For most teachers, the autumn term leading to the short days and worsening weather of winter, is hard work and the aspirations and hopes of the beginning of term, are a distant memory. The complexities and challenges of school life act out as we relentlessly cajole and nudge the mind-sets of the students towards hard work and learning progress [the same thing?] and school leaders embark on observations, book monitoring and general accountability analysis and evaluation. Our students need to be learning well, our teachers teaching well, our support staff supporting well and our leaders leading well-simples! Older teachers and staff may think that the pressure is far greater these days and the pace non-stop and unforgiving. Younger colleagues know no difference but for both workload, well-being and work-life balance are crucial and we are constantly trying to ensure that we get them right with planning, marking, collaborative support and much more being discussed to ensure that we look after our staff so that everyone is in the healthiest body and mind possible to support student learning and each other. With 100 staff, this isn’t easy and each and every one of us has a commitment to our school and students and to each other too. It’s an aspect of leadership that has always interested me [out of school too in my sporting interests]-how do we get the most out colleagues? Motivating and engaging other adults, sharing a vision and getting them to ‘buy in’, sometimes having to have difficult conversations, always trying to minimalize necessary workload without causing inefficiency, the constant pressure of being a ‘role model’!-hard work being a leader of any pay-scale BUT autumnal hues within school bring so much colour and different characteristics when you seek out the wonderfully positive aspects that leap out of the classrooms!
Observations began last week and for the first time ever we have just over half of our teaching staff involved in a lesson study project of their choice with the others ‘enjoying’ a line-manager developmental observation. I missed the first one due to it clashing with one of my lessons but Jen wandered down the corridor to call in on Janette and I enjoyed reading the feedback. Just 1 section below and then the final observer comments.
|Subject chosen pedagogy||Observer feedback comments to support development.How did each chosen strategy impact on learning? Anything you spotted for future dept advice?||Teacher view-did your teaching of each priority meet your predicted outcome and impact on student learning? Did you have to change tactics?|
Students are challenge above and beyond.
|Students were presented with common GCSE Pythagoras questions that increased in difficulty. It is clear that from your previous lessons students have understood the necessary processes for this task. This task met your objective in preparing students to practice GCSE questions and develop the ability to attain full marks for these questions. Not one student (from what I could see) just wrote the answer, following the mark scheme exactly. ALL students in the class worked well and were eager to get started.
I spoke to a number of students on what they enjoyed in your lessons and this was followed by the answers ‘Miss explains things really well and if we’re stuck we look at other examples to help understand’.
It was evident during this lesson you’ve built a classroom that builds confidence in students and tackles student resilience for challenging tasks.
|This is a great task that could be adapted to build maths oracy skills?
You explained your next steps for pushing students further and looking at Pythagoras in 3D which is great to push the class to beat their targets and work on a grade B task.
You discussed how A surprised you during this task and how well she handled the work.
|3 bits of great teaching that inspired and that you are definitely going to use tomorrow!||Your favourite piece of student learning-best penny dropping moment-what and with whom!||What did you learn most as a teacher from today’s observation?|
||Loved E’s response to ‘what do you like about Miss Ashton’s teaching? His response ‘Her personality!’ Loved this.|
I wasn’t going to let our NQTs join in lesson study as yet because they have enough to be planning and thinking about in the hectic first year of teaching. They joined in regardless and hopefully will see how useful the method is in helping them [and all teachers] to collaboratively plan, reflect together, trial, consider impact and adapt-great teaching qualities! Last year much of the lesson study CPD was aimed towards our lowest ability learners-this time, early plans show that the emphasis has changed with colleagues wishing to consider enquiry questions to support high attainers. Beth and Greg paired up; to assess strategies to further engage higher ability learners in the classroom through the use of the ‘Lead Learner’ role.
They chose 6 students currently showing great ability in maths and history and gave them the opportunity to become ‘Lead Learners’. 3 of the students were chosen to observe and one was one of our asperger’s students to add an extra dimension to the study. Greg gave out his instructions to his leaders at the beginning of his lesson on ‘Who Should Be King [1065-6]’ and the leaders were primed to lead group discussions and conclude with a speech.
Beth and I observed and it quickly became apparent that Greg’s predictions weren’t going as expected. A did take the role very seriously and often stood up to assume control, pointing at group members in turn to elicit responses. They weren’t quite as dominating as Greg thought [although they were in the maths lesson!] whilst B tended to sit back and let their group get on with it rather than delegate. C was a revelation and I’d sign them up now as a potential teacher here! They delegated, supported, checked understanding-you name it-they did it! My overall feedback follows.
I predict that A will dominate the conversation here and rather than pulling ideas together, they will merely use his own
I predict that B will really lead their team and ask for their input before making a decision
I predict that C will discuss with other pupils but may struggle on making a decision without support from their peers.
I predict A will be confident in delegating out roles but may struggle in offering support as they will ‘tell’ pupils what is right.
I think that B will give out roles and will allow pupils the chance to collaborate whilst ensuring they complete their work.
I predict that C will allow pupils to complete the work themselves, and then ask to contribute at the end
We discussed my advice afterwards and the main things about the lesson were to;
Teach as normal with the knowledge [kingship connect to prior Roman learning]/questioning aspects-don’t miss any learning opportunities in a haste to cut to the lesson study part.
You might wish to brief the leaders before-think Beth is doing-interesting to ask the kids if this helps them more or not.
Seek group-work ground rules before you begin your first group-work-their ideas-then add a couple and roll them out every time you do group-work. Division of tasks/group roles impt
Similarly, whole class discussion of skills a good group-work leader should possess [all will have a go over the year] may help too
Swop their groups next time-focus the questionnaire on how much their experience today helped them in Beth’s lesson, did being briefed before the lesson help or not, did the group dynamics [change of group members] change their leadership style and so on
Hope this helps
I was interested to see if B had found their group too domineering, whether C could lead any group in the same fashion and how A would cope with a less subservient group. What did the student leaders think?
Post Lesson Questionnaire
|What did you learn in the lesson?|
|What did you think of your role as Lead Learner? Did you enjoy it?|
|What worked in your role as Lead Learner?|
|What didn’t work in your role as Lead Learner?|
|Did this role provide a challenge for you?|
|Would like you to take this role again?|
|What would you change about the role of Lead Learner?|
Beth ‘flipped’ her learning with the 6 lead learners giving them information to take home and prepare to teach to their groups. She began by checking they had ‘got it’ before giving them a task card to help them. [Very bravely filming herself using the IRIS cameras!]
|Starter:Whilst other pupils are completing their 5 a-day, I will speak to lead learners. I will check their knowledge of algebraic fractions (They have asked to complete some reading of this topic prior to the lesson) They will be presented with a task card, and told that they can teach the other members of their group in whatever way they choose.
Lead learners will return to their seats and we will discuss 5 a-day as a class.
|B: Will be quietly confident in their knowledge of how to simplify algebraic fractions.
A: Will be very confident in their knowledge of how to simplify algebraic fractions. May feel nervous about teaching other pupils, and could ask what they can use to teach other pupils.
C: Will be confident in their knowledge of algebraic fractions. Will appear keen to teach the other members of her group.
|ActivityLead learners to use their task cards as prompts to teach the other pupils in their group firstly what an algebraic fraction is, and how to simplify algebraic fractions.
They are provided with some examples to discuss.
|B: Will give a quick explanation of an algebraic fraction. Will show examples on the task card and will tell other pupils in their group how to do each one.
A: Will be very vocal and articulate in their explanation of an algebraic fractions, will give examples of algebraic fractions. They will show examples of fractions that can be simplified and tell pupils how to do each one with an explanation of why.
C: Will give a good explanation of an algebraic fraction. Will then talk through examples given. Explaining how to simplify each one and asking for input from other group members.
The card was a great idea and helped the leaders in different ways. B passed it round and again took a back seat whilst the other 2 followed the routine. This time A, obviously in a subject where they felt very confident, did get a little impatient if their group didn’t understand quickly and kept the hard question cards for themselves, despite a couple of group members offering to have a go at them. C again led magnificently and democratically!
The group taught was 7 set 1 so I expect to see some high flying history and maths. Beth was telling me that there are a few level 6 primary mathematicians in the group-the NTEN study may provide some of the stimulus for ideas to push them towards platinum assessment skills and regardless of the lesson study element, I observed great maths discussion and thinking throughout. I always like ‘Beat the Teacher’ that the maths teachers play-showing sums the teacher has completed and the students check them to see if there are mistakes.
Beth and Greg will meet to feedback to each other and plan their next lessons together. It was great for me to see 2 new to the profession teachers thinking about their practice and learning from what was happening. I’ve observed both of them in an ‘ordinary’ lesson but the lesson study format gives far more depth to their learning of a new craft and to the feedback conversations. I’m pleased that they chose the development of able students in lessons-the days of giving students a couple of extra questions when they have finished, is long gone and I’m interested to see where their ideas take them. The big questions around this type of trial usually include; does using the students as ‘teachers’ prove to be more effective than teacher only led lessons, would the teacher using whole class instruction prove more effective than groups of flipped learning and so on. I suggested that Beth might try a flipped learning exercise with all of the class for homework and then try it in the conventional way of setting tasks that rely on utilising the newly acquired knowledge-students finding it difficult can be supported by Miss-those moving on quickly can have extension tasks.
I also suggested further questionnaires aimed at the whole class and their perceptions of what student leadership should look like in practice and suggestions as to how they would like it to be used in future-when would it be most appropriate to learn in this way. I do wonder whether B’s might appeal more than our preferred leadership style of C! Both teachers can now see that should they decide to use group-work/student leadership; there are so many teaching skills involved in supporting the processes-they are student skills which need careful teaching to make the most of them.
Alex had a very different class to Beth and Greg’s when Jen and I observed her teaching decimals to a very low ability year 10 class. A couple of years ago when teachers planned lessons they use to have a space for planning activities for gifted and talented students-these were usually only completed then they had the highest sets-it was a way of keeping Ofsted happy in the main part! I expect to see challenging activities and the opportunity to lead/support others in classes of all abilities and was delighted that Alex had planned for her leading mathematicians to be active in helping their table and Alex told me that the students love being able to do this. I was surprised at how difficult many of the class found some of the concepts and Miss used real life examples such as her own car’s dashboard and measuring each other to find out the class height chart.
Using an idea Clair brought back from a meeting she finished the lesson by giving each student a card with a question on it-you can see the instructions below. This was really interesting [I know I’ve knocked the T off different!] to watch them trying not to cheat! This is an activity that can easily be adapted for any subject. The students began to write out their own similar questions to be placed in Miss’s Pot Luck bag for the start of the next lesson.
It’s the first time I’ve seen the new G.C.S.E grade criteria appear on learning objectives and Clair, as usual, pushed the students hard with some challenging questions on ‘real life’ maths and an excellent rally coach which took some time for them to master. Our post-lesson feedback discussion focused on marking in general and this went to all teaching staff for internal discussion-this is just a very brief picture of the lesson for once!
Josie worked on her KS4 classes in art in last year’s lesson study. This time Katy and I observed Miss teaching textiles to year 10. Josie had focused on sewing machine skills, as she explained on her lesson plan.
|Is there an area of their learning/your teaching that you have found to be challenging?|
|I have found this class lack a basic understanding of sewing techniques, which has meant that I have needed to spend the first part of the G.C.S.E. course covering the basics of sewing and design.|
|Getting your skates on! Which is the biggest anticipated risk/chance of failure you have planned to take in the lesson? How can we help?|
|The anticipated risk for this lesson, is the use of sewing machines. Having worked with this class for several weeks, it is clear confidence on sewing machines is low and needs to be improved before starting the controlled assessment.|
I observed Rachael in summer use a you tube video she had made herself to talk the students through an art skill and Josie had photographed herself modelling the sewing techniques the girls needed. This was on the IWB and on paper for them to follow and check.
This worked really well, although I’m not an expert on sewing techniques! Josie finished her lesson with a nice Progress Pyramid to allow reflection on the skill progression.
I’ll come back to the ‘great teaching’ conversations faculties had [mentioned in previous blog] but just wanted to share a couple of PE Magic Moments they shared with me. I was absolutely delighted to see this photo of their office with each person’s CPD focus for the term clearly shared.
PE and written marking haven’t always sat comfortably with each other! BUT Tom and Sam have worked really hard to encourage the development of WRITTEN marking/feedback strategies to support the theory element of G.C.S.E. PE. I liked Rosie’s dance ingredient revision help and her PEER marking used with her year 11 class.
A simple enough DIRT answer but the key is that the teacher checked that ‘Evidence Successfully Met’ and DIRT was used to support the feedback.
Leon went to the SSAT NW information session in Macclesfield this week and I was surprised to hear that of the 30 plus schools there, only Meols Cop was trying something different in response to ‘assessment without levels’. From trawls of twitter/blogs I keep an up-date across the country and staff have seen regular ideas from Durrington and Chew with their similar [ish] approach and from our friends at St Mary’s in Blackpool who are discussing their move. Most seem to be playing a waiting game and I explained internally why I felt that we should use the opportunity, coinciding with the new NC and changing G.C.S.E to go backwards in terms of thinking about the skills and knowledge we want our students in each subject to possess to gain an ability appropriate mastery-then planning schemes of learning and assessment that fitted our needs. Of course whatever any school comes up with isn’t that different to levels [minus sub levels I would think!] and the proposals for KS1/2 performance indicators have angered many. The discussions that have taken part in every corner of school and our approach of encouraging flexibility and adaptability as we develop our BSG ideas are great aspects of professional development for all of us, especially our leaders! Parents and students have seemingly agreed and liked BSG so far but the progress reports will provide the first ‘customer satisfaction’ check and we may have to re-think. [Hopefully not too much!]Maths have already changed and it’s important that nothing is set in stone and imposed whilst this crucial aspect of learning and teaching is developed in the classroom and then evaluated by all concerned. If it doesn’t work-change it!
My Magic Moment from the twilight inset session on assessment last week was to see RE developing a practical aspect of ‘progress measuring’ on their parental progress reports. I know there is lots of cutting and pasting of G.C.S.E grade descriptors/NC old levels that goes on to help create the new system, and that’s a sensible method provided that it fits 2014 and beyond needs. RE, and most other subjects, are always concerned with the students’ ability to answer 6,8,10 mark questions so I liked this from Jennie and Anne, that was shared around the staff and can be easily adapted by other subjects. Make your assessment criteria fit our student needs-this does.
|Skills required to achieve target grade||Emerging||Developing||Mastered||Not yet Covered|
|Ability to offer a full, developed explanation and example in the 2 mark questions|
|Ability to offer two expanded points of view, both with religious examples and explanations in the 4 mark questions.|
|Ability to offer two examples with development, from both the religion of Islam and Christianity in the 6 mark questions.|
|Ability to offer two expanded, clear points of view with religious teachings in the 8 mark questions. The argument is covered extensively through discussion and summed up with a final judgement.|
Sarah and Karen have planned together in an English lesson study to consider their Enquiry Question: Can students independently employ higher order thinking skills? Sarah took first go and she wanted her class to Move beyond the text to recognise the wider implications of the writer’s purpose. If the students can access this higher level of thought, higher exam grades will follow. The faculty have embarked upon some radical set manoeuvres to try to provide the best support and intervention. Deliberate staffing has made smaller classes and single sex classes in a couple of cases. Sarah has a small boy only class and support is provided via Annette our pastoral AHT to help Sarah teach in a very intensive manner-digging deep, pushing hard to get the lads the grades they potentially can achieve. When Karen and I joined in, adults almost outnumbered the students!
There were some really interesting teaching strategies employed and they began with writing down who what they thought was responsible for the tragedy in Blood Brothers.
They would return to their original thoughts a couple of times throughout the lesson to make changes, should they wish to. They then worked in 2 groups on a tarsia activity. I was pleased to see them use the blank cards to add their own ideas.
Sarah chose her 3 students for the study and made her predictions for Karen and I to observe.
|Success Criteria||Pupil A||Pupil B||Pupil C|
||Target BCurrently working at B||Target BCurrently working at C||Target BCurrently working at D|
|Stage||Predicted Response||Actual Response|
|Who or what is responsible for the tragedy? (independent)||Limited, text base response that focuses on characters or theme.||Character based – Mrs Lyons||Theme based – superstition||Character based Mrs Johnstone|
|Text based connections but start to link quotes to characters. All boys should be able to link quotations with characters. B should take a lead role in discussion and might focus more on themes/begin to explore writer’s implications. C will make straightforward obvious links between quotes and characters.||Remained quit during this activity and let D take a lead role in organising the shapes. Did contribute links that probed the sub text and knowledge of the play as a whole was secure. Focused on character motivation. Started to explore the ‘bigger’ picture from D’s comments about the impact Mr Johnstone’s departure had on Mrs J and her decision to give Edward away.||He also let D take a lead role in organising the shapes. Did contribute links that probed the sub text and knowledge of the play as a whole was secure. Focused on character motivation. Started to explore the ‘bigger’ picture from D’s comments about the impact Mr Johnstone’s departure had on Mrs J and her decision to give Edward away.||Immediately explored how the theme of social class was to blame and probed the sub-text confidently exploring how the policeman treated the two families differently because of their social class. Took a lead role in the discussion and effectively justified opinions with evidence/reasons from the text.|
|Ten quote tumble.(independent)
|Begin to make moral / social links C might struggle here to make relevant links. B and A should be identifying the writer’s intention and linking quotes to the wider implications.||The majority of the quotations selected placed blame on characters and themes. Discussions focused on the theme of jealousy and started to make links to social injustice – difference in lifestyle, education and job opportunities.||The majority of the quotations selected placed blame on characters and themes. Discussions focused on the theme of jealousy and started to make links to social injustice – difference in lifestyle, education and job opportunities.||The majority of the quotations selected placed blame on characters and themes. Discussions focused on the theme of inequality and started to make links to social injustice – difference how the boys were treated by the policeman because of their different social classes.|
They then worked individually to select and prioritise quotes to support their opinions before discussing in pairs and then preparing for their final individual piece-could they move beyond the text to think about Russell’s wider motives in writing the play? The students peer critiqued and highlighted positive examples of what Miss had asked for!
Karen being an optimistic soul and progress manager for year 11, believed that the students were capable of this level of thought-Sarah wasn’t so sure! This was her summary;
Dave and Karen, now I have had the opportunity to read their work, I am pleased with the progress on the whole. They knew the novel well and considering we haven’t looked at it together for a while, that was great. They linked characters to themes effectively and justified their opinions.
In terms of LOs –
- LO: Independently employ higher order thinking skills – they all achieved this.
- LO: Effectively communicate a point of view – they all achieved this.
- LO: Move beyond the text to recognise the wider implications of the writer’s purpose- Owen Fowler made the best connection – poverty and job loss in Liverpool at the time. The others began to connect ideas to characters, themes and the bigger picture but often in term of social injustice.
Karen, thanks for being so optimistic as this meant I didn’t have to use the model answer slides!
|Excellent knowledge of text. Did move on from a character answer and started to explore the wider implications of social class and the effects of being working class at that time.||Secure knowledge of the text. Moved from a theme based answer and started to link social injustice of working class Liverpool to lifestyle and its limitations.||Effectively moved from a character answer to a theme and linked this to social injustice effectively justifying his answer from the policeman’s behaviour towards the two different social classes.|
Both colleagues hadn’t been involved before in lesson study, Sarah joining us at Easter and hopefully they will be able to see the value in this form of CPD as they plan and consider their next moves. They are both keen to transfer the skills taught today [and tomorrow for Karen] after Xmas when the students begin another text.
Zoe and Sheila worked together in a lesson study triad in summer and this time they paired up to continue their work with low ability year 7 and 8 mathematicians. Enquiry Question – How effectively can we improve conceptual understanding of operations with Low Attainers?
|Success Criteria||Pupil A||Pupil B||Pupil C|
||Easily distracted and loses focus. Will attempt to answer questions even if he is not confident, but has weak problem solving skills. Strongest in multiplication tables knowledge, weakness with division and subtraction.||Low confidence, reluctant to answer questions he is uncertain of the answers to. Comfortable with addition methods and certain multiplication tables knowledge but weaknesses in division and subtraction methods.
|Comfortable attempting most questions but weaknesses in multiplication tables knowledge, and poor consistency across division, subtraction and multiplication methods.|
This was the first lesson looking at operations with the class so that Zoe could see how they could cope with what was needed. She used the overlay the lesson study maths triad had produced last year to see if that would help the students with functional skills type questions. To get them use to the maths literacy involved she asked them to describe the key words.
They then tackled up to 10 problems around the room by following the method suggested on the overlay.
Some students were able to get all of the functional skills problems correct but not necessarily by using the overlay. We aren’t sure that this works for all and Zoe is thinking about alternative tactics. The level of ability was very low and problems such as; “if there are 7 days in a week, how many days are there in 10 weeks?” and “if a spider has 8 legs-how many legs do 5 spiders have?” caused some issues and these were the easier ones. Zoe will teach students who will achieve good university degrees 2 minutes before teaching students who struggle with the most basic division and multiplication sums-an interesting mix and all with their own learning challenges for Miss to overcome. There is an interesting discussion re mixed ability teaching v sets/bands doing the rounds again and questions raised as to whether growth mind set fits easily with setting. I’ve taught both ways at KS3 and mixed at KS4-don’t forget though that some schools are far more mixed in their in-takes than others, as has become apparent when digging beneath the league table figures and looking at the percentage of high, middle and low attainers and the average KS2 scores of students coming into our schools! Ours is the lowest average score of all the schools in Sefton and this presents us with the kind of teaching challenges lesson study can help us with so that our students get the most appropriate learning and teaching we can give them.
Karen and Sheila were busy teaching their first NTEN lesson at the same time and I wasn’t able to drop in on them as I was with Emma to observe our newest NQT Toni. Toni has already established a lovely working relationship with her year 10 geographers and they engaged well and moved sensibly around the room to find information. Our conversation afterwards was an interesting one and worth sharing-I think-because it touched on a few of the tactics I’ve seen used by lots of NQTs, especially geographers!
There does seem to be a set lesson structure that they learn on their P.G.C.S.E. course and I think that it dates back to the issue of the desire of Ofsted [which they usually deny ever existed!] of having to see progress in 1 lesson. It seems to be that some new knowledge will be gathered-usually interactively by the students gathering bits from different stations around the room-they then check each other’s notes and add whatever they have missed before new knowledge is tested via an exam question/mark-scheme-hence progress is observed and measured!
Toni sensed that the students wanted to delve further into non-renewable energy and felt that a deeper discussion would have been better-at this point we talked about the lesson structure she is use to and I hope that she was relieved that I told her to forget about it-absolutely no need to cram everything into 1 lesson with a test at the end to show me that progress is being made. Lots of great opportunities are missed for Miss to develop her teaching so we thought about;
- This could be a lesson study on its own but over the next term and year, find out which are the best methods for you and your classes to make notes [find out new information] and to retain it-is this method the best?
- It might be if we refine the gathering of information process or other methods [I’m not getting involved in the text book debate!] may prove to be more effective. If we use the information gathering around the room method we have to stop them simply copying everything they can-it’s good to encourage note-taking but it is a skill we have to teach. When they check their notes afterwards with their partner, the temptation to copy everything that they haven’t got-occurs again!
- If you are doing this for the sake of showing ‘student interaction’-think what interaction actually means in the learning situation-for me it is the student reacting with the knowledge or skills to cause a ‘learning’ effect. Make the students cut to the chase in activities like this-use a word limit, time limit, 1 sentence. They will find it tough to begin with but will soon begin to select relevant information and if in the pair follow up they both ‘black-out’ any irrelevant information-they will learn vital examination skills-how many times do they write waffle and waste time?
- No need to show progress with a test every time-let them have the deeper discussion-they will probably recall more information over time by having memorable current examples and data.
- I thank Toni for letting me share our discussion-if this sounds like it didn’t go well-it did BUT she is eager to develop into the best teacher that she can be and lifting a few P.G.C.S.E. shackles and letting her experiment will support that. I’m delighted with the progress our NQTs are making and will soon have them all tweeting out their ideas and sharing their own ideas both internally and externally!
Thank you for reading.