As many of us are trying to understand changes to new GCSE and A Level specifications and devise SOW and lessons ready for the new academic year I realise that I am lucky to work in an environment where we send each other lessons without a seconds thought and online facebook pages/ schoology pages/ google drives are resulting in teachers across the UK sharing resources. I always find it astonishing to hear that staff are working in isolation on SOW rather than share the workload.
So why joint plan?
- It will reduce your workload- rather than planning for every single lesson you teach you will not have to do so. It saves everyone reinventing the wheel!
- You get to see ideas you haven’t thought of. One of the best things for me this year was getting my trainees lessons- so many new ideas to try!
- While you might not get ready made lessons each time, the leg work has been done for you, the research, the resource creating, the lesson activity designing etc. You will have to tweak to suit your class/ teaching style, but even so, it saves you starting from scratch. (Please note- this does not work, if teachers just teach exactly what they are given, it might not suit their class, teaching style etc- Teachers MUST tweak what they have been given!)
- Often as staff are sharing lessons, they want to make sure they share great lessons and resources, therefore everyone gets great resources.
- It gets you and your colleagues talking about teaching, discussing what worked, what didn’t, how you could tweak it, refine it, change it!
- If you are a solo member of staff, the joys of twitter, MAT, other local departments, facebook pages, google drives etc, means you can reduce your workload too! (I urge you if you are a one man band really look into joint planning with other schools!
- You don’t have to wait for a HOD to initiate, if there are more of you within a department just organise it amongst yourself!
Peer assessment can often be an add on to a lesson, and can often result in poor feedback to students such as “write neater” or “check spelling”. To improve this students (like teachers) need to know what to look for when giving peer assessment comments.
One way to do this is to give students a criteria to look for. The criteria should be quite simplistic in the first cases, in language that is easy to understand and it should be easy for students to identify whether their peer has or has not done this. Below is an example from a piece of work where students were writing a piece on life in the Arctic and the criteria that should be looked at when peer marking.
The list is very specific and easily identifiable in peers work. Students then identify something the student has done from the list (the WWW) and something the student has not included (the EBI). To try and reduce the issue of a student “freestyling” and writing an EBI which was not on the criteria, if a student received their book back without a comment specifically from the criteria they had to give it back to the marker (there will always be that one student who “freestyles” especially in the early days of this routine.
The students then acted on their EBI by writing a short paragraph which described the missing aspect. This saved me a job, time and students demonstrated progress in their work.
In my subject area, students, especially at GCSE or A-Level, have to produce notes- these are pieces of work which they can come back to at a later date to revise from. They might not show significant understanding or analysis but, they must have all the content if they are going to have the knowledge in the future. These pieces of work can be quite time consuming to mark and often the feedback given is “you need to include….”
A solution to this is the use of checklists. These can be printed off and students can then go through their work and check off that they have all the basic information. They can also then add anything they have identified as missing. A quick once over from you as the teacher means you can then go on to providing feedback on something which shows a greater level of thinking or skill. While there has to be some time invested at the start to create them, they are quite quick to make and can be used in future years. We divided ours up amongst the department to reduce workload and have all noticed our marking time of these pieces of work to have sped up. We have also found that students are producing better notes because they know what they need to include.
We all have those students who finish quickly and complete work to an excellent standard. Coming up with extension tasks can be challenging and time consuming. Thanks to an idea by @MarieAST which I have also seen shared at Teachmeets, pre-designed challenge cards which can be used in any lesson, means you don’t need to spend time thinking of extension tasks! Display them on a noticeboard or in a pot and students can pick one when they have finished the main task. They have now been categorised into different types of tasks to suit different students!
Really quick and simple plenary/ review task which allows students to feedback, ask students to write a paragraph with the sentence starter “I have met the LO because….”. Give students a green mark or arrow to show how much you want them to write to prove it!
How I structure lessons
The way I structure the learning within my classroom has evolved over my teaching practice and now incorporates 4 sections as shown below (please scroll down to read how I got to this). Please be aware that I do not always get through the whole sequence in one lesson, sometimes it might be in significantly more lessons. For example, 1-2 lessons presenting new information, maybe by watching a documentary, reading a news article, completing a card sort etc. Then 2 lessons or more applying. Also after each of the first 3 stages, there will be mini reviews taking place to check students understanding and progress.
Now, how does this speed up planning?
The time consuming bit can be thinking up different activities and sequencing that allows students to make progress. Below is a link to a PowerPoint I used with NQT’s on medium term planning, which gives mix and match lesson activities/ strategies for each stage of the above lesson structure- all you need to do is apply the content, whether that’s for Maths, English, Science, History etc (our maths NQT even had the students writing a news article in the apply section!) Hopefully lots of transferable ideas to speed things up!
How I structure lessons- the theory bit!
There are many ways to structure lessons. The traditional structure: starter, main, plenary of my PGCE training served me well to start with. This was then developed through reading Geoff Petty’s “Evidenced- Based Teaching” and the PAR model (shown below) where the “main” was split into two sections: a present information and an apply information stage.
Then, as part of whole school CPD, I was introduced to the TEEP model. However, with this model I was always unsure how stage 4 (construct) and 5 (apply) differed.
An amalgamation of these approaches has lead me to the 4 part system which I have found to be very effective, and pupil voice and learning walks/observations have also supported this.
A quick way to differentiate without 10 different worksheets. Give students options with how they present/ apply their learning. For example:
The use of options allows students to chose the activity they are most suited to- and there are no obvious “you do this task because you are targeted an A, you do this one because your target is a D”. To try and help student’s chose tasks are often categorised with a key “S”, “D” or “Q”. Students know what the codes mean with the use of the key to the left- and surprisingly they don’t all chose the easiest one!
The main benefits include:
- Greater effort from students- they have ownership of the task and as a result general produce better outcomes.
- Pupil voice has been highly positive.
- This is not resource heavy, it is not time consuming.
- It is personalised learning- stretch and challenge for all.
So some ideas for option tasks (many thanks to all the people who gave me these ideas in the first place):
- Create a leaflet which…
- Create a newspaper article for the following headline …
- Create 5 newspaper headlines to show different viewpoints.
- Create a storyboard to show….
- Write a diary entry/ blog post/ letter/ script/ poem.
- Create a mind map.
- Draw 10 images which show….
- Create a model to show…
- Design a machine which…
- Produce a collage that…
- Design a lesson starter…
- Write a quiz which tests…
- Produce a word search with 10 key words…
- Create a facebook/ twitter/ snapchat page
- Design a google logo…
- Create a timeline to…
- Interview 3 people on their opinion on…
- Draw/write a before and after…
- Create a game which…
- How would you prove … design an experiment to prove it!
One of my resolutions for last year was to permanently have a green pen (we mark in green) in my hand during my lessons (or pen dipping as our English team call it). This means I can go around students and get them to correct spellings, punctuation and capital letters right there in the lesson. I got into the habit of “targeting” students who I knew had weaker literacy.
I took this one step further, we teach in mixed ability groups, this means when we do extended pieces I have extension tasks for those that finish quickly. Now, before a student goes on to an extension activity they must come to the feedback table, where I will “mark” the work, and give students feedback instantly- they will then instantly make the changes (in purple progress pens), before going onto the next task. This means that when I come to sit down to that pile of books, in some cases, half of the books had green pen in them (and the satisfaction of opening a book to see it already is marked…. sooo good!) This significantly sped up marking. I even got into the habit of planning lessons where I can do this, and would ask targeted students to bring books up mid work, so I could offer feedback to them- all the time writing brief (and very brief) comments about how to improve the work or what to do next to ensure progress.
What were the other students doing while I was marking individual books? Well luckily the expectations of what was to be completed was clear, students knew that if they did not complete the expectation that they would stay in at break/lunch/come back/ have a poor report etc. But what I did not expect was that some of my more distracted pupils, actually started working with a higher level of effort and motivation, so that they could receive this feedback and praise, immediately.
As I start creating and writing my first ever blog I find myself asking lots of questions; what’s a widget? Why won’t my header actually fit in the header? When should I use a page or post? Who will actually read this? etc so I decided I would explain a bit more about my blog by answering the 5 W’s
What will the blog be about?
In the ever demanding job that teaching is, we are regularly hearing about teacher’s workload- it is now even a political term with the governments “Workload Challenge”. While I think fundamentally the way to reduce teachers workload is less classes this isn’t going to happen anytime soon! Teacher Workload aims to provide some top “tips” to help reduce the teacher workload in a practical way. Other than my mention above, the following words are banned from my blog:
- Government (and any other words related to a political agenda)
The aim is to provide ideas which can be taken into the classroom tomorrow, with limited planning.
Why am I creating more “work”?
Personally I often feel bombarded with teaching ideas- the joy of twitter and other blogs means we can easily access other teachers ideas. For me, the blog is an opportunity to write down and remember the best ideas which make my life easier, and still ensure an effective and engaging learning experience for the students in the classroom. Potentially some of the ideas shared might make others lives a little easier too.
Where could you find resources?
Where relevant, resources will be uploaded to the blog- if you want something in particular please contact me.
Who is the teacher writing this blog?
I am Head of Humanities in a “challenging” school in Lincoln. I am about to start my 7th year of teaching and am involved and lead on whole school CPD as well as work with trainee teachers in other schools.
When will it be updated?
In an ideal world I would like to post once a week with a top tip or idea to reduce workload, however, at busier times of year, this might not happen!
So here it goes…..