Wednesday, 4 March 2015

#ililc5 Eleanor Abrahams @elvisrunner Challenge and Differentiation

I started to blog about this fab session by the ever-enthusiastic and gifted @Elvisrunner aka Eleanor Abrahams and then realised that my soft-focus photos were no match for her blogpost

Opening with a great quote and a dramatic chair-falling off incident by @lancslassrach, this session was crammed with good ideas for challenge, focusing on 6 key areas.

Eleanor talked about one of my favourite current topics on Twitter, Growth Mindset. 

How do you get their buy-in? How do they say they can do it and believe that? 
 She gave us some tips for having that conversation with the pupils. 

 Eleanor recommended reading "Advancing Differentiation" by Richard M Cash.
She then got us to do the following activity.
1) We had to draw an eye
2) She gave us a set of 5 eyes drawn by hand and told us to select the one that was closest to ours
3) She then asked us did we think we could copy the next-best drawn eye. We set to, with the sample to guide us and the option of a "How to.." photocopied page.
4) Eleanor then asked us did we think our drawing had improved.
This was a way of pointing out how our pupils feel and how we could encourage them better in the tasks we set them. If you put the perfect version on the board at the start, a lot will say "well I can't do that" If you get them to do theirs first then show them how to improve, it empowers them.

Put this map up on the board and ask them to write sentences for the weather forecast. 

Ask them "Which colour best represents your sentence?"
Now give them another go, showing pupils step by step how to improve their work is less upsetting for them. Tapping into Growth Mindset, it's about making them believe they can do it. 

Here Eleanor talked about turning traditional differentiation on its head and providing more of a challenge from the start. 

I used this activity today with Form 2 and it was really successful. It can obviously be used at any level too which is always an advantage. 

All in all, this was an excellent session and I left totally inspired with some wee ideas to put into place immediately as well as more long-term planning to incorporate into our Schemes of Work. 

#ililc5 Rory Gallagher @EddieKayshun Student feedback

In this excellent session, Rory talked about student feedback and teacher attitude to student feedback. Are we honest with ourselves? Do we really want to find out? We also need to qualify what you mean by feedback if you say that you get student feedback. There's a difference between:
Informal - oral, scribbled on paper or exercise books
Formal - structured interviews or surveys 
Do we trust our pupils? 

Here is a holistic overview of what would make a good teacher:

Timing is an issue as usual and you need to consider the ethics of who is going to use that data. However, before you are put off, Rory suggests that we take ownership of this student feedback before it gets imposed on us. The idea of feedback has been made negative and yet it can be a very rewarding process for the teacher and the class.  

The benefit of Rory's toolkit is that it displays strengths and weaknesses by category. Rory talked about radical collegiality - a way of working together, given that there aren't always levels of trust in in departments.  

We go back to the teachers who influenced us at primary school, that and the school are the bias that affect our teaching. Rory said that his aim was to get teachers to borrow the toolkit, try it with their own teaching and share it with a colleague. Then they could share strengths and weaknesses with colleagues to help each other with good practice. 

What are the benefits for the pupils? The moment you ask pupils their opinion seriously, the relationship changes. The moment they see you take their feedback on board, they buy into their learning. 
Rory also talked about listening to the silence, paralinguistics and non-verbal communication. He spoke of mindfulness, being in the moment. In line with several other speakers this #ililc5 weekend, he then talked about nurturing the positive relationships. If you find people are negative, Rory suggests being relentlessly optimistic which generally wears the negative people down. Listen to yourself, slow it down and open up. 
Rory has a Student feedback toolkit on Google Drive. The student survey is anonymous and Rory says it is vital to check with school that you can gather anonymous data in case of disclosures. 
You need to decide if you are doing it as a department or on your own, with all pupils or just one Key Stage. Finally you need to consider how will you share the feedback with the kids. 
Getting student feedback is about taking control of your job and your professional development. I did a similar thing years ago with Transforming Learning and I am excited to do this and see where it takes us. I'll keep you posted...  

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

#ililc5 Rachel Smith @lancslassrach Fabulous Formative Assessment Tools

As always, Rachel delivered an excellent session despite a stressful start with tech issues. As she pointed out at the start of the session, tech shortens the feedback loop, thereby making the assessment more relevant and able to inform your teaching.
She talked about one of my firm favs, Nearpod. A massive advantage to using Nearpod is that you can drag in powerpoints that have already been made then add slides to make the content interactive. There are different interactive options including drawing and surveys. When you set an interactive task, as teacher you get immediate feedback, as you can see who is answering and how long they are taking to answer.

Rachel then mentioned the Socrative teacher app, giving a quick demo of how it works. Again, I am familiar with this app and like it. If you set up a dept account, you can get the pupils to all log on to the same account and create quizzes for you which you then test using the Socrative Student app. 

Infuse learning is a very similar website although Joe Dale pointed out that it may have a short shelf life left. It can be pupil paced and looks worth a look. AnswerGarden allows answers of 20 or 40  characters with the answers displayed as a Wordle. You can share the link on Twitter or embed the code as two of the options. I've set one up for Form 3 on leisure so I'll share the results. 

A massive favourite in our iPad classroom is Kahoot. Teachers use to create or copy existing quizzes, students get a class code for to play the game. It's fastest finger first to get the most points and pupils get feedback on what position they are in after each question. With my pupils, those who are on the board at the end of the quiz get a sticker for their star chart. 

We also use Plickers which is an excellent and immediate feedback tool. You set the question, have the class set up on and then scan the class who hold up their Plicker (which looks a little bit like a jigsaw piece) It is unique to them and gives you immediate feedback re pupil knowledge and/or self evaluation. 

Rachel finished the session with the website Educanon, You can insert text into video. An advantage is that whilst the teacher needs an account, pupils do not. You can then make it into a QR code and kids can scan it or embed into Edmodo. Rachel's tips include: sets of questions are called bulbs and you can crop out sections of the video you don't want. You go to bulbs to find your video, select and when it gets to point where you want to ask a question, you tap to add the question. Pupils select no email then go to the video.

Whilst I had heard of some of these tools and sites, others were new to me. It is always good to revisit sites and it is excellent to get some new ones to have a play with. Rachel is filled with enthusiasm and we all left inspired to have a go too.  

#ililc5 James Gardner @langnut Takeaway Homework

James Gardner says that electing to do Takeaway Homework (whereby pupils choose what they are going to do from a list of options) gave him and his department an opportunity to make something meaningful out of something which many schools struggle with. He found loads on @teachertoolkit's blog which was his initial inspiration. He also recommends reading Mark Creasy's Unhomework book. What is the purpose of the homework we set? Why do so many pupils not do it? What can we do to make it purposeful for pupils? 
They started with Homework grids but they were hard to make up for staff and there wasn't much benefit for the pupils re more doing it, etc 
For all the sessions, there were a lot of good ideas from the audience, and this was no exception. Prim aka @chapeluser said that she asks for evidence of WHAT they have done to learn the vocabulary set as homework. Jonathan aka @trekkiep mentioned that his school has a 5 period day with period 6 for kids who don't submit HW during the day. Their parents are texted to let them know and whilst there are some who avoid it due to buses etc, there has been a reduction in the number of pupils who don't do their homework. 

In James' school, there are set Prep sessions with subjects allocated specific slots.  Whilst there are advantages to this, the drawback would be that ICT homeworks are more limited as a year group of students cannot get onto PCs all at the same time. 

Prim suggested adapting the above menu to have a points score, a little like Vocabulary Man which is often mentioned on the MFL Resources forum. The pupils could be set a tarif of 50 points so they could do 5 x 10 point tasks or one 50 pointer. This would allow for differentiation as well as more technically complicated tasks. 
Sometimes pupils must do something specific eg vocabulary revision but generally all homeworks are a free choice from the menu. 
James showed us some fantastic results eg two girls doing a video on personal details. 
However he added that there is a danger that they choose something they haven't done in class and therefore they struggle with the target language or they just don't put the effort in. He has therefore added instructions on the takeaway homework menu not to do a task unless the topic has been covered in class or it is a research HW. He has also added tasks with more chillis for differentiation and to make it more challenging. Finally he has added vocabulary desserts. Taking feedback on board, pupils now have printouts for their books and it is also on his door in case they lose it. 

James stated that there had been mixed feedback although generally good at year 7, but that year 8 more negative.  Again, acting on feedback, he is going to add a tickbox. And one complaint from pupils was that they couldn't ask their peers for help if they were all doing different tasks but actually this has proved to be a positive thing from the staff point of view.  

Ways to move the takeaway homework on would be to have an online version with hyperlinks to Quizlet etc; to have tick box management or Idoceo to monitor / track tasks; to think about Google classroom. 

James concluded that overall the quality of work on a weekly basis is higher and there has been whole department buy-in. 
I do a form of Takeaway Homework with A level already but this session has made me think seriously about how to introduce it at KS3. The issues we face are the Common Assessment tasks that already form part of our Schemes of Work which would be non-negotiable homeworks as well as the fact that there is a varying level of access to tablets and PCs at home. However it is a concept that we will be introducing over the next year or so and it was great to hear James' experiences and see what to do or to avoid. 

Sunday, 1 March 2015

#ililc5 The annual (and much-loved) ICT Links into Languages conference

Those who may have strayed onto this blog before will know that I go to Southampton every February for the ICT Links into Languages conference. And every year, I bubble over with enthusiasm for how amazing it all was, from the speakers to the delegates. And this year was no exception. I have made loads of notes which I will blog about here over the coming week.

For starters, here's the link to Joe Dale's excellent Keynote links on Flipboard

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Self reflection board

Thanks as usual to Twitter, I have found some cool ideas I have merged into one. 

Each envelope has a different evaluation of learning tool in it eg call my bluff, tweet for help, text what you have learnt, gimme 5 (new words etc) for kids to lift out and stick into books as they choose to reflect on learning. The silver board is called el espejo de reflejo (the mirror of reflection) of what to stop doing, do more of and do less of, either for me or talking about themselves. You can get the resources for the small envelopes here

Friday, 26 September 2014


Calling all teachers! Have you discovered Pinterest yet? I have in the last few months and it is an incredible source of resources. I am primarily using it for starters in my lessons. This year, I am displaying a lesson-specific cartoon or saying on the board as the pupils come into the room and they discuss the meaning with their partner or table before we come together to check comprehension. 
Here are some of my favourites: 
A generic one. (3 depressing facts. Today isn't Friday. Tomorrow isn't Friday. Even the day after tomorrow isn't Friday) 

Form 3 are doing parts of the body (I've got your nose) 

Form 2 and Form 5 are doing the topic of education (When your teacher separates you from your best friend in class) 

Yes, you could probably find most of these using a search engine but the excellent thing about Pinterest is its ability to store these pins for you.