Colour Coordination: Highlighting those Skills

BossI am obsessed with highlighters! I never use to be, I could teach a whole lesson without the words ‘grab a highlighter’ but now this is not the case. Why? Because they are the best thing to help students focus on the task at hand. Now as many of you know I am a huge Inner Drive and Bradley Busch fan and find their research into metacognition extremely interesting OIP (1)(see The Science of Learning if you would like to know more).  However they do not advocate the use of highlighting as part of effective learning. I wish to disagree. Here are some ways that using highlighters can be very effective for learning:

Assessment strategy:

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  • Students highlight the key words from the question in their answer. This will guarantee they have focused specifically on the words in the question and have adapted their essay answer to what the examiners have asked. An excellent or top mark essay will use the words in the question throughout an answer. Note: whilst students might think they have answered the question, only by highlighting the key words will they know for sure.
  • Give an essay and remove the question. Can students work out the question by highlighting the key words that are used throughout?
  • Highlight A01 and A02 in different colours.
  • Students use the examiner’s mark scheme to self assess their own essays by highlighting the relevant criteria that applies to their work.(See Improve Your Essays Using Mark Schemes for further help).78637489_2556535761294327_7496363354965934080_o

Feedback:

  • Using  general or whole class feedback given by the teacher, highlight your essay/ work where the comments apply to your answer. Then make the relevant changes.
  • Rather than writing the same thing throughout when marking a piece of work/ essay use highlights to draw attention to different things e.g. spelling in one colour, misunderstandings in another.

Revision:

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Teacher Toolkit: Thinking of Becoming a Teacher?

I was always going to be a teacher. It isn’t one of those situations where I say ‘for as long as I can remember I wanted to be a teacher’. No, in fact I wanted to be a Blue Peter presenter when I was younger (who didn’t want to be able to make the Thunderbird Island and go on all those adventures?!). But teaching seemed to find me. For many years I thought I would be a Primary School teacher but after about 4 years of voluntary work during my college and early degree years, I realised it wasn’t quite the right fit for me.

So I started to look into different options for teaching older students. There was no question in my mind that I wanted to teach Philosophy and Ethics in the hopes of re-creating the intellectually stimulating environment that I was so fortunate to experience myself at college (mainly due to my wonderful teacher who I am now very fortunate to teach alongside). However the thought of having to do my teacher training in Secondary RE, in order to teach A Level, frightened me to the core (those stories will definitely be kept for a future blog!)

Still I persevered and when the time arrived I applied for the one year Secondary Religious Studies PGCE at Durham University. My interview consisted of a written activity, group activity and then panel interview. Now I was as prepared as I could be, don’t forget this was prior to Google been the fountain of all knowledge but one question in particular threw me through a loop!

“You have ten minutes to design a scheme of work on any topic of your choice to teach to a year 8 class last lesson on a Friday.” My first thought…you want me to design a what?

So with this in mind, last year I piloted an Enrichment course with any students considering teaching. This course was meant to run for the whole year but due to lockdown was of course cut short. I am once again running the course with a new cohort of students for one hour a week. I designed the course to explore many different areas of teaching including: looking for the right route into teaching, preparing for an interview and the pedagogical practice behind teaching. All the things I was naively unaware of.

I wanted to share the Toolkit Pack I have designed to help, guide and encourage any other students exploring the possibility of teaching. It comprises of a multitude of questions, with some reading, to help focus students on important aspects of teaching. It is catered for Primary teaching through to Post 16.

The Teacher Toolkit Pack contains (download here):

  1. What makes a ‘good’ teacher?
  2. Teaching Acronyms: what do they mean?
  3. Myths about Teaching
  4. Avenues into Teaching
  5. Writing a UCAS Personal Statement (This also might help: How to write a UCAS Personal Statement)
  6. Interview Preparation for Teacher Training/ Degree
  7. Lesson Planning
  8. Teaching, Learning and Assessment
  9. Special Educational Needs (More on Autism can be found here: Autism Awareness: How aware are you?)
  10. Ensuring Questioning Impacts Students’ Learning (Check this out for more: Ensuring Questioning Impacts Students’ Learning)
  11. Dealing with Behaviour Issues in the Classroom
  12. Differentiation
  13. What is Happening in the World of Teaching Today? (This is a great website to help with this: ResearchED: Keeping a finger on the pedagogy pulse.)
  14. Lesson Observations
  15. Preparing for Work Experience
  16. Reflections of Work Experience

I hope you find it useful when preparing for a future in teaching.

Social Distance Group Work: Padlet

Teaching Criminology has introduced me to a different exam board, assessment strategies and content. For the first time ever I also have a lesson a week in a computer room! Yes, that special room that only a few subjects get to experience, that is always booked out and unavailable, I now have every week. So never one to just do the ‘sit down and research’ task, I decided to pilot a new teaching strategy in my first computer room lesson. Padlet. Padlet is an online resource where students can create interactive notice boards of information. What better for socially distanced group work?  

After 20 minutes of chaos trying to set up the padlets and send the links to the relevant groups of students, we finally settled into a research routine. The results were fantastic! Every group (there were five in total) were able to work together to create an interactive board with links, photos, videos, write ups, articles, research all that represented the topic area assigned to them such as Hate Crime or Domestic Abuse. The boards are immediately updated so everyone in the group can see what is being added in real time. The finished boards were then exported into PDF and shared with the classes to keep in their folders.  

So how do you use it? First of all sign up for Padlet or access through Microsoft (if you use Teams through your school/college you will get immediate access). To set the boards up, go to ‘make’ and then ‘wall’, from here you can go to the top right hand corner with the settings symbol and alter the background and enable name visibility, authorising comments, allowing students to comment on each other’s posts etc. Then share the link with the students and they can start adding materials to it by pressing the plus sign in the pink circle in the bottom right hand corner. Once completed export the documents into PDF and save them. The bonus of using Padlet is that all the hyperlinks to articles etc. that were on the original board, still work on the PDF worksheet. So it really becomes an invaluable resource for future work and revision.  

I highly recommend it! It would also work really well remotely, so could be a group activity that students complete from home.  

Teaching and Learning Reflections 2019-2020

Who would ever have expected last year to turn out the way it did! As we commence into the unknown of teaching amidst Covid precautions, I reflect on what went well, changes made and the lessons learnt.

Last year I aimed to try three new things: Consolidation Packs, half termly quizzes and folders. Two out of three of these were a success – well for the first half of the year they were.

Firstly the Consolidation Packs, a booklet organised with a Blank Sheet Summary and Essay Question for each topic. Each week my students routinely had a Consolidation lesson on the previous week’s topic, allowing them to forget and then re-learn the topic. Every consolidation lesson followed the same structure: revise for ten minutes, from memory write down everything can remember on a blank sheet, using notes fill in any gaps, test then essay writing.  This routine emphasized more testing over revising, key to memory training (see The Science of Learning for more information on memory and recall).

I asked my students what they thought and there were mixed responses, mainly positive but a few, as expected, were not as keen. Some comments included: “I thought they were really helpful, gave time to ask questions and clarify any missing areas from the topics” and “The KKT’s and blank sheet summaries were very useful because they forced me to revise the topics as we completed them” and “The exam questions with a guide for structure were extremely helpful.” For more information on the Consolidation Packs see: Revision Must-Do: Blank Sheet Summary

Secondly the half termly quizzes, whilst only doing three, seemed to work really well. The aim was to test the students on their key words. So after October half term I created a table of all the key philosophical words encountered thus far e.g. A Priori and the students had to write the definition for each word. After Christmas they got the same list of words with new ones added. After February they got the previous two tests with all the further new words added. This is a retrieval strategy, once again designed to train their memory, moving the words from short to long term recall. 

Lastly the folders never happened due to budgeting, however generally my students maintain very organised folders to support their revision. 

Last year also had a few firsts for me. These included: 

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