Red Hot lessons Blog Post 2:Exam Questions

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In an attempt to improve student’s exam technique and literacy ability I have been experimenting through a number of strategies with GCSE students. This has been an ongoing measure so the opportunity to receive some feedback from peers by demonstrating one during Red Hot Lesson fortnight seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.

The task involved setting students an exam question and allowing them time in groups to plan a response on a specially prepared sheet. Students were asked to write their responses themselves under timed conditions, then rotate answers to allow their peers to review their work and make suggestions for improvement. Another rotation of work allowed for peer marking of their initial answers against the GCSE mark scheme, The activity culminated in the final rotation of work to allow students their books back to review the comments and marks. Students were finally asked to take home their books to act on the comments to result in an answer worth full marks.

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Most students coped well with this approach and were happy to participate in the activity, benefiting from the opportunity to plan their answers together and then offer suggestions for improvement. There were general nods of agreement after the lesson that they would be happy to undertake this approach again. What stood out for me most, though, was the fear in a couple of students eyes who actually failed to write more than two sentences (most wrote  between half and a whole page). They were anxious that their peers would be reviewing their work so closely, preferring instead to maintain a solitary approach to their learning (despite careful planning of groups to alleviate  this anticipated situation). They were reluctant to join in the group planning and could not bring themselves to write their answers. The interactive approach took them out of their comfort zone and, despite coaxing in the lesson, they did not benefit from the approach. I need to find a way to include them without them realising their are being included!

Their books and answers are due in for marking today so I hope the quality of the answers reflect the effort that appeared to be shown in the lesson.

Kerry Anstee

 

Red Hot Lesson Blog post 1

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Well that was (not so) pointless!!

I have stacks to do at this time of year with all the marking, report writing, parents evenings and now CPD. Isn’t strange, yet a testimony to how seriously we take our jobs, that we put ourselves last in all of this?  CPD? What? In February?

It came to my attention during Tuesday’s Bluesky sesh, that one of the ways I was going to achieve my objectives was to improve my starters and plenaries. Basic stuff I know, but easy to let go when you’ve been teaching for a few years.

Sharon demonstrated 4 different plenaries during her Y13 biology lesson of approx 20 students. Here are my thoughts:

Blockbusters:blockbuster

Concept: Each square is given the first letter of a key word. Students pick a letter, teacher reads out the definition, student guesses the word.

Evaluation: If you put a cartoon underneath the squares it gives the students more of an incentive to guess the letters and speeds up the game. Works in subjects where the definitions are quite tricky. Would take a bit of time to set up but could last for years.

Original definition, Think, Pair, Share answer box:Capture

Concept: students are given a definition or a question (of around 6 marks at A-level). They put their original definition in next, then think what keywords they could add to improve, pair swop with partner to see if they can improve, share check with the model answer.

Evaluation: Easy to setup, easy to administer, gets the students thinking, revises key terms, good for level one stuff, however not so good at level 2,3 and 4 if you want to develop them a bit further.

Plicker:plickers-4-638

Concept: Each student is given a unique answer card so they can confidently submit their answer without fear of being wrong. Question is up on the board. Student holds up the card with answer A, B, C or D, teacher goes round scanning cards with phone.Plicker feedback

Evaluation: Takes ages to scan a large class of answers so in this respect Kahoot would be much more effective. It doesn’t however require any of the students to use their devices, so would work with small groups and you get a cute little spreadsheet to show how you’ve assessed their A01 skills. 

Pointless

Concept: 3 circles are drawn one inside another like an archery board. Each section scores different marks and first letter of keywords is inserted into the section according to its level of difficulty. Students pick a letter, teacher reads out definition, student guesses word, points scored. (I might get one of those velcro dart boards, so much more fun!)

Evaluation: Fun, easy to set up, good for competition, even better with a real board.

So, it was worth leaving my Y12’s with work to get on with whilst I dashed out for some CPD. Brightened up my Friday afternoon anyway!                                                  Nicola Lilley

 

Day 14:Literacy for Life

Improving-life-chances-through-literacy

It is too easy to see literacy as a domain of words, a discreet procession of phonology¹, orthography² and semantics³ and while each of these is important, they are but tools for a greater purpose. To use a cliché sometimes we miss the wood for the trees. The UNESCO definition of someone who is ‘literate’ is, to paraphrase, one who is able to participate fully in their community and wider society. We forget this at our peril in schools. Students should not just ‘do’ a subject since subjects are at best artificial administrative divisions within a wider educational process. If so then an educated student, when they go into the wider world, if they are truly literate, can go beyond language, numbers and images to a deep understanding of the underlying cultural morés of society and in the present climate this is the greatest challenge facing all of us.

Graham Macleod @mcdhsb

Phonology¹ is the study of the sound system of languages

An Orthography² is a set of conventions for how to write a language. It includes rules of spelling, hyphenation, capitalization, word breaks, emphasis, and punctuation.

Semantics³ the branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning.desktop_literacy_image

Day 13:Biscuits Club   Doctor Who Club   Mafia Club     Creative Writing Club

 

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Unsure what to expect, I turned up for the first session of said club with a nervous knot in my stomach. I also brought along a rigorous lesson plan masquerading as a ‘I-definitely-didn’t-spend-three-hours-planning-this’ activity, and a packet of Oreos clutched tightly in my hand as a hopeful peace offering (they were even the ‘double stuffed’ variety – I was pulling out all the stops).

What I did discover, however, was a genuinely lovely group of pupils – a mix of eager Year 7s and Year 10 CW club veterans – who were more than happy to share their experience of how the club was run with me, helping me on what has turned out to be a significant learning curve.

So far this year, we’ve brought in random objects such as Rubiks cubes and human teeth (!) and used these to inspire original poems and short stories. We’ve rewritten classic fairy tales to include a modern twist, like Rapunzel accidentally singeing off her luscious locks with faulty straighteners. One pupil seemingly enjoyed the biscuity bribes so much, he wrote a piece called ‘Ode to an Oreo’…only at DHSB!

We’ve also attempted to go through every session without getting sidetracked by discussing Doctor Who (and how Peter Capaldi strangely resembles a recently departed headteacher…), and I’ve accidentally introduced a new obsession called Mafia. This might be my biggest triumph (and regret) of this academic year so far. It’s essentially a storytelling version of Murder in the Dark, in which the role of ‘The Mafia’ is anonymously bestowed on one of the pupils in the group, and allows them to ruthlessly kick their peers out of the game round by round, often sparking an extremely heated debate about who is committing these nefarious crimes.

Joking aside, it’s become a part of my week which allows me to go into a session without hyperventilating if I haven’t planned every minute detail. It’s a genuine highlight of my Mondays and a true win-win scenario, as it’s enabled me to both enjoy the students’ company and find out what I am capable of outside of the classroom. Meanwhile, I’m going to pretend the rise in members each week isn’t solely down to Mafia’s frighteningly addictive appeal.

So overall, two important lessons learned. Number one: take extra-curricular opportunities if they are thrown at you – after all, you can always arm yourself with Oreos and you will most likely end up enjoying yourself more than you ever expected. And number two: play Mafia at your own risk.

– Olivia Middleton

Day 12:The Power of words to inspire

Etymology of language:
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I have always had a love of language and especially linguistics (inspired in no small part by a wonderful lecturer at Southampton university). I am fascinated by the way language constantly changes and evolves, and in my lessons my aim is to evoke that same fascination in my own students. Some of them are already looking forward with great anticipation to the day when all French verbs are regular “er” verbs and they no longer have to deal with the complexities of faire or peindre. The signs are already there with skier, tchater and even googler!
This year I have had the opportunity to teach literacy to two year 8 classes and having listened to a radio 4 broadcast on neologisms I challenged them to make up their own words to describe an object or action that did not, as yet, have its own dictionary entry. We looked at some of those suggested by radio listeners such as floordrobe (a teenagers wardrobe) and slowvertaking (the action of 1 lorry trying to overtake another) and then it was over to them.
They were, as I expected, incredibly creative. Two of my favourites were “intelliflop” (verb) – when an intelligent person does something stupid (like asking how much something costs in a pound shop) and “engamed” (verb) – when you are so engulfed in your game that you don’t notice what is happening around you.
The power of language to inspire – long may it continue.
Michelle Heighway @HeighwayM
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