Now you may have thought that I would be talking about the latest piece of technology to use in the classroom but you would be wrong. The most innovative tool I used with my classes this week was a Kinder Surprise. (without the chocolate of course – we are a healthy school)
The adverts are true that ‘you can find a different surprise in every egg’ It reminds me of the old advert which looking back now is extremely disturbing. If you have a spare 30 seconds here it is:
How do you use the Kinder eggs?
I first heard about this idea from Mr Scott @SBCC_mrscott another teacher at a CPD event. Basically I prepared individual challenges/objectives with the aim to stretch and challenge students from my Year 7 class during the lesson. Students opt to try to extend themselves and if they complete it they are rewarded for taking the risk.
How did it go?
Like anything new that you try to use in the classroom it may never go as you originally planned. First of all I underestimated the desire of my Year 7 students to want to take part, all thirty ran to pick up an egg but unfortunately I only had four (So now I must eat more Kinder Eggs). So then I had to adapt the idea and it became more of a stealth challenge as to ensure more than four students had a chance to take part I asked the students to open the egg, read the challenge, complete it and then return the egg whilst keeping it a secret from everyone else. Although I didn’t plan for this it added a interesting and fun side to the activity.
Using the Kinder eggs had great results, it created a hook for the boys to really challenge themselves and as the teacher I could set this up before the lesson, I could even in future write new objectives/challenges throughout the lesson and add them to the eggs.
Have you got any fun ideas on encouraging students to go that extra mile and to really challenge their learning?
Dan Roberts @danjjroberts
Hopefully you have read my first post about SWAT and you are wondering how you can get involved? I am confident that SWAT can provide our with CPD and opportunities they may not otherwise be able to access. Below you will find information about forthcoming SWAT events, this is a taster and I will be coming to speak to individuals about their subject meetings and other events in the future.
Staff who have been on recent SWAT events have found them to be a valuable experience and I would encourage you to look for events in your subject areas or projects that you can get involved with. You can see some of the recent comments below:
“The SWAT event I attended was a day at TGGS where a group of teachers met the renowned artist Kurt Jackson. The morning was spent at a local beach where we worked upon a seascape with the artist. He conversed with all of us and we had the opportunity to discuss his work and techniques. In the afternoon we returned to TGGS where Kurt gave a presentation and we had a question and answer session to follow. The event provided an opportunity to talk with other teachers and share/compare specifications, moderation experiences and practical teaching.”
Penny Cushing, Head of Art at Devonport High School for Boys
“A general sharing of good practice/discussion of problems encountered. It was very good to be talking to folk who had the same issues, problems (& hopefully solutions) as us. I picked up a couple of ideas I really liked such as Y8 Go to work with your parents day!”
Sue Moreton, IAG Co-coordinator at Devonport High School for Boys
“Excellent meeting held at Colyton Grammar where we were able to spend the time to share good practice.”
Nichole Sanders, Head of Enterprise at Devonport High School for Boys
If you would like more information about SWAT or SWAT events then just ask!
Rachael Green @dhsbgeography
Head of Geography
Preparing for controlled assessments in MFL is essential for making sure students achieve a worthwhile grade: a range of tenses, structures, vocabulary and of course sufficient content. By Year 11 our students are pretty familiar with the format and just need the time to strengthen and deepen their own answers. Part of this preparation is to improve answers on the basis of feedback from their teacher and peers.
With this in mind I asked Year 11 to work in pairs or groups of three to develop ideas on the topic of “Hobbies” in all the categories mentioned above. I asked each group to note down ideas on a specified focus, grammatical or thematic, note down their ideas on a sheet of sugar paper and after ten minutes to pass it on to the next group who would benefit from the knowledge of the previous one or correct their mistakes and add to it before passing the sugar paper on again.
Then as part of a plenary session students held up the sheets of sugar paper one by one and the class as a whole commented on the combined wisdom of the group on each particular focus. If there were any misconceptions I was able to step in as I did if I felt there was an extension to be squeezed out which students might not have spotted.
Having had great success with this with my older students I will be trying this with my younger students. I am considering using this technique at least once a term to develop the skills of students and allow them to take responsibility for their own progress as well as that of the rest of the class.
In a wider context I think it can only be healthy for the learning process to become one in which students feel they have as much to contribute as the teacher and techniques which allow them to develop a sense of responsibility have to be positive.
Head of German
Literacy is a hot topic at DHSB and for good reason: we want our students to achieve the highest possible academic standards. In order to do this it is necessary for students to be able to communicate their knowledge and understanding of a broad range of subjects with clarity, accuracy and confidence and not only in their written work but also their oral work. Unfortunately, with the wealth of information that students need to process and share, attention to detail is often lacking and valuable marks are lost due to errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar. When you also consider that writing to describe or to explain means different things across the curriculum, you can understand why students sometimes struggle. So that leaves us with an unappealing word in ‘literacy’ and a significant challenge in helping students to prioritise precision. The good news is that there is a lot that we can do to reinforce these skills and that we now have a forum in the shape of this blog for doing so.
As a starting point I wondered if the explicit teaching of key words in every subject would help to transform learning. Whilst I recognise that the explicit teaching of key words on their own will not be successful in creating more effective or expert communication, it might help the students to re-engage with the specialist language of different subjects and give them access to ways of learning. It might also help students to become more thoughtful and more precise in their communication. Karen, Louise, Pam and Ross are currently working with 7W and 8N on a key words project and we’ll share the process and the findings here as we make progress with the project. The students have already shared their thoughts with us and literacy ambassadors for each subject have been chosen. Now it’s over to us to make the use of key words an integral part of the teaching and learning process. Geoff Barton would be proud!
Why would Geoff Barton be proud? Well, when I sent a recent plea to Geoff Barton (the author of “Don’t call it literacy!”) to provide me with an alternative term to ‘literacy’, I received a simple and direct reply: “Teaching? (I’m not joking: literacy should be embedded into what every teacher in every subject does).” Although I was hoping to find a more interesting and engaging term than ‘literacy’, I found in Geoff’s response the simple fact that it is our teaching that must engage students with literacy. So, with this response in mind, I gave up my brief quest to replace the term ‘literacy’ with something more appealing and tried to focus instead on what really matters and that is enhancing the quality of teaching and learning through improving communication. Why wait until students are in Yr11 and Yr13 to prioritise effective and accurate communication? It is critical to develop students’ confidence in spoken and written communication over time so that they build good habits. As subject specialists the one thing that we can all do every day within our teaching is to model expert communication and demonstrate effective communication perhaps through the use of key words. Let’s share our ideas and resources here!
Clare McConnell @DHSBEnglish
Head of English
I have recently taken the role of SWAT Coordinator across the school. After attending one meeting of SWATCo’s I cannot wholeheartedly define my role, which I believe will develop over time. However, I do know that SWAT will allow the continued development of teaching and learning and I think that opportunities for this with similar schools is integral to engage and challenge our students.
That’s nice, but what is SWAT?
SWAT (The South West Academic Trust) is a partnership of leading South West grammar schools and The University of Exeter.
The schools involved can be seen on the map above: Bishops Wordsworth School, Bournemouth School for Girls, Churston Ferrers Grammar School, Colyton Grammar School, Devonport High School for Boys, Parkstone Grammar School, Plymouth High School for Girls, Poole Grammar School, South Wilts Grammar School, Torquay Boys Grammar School and Torquay Girls Grammar School. These are leading academic schools in the South West region and these links are the start of exciting partnerships.
The vision for SWAT is that schools work together to raise achievement and aspiration within our schools. This partnership started with fewer schools and we have recently joined with the hope that we can work with these partner schools to foster good practice and innovation. Exeter University’s involvement gives us further opportunities to access resources for our teachers and students through their research and working collaboratively in teaching and learning and preparing students for higher education.
The key areas below are the driving factors for SWAT and its vision:
Subject Department collaboration will allow Heads of Department to meet and collaborate on a specific area of their choosing. This is likely to involve other department members and/or students and should contribute to work already being done to improve and develop teaching and learning
Gifted and talented research will allow those who have responsibility for G&T to meet to discuss how they can most effectively be challenged. These discussions take place alongside events specifically designed for our most able students.
SWAT also aims to look at CPD, activities for students and collaboration with local schools and the “Mastering the Dragon”conference is a good example of this in action (look out for more information about this event soon).
Please look out for regular posts and updates about SWAT events and opportunities for our students.
Rachael Green @dhsbgeography
Head of Geography
There is one big problem with wanting students to do background reading outside of the classroom; accountability. This is certainly an age-old problem, whereby only the most motivated of students actually complete the task. Step forwards Google Docs. I first used Google Forms to gather anonymous feedback from my students on teaching and learning styles they found most useful in Psychology. Encouraged by how quick, easy, but powerful it was I considered its utilisation for flipped learning.
For my year 13 Psychology students, one third of their course requires basic knowledge, with two-thirds strong evaluative skills. It is inevitably the latter skill students find challenging and cannot learn from a textbook, whereas facts can easily be absorbed outside of the classroom and consolidated in lessons. I recently trialled setting my students a pre-reading task before every new topic, emailing out a very short 7 question multiple-choice quiz to separate classes. Not only does Google Forms collate all of the students’ results in real-time, but it also time-stamps them and thus introduces accountability. It is as simple as it sounds. My main concern was whether students would fail to complete the task and arrive at lessons behind others, however within a week the opposite was true. Students knew results would be projected on the board at the start of the lesson, so would hastily complete on their phones in the break time before class if they’d forgotten.
It has been fantastically successful. All students arrive at new topics with prior knowledge, which means that we spend much more time in lessons focusing on higher level analytical skills, with consolidation tasks at the start to check for understanding. I can also identify any areas of misunderstanding from the outset (after throwing the odd tricky question in). All of my year 13s voted for keeping the quizzes (despite the extra reading four nights a week!) although half said they would prefer to be sent a quiz after a topic in class, either in addition to, or instead of the pre-reading one.
If interested in doing something similar, I would definitely recommend setting quizzes up in the holidays on your Google Drive, as they are time-consuming to create, but take seconds to share with a class at the end of a lesson.
Kimberley Croft @kimcroft
International Links Coordinator
Teacher of Psychology and Science