. Although the former term might not seem controversial, some British newspapers have been censored for referring to extremists as ‘devout Muslims’.
Firstly, a ‘devout believer’ is someone who has a strong commitment to a set of basic religious beliefs, ideas and/or principles. A ‘devout Muslim’ could be someone who is committed to their faith: perhaps praying five times a day; fasting during the holy month of Ramadan; regularly going to mosque and having a strong sense of Islamic identity. It is also important to stress that many of these basic values correspond to British values, such as justice and equality (exemplified by the third pillar of Islam – charity). Moreover, in the UK, the Muslim community upholds the importance of British laws. For instance, Muslim scholars have argued that Muslims living in majority non-Muslim countries must adhere to the secular ‘laws of the land’ and have no excuse for breaking those laws. Therefore, we should not mix the terms ‘devout’ with ‘extremist’ as they mean two very different things.

Perhaps the more controversial argument centres on how we use the term ‘fundamentalist’; some commentators suggest that a ‘fundamentalist’ merely has a strict adherence to their faith whereas others equate it to extremism. In many respects the former usage could be seen as completely benign, but due to confusion with this word, especially in the media, it may be better to refer to ‘devout Muslims’ when discussing those that take their faith very seriously, in order to avoid any association with illegal or violent extremism.

(C) Sun Newspaper

Secondly, another key misconception is the idea of ‘jihad’ being extremeor bad per se; interestingly, some scholars have argued that all Muslims are jihadis in the same way that all Christians are followers of Christ. For many Muslims, jihad is simply the religious duty that they have to maintain the religion. This is best explained through a translation of the word from Arabic, which literally means “to strive, to apply oneself, to struggle, to persevere”. It can be argued, then, that jihad itself is not a controversial issue when thinking about Islam. It does, however, become an issue if interpreted as a defence of extremist views, such as sympathy with terrorist acts or highly illiberal attitudes towards other faiths, homosexuality and so on (this is where schools’ PREVENT training is vital).

Furthermore, another key element of jihad is distinguishing between the ‘greater jihad’ and the ‘lesser jihad’. The former relates to the personal spiritual struggle that Muslims have to adhere to their faith whereas the latter is the defence of Muslims and the faith from aggressors. It is the ‘lesser jihad’ that has been hijacked by extremists despite the actual rules of ‘lesser jihad’ stipulating that innocent people must not be harmed, ‘enemies’ should be treated with justice and that jihad is a form of defence and not aggression; for example, the Holy Qur’an states, ‘Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors’ (2:190).

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Zayn Malik – photo from Wikipedia

Lastly, when challenging misconceptions of Islam in school as well as potential Islamophobia, it is worth considering common stereotypes. For example, students in majority non-Muslim schools may associate Muslims with the minority of extreme and radical preachers often featured in tabloid newspapers as opposed to practising Muslims (and all round British heroes) like Mo Farah, Amir Khan and Moeen Ali. Moreover, there are plenty of examples of Muslims in pop culture, which is often not associated with Islam, such as Zayn Malik – formally of One Direction – as well as Muslims presenting popular news programmes, such as Mishal Husain on BBC Radio 4.

In conclusion, we can challenge misconceptions of Islam in school by:

  • being aware of the key beliefs of Muslims;
  • using the correct terminology when discussing Islam;
  • and, importantly, challenging stereotypes and highlighting examples of Muslim role models in British society.