Blog of the Week: 5 March 2021 – Focused feedback: why less is more

Feedback is meant to help students, but too often, it doesn’t. Students may not read it, may misunderstand it, or may not use it. If they clear each of these hurdles, they may still forget it by the next lesson. Meanwhile, giving feedback adds to our workload: it’s meant to be manageable, but too often, it isn’t.

Similarly, feedback is meant to help teachers. But too often, it doesn’t: too many issues are raised, goals are too vague, and there’s too little follow up. To make feedback useful, instructional coaching suggests we prioritise one small goal, practise it immediately, and return to it subsequently.

If teachers need focused feedback, surely students do too. Too often, my comments on students’ work were like an unhelpful observer’s to a teacher: I offered lots of …

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Blog of the Week: 26 February 2021 – Understanding Clues

As students return to schools, what are the subtle clues we can look for to check student understanding?

In just over a week, all students across the country will be returning to school – something we are all very much looking forward to. However, at the forefront of teachers’ minds will be how we are going to assess what students have understood during remote teaching, so that we can use this information to plan how we will fill these gaps. What we refer to as formative assessment.

EEF CEO Professor Becky Francis articulated this concern in June 2020:

​“Taken together, the prior literature on school closures and the growing evidence about the experience of socially disadvantaged families during …

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Blog of the Week: 12 February 2021 – Microsoft Forms and Feedback

This is a post to show teachers how to add feedback in Microsoft Forms and to show where pupils will receive and see that feedback.

Create a Microsoft Forms Quiz

Add questions, in each multiple choice question there is an option to add feedback to students choosing particular answers.  This is seen after a pupil submits the quiz.

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Blog of the Week: 5 February 2021 – Avoiding Synchronous Video Fatigue During Remote Learning

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in some monumental shifts to practice.  Educators have taken a critical lens as to why they teach the way they do and how it can be done more effectively.  For virtually every school that is, or will be, implementing some sort of remote or hybrid learning model, you can bet that videoconference tools will play an enormous role. While it is excellent that educators now have a variety of options at their disposal, there is a growing concern that has to be addressed if learning is the goal.

I need to get something off my chest.  Have you heard of Zoom fatigue? It is a real thing I assure you, and it applies to Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, or any other similar platform.  Facilitating professional learning using video conferencing tools is exhausting.  I have experienced this firsthand over the past couple of weeks as I have worked with numerous districts on remote and hybrid pedagogy through all-day virtual workshops.  Being put in this position empowered me to critically examine how the day would playout for the educators I was working with.  In the end, I went with shorter …

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Blog of the Week: 29 January 2021 – Teaching, sympathy and the art of Kintsugi

lobworth

I discovered that a ceramic pot had been broken yesterday. The pot was less than 5 months old. A year ago, I would have been very annoyed with this broken pot. The broken pot would have been taken to the tip.

This year, I didn’t see a broken pot. I saw an opportunity for something called ‘kintsugi’. And I think ‘kintsugi’ is an excellent way of reminding us to appreciate imperfection in our teaching. As a trainee teacher and, indeed, as a PGCE lecturer last year, I wish I had used the idea of kintsugi in my teaching and mentoring. Instead of feeling upset about broken relationships with students, or faulty teaching transitions, or lessons that smashed on impact, I might have embraced each imperfection. I might have encouraged my trainees to do the same.

Let me explain.

We tend deep down to be rather hopeful that we will –…

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Blog of the Week – 22 January 2021 – Principles for Remote Instruction: Notes from a #TLAC Masterclass.

teacherhead

Earlier this week I was thrilled to be invited by Doug Lemov to take part in one of the online workshops run by his brilliant Uncommon Schools organisation. (You can find out more about the workshops here. ) It was such a great experience to engage with training that completely walked the talk: a workshop about excellent remote instruction, delivered via excellent remote instruction. The webinar was superb in every respect, with thanks to the enthusiastic, knowledgeable trainers Hannah Solomon and Brittany Hargrove and the great material.

The session was set up with a class-sized cohort of attendees so that trainers could model securing full participation and engagement. I enjoyed meeting Destiny from Texas, Melissa from Chicago and Marzia from Bangladesh in our break-out sessions. The use of video examples – a Teach Like A Champion trademark – certainly brought the whole scenario alive. The whole approach made…

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Blog of the Week: 15 January 2021 – Some top tips for making teaching videos

A Chemical Orthodoxy

As a school, we’ve decided to spend time this term making teaching videos. There are two reasons for this:

  1. it will help our students who aren’t in school and generally prepare everyone in the event of a school closer
  2. it’s a great way to improve our modelling

It’s difficult to know what “worst case scenario” means, but if we never need to shut or lockdown or whatever, reason 2 is still incredibly powerful.

Over the last lockdown, I made 44 videos for Oak National Academy and close to 20 for Boxer’s Shorts. I made a lot of mistakes, got some great feedback and also had to work out a whole bunch of things for myself. This is inefficient, so I wrote the list below to help out my colleagues if they were interested. You might be interested too, so hopefully it will help you as well. Please note that I…

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Blog of the Week: 8 January 2020 – Certainties

Teachers don’t do well with uncertainty. There’s something about the reassuring ring of the bell that tells us everything is in its place. The comforting hug of routine keeps us safe and secure. The tidal rhythms of each half-term are calming in their familiarity.

So there’s nothing quite like the ‘unprecedented times’ of global pandemic to whip the rug from our feet and make us feel lost.

I’ve found it particularly hard to shift gears between normality and extraordinary times. From March to July, everything was different. But September lulled us into a false sense of security. Exams were firmly on. The R-Rate where I work was mercifully low. We had established our bubbles and new systems and things were relatively calm. So back to business as usual: reading ages, coaching, culture and feedback. Wonderful, I thought. Back to what I’m good at. Back to what I know. Back to…

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Blog of the Week: 18 December 2020 – A masterful no opt out by Danarius Frazier

Every once in a while, you come across an example of a teacher using a technique in the classroom that captures almost everything you wanted to say about it–Why a teacher would use it. How.

It’s a case study in how to apply a tool to advance learning and it pushes your understanding of the idea even a little more–you see it and think: Yes, that’s what I was trying to describe all along, even if you never quite did.You see it and you say: “Yes. That’s it.”

That’s how I felt last week when I watched this clip of Denarius Frazier using No Opt Out in his Geometry class at Uncommon Collegiate High School so I wanted to …

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Blog of the Week: 11 December 2020 – Pupils can learn more effectively through stories than activities

A randomised controlled trial found that children learn about evolution more effectively when engaged through stories read by the teacher, than through doing tasks to demonstrate the same concept.

The scientists investigated several different methods of teaching evolution in primary schools, to test whether a pupil-centred approach (where pupils took part in an activity) or a teacher-centred approach (where pupils were read a story by the teacher), led to a greater improvement in understanding of the topic.

They also looked at whether using human-based examples of evolution (comparing arm bones in humans with those in animals), or more abstract examples that were harder to emotionally engage with (comparing the patterns of trilobites), produced better…

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