October Bright Spots

It’s been my pleasure to visit some great lessons taught by some of our newest colleagues this week. There were so many fantastic ‘bright spots’ to share that this short post may not do them justice, but it’s not going to stop me trying!

First thing on Monday morning I observed Kelly teaching her Y7 English class about how choosing the right vocabulary is important to create imagery. What stood out for me was what a warm, supportive and welcoming place Kelly’s classroom is! Displays on every wall (and some hanging from the ceiling) are in regular use by students – I particularly like the ‘sunshine words’ where students’ own word choices from previous lessons have been added to the display as a prompt for more sophisticated vocabulary. What’s great is that students are already in the routine of using it, and are relying on Kelly’s prompting less and less. As a result, her students feel secure in trying to improve the sophistication of their language and aren’t at all self-conscious when it comes to peer-critique of their descriptive paragraphs towards the end of the lesson.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I trialled our IRIS Connect Live View camera system with two of our NQTs, enabling me to observe their lessons remotely from another room and avoid the ‘senior teacher sat in the room’ effect. There’s probably a whole other blog in this, but the short version is that we’re experiencing some very frustrating technical issues with the IRIS system at the moment. Thankfully though it didn’t detract from the learning in these two lessons.

Céline (@MissCesbron) was teaching a Y7 group how to say their own age and ask someone else in Spanish. Her energy and enthusiasm was infectious, and I think it’s fair to say I’ve never seen a group of 11-year-old boys so excited about counting to 15! Céline got the competitive element of the lesson just right here which kept the students’ engagement high throughout. I was also really impressed by her focus on target language for giving instructions, and how students are beginning to respond without waiting for a translation – true immersion learning.

It was a joy to watch one of our science NQTs teaching a topic that I’ve recently taught to my own Y10 physics class, and pitching it far better than I did! In my defence, I’m a non-specialist, but observing Katie was just as developmental for me as I hope it was for her. There were so many bright spots in this lesson about ionising radiation, but one that stood out for me was right at the start where students were using GCSE mark schemes to peer-assess a six-mark question they’d answered in the previous lesson, and then used Katie’s ‘Purple Pens of Progress’ for M.A.D time to improve their answer. This was really effective on a number of different levels, not least because it led to a much deeper understanding of the marking criteria but also because it’s such a powerful routine to have students in so early in the term.

My other favourite from Katie’s lesson was her hand-drawn WAGOLL (students then had to create their own comic strip):

I never thought I’d write the phrase ‘use of time and space’ on a lesson feedback form (no timelords at Wellacre), but that turned out to be the best way of describing Mike’s Y8 PE lesson on accurate shooting in handball. Different stations set up in different areas of the court allowed for a fantastic self-differentiated task using goals of varying widths, colour-coded to relate to the final self-assessment. Plenty of peer-feedback and coaching along the way too, and some brilliant examples of growth language along the way – Mike has some great ‘stock phrases’ which pre-empt problems before they happen so that every instruction he gives can have a positive emphasis:

“If you’ve got a ball, keep it still; if you can’t trust yourself, roll it to the fence.”

Impact? No balls were messed with while the next phase of the lesson was introduced! The pace, organisational routines and use of the whole learning environment all contributed to very effective learning which the students loved – all with time to get changed before break too.

Finally in this round-up, special mention to new maths teacher Abdullah, who invited me into his classroom to witness how his careful choice of language has been effective in getting his students working hard. Abdullah very kindly agreed to be filmed in preparation for our ‘work ethic’ INSET next week, so I won’t totally spoil the surprise but here are a few choice cuts:

“You’re not working hard… but you can.”

“Would that be the same?” “No, that one’s negative” “Good. You’re thinking hard about this; get on with it”

“I think you’ve got the gist of this, and because I know you’ve done that one, I know you’ll be able to figure out the pattern”

“Is that too easy? Challenge yourself and move on”

“Let’s think about it. I know you can work it out if you think harder”

“Have you thought hard enough?”

 

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About Stacey Partridge

Assistant Principal responsible for Teaching & Learning and CPD, Stem, Transition & primary liaison. Applied Learning Quality Nominee, CEIAG, Prince's Trust and SMSC. Wellacre Academy Flixton, Greater Manchester
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