Collaboration, Diversity, Group work, Professional development, Reflection

Collaborative and Reflective Staff Networks in Education

group hand fist bump
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Nick Bentley – Lead Practitioner for Inclusion and Drama

Staff in our school have been working hard to establish a range of reflective and collaborative networks, aimed at developing reflections, promoting discussions and empowering practitioners. What follows, then, is a summary of five models we have used to do this.

  1. Action Research: As a way to support staff to take control of their classrooms and act as practitioner-researchers, our assistant headteacher Charlotte Paine has successfully rolled out action research with smaller groups of staff first, before all teachers and teaching assistants from across the school have contributed to presentations on their research. This has been wonderfully popular, and supported with teacher confidence, collaborative working and innovations with teaching.
  2. Coaching: In a development which was really appreciated by many teachers and support staff, Yamina Bibi and Fiona Morris – former colleagues of mine who are educational leaders with a precision focus on developing staff to be their very best – worked hard to establish a coaching culture at our school. Here, a full range of staff are developed through personalised coaching sessions, led by staff across the school, allowing staff to set their own targets and negotiating their own paths towards them.
  3. Diversity Discussion Group: Inspired by the grassroots education movements @WomenEd, @DisabilityEd, @LGBTed and @BAMEed, we established a meaningful collaborative discussion group allowing staff to reflect on issues of diversity across the curriculum and in education more broadly. Staff have found this group to be genuinely exciting and helpful, promoting and supporting the important role of diversity in education.
  4. Teacher Journal Group: The opportunity to engage with a teacher journal allows staff to track their own learning and consider what is helpful and meaningful in their diverse teaching contexts. In line with this, we have had a teacher journal group at our school which has involved different staff including a teaching assistant, a curriculum leader and a lead practitioner discussing, sharing and learning new ideas.
  5. SB Discussions: Staff have really tended to enjoy rich discussions over hot educational topics, including inclusion, student led-learning and the value of collaboration. Hearing colleagues, with their wealth and diversity of opinions and experiences, come together to interrogate a range of educational topic, has been really meaningful.

All told, then, we have sought to establish a full range of platforms for teachers to share their opinions and empower themselves to forge their own paths. I hope this blog post may be of value to those working in education, considering how to embed or develop collaboration and reflection in the cultures of their schools.

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Google Classroom

5 reasons why you should start using Google Classroom right now!

Google_Classroom_Logo

Charlotte Paine – Assistant Headteacher

At Sarah Bonnell, we are well on our journey towards adopting Google to streamline our school systems, increase our ‘anytime, anywhere access’ and collaborate effectively.

Google Classroom is our next stage of development, modernising the way we teach our students, encouraging them to become independent, stretch and challenge all students including our HPA, and differentiate effectively so that we are truly providing ‘Education for All.’

Here are five quick reasons why you should give Google Classroom a try, if you haven’t already of course!

1. Send students, or groups of students, bespoke assignments.

Classroom’s ‘Assignment’ function allows you to send work to any student, or group of students, in your Classroom.  Each student receives only the assignment that you have set them, which means that multiple differentiated versions of the same assignment can be sent out to different students.  This is a really handy function for students who require additional challenge – you can add different links or documents to their assignments – as well as students requiring additional scaffolding, who can access different resources as part of their assignment.  Combine with the ‘Reuse Post’ function to subtly adapt assignments to meet the needs of all students.

2. Ensure students who have missed the lesson don’t fall behind.

Classroom is a game changer in this way.  Using the ‘Assignment’ function mentioned above, you can easily send the lesson objectives/content/work to any student(s) who has been absent.  If they complete it on Classroom and then ‘turn in’ to you, you can quickly and easily check understanding, and use the ‘comment’ function to provide formative feedback where necessary.  Setting homework through Classroom also means that students can access it whether they have been in school or away, and that the classic ‘I didn’t know what the homework was’ excuse is thoroughly redundant!

3. Streamline your marking, provide effective feedback that students can action, and never lose track of work again!

The new version of Classroom, released this summer, had made improvements to the process of providing feedback on work submitted through an Assignment.  Clicking on the work that has been ‘turned in’ opens a new interface, which allows you to mark/provide feedback on each response in turn. Additional features include a comment bank which means you need only type those common feedback comments once, and then you can insert them into any students’ work where relevant.  I recently marked 24 exam questions in 36 minutes – a task that would previously have taken me well over an hour. Using the ‘Topic’ choice function when setting the Assignment also means that the work will be collected into a named Classroom folder on your Drive – meaning you can see at a glance what has been completed, and access it for future reference.

4. Save time with the ‘Reuse Post’ function.

If you teach more than one class in a year group, or have courses (especially GCSEs) that are taught year-on-year, you can reuse old Classroom posts across any Classroom.  When clicking ‘Create’ choose the ‘Reuse Post’ function, and then choose which Classroom, and which post, you wish to reuse. Even better, it will load the post, and allow you to make any edits before posting it again.  This is particularly helpful I find for students who haven’t completed homework – you can resend it to them, which removing from the student list anyone who has already completed it. It also works well between teachers, one person can construct the post, and others can ‘reuse’ it in their Classrooms.  Just make sure you have invited your colleagues to be co-teachers to your original Classroom.

5. Link to other Google apps, ensuring students have access to everything they need to be successful.

Google works best with Google, meaning that Classroom allows seamless linking to other Google apps including Forms (great for self-marking quizzes and easy data analysis), YouTube, Docs, Slides, Sheets and weblinks.  Collecting together resources for your students in this way, using either the ‘Assignment’ or ‘Material’ post functions allows you to curate a collection of links and resources for your students that is so much more tailored to their needs and objectives than just searching the internet.  Combined with the handy ‘Topic’ labelling function, your students can return to these resources time and time again, particularly useful for GCSE and A Level classes for whom you can build a bank of revision resources.

Collaboration, Diversity, Multimodal Learning, Student Leadership

Multimodal Learning: Inclusion, Collaboration and Identity

abstract blackboard bulb chalk
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Nick Bentley – Lead Practitioner for Inclusion and Drama

As is the case, I’m sure, with many colleagues, I often like to take a step back and think about how far I’m meeting my own conception of the teacher I want to be. My initial step was to buy a huge stack of certificates and stickers to celebrate my students’ learning, and my second step was to buy and wear a rather frivolous neck-tie (we could consider the merits of authentic role-modelling on another occasion). A rather more meaningful moment of self-reflection came as I thought about my lessons. Are they meaningful and joyful? Are they challenging and collaborative? Do they facilitate student independence and celebrate young people’s diverse identities? In thinking through these questions, I returned to the notion of multimodal learning.

    Multimodal approaches to learning recognise the reality of the physical and social spaces which classrooms are, broadening the terms of what learning is and how it happens. The kind of tools I have found to be helpful have included images, video-clips, sounds and music. Concrete objects and props can be combined with art, text and discussions, to not only open up mediums of learning, but also to diversify the ways young people can demonstrate their understanding. Drama, collaboration and teacher-in-role can engage students’ imaginative and lived experiences in relation to the world, across the curriculum. Our school has recently embraced Google Drive and Google Classroom, with exciting potential for the impact of technology on learning.

    I would suggest that multimodality in the classroom can promote inclusivity as it removes barriers to learning by offering various pathways to engage with the lesson; it can equally promote challenge by encouraging creative thinking amongst learners. Through its celebration of the social resources of the classroom, it promotes collaboration and communication skills. By championing young people’s different interpretations – when used meaningfully, multimodal approaches should include diverse representations of ethnicity, sexuality, religion and gender and identity – it can celebrate young people’s diverse identities; by sharing images of different groups of people, exploring multiple identities through drama and discussion, and representing diverse individuals through art. Importantly, it can bring a sense of energy, engagement and excitement ot the classroom. I certainly wouldn’t say I have become my perfect self-identity as a practitioner, but by employing multimodal approaches, I have taken a step closer to becoming the kind of teacher I have always hoped to be.

Student Leadership

How Flipped Learning can change your classroom

Rabiah Mahmood

Over the past few years, the idea of ‘talk-less’ teaching has garnered much attention and we are encouraged to adopt it as standard classroom practice for many reasons; it reduces teacher talk, emphasises to students the importance of them working as hard (if not harder) than the teacher to facilitate their progress, increases student engagement and allows us to spend more time circulating the classroom and assessing the strengths and needs of our students.

To get to this point, lessons need to be planned in a way that allows students the opportunity to seek information for themselves, to use their prior knowledge to advance with the information they are provided with in lessons. This is where flipped learning comes in; if the information students need to know can be given to them before the lesson, this will allow us to spend more time with them in lesson on the application of theory, practical work and exam practice, as opposed to using that time to introduce key concepts to them. Using this approach has allowed me to spend the majority of my contact time with students doing exactly that – being in contact with them, communicating with them personally and individually, clarifying any confusions and misconceptions, explaining ideas on a 1-1 basis to personalise each student’s learning experience and build relationships to promote a positive learning environment.

So, how can you share with students the information they need to know outside of the lesson?

If the resources students use in lessons are accessible to them outside of school, for example, a textbook they can take home, buy themselves, or better still, access for free online, they can be encouraged to pre-read the upcoming lesson and make notes to prepare for the lesson content. To provide some structure, the task can be scaffolded by constructing comprehension style questions to ensure students are able to access the fundamental ideas within the information they are pre-reading. These do not need to be extensive; a few key questions can be enough. These can be uploaded on to Edmodo in advance of the lesson for students to complete in their own time, or shared with them however you would prefer in advance of the upcoming lessons.

Another way that students can be prepared for a new unit of work is by asking them to define key terms they will be expected to use and apply; again, a simple table with the key terminology can be constructed to ensure students are provided with some structure and this will become a glossary within their notes, which they can reference any time they need. They can also be asked to enhance the task creatively by drawing images to help them understand what the key terminology means or by using it in a sentence. To stretch students, they can be asked to apply what they understand by answering textbook questions, and to differentiate, a different version of the information can be provided to support students with the task, such as a website aimed at a lower key-stage or watching a video instead.

Using the flipped learning approach will allow more in-class lesson time to be dedicated towards ensuring students have a richer learning experience, will involve our students more directly in the process of teaching, learning and assessment, and it will, hopefully, change your experience as a classroom practitioner for the better, as it has mine.

Marking and Feedback, Uncategorized

Being an examiner: Is it worth it?

Duncan Bowyer-Lead Practitoner

After a long day at school and sometimes even a longer evening at home marking and prepping, the last thing one may want to do is add to the workload!  Yet every June, there are thousands of teachers who willingly sign up for additional work; tasks that can often take up whole weekends and – in many cases –  the very early hours of the morning before we start our working day! Indeed a colleague of mine once told me that she gets up at 3am and squeezes in ‘just a couple of hours marking’ before arriving at school at 7am.

Who would do this to themselves I hear you ask? An examiner!

For the last five years I have told myself ‘never again’ after sacrificing every second of spare time I have to marking the latest set of GCSEs. Every year when the new contract comes through to once again be an examiner – I always find myself signing it thinking that this year will be different. Dinners, socialising, the gym, seeing loved ones, domestic chores and binging on NetFlix are all put on hold for the marking period. Friends say I became a man possessed – desperate to ensure that I was hitting my targets, passing my standardisations, accurately marking the seed papers, annotating correctly and being within tolerance.  

After a particularly gruelling marking session, I remember sitting staring at one of the last GCSE papers… I was so tired I could not even work out what level to award this student. At this point it was a wake up call – it would be unfair to mark these papers when so exhausted as I would not be accurate and the students do not deserve that; so I closed the laptop lid and fell into a blissful much needed sleep.

Bright eyed and bushy tailed that morning, I snapped open the laptop lid and looked again – I could mark it easily now as I had rested.

So the real question in this blog is – is it worth it? Contrary to the tone of my opening to this topic  I would argue wholeheartedly that yes it is some of the best CPD one can get. Not only does it allow your students and department to benefit from your expertise as an examiner; it also allows you to see some of the most mature and sophisticated responses to texts. It has undoubtedly made me a better teacher and means that I can offer an extra layer of support to my team during mocks. I have also learnt from student responses some very interesting and effective alternatives to structuring literary criticism.

Don’t get me wrong-it is hard work and the money isn’t really worth it. However the support and encouragement that I received from the team leaders and principal examiners really pushed me through the process. So if anyone is thinking about becoming an examiner next year, I would say go for it – but remember these tips that I was given when I first started.

  1. Organise your allocation of papers so that you can do 10 – 20 per evening. This makes it much more manageable.
  2. Be open, honest and keep in contact with your team leader during the process. They will help make what seems like an impossible task possible.
  3. Remember not to mark the papers in a public place or in school (they are very big on that).
  4. Have a scheduled night off! Don’t let it take over your life.
  5. If you feel you won’t get through your whole allocation, that does not make it a failure! It is more important that the scripts are marked accurately and the boards have contingency plans for any marking that does not get completed. Keep them in the loop as to how you are doing and flag up any issues you may have as soon as possible.
  6. Enjoy reading the responses and awarding the marks the kids have worked so hard for!

 

Uncategorized

For the love of transition:where it all began.

Yamina Bibi-Lead Practitioner

This blog was originally published on http://www.msybeebs.wordpress.com

Shattered dreams

Since the age of ten, I knew that I was destined to work as a primary school teacher. Or so I thought. I knew nothing else. When I wasn’t in school, I loved playing ‘school’ with my younger siblings. My eldest sister, who was already working as a teacher, told us brilliant stories about her day and my parents insisted teaching was the most rewarding job in the world.

I was desperate to be a teacher as soon as possible and I did everything I could to build my experience once I was old enough. I completed my secondary school work experience in a primary school; I volunteered in primary schools and worked as a tutor during my years as an undergraduate student.

But then, during my final year at university, I had a realisation. I loved my subject. I did not know anything about maths or science or art but I loved learning about 18th century literary England, post-colonial literature and my beloved Shakespeare.

And so, going against family tradition, I became a secondary school English teacher. It was, of course, the best decision I made. Not only because I loved teaching my subject and sharing it with young people, but because I was discovering how difficult it was to be a primary school teacher.

The challenge of primary school curriculum

Interestingly (or maybe not), I have spent my life surrounded by primary school teachers: my three sisters, my friends and even my husband work in the early years and primary sector. This has given me a deeper understanding and insight into what the primary curriculum expects young children to achieve. Now, at the end of it all, 11 year olds are expected to know and learn and apply knowledge in tests I would find a challenge.

This knowledge was all well and good but I wanted to see it in practice and share it with colleagues so that we could really challenge the KS3 students we taught.

And so, two years ago, after a fantastic CPD session on transition delivered by a primary school colleague, I spoke to my line manager about contacting local primary schools to begin strengthening transition links.

Below are some ways we began to bridge the gap between KS2 and KS3 and the impact this has had on Teaching and Learning.

Last academic year

Collaborating with the Maths Lead Practitioner, I contacted one school and asked them if they would be happy to share resources such as Schemes of Learning; this would help us learn more about the primary school curriculum. In turn, we delivered some subject specific booster sessions to Year 6 students. At the end of the year, we had two primary school colleagues deliver another enlightening twilight session on the topic of transition sharing curriculum ideas and strategies.

This academic year

Through the power of Twitter, I have made links with local primary schools colleagues such as Jonny Walker. Below are some of the ways we have developed the transition project:

  • I set up a ‘Teaching and Learning transition team’ consisting of teachers from the core subjects (to begin with) to help drive transition across the curriculum.
  • We organised to observe teaching of reading, writing, maths and science lessons in three local primary schools. This enabled us to better understand the starting point for Year 7 students and also have clarity of the different ways the primary curriculum was delivered in KS2. For example, while one school delivered a traditional curriculum, another delivered a creative curriculum.
  • Through observations, members of the transition team have not only amended their own T &L but have shared their knowledge within their departments. This had led to important changes to the KS3 curriculum.
  • Primary colleagues have observed teaching of core subjects in KS3 to gain a deeper understanding of how specific subjects are taught at KS3.
  • We have connected subject leads in primary schools with secondary subject specialists to enhance the knowledge and skills of primary school teachers.
  • Last week, we organised a twilight CPD session on transition which included a mini TeachMeet. A range of speakers from the primary and secondary sector shared ideas on how we could continue to build transition links. The transition coordinator also requested SOLs from primary colleagues, which were shared with curriculum areas. Using these as a starting point, colleagues were asked to amend their Year 7 schemes of learning to ensure it built on prior knowledge and challenged all learners.

It has been an incredibly exciting year for KS2/ 3 transition and I hope that it will continue to be a central focus for schools to ensure challenge for all of our young people.

Collaboration, Literacy, Professional development, Writing

I do it…we do it…so you can do it: the importance of collaboration across the curriculum

ADD56B9E-DD3C-400A-A064-C34118F2D469Natalie Jim-Lead Practitioner

As I read the fifth piece of coursework my heart continues to sink. Although the words on the page are definitely recognisable as being part of the English language, they seem  to be randomly placed on the page, with no actual sense being communicated. The constant question keeps circulating around my brain: “how can they write so fluently and attain such high grades in English, but be unable to transfer these same literacy skills when studying other subjects?”

It became such a source of frustration that I knew something had to done.

As teachers in secondary school, we understand that collaboration with other curriculum areas is a fantastic way to improve attainment across the school community, but we may not forge these links as often as we should. I speak very generally, but curriculum planning, the sharing of practice and finding the time to observe other colleagues can be challenging. Is it any wonder that students can’t connect the skills required in numerous subjects when we often don’t utilise opportunities to make those connections?

As a teacher of drama, I have had to shift my mindset regarding the teaching of writing and literacy skills in response to the new GCSE exam specification. Interestingly, a student’s ability to write about drama is awarded higher marks than their ability to demonstrate practical skills. There is also a further focus on preparing students to confidently sit a 2 hour written paper worth 40%.

After marking a batch of  mock exam papers,  it was with a sinking feeling that I noticed a gap in what they were achieving in English compared to drama. What was frustrating was that the skills needed to answer questions in the written paper were very similar. Taking action, I turned to a Lead Practitioner from the English Curriculum Area to support me in my quest to join the dots.

The first step was to break down the similar aspects of the English literature exam paper and the specimen drama paper. It was apparent that analysis and evaluation were the overlapping skills. So the questions can students: identify language used by a writer; infer meaning and evaluate the effect on the reader were similar to what I was considering as a drama teacher. So, for example, drama students should be able to identify theatrical skills used by a performer, infer meaning and importantly discuss the effect on the audience.

I looked at a writing frame grid being used in English and adapted it for a drama question. In addition, the LP visited and team taught a drama lesson that was introducing the grid and demonstrated the most effective way of modelling – “I do, we do, you do.” When using top band models as a teaching tool, I had often not spent enough time on the joint construction of a response with the class. Instead I would jump from showing them a model and breaking it down and analysing it, to then giving them the task of trying to create a response for themselves. What seemed to be the missing piece of the jigsaw was actually working on a new model together and then giving them the independence to try.

It is still a work in progress, but looking at students’ subsequent attempts at similar questions, I am hopeful.  I would recommend using the expertise of those around us to problem solve and support highly.