SWAT Conference 2015: Top 3

SWAT 4

Having attended the excellent SWAT Conference last week I was left with some questions, ideas and thoughts. A change of scenery and the wonderful train journey along the coast are always invigorating and left me with a greater sense of ‘Yes! Now I remember why I do what I do! And I’ve got some more ideas about how to do it…’

Here’s my SWAT Top 3:

  • Why do you do what you do?

Listening to Dan Roberts’ keynote speech was a reminder of the courage and bravery required by the profession at a time of great change. Having taught for several years now, I can’t remember such a demanding and challenging time but have to also confess to enjoying the Rubik’s Cube nature of curriculum planning and strategising. As an English teacher and KS3/4 coordinator I’m conscious of wanting to help lead the team I am part of to successfully plan, teach and assess students ready for the new suite of GCSEs but also to take into account changes at KS3 too. Sometimes it feels like we are climbing a mountain (or maybe standing on the edge of a precipice?!) but I am quietly confident that we will only improve our students’ chances and our ability to encourage their independence as learners. I also loved Dan’s He-Man reference – although I was more of a She-Ra fan myself!

  • Literacy: hot topic

I really enjoyed Helena Baker-Thornton’s ‘A different approach to whole school literacy’ and hearing about Torquay Girls’ Grammar School’s approach to the all-important issue of whole school literacy, a perennial topic that we continue to strive towards improving. I thought the use of a sophisticated media campaign, alongside other methods, was a great way to get students’ attention and to inspire the whole community to be involved.

  • SOLO taxonomy, fostering student independence and ’thinking skills’

As explained in Nicola’s blog post, SOLO taxonomy involves a structured approach to planning and learning which draws attention to processes and stages in students’ development of ideas. This very overt method of sharing with students which skills are being used when complemented and added to my own approach to teaching GCSE English Literature this year, where I have tried a number of techniques and approaches to overtly sharing ‘thinking skills’ with students. My approach has been to emphasise the hierarchical nature of key ‘thinking skills’ required in the Literature exams and to encourage students conscious application of these skills as they approach their literature responses.

I also thoroughly enjoyed participating in the workshop led by very articulate students from Torquay Boys’ Grammar School. They shared some approaches, including ‘Argument Tennis’, which I am keen to try. A very simple but effective and consistent method for providing feedback in students’ exercise books involved a stamp with categories for teachers to write alongside the icons. Teachers provided feedback on content, SPaG and also a question for students to respond to – along with improvements. This type of DIRT feedback is so useful and made me reflect on how it could be used in the English Department at DHSB. I’ve been experimenting with my own ‘traffic light’ system for providing formative feedback this year and perhaps these two approaches might be useful for the future…

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the day and the opportunity to share and learn in a thoroughly professional environment with time to listen, talk and enjoy lunch and coffee. Teachers are consummate professionals and we should always be proud of what we do – and we always strive to be better.

Sima Davarian @simadavarian

KS3/4 English Coordinator

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