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December 17, 2018

How I have used ICT to enhance my students’ learning – Danielle

ICT can be used in a variety of ways to facilitate and enhance students’ learning and includes: using data loggers; online assessment resources such as Kerboodle; mobile phones; and communicating information via software such as PowerPoint (Capel et al. 2016). Although each of these has been used within my own practice, further discussion will focus on the use of software and data-loggers.

ICT has been used with a Year 8 class to encourage student-led learning and to introduce them to the concept of research. Working in groups, students used the internet to investigate how the Earth’s atmosphere had changed over the past 4.5 billion years. Prior to conducting the research, the class was informed that they would be creating and delivering a two-minute presentation of their findings. Sharing this aim with the students helped to encourage a conscientious attitude towards their work and motivated them to progress in their learning; this was evident in the quality of the presentations that were produced. Further to this, students then used the ICT skills they had learned within lessons on a different topic.

According to Scheme of Works, and the KS2 National Curriculum, pupils had previously had minimal tuition on the composition of the Earth’s early atmosphere. Therefore, when planning this series of lessons, students’ prior learning and knowledge was taken into account. In-line with Vygotsky, Bruner, and Wood’s learning theories, a set of questions were designed to help guide the students with their research, and teacher support was provided to those who needed further scaffolding(Bruner & Watson 1983; Vygotsky 1962; Wood 1998).

ICT was also used for a research project with a Year 10 class; however, the activity was more student-led. Triple Science students were asked to write a 700-word journal article on a scientific discovery of their choice. Following a lesson on this project, students were set this task as homework, and were required to extend their knowledge past that of the National Curriculum, and that which they had already learned. As the students were required to conduct research using online journals, and use Microsoft Word to create an academic article, ICT enriched their learning by enabling them to work independently and take responsibility for their learning (Jedeskog and Nissen 2004). Furthermore, as the research related to an aspect of science that they were passionate about, this project promoted intellectual curiosity. The benefits of using ICT as described above relates to Bruner’s theory of ‘discovery learning’, whereby pupils use the knowledge that they have already acquired to help them develop new ideas and progress in their understanding of a topic (Bruner 1966; Capel et al. 2016).

Data loggers have also been used to improve students’ learning of a number of topics, such as pH and neutralisation. Data loggers are electronic devices which record data over a given period of time, and in some cases, plot the results on a graph. Using technology in this way was found to be particularly useful for pupils with low numeracy skills as it reduced the need to read, and devise, an appropriate scale for a graph. Moreover, it enabled SEND pupils to focus on the Science rather than worrying about using lots of equipment.

References:

Bruner, J.S., 1966. Toward a Theory of Instruction, Belknap Press of Harvard University. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=F_d96D9FmbUC.

Bruner, J.S. & Watson, R., 1983. Child’s Talk: Learning to Use Language, W.W. Norton. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=k0h4QgAACAAJ.

Capel, S., Leask, M. & Younie, S., 2016. Learning to Teach in the Secondary School: A Companion to School Experience, Taylor & Francis. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=86zDCwAAQBAJ.

Vygotsky, L.S., 1962. Thought and Language, M.I.T. Press, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ZNVrAAAAIAAJ.

Wood, D., 1998. How Children Think and Learn, Wiley. Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=mw3DGr01lYkC.

Jedeskog, G. and Nissen, J., 2004. ICT in the classroom: is doing more important than knowing?. Education and information technologies, 9(1), pp.37-45.


December 10, 2018

What can be learnt from a lesson observation? – Mike

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

The term ‘Lesson Observation’ often connotes being observed for quality assurance and feedback on practice. However, as a trainee, observations offer an excellent learning opportunity to see different pedagogy and strategies that can later inform your own teaching. Although focused on university teaching, Bell, Hendry and Thomson (2013) highlight the usefulness of watching colleagues teach for your own practice. They mention that pigeon-holing ‘observation’ in terms of peer review means that staff miss out on the important learning gains that can be made by watching another person’s practice. When observing simply for one’s own learning, their qualitive and quantitative research showed that 19 of the 20 people who participated in the study later implemented something new that they had observed into their own practice.

Being at the start of my career, lesson observations have proven valuable learning experiences. It allows one to reflect on different styles and what sort of things may work for you. Entering another’s classroom comes with a certain etiquette that Peter Master (1983) highlights. As the foreign agent in the room it is important to not be too imposing. Master points out that making endless notes will detract from you being able to fully observe the lesson and so short sentences that can be expanded on later are best. This is approach I myself took while observing.

I believe that it is probably natural as a trainee to want to observe with a special focus on behaviour management as this, in my experience, was the most daunting aspect before beginning to teach. Observing colleagues offers a useful chance to pick up key strategies and tricks. I noted in observing a Citizenship lesson that picking students to answer questions as opposed to asking for hands created a calmer learning environment where the teacher seemed to be in complete control of the discussion. This was something I later implemented into my own practice.

As useful as these observations are, when it comes to behaviour management, I have found that the best type of observation to learn from is actually ‘the unseen observation’ that is, an observation of yourself. Immediately after the lesson I will jot down my thoughts about what went well and what didn’t. Later, typing and expanding on these notes into an established reflective framework allows for true reflection to occur. In one particular lesson I faced behaviour management issues that I was able to see where down to an unclear task which was frustrating for pupils to complete. Rather than remedying the situation with sanctions, I went back to the drawing board and redesigned the task so that it was differentiated and clearer for those who had proved difficult and I told the class that they were to complete the task again. This time, without the confusion, I faced nearly zero behaviour issues. In this sense, my behaviour management was not improved by a strategy observed in another, but a failing of which I had observed in myself.

References:

Bell, A., Hendry, G. D. & Thomson, K. (2014). Learning by observing a peer's teaching situation. International Journal for Academic Development. 318-329

Master, P. (1983). The Ettiquette of Observing. Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc (TESOL). 497-501


October 01, 2018

Vocabulary – Kate Glavina

I have always had an interest in and fascination for the power of vocabulary and remember well the excitement I felt as a child when I successfully tried out a ‘new word’. For example, in Junior 4 (now Year 6), I was introduced to the word ‘consequently’ and wove it into my conversation as often as I possibly could. When my sister, later, introduced me to ‘subsequently’, I was quite transported.

The power of a rich vocabulary and its impact on educational attainment is well documented. In her book Proust and the Squid, Dr Maryanne Wolf reflects on the absence of literacy and asserts that: ‘When words are not heard, concepts are not learned.’ The OUP has recently published a language report entitled 'Why Closing the Word Gap Matters' in which the point is highlighted that the size of a child’s vocabulary is the best predictor of success on future tests and children with a poor vocabulary are three times more likely to have mental health issues. The motivation for Robert Macfarlane’s recent, beautiful publication The Lost Words was a reaction to the revised edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary (2007) which had ‘dropped’ around forty common words related to nature, such as bluebell, heron, bramble, fern, heather… Macfarlane describes his poems as ‘spells’, intended to be spoken aloud to ‘summon lost words back into the mouth and the mind’s eye’. The importance of a wide vocabulary and the best approach to teaching young children seems a relevant, current debate.

Reflecting on the findings of Ofsted’s 15/16 review of the curriculum and assessment in English, HMI Sally Hubbard reported at a NATE conference (Autumn 2017) on the reading curriculum and in particular asserted that the most-able readers in the primary schools visited, lacked understanding of words that linked to ‘knowledge’. She stated that teachers should use their subject expertise to ensure that pupils can cope with vocabulary that is ‘lexically dense’ and ‘content-specific’. She emphasised the importance of vocabulary and ‘knowledge of the world’ and teachers’ appreciation of how language and understanding the world go hand-in-hand. She talked about the demands of the Key Stage 2 Reading SAT and the requirement for children as readers to be able to, amongst other skills, be able to explain the meaning of words in context and explain how meaning is enhanced through choice of words and phrases.

These language demands were viewed further through the focus of the research by Isabel Beck around Three Tier Vocabulary. In summary, Tier 1 words are those common ‘everyday’ words to which children have plenty of exposure and which quickly become a part of their vocabulary. Tier 2 words are not used commonly in conversation, but are more often found in written materials, whether fiction, information or technical texts. They will be used, for instance, by authors to enhance a story, for literary effect (e.g. misfortune; dignified; faltered) or to provide particular detail in an information piece (e.g. relative; vary; accumulate). Tier 2 words are not context specific but highly generalisable – and often express concepts that children are familiar with but in a more sophisticated or nuanced way. Tier 3 words, by contrast, are technical terms specific to content areas (e.g. lava; circumference; aorta). Recognised as new and ‘difficult’ words, they are often defined by the author of a text and sometimes scaffolded as through a glossary. All three tiers are important for comprehension and vocabulary development although Tier 2 and 3 words require more ‘deliberate effort’ than Tier 1.

In considering this model, Hubbard argues that teachers are good at giving attention to ‘Tier 3’ words - will anticipate them in their planning and offer children explicit instruction around them through such strategies as pre-teaching key words; providing a Word Wall; exploring spelling patterns, word families, derivations. What is lacking, however, is attention to Tier 2 words which, being ‘non content specific’, children will encounter in multiple contexts. It is therefore crucial for teachers to engage children in a consideration of words across different contexts. As an example, Beck outlined an occasion where she read nursery children a story in which there featured the word ‘reluctant’: Lisa was reluctant to leave her teddy bear in the laundrette. In exploring this concept, she asked the children to share a time when they had felt reluctant to do something and the children typically replied thus: . I’d be reluctant to leave my teddy at my friend’s house; I’d be reluctant to leave my drums at my step-mum’s… All of the examples offered by the children, related to leaving something behind. Beck modelled further: I’m reluctant to ride a roller-coaster. Some children are reluctant to eat spinach. Could you tell me something you’d be reluctant to do? Much to her delight, one child replied: I’d be reluctant to change a baby’s diaper.

In light of the survey findings shared by Hubbard, I thought it would be interesting to use the lessons I observe as a Link Tutor, as a lens through which to consider the idea of Two Tier vocabulary instruction. The first opportunity was a science lesson with Year 1. The Learning Objective shared with the children was displayed on a whiteboard: I can describe the physical properties of a variety of everyday objects made from different materials. The trainee asked the class what was meant by the word ‘variety’. One child responded by saying it meant ‘lots’ and the trainee agreed and moved on. In reflecting on this interaction with the trainee after the lesson, in light of the Three Tier Vocabulary model, we established that ‘variety’ fitted the classification of a Tier 2 word – i.e. it is not context specific but used in a range of different contexts. The trainee could appreciate that instead of confirming ‘variety’ meant ‘lots’, as though the words were synonymous, there was, in fact, rather more ‘unpacking’ to be done around the definition. Having a number of something (even ‘lots’) is a prerequisite for having variety, but does not in itself mean there is necessarily difference between them. Considering other contexts in which the children might have encountered the word ‘variety’ would have been valuable as well as then making the link between the meaning of the word in the context of the learning objective and the resources on the children’s tables to be investigated in their science activity.

In a different school, I observed a trainee teaching a grammar lesson to Year 5. The objective was To Build Cohesion Within A Paragraph. The trainee began the lesson by asking the class ‘What does ‘cohesion’ mean – talk to your partner.’ After a moment or two, she took an answer from one child who said ‘time connectives and conjunctions’, to which the trainee replied ‘Yes, well done.’ Of course, this isn’t in fact the meaning of the word ‘cohesion’ - the child had quite cannily offered a phrase spotted at the top of the worksheet on his desk which related to the grammatical terms one might deploy to create text cohesion and which was clearly going to be the focus of the next exercise . The trainee did not explore the meaning of the word further – neither in a wider context, nor in a grammatical one. Part way through the lesson, the trainee drew the class together for a mini-plenary during which she asked a particular pupil to read their work aloud and then asked ‘How can you make that sentence cohesive?’ After a pause, the child said ‘I don’t know’. As an observer, I sensed that the difficulty lay in the fact that the child didn’t know what ‘cohesive’ meant and without further comprehension of the term, could not articulate a reply. Reflecting on the lesson afterwards, the trainee agreed that anticipating the need for discussion around the term ‘cohesion’ would have supported the children’s understanding of the task, their engagement with it and the progress made during the lesson. Out of interest, I asked the trainee how she would define the word herself – in what other contexts she might encounter the word - and she gave me a lovely response: I think of the word in the context of RE – in relation to ‘unity’ – and also the idea of cultural cohesion – and I also associate it with ‘glue’ and sticking things together – oh no...is that ‘adhesive’? In terms of exploring nuance and a range of contexts, this trainee was well able to see the wide applicability of the term cohesion and the merit, in future, of better anticipating those words at the planning stage of a lesson.

In conclusion, I have found this focus a very interesting one as there has always been an instance of a Two Tier word occurring early in the lesson (e.g. ‘equivalent’ when exploring fractions in maths; ‘map’ when discussing story structure in English) the exploration of which has been pivotal to the children’s understanding and, crucially, their capacity to make progress by the end of the lesson. We need to be alert to Tier Two vocabulary – anticipate it when planning – give it attention during teaching. To this end, Jo Dobb and I have created new SBTs for the 18/19 cohort of core Primary and EY PGCE trainees. These tasks will build on work we will do with the students on the ‘taught programme’ to introduce the concept and model the process. We are confident it will have a positive impact on children’s vocabulary development and subsequently (one of my favourite words) on pupil progress. Finally –since we have been thinking about vocabulary development, let me leave you with a topical book recommendation – take a look at ‘What A Wonderful Word’ by Nicola Edwards – a wonderful gift – or indeed why not treat yourself?


September 24, 2018

What can be learnt from a lesson observation? – Danielle

PDP Task 1 – What can be learnt from a lesson observation? How does this impact upon your strategies for behaviour management?

Lesson observations are a valuable tool for gaining insight into best practice, approaches to behaviour management, and self-reflection. Within both of my placements I have had the opportunity to observe a number of lessons from different teachers, across a variety of subjects. This experience has provided me with a toolkit of effective strategies that I have incorporated into my own classroom (TS7).

For practical subjects such as science, effective behaviour management is crucial to establishing a safe environment for pupils (TS1). One of the most useful approaches to achieving this goal is the sharing of classroom rules and reward criteria with the students. According to Muijs and co-workers, teachers who establish clear rules early on and provide explanations as to the importance of those rules, will find behaviour management easier (Muijs et al. 2014).

However, he stresses that these benefits will not be reaped without consistently and fairly using rewards and sanctions (ibid.) (TS7). To that end, I made a PowerPoint slide which outlined my behavioural expectations from the pupils and the reasoning behind them. As these rules were created in-line with the high standards that were required by the school, students regularly demonstrated positive attitudes, values, and behaviour (TS1). It is worth highlighting that my approach to behaviour management does not focus upon the negatives; rather, I aim to use positive praise and rewards, or strategies which prevent poor behaviour before it can occur (TS7).

When teaching some of my classes I noticed that the consistent and fair use of rewards and sanctions was not helping to combat low-level disruption. I therefore focused my lesson observations on alternative strategies that were being used to manage behaviour. One of the most effective approaches that was being employed by teachers related to their placement within the room. Teachers who walked around the room and reinforced expected behaviours during a task, found it easier to minimise low-level disruption; this is in-line with findings in a paper which has been published by Haydon et al. (Haydon & Kroeger 2016). Since realising the impact of this strategy and implementing it within my own practice, I have noticed a significant reduction in low-level disruption and I am able to manage my classes more effectively (TS7).

Lesson observations can also be valuable when you are the one who is being observed. For example, prior to a formal lesson observation, I had been having difficulty settling groups towards the end of the lesson; this made controlling the exit of students from the classroom difficult. As such, I was not promoting good and courteous behaviour inside or outside of the classroom (TS7). Therefore, in an effort to provide a calmer atmosphere towards the end of the lesson, I played a science-related song for my Year 7 class. This proved to be a successful strategy for behaviour management as all of the pupils were engaged, calm, and remained in their seats. In-line with feedback that I received, this approach was incorporated into subsequent lessons. After a routine had been established, I noticed that pupils had become more motivated to finish and tidy up their work, in anticipation for the song; this further highlights the effectiveness of this approach to behaviour management (TS7).

References:

Haydon, T. & Kroeger, S.D., 2016. Active Supervision, Precorrection, and Explicit Timing: A High School Case Study on Classroom Behavior. Preventing School Failure: Alternative Education for Children and Youth, 60(1), pp.70–78. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/1045988X.2014.977213.

Muijs, D. et al., 2014. State of the art – teacher effectiveness and professional learning. School Effectiveness and School Improvement, 25(2), pp.231–256. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/09243453.2014.885451.


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