Friday, July 31, 2009

new wiki

After following a link on Twitter from Alec Couros (@courosa), I asked him if it was OK to use his idea and he kindly said yes.

The idea led to a new wiki It is really only going to interest people at my own school in that it contains the specific learning and teaching CPD sessions for next year but some of the resources may be of interest to others (especially high school teachers). The resources for a couple of sessions are up already and more will follow during the year 2009 to 2010.

My hope is that this wiki may take off in terms of the discussion threads, as it has such a specific focus. I am thinking that my existing CPD wiki (private for staff) has done a good job but was perhaps too diverse. Sometimes, smaller projects can be much more successful. Here's hoping.

Since some staff are on Twitter and some do check into the existing wiki during the holiday, I've advertised it on both so we'll see what happens next. Let you know in September!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

lesson 'observations'

Just spotted this on Twitter:

BeckyFisher73#blc09 What if students were the ones who did the formal observations in school? Would teachers get more useful feedback than they do now?

It got me thinking about how I regularly (ie almost every time) evaluate my own lessons. Students have red orange and green cards in their planners - they are used to indicate if they are struggling with a concept for example - they leave the card on the desk.

I also use them at various points during the lesson to 'rate' how things are going by asking them to just raise cards to see if things are looking like meeting the lesson objective.

Next term, I'm going to display the following characteristics of effective classrooms and ask the students to use the traffic light cards for these too. If it goes well, I'll ask other teachers to try it.

"Effective schools are full of effective classrooms"

But what makes an effective classroom? What does an outstanding lesson look like? It's not about what the teacher does - it is about what and how the students learn. This must be true at all ages although the list below is more geared to High School.

Here are some ideas:-

  • probing questions - not just answering the question for them, really getting them to think (metacognition)
  • students keeping learning jorurnals
  • collaborative learning
  • scaffolded learning
  • good rapport
  • not escalating too quickly up the sanctions scale
  • evidence of Asessment for Learning
  • lesson objectives phrased as questions
  • differentiation - target students
  • pace - don't take 15 minutes on starter
  • make sure students know how to improve
  • try to move away from stand and deliver (idea from Howard Rheingold on SF gate)
  • try to avoid too much copying
  • use display as teaching tool
  • make good use of diagnostic marking
  • use the traffic lights cards in the student planners to demonstrate understanding and evaluate lessons
  • think of innovative ways to use the Interactive White Board
  • consider using social media netowrks
  • consider using neuroscience ideas in the class room

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Assessment actvities to assist learning

Just read 'Using Rich Assessment Tasks in Mathematics to Engage Students and Inform Teaching' by Doug & Barbara Clarke which I spotted via @samgrumont on Twitter.

It reminded me of something I used to do a lot of when I was a full time Maths teacher and have moved away from a little. I think I'll go back to it next September. Actually the first part is something I still regularly do:

1. start a new topic by getting students to do a spider diagram of all they already know about the topic and then sharing this in pairs and then reporting back to class

2. a hot seat game where anyone (including the teacher) can be in the 'hot seat' and have questions fired at them about the topic but are allowed to pass - good for some manageable formative assessment but you do need to build rapport before you can attempt this

Towards the end of the topic, the above two activities are repeated before a more 'formal' test.

Something 'Ive done a lot of in the run up to external exams - and the students have loved it - is the idea of 10 minutes presentation from me or a student, no notes to be taken, just lots of verbal interaction. This is followed by an activity which is completely different such as balancing ping pong balls or building a house of cards. Then the presentation is done again (almost the same as before) and this time students make notes in their learning journal (the presentation is on their private wiki). Then we have another brief activity. Finally a 10 minute 'test'. If I can afford it, we'll do the test part on handheld voting systems that we trialled last year - again lots of engagement value and also no marking!

I don't suppose these ideas are restricted to maths teaching or even to High School level.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

plans for the new academic year

Well, I have just 'broken up' for summer (or the students have - I still need to do a bit in work this coming week) and already I am bursting with ideas for next year.

It looks like I'll be taking on a Year 11 Maths GCSE (age 15/16) class from someone else so will basically have 2 terms (Sept to Easter) to get them working my way - or perhaps for me to be working their way?

The last two years have seen me experimenting with and having some success with using a private wiki for each class. Due to age and such issues it's best to keep them for invited members only and to have just me as moderator.

It started as an extension to the idea of a learning journal (LJ). For quite a few years now, I have asked students to keep a learning journal after each class with key ideas and their 'thinking out loud'. I cannot exactly say I have irrefutable evidence but it appears that those who do a good job also tend to exceed their target grades. Of course, there are many other variables such as do they tend to be the ones who study harder or are more motivated anyway? I do strongly believe though that the LJ helps motivate and helps them to develop a degree of metacognition.

So the wikis began with each student having her or his own page and sharing their LJ with others. I developed it this last year to share useful resources and links and revision ideas and games to hone their skills - they loved that! It remains to be seen in August how much that development has helped. I later started using an idea taken from Michael Wesch of putting keywords on the wiki as an assignment and everyone had to make an entry and/or edit each other's - like wikipedia. Of course I had to monitor that carefully in case of misconceptions but it was no more onerous than marking homework.

Just before the final exams ( about 6 weeks before) I read a blog from Howard Rheingold about Twitter back channels. I did not feel that I could encourage phones or social networking in school as it is against current policy - and I know many positives and negatives for that policy which I won't go into here. So I hit on the idea of a page called "Hey! Don't pass notes in class!" When students were working on exam prep questions. they could come up to the interactive white board any time they liked and either offer tips for classmates or ask each other for help. Once again they loved it and it really made them focus in class. There was absolutely no off task chatter. By having the wiki page for that lesson displayed whilst they did this, I could save it for them to access at home or any time they wanted to remind themselves of a technique.

So on to next year - what do I have in store? All of the above plus:
  • I'm going to put collaborative projects like the Google Earth Maths projects on
  • I am going to encourage the LJ as a blog
  • The lesson plan and classroom rules will be added
  • Assignments will be set so that they can hand them in via our school VLE which will be linked to the wiki

I can't wait!