Monthly Archives: July 2013

Proms, obs and sun!

For our students this is an exciting and enjoyable time of the year-our year 10 students are on work experience, our year 7-9 students will come off timetable next week for Sport’s Week and our year 11 students will have donned their best frocks and tuxedos for their Prom at the very posh Vincent Hotel. For our teachers this is perhaps a time to reflect on the year that has gone and prepare for the year to come. Final meetings of the year see discussions about the best teaching moments of the year, the impact on learning of our collaborative hubs, the best ideas observed in the peer observations and eternal optimism when thinking of result’s day in August. We may be as Ofsted described us, a school which “crackles with ambition” but we remain firmly rooted in our community and our priority is always to serve the learning needs of our students, to develop our staff and to support other schools and colleagues who seek our help. If we become a teaching school or lead a teaching alliance, we do so because we believe that it is the right thing to do for our school-we want to remain an outstanding school and by supporting others and by exchanging ideas with other schools, we feel that our own learning, teaching and leadership will grow even stronger. We have welcomed, and will continue, to welcome visitors to observe our teaching and to share teaching and leadership ideas. This does have a positive impact on our own staff and students and this is expressed below in comments made for one of our bids;

“Contact with other schools has confirmed our own practice and given opportunities to our own staff to reflect on their practice and to prioritise the key drivers behind outstanding schools and the transferrable nature of those drivers to others who wish to transform their schools. Potential leaders have emerged after our observation of how colleagues have prepared and have presented their own practice and that of the department and students. This has helped us at a crucial time in the school’s development as we seek to sustain and develop our own leadership capacity and succession planning.

Our students too have benefitted from the chances to speak to visitors-their own language of learning has improved and after making a huge impact on visitors we realised that we should develop student leadership even more. In fact, the visits have helped us to tighten areas that we know will be under scrutiny-the spotlight of other school’s perceptions of our practice has highlighted any issues that are lacking in rigour or not sufficiently supported by evidence of impact.”

The summer peer observations have continued to provide inspiration for those observing, and those learning. I can’t mention everyone but our inset days in September will give teachers chance to ‘market place’ some of the key innovations in our own ‘teachmeet’ I’ve put together a presentation of varied peer assessment ideas to show to other schools and conferences to give an insight into what our teachers are currently developing. Gareth Cross went for a totally SOLO PE theory lesson. SOLO is a growing style of lesson planning well established in New Zealand that offers a different way of measuring progress in our lessons. Traditionally we use national curriculum levels to help the student understand how well they are progressing and where they need to go to next. The government keeps hinting that levels may go so we are looking for alternative approaches and better ones. The students told me that they found SOLO easy to use and that it helped guide their learning and their self/peer assessment-happy customers = great learning!

Our maths observation with Zoe Evans saw really interesting problems set and great maths literacy! The year 8 students relished the challenges set for them and raced around the room to select G.C.S.E. questions. Each episode of the lesson had a bronze, silver and gold progress checker to complete with the gold one requiring the peer assessor to comment on what went well, even better if with an example and the comments were then to be verified. Interestingly in Lisa Cain’s English lesson, the peer assessors after justifying the level they had awarded then set the student a task for next lesson, based on their evaluation of the lesson’s learning-a great idea that we can all use to extend and challenge. Hannah Jordan’s year 9 English set wowed Yvonne and I with their level of thinking! Hannah used her tactic of pre-prepared named questions to differentiate [as did Karen Radcliffe] and this time the peer assessors looked at the starting point of the learning they were assessing and decided what had been specifically done to show progress-they highlighted this on the work and added an explanation of what could be done next. Colin Lee uses a similar electronic version so that the teacher and observers can see a highlighted section on the screens and can move quickly to check the changes suggested by the self and peer assessment feed-forward comments. Each of Colin’s students has a ‘Business Buddy’ who access each other’s files and suggest improvements [and comment positively too!] and his ‘Chief Executives’ support the students on the C/D borderline.

The RE teachers have as much marking [or more] as anyone else in our school and they have developed their ‘Bubble and Speak’ dialogue idea for teacher, self and peer assessment and dialogue. Year 7 and year 8 were observed writing some thoughtful specific advice for improvement into the bubble speech box whilst the success box allows the student to respond to the advice and have their response checked and verified. In drama, students use FBSV [face, body, space and voice] to analyse each other’s performances. When self and peer assessment first began; drama students [and other subjects too] were often asked, “what did you like about the performance, what could they improve” etc. This is a big ask and without a scaffold to aid oracy, led to generalised answers. By using FBSV, and splitting the aspects between the peer assessors; the level of dialogue has risen and the quality of answers improved by demanding subject specific responses. Aaron Mconville uses the acronym MEOLS COP LEADERS, to help the year 10 sport’s leaders assess their own and each other’s leadership skills-each letter standing for a specific skill that they know needs to be shown. Most staff use a version of PEE and Claire Broomfield used SPAMO to provide focus for the crucial parts of the answers and for assessment.

Phil Johnson has made 3 short films of himself carrying out experiments [flipping the learning US style!] and year 7 began the lesson, in groups, watching the clips, rather than Sir teaching the whole class. As they watched, they made notes on how the experiment should proceed and then passed their notes to another group. Each group had different roles within it [leader, scribe, literacy leader etc.] and they had to see if they could follow the instructions and do the experiment. [and check the literacy] They then gave feedback on the quality of the instructions and offered specific advice. Jennie Doherty too used flipped learning by having her RE leaders produce a short film to teach the rest of the class about the caste system.

Carmel Manwaring also used both science and literacy lead students to organise her groups and they created mark schemes for 3 different graphs-a great skill for exam preparation-and then checked their schemes against Dr M’s! It’s a great tactic to get the students to think of the question they would least like to see in their exam-write it down and create a mark scheme for it-knowing how exams are marked helps to achieve top scores [just giving them a mark scheme and saying mark your work isn’t as effective!!]

Our musicians, have been trialling out ideas to ensure that everyone answers and provides evidence for their answer. [without using the hated name generator!] They have numbers for each student and when the number is called all with that number stand and provide evidence for their progress-nobody escapes and they are moving on to target certain levels of students with appropriate questions. Correct progress answers see the students move on to their living progress graph which is a variation of the ladders of glory idea with one axis measuring time in the lesson and the other the different learning objectives. Others have been using an idea developed at our numeracy hub where each student receives a question card with a sum on it-the teacher [Claudio Vinaccia] then calls out an answer e.g. 144 and the student with 12×12 [a 9 year old can do this sum!!] answers the question!

The historians have been really developing their peer verification and have created resources which ask a lot of their students in terms of constantly justifying and discussing feedback given, before compromising on an agreed grade. The quality of interaction and oracy was quite staggering and the demand on their metacognitive skills gave the observers a headache! Great learning! PSD then stepped in to lighten the learning atmosphere when the whole class peer assessed presentations by clapping when they heard a key-word used, performing a Mexican-wave when a connective appeared and rising to their feet and applauding when a substantiated conclusion supported an outstanding speech. Learning should make your brain ache a tad and be enjoyable-the observations gave lots of evidence to show us that this was happening in so many different classrooms and subjects.

There isn’t space on the web site blog to mention all of our observed lessons or to attach all of the ideas in detail-just contact school if you want to know more! The ideas obviously go to all of our staff and to schools we are working with. Recent visitors, and visitors to come over the next final weeks of term represent Hawthorn’s Free School, St Michael’s Art, Prenton Boys science and English and TAs from Hillside and St Michael’s will join our own TAs for TAmeet sharing session. We welcome you all to Meols Cop and hope you have an enjoyable and fruitful time with us.