All entries for March 2020

March 31, 2020

Reflecting – “…through a mirror darkly…” Keith

So, term starts, and there you are in the classroom, pen in hand, notebook at the ready, senses sharpened, dutifully primed (Christmas pun intended) by the well-oiled operation of the Warwick CPE induction team (leave that one with you!) and ready for applying yourself to observation. Observing, do it all the time, have done pretty much since birth, should be good at it. Off we go. An hour later and that’s one down. Much as I thought. Kids lined up, came in, sat down, slapped down a bit for being noisy, reminded that underlining is done with a ruler and, according to my notes, did some exercises. Oh yes, I recognised a strategy or two going on: countdowns; gentle rebuke to the disengaged; reminder of expectations. There we are job-done.

A week or two passes, more notes are taken when the sneaking feeling that these notes are all much the same and, dare I say, somewhat dry and moribund. I’m even writing down the topics and annotating the exercise questions? There are now bits of scaffolding jottings in my pad where I have broken away from observing to get involved in the doing (not that there is anything wrong with that per se). But is writing about whether the ladder leaning against the wall is safe, really going to help my classroom practice (short of the classroom’s openable windows being elevated to a significantly lofty location.)? I need to re-focus, and probably even take-a-look at the session we had on ‘observation’ at uni., which, I am sure, would have almost certainly been useful. Ah yes, focus on one aspect, study all the techniques used for BfL or AFL or differentiation. Makes sense. Right, I’m ready to go. I’m focussed. A few lessons pass. A quick look at my notes. What! Is that all I’ve written? Even some of my least diligent pupils would have recorded more than that! Needs re-thinking, but for now I need to concentrate on delivering my first full lessons.

What went well? I emerged, relatively unscathed. Excellent level of heat generated, possibly accompanied by a flicker of light. What, ‘could be better’? I’m left reflecting, but the next lesson is imminent, so I’m back to a bit more ‘observing’.

The Epiphany. Ah! so that’s what’s been happening. The Teacher ensures the students are admitted in good time, they are settled quickly, they know the routine, they have stuff to do immediately. The teacher glides effortlessly and with minimum instruction to the main focus of the lesson. The students are all, according to their respective needs, and with a relaxed freedom, on task. A flicker of disengagement is smoothly quelled and students are transitioned easily through effortless orchestration from the steady to appropriate, more challenging, tasks. Students are acting as autonomous agents, doing work, at consummative ease in an environment of unspoken, yet understood, boundaries. There is peer to peer support. The teacher is almost subliminally aware of the proceedings. There is a sense of safety and mutual respect, which seems to underpin the whole operation. Assessment of learning leads to a careful transition of tasks achieved effortlessly due to prior preparation. A brief round-up and the class ends. Students are reminded firmly but respectfully of the exit procedure. Staff and students are relaxed and smiling as they depart.

Funny, for all those previous notes and years of experience of ‘observing’, I somehow seemed to have missed all that, until I’d had a go myself.


March 23, 2020

A student toolkit to help you tackle remote learning

In these challenging times we thought you might find this blog post, written by BSc IT with Business Studies and BSc Business and ICT students at Sheffield Hallam University, useful:

https://socialmediaforlearning.com/2020/03/22/guest-post-a-student-toolkit-to-help-you-tackle-remote-learning-written-by-students-for-students/?fbclid=IwAR0DyuogLiFfbVEqwfW_x7cfKR3FZSj4UQ90eDlZPQ1QviAsf7loVoIQ3DA

If there are any teaching topics you are particularly interested in, or you have a post that you think might be appropriate, please let us know by emailing A.Ball.1@warwick.ac.uk.

Keep safe and keep well, with best wishes from the WJETT Blog Team


March 16, 2020

What can be learnt from a lesson observation? – Scott

What can be learnt from a lesson observation? How does this impact upon your strategies for behaviour management?

My current school places a great emphasis on observations and teachers are expected to observe other lessons and be observed. Whilst this can feel like a big workload increase, as a trainee teacher, the lessons I have observed and the feedback I have been given when observed, have proven invaluable, particularly in the area of behaviour management.

Observations can be a greatly effective tool in that they allow colleagues to share quite simple strategies and tools which can be implemented immediately with effective results. I was recently observed by a colleague who noted that whilst there was a core of engaged and participating students, many students were unengaged and entirely switched off and misbehaving as a result. My colleague shared a simple questioning strategy that would hopefully help with behaviour management. Instead of choosing students with their hands up, which allowed some students to, “opt-out,” of the lesson, I needed to begin using a random selection technique which meant any student could be chosen at any time. This meant students would need to ensure they were following the lesson as there was almost a certainty that they would be chosen to speak at some point. This was a simple technique that I was able to implement immediately with a noticeable improvement in behaviour. As well as this, it also allowed me to learn their names quicker, which contributed to the building of rapport, which is crucial to behaviour management, as Cowley (2010) notes, “at its heart, good behaviour is about good teacher/student relationships.”

Recently, I observed a colleague’s lesson that gave me a lot of insight into their teaching philosophy and in turn, made me think about my own. I noticed that the wall displays were a little jumbled and messy. This was in contrast to how displays are normally presented in the classes in my school, very neat and clearly done by an adult. My colleague explained to me that most of the displays had been completed by the students. Part of her teaching philosophy revolved around creating a student centred atmosphere. She was trying to empower students, give them ownership of their own learning and create a sense of community in her classroom and improve rapport and behaviour as a result. Platt (2019) points out that “real motivation comes from seeing success as possible.” By seeing their own efforts proudly displayed on the wall, students received a motivation boost. This really resonated with me as it mirrored some of my own teaching philosophies and I attempted to copy this tactic in a later lesson.

As a trainee teacher, it can be easy to spend all of your time and energy on classroom management. At the beginning of the academic year, I was able to observe a colleague who provided me with some excellent behavioral strategies such as setting clear expectations, eye contact and coming within to proximity to students who were misbehaving. These were simple strategies that I could begin practicing and implement immediately.

References

Cowley, S. (2010) Getting the Buggers to Behave


Platt, R. (2019) Working Hard and Working Happy: Cultivating a Culture of Effort and Joy in the Classroom


March 09, 2020

What can be learnt from a lesson observation? – Bobo

What can be learnt from a lesson observation? How does this impact upon your strategies for behaviour management?

The lesson I observed was clearly structured and planned in terms of its prior learning, learning objective, and success criteria. The teacher checked on the students’ prior learning at the beginning of the lesson. They were asked to complete a task by the end of the lesson. The learning objective and success criteria were given orally and written on the board. According to the three-phase model of Positive Learning Framework (McDonald, 2013), the second phase for preventing negative behavior is the lesson design. McDonald (2013) also notes that having the lesson objectives and outcomes on the board can be extremely useful in building up a positive learning environment. Routine is also demonstrated as part of the lesson structure. For instance, students stacked their book bags at the center of the table right after they walked into the classroom. They were accustomed to this routine that they did not require any verbal reminder. According to Garrett’s case study, she observes that all teacher participants have a common trace of having routines and procedures in their classrooms. She later concludes that these characteristics help to “create productive, positive learning environments with minimal misbehavior and supportive, respectful relationships” (Garrett, 2008:42). For my adapted lesson plan after my observation, I have taken a more proactive measure for my behavioral strategy. I incorporate a routine and consistent structure in my lesson plans. Each activity consists of objectives and outcomes. The routine of my recent lessons includes a riddle activity at the beginning of the lesson, in which students can utilize this activity as a warmup speaking exercise and reset the atmosphere from the previous lesson they had.

The second element I have identified from my observation is the intrinsic and extrinsic forms of motivational strategies used by the teacher. She triggered students’ curiosity in the form of an iPad self-learning activity. Students had to research online in groups to find answers on their own. McDonald (2013) claims that students tend to have a higher level of engagement with interactive activities and group work. He also mentions that engagement is part of the preventive stage of behavior management. On the other hand, the teacher that I observed also used an extrinsic form of motivation. She had a point system in the lesson to encourage desirable behavior. Garrett (2008) also notes in her case study that the use of extrinsic motivation has its value, particularly in times of preventing misbehavior. Concerning my behavioral management strategy, the observation has encouraged me to adopt a more diverse approach to behavior management. I have adjusted to a more hands-on activity approach in my lesson planning. In my science lessons, I have assigned more exploratory tasks and group work for students to keep them motivated and engaged during lessons. Meanwhile, I also use compliments and praise to address appropriate behavior.

Strategies for behavior management is a complex topic. Despite the numerous ways in which teacher trainees can benefit from observing lessons, lesson observation can have its limitations. As a teacher trainee, we opt to keep exploring and reflecting on different methods of managing behavior.

References:

McDonald, T (2013), Classroom Management: Engaging Students in Learning. [online] Oxford University Press. Available from: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/warw/detail.action?docID=4191356. (Accessed 29 October 2019).

Tracey, G (2008) Student- Centered and Teacher- Centered Classroom Management: A Case Study of Three Elementary Teachers. Journal of Classroom Interaction, 43 (1): 34-47


March 02, 2020

What can be learnt from a lesson observation? – Lily

What can be learnt from a lesson observation? How does this impact upon your strategies for behaviour management?

Peer lesson observations have provided me with an insight into not just behaviour management strategies but also student response and engagement, therefore immediately indicating how effective the strategy has been. In particular, I have found observing a Key Stage 1 science lesson extremely beneficial for my development.

Tailoring lessons helps students to engage with the learning, as they feel the work is achievable (Griffith and Burns, 2012). This then reduces disruptive behavior in the classroom as students are able to participate in the lesson. Whilst observing the aforementioned lesson I was able to see how the teacher adapted her plan to support her class who were struggling to remain focussed. Instead of writing to document their understanding, students took photographs and recorded their explanations. This documented their learning in a way that was engaging and accessible to the class. Following this observation, I edited a lesson to best suit my class, I prioritised groupwork and documented student learning through captioned photographs. Following this lesson, on reflection, the level of work my students produced was significantly higher than the work they had produced the previous week, where students had lost focus due to written work expectation being too high.

Griffith and Burns (2012) explain that students who feel connected with their teachers feel motivated in their learning. One way in which to establish this relationship is to encourage students to share how they are feeling, thus building their emotional literacy; Shelton and Brownhill (2012) define emotional literacy as “the ability to recognise, understand, handle, and appropriately express emotions”. Increased emotional literacy can enable the teacher to build stronger connections with students and by doing so reduce negative behaviour (Lee, 2006, Sharp 2012). I had previously implemented this verbally in my classroom, but felt it wasn’t having an impact. Whilst observing the opening of the science lesson I noticed the class had a ‘Feelings Chart’. The students were free to move their photograph up or down the chart to show how they were feeling throughout the day, allowing for changing of feelings and more frequent class discussion. Moreover, whilst observing her lesson, I was able to see how the teacher adjusted her tone depending on the student’s mood or feelings. I have since introduced the ‘Feelings Chart’ into my classroom. I found it has helped me to build a greater understanding of my students and build stronger connections, which in turn has improved their behaviour.

Whilst I observed the lesson, I noticed that the teacher addressed low-level disruptive behaviour using non-verbal prompts to get students back on task. This maintained the pace of the lesson and prompted the students in this class to make better behaviour choices. By watching this being implemented in a lesson I was able to see how students quickly mirrored the teachers’ actions. I have since found silent behaviour management techniques to be particularly effective with my students who can be loud or disruptive as my actions are a total contrast to their behaviour.

References

Griffith, A. and Burns, M. (2012). Outstanding Teaching: Engaging Learners. Camarthen: Crown House Publishing, pp.91-92.

Sharp, P. (2012). Nurturing Emotional Literacy. 3rd ed. Oxon: Routledge.


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  • Very interesting, thank you for sharing. Great CPD reflection. by Joel Milburn on this entry
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