Wednesday, 12 December 2012

A template for outstanding teaching - lessons from cross-curricular observations

This term, more than any other, I have had a wide range of colleagues observe me to help me reflect upon my teaching and learning.  The generic idea was to have an open approach to teaching which would force me to push myself and re-examine how I teach; importantly assessing what works well and what could be improved. I believe that one of the best things about being observed and observing other people is that best practice and new ideas (and mistakes) are shared.

One colleague in particular, a chemist, was keen to swap/share observations. We met up and discussed what we wanted from the process during the Autumn term:

1. The ability to test new ideas with classes and experiment new techniques
2. To focus on independent learning & assessment
3. To work on getting the kids to do more

The outcome is a provisional framework (for all subjects) for consistently ensuring your lessons are outstanding. 

To some extent the latter has been inspired by @TeacherToolkit 5 minute lesson plan, which many teachers (who use Twitter) across both sectors have been using (See @specialsciteach's photograph below.

Source - For Blog CLICK HERE

*Please note this is not a prescriptive list - the template below provides flexibility for teaching and pacing the lesson according to the pace of learning (a more "see how it goes" approach to teaching as opposed to timings being based upon amount of activities)

**Simply the idea based on LESS IS MORE - QUALITY NOT QUANTITY!

1.  Every lesson should have ONE PRIMARY FOCUSED OUTCOME- what is the key thing every student should leave the lesson knowing/understanding/being able to apply to the real world.  Too many objectives can be confusing and often the lesson can be rushed to cover the content as opposed to exploring the core idea in depth & through discussion.

2. Every lesson should be have ONE MAIN LEARNING LOOP  plus a series of smaller bolt-on loops (a.k.a progress checkers / hinge activities or questions / additional content / minor outcomes etc) which can be flexibly added to the lesson, if needed! (See CTT lesson  below for best practice)

3. Every lesson's PACE MUST MATCH THE PACE OF THE LEARNING (& IDEALLY TRY AND FIT THE CLASS PROFILE)The engine and key in my opinion to achieving an outstanding lesson is appropriate pacingHowever, PACE can be a fickle beast and too much can mean the students do not have time to process the information sufficiently, whilst too little means the lesson content is not covered quickly enough and is often lethargic. The key point is to pace the lesson according to the PACE of learning rather than the PACE of the activities you have to get through in the time! It is a tricky balance to strike as PACE needs to vary for each year group, for each day and stage in the year - to get the PACE right takes time and only comes with experience.

4. Every lesson's MAIN ACTIVITY SHOULD BUILD FROM CLOSED/SIMPLE TO OPEN/COMPLEX; ideally aspiring towards higher order & critical thinking skills wherever possible, if appropriate.

5. Every lesson should have a range of FLEXIBLE BOLT-ONS or HINGE ACTIVITIES to support the primary outcome, if needed. Note that the, if needed, is a key idea as too often continuous and in my opinion unnecessary 'reviewing' occurs, wasting valuable independent learning time.

5. Every lesson at the end spends at least 10 minutes ASSESSING THE MAIN OUTCOME. This could be done by a ticket to leave exit slip, an exam question or any other plenary assessment tool. The key question to ask is - How do I know every student has learnt something/made progress & achieved the primary outcome?

6. Every now and again, when near the end of a topic or unit, give the class a FERMI PROBLEM  - in this context a problem designed to teach/encourage approximation, critical thinking, problem solving & synoptic links both within and between subjects. Often they are Oxbridge type questions e.g. For Geography, 'What is the population of Croydn?' or 'Is nature natural?' 

Furthermore, there are some additional best practice techniques I have picked up from colleagues. One of my favourites is using named wooden lollipop sticks (example 1*) to ensure all members in the class are asked questions & assessed.

*Example 1: At the start of term (or at the start of a lesson) get every pupil in the class to write their name on a wooden lollipop stick. These are then collected in and the teacher uses them to record who has answered a question and who has not - a quick, easy and effective record to ensure equality of assessment and differentiation when needed. I have personally taken this idea but instead use paper numbers , from one to twenty-four. Each chair/desk has a number and during the class, i hot seat students by pulling out a random number to assess and gauge progress.

*Example 2 - Hinge questions - 80%

Here is a rough outstanding lesson template format based upon our conversations so far:

Reviews previous learning or introduces topic. Must be focused, engaging/stimulating, provide a basis for assessment either through progressive Socratic questioning or written assessment e.g. exam question.

Assesses the learning from the starter activity - key to identifying strong/weak areas of subject knowledge and acts as a basis to progress onto the main task or take stock and go another direction e.g. reviewing last lesson.

Key primary outcome explained - the focus of the lesson!

MAIN TASK  - should aim to build up from closed and simple to open and complex, liking to critical thinking and independent learning as appropriate.



Many thanks - Please leave your won comments below and hopefully using this template we will no longer feel like the image below:

Further Reading/Blogs:

CTT Lesson - keeping it simple and focused - The one question lesson (from the teacher)

N.B The topic is the environmental consequences of rapid urbanisation for AQA Geog GCSE

 - Teacher puts question on board and on A4 student sheet (n.b. prior knowledge of topic is vital!)
 - Each student writes down one question on the sheet which can be answered Yes/No.
 - After 3 rounds of this reflect on progress so far
 - Next round is questions with a one word answer
 - Next a numbers answer
 - Finally rounds with open ended questions
 - Now, each student or group answers the question on the sheet using the information gleamed form the questions.
 - Video of Bhopal is shown and prep is to add any missing content to notes using textbook & independent research

Question : How could this be improved?


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