Peer Observation – Priceless CPD, for free!

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.” Ok, true. But it turns out that if the water tastes good enough, you won’t have to try!

"The refreshing taste of teacher-led CPD!"

“The refreshing taste of teacher-led CPD!”

Busy teachers might need to be persuaded to take time to observe their colleagues from other departments. But, as recent experience has reminded me, once in there they typically find it a hugely rewarding experience and will be glad to have been persuaded.

*This blog post explains why I believe that peer observation is one of the best forms of CPD available. It is good for all of us, and it costs nothing.*

 

In the spirit of tight but loose (thanks @LeadingLearner and #ClassTeaching), in the first half of this term, all teaching staff in our school were put into pairs and asked to observe one another. The remit was very simple and quite open. Choose one lesson of each other’s to observe (minimum 20 minutes) and submit brief feedback on two areas:

1. Aspects of good practice worth highlighting

2. How the observation might inform the observer’s practice in the future.

And that’s it.

 

Over the course of the term I enjoyed overhearing colleagues discussing their observations of one another over coffee, or in the corridor. They were always so positive! They had only smiles for each other! It struck me how great such observations are for simply bringing people together. Quite apart from the pedagogical benefits, it is a great way to get colleagues talking to one another when, even in a medium sized school such as ours, it is possible they might otherwise hardly come into contact for a whole term (see “busy teachers” above). It reminds us all what we have in common and gives us more of a sense of being part of a larger team.

 

Now, I have in front of me a stack of feedback forms. Going through them has been someone else’s job in the past, and that person always told us what a privilege it was to read through them and how impressive they were. And she was so right! (She never said quite how long it took, though). Now I confess that I rather cynically expected a large number of these responses to be short and somewhat cursory (remember the “busy teachers”?). I feel ashamed for ever having thought that about my colleagues! For even the shortest observations, the observer has felt motivated to write with enthusiasm, and in great detail, about the good practice they witnessed.

 

It was interesting to see how many teachers from quite different subject areas observed teaching strategies which they felt were transferable to their own practice. Just a few examples examples:

  • An English teacher observed how, in a Physics lesson, mini whiteboards were used within groups to make notes during a task. She commented that this would work well in English “…to keep notes brief and show pupils how work in progress note making can be questions, not just answers: correct answers and conclusions can be made at the end in books. Gives more motivation to try things out!
  • A Psychology teacher felt that the technique she observed in Geography would be applicable in her subject, too. Her colleague had made use of imagery (4 photos projected onto the screen) and simple questioning (Similarities? Differences? Odd one out?) to really engage students at the start of the lesson and make them think.
  • In the return observation, the Geography teacher enjoyed the “washing line” activity employed by her counterpart, where students placed post-it notes on the board to indicate the position of concepts on a continuous scale (in this case, “nature vs. nurture”)
  • A Physics teacher noted how powerful it was when her colleague from Drama took time to give verbal feedback to groups on their ongoing work, allowing them to respond and engage in a genuine dialogue about their work. This struck me as well, reading the feedback. We can spend a lot of time producing written feedback, when sometimes the job is much better done face to face.
  • Use of role play in a lesson on Russian History (examining opinions on the Tsars and Dumas) engaged the students and enabled them to experience much “...deeper learning than if they were just reading out other people’s opinions”. This according to the observing Biology teacher, who would definitely consider using the technique.
  • When an English teacher observed a Mathematics lesson, she was taken by the way the teacher encouraged metacognition, asking the students “What are we trying to achieve?” and asking them what inquiries they must make in order to move forward. She felt this could be used when introducing a new poem to Year 11, by giving them some key quotations and asking them “…to come up with questions they need to ask me for further clarification.
  • The return observation reminded the observing Maths teacher of the significance of seating arrangements. She resolved to “…try to place more emphasis in my own lessons on how girls are grouped/paired to enable them to benefit from each other’s strengths.
  • Another Maths teacher, observing Chemistry, was impressed by the teacher’s effective use of strictly time-limited activities with an AS group, remarking that the girls were “completely absorbed” and “covered a significant amount of material across the three tasks.” “I will definitely trial the use of time constraints in my 6th form lessons.
  • A Drama teacher noted a Physics activity throughout which girls, in groups, generated experimental results which were immediately reflected in a display on the IWB. The girls loved seeing their contributions writ large, and this chimes with other feedback about collaborative work using Google Docs etc. Said Drama teacher now wants an IWB in her Studio to help her to give immediate feedback to students on their work!
  • Classics observing RS, picked up two great strategies for the price of one! Firstly, five minutes of quiet reading to being the lesson, during which time girls read feedback from their teacher and address/respond to the points made. Secondly, the use of a dictaphone for students to record their ideas for a debate. Recordings from previous years were used as exemplars to begin the task.

 

Here are some other Teacher comments which stood out to me:

“Wow! The thing that impresses me most about this lesson is how lucky our students are to be able to learn at such a high, specialised level across such a range of subjects.”

– French teacher observing Physics teacher

“Superb relationships with the girls. Fantastic atmosphere; girls willing to ‘have a go’ and take risks, answer and ask questions”

– Spanish observing Maths

“Many different opinions were expressed and this challenged all girls to consider and take on board points of view that were not always their initial thought on a particular subject”

– Music observing PSHE

“Group work was particularly effective and provided a supportive environment for individual students; each had their own responsibility and all were engaged and focused on the task – all contributing to the results”

– Art & Design observing Biology

“Like how students were encouraged to Scribble ideas down on extracts – I want my classes to do more scribbling and not worry about everything being neat”

– Business Studies observing English

“The teacher had an excellent relationship with the class. They respected her knowledge and listened carefully”

– History observing PE

“One of the most impressive aspects of the lesson was the comfortable and appropriate use by the children of the subject specific language”

– Dance observing Art

“Excellent AfL – the summary sheet of requirements for each grade informed the girls about their current level of attainment and the next steps to take in their learning to access a higher grade.”

– Maths observing Chemistry

“Girls are really enjoying this lesson. Eager to learn!”

– Art observing German

 

Other highlights/common themes included:

  • High expectations of all pupils
  • Well planned lessons with creative use of different styles of activity
  • Lesson objectives explained/shared
  • Teachers know the students very well
  • Students are engaged immediately with interesting activities, often linked to prior learning.
  • Excellent use of questioning to measure students understanding and help them to progress
  • Frequent reference to, and explanation of, assessment criteria
  • Discussion in pairs to support student responses, e.g. “Tell your partner why…”
  • Use of extended questioning to ensure depth of understanding and draw out misconceptions
  • Structured group work with girls having different responsibilities/roles within each group
  • Considered and meaningful feedback given to students both in writing and orally, leading to responses in kind from students.


It really has been a pleasure to read the comments of such a dedicated bunch of teachers.

Conclusions?

  1. My colleagues are awesome. I will never doubt them again.
  2. We must never stop doing Peer Observations.

And 2014 has taught me…?

Well, clearly far too much to fit into a single blog post – that is the joy of teaching, you are learning all the time! But 2014 has seen a lot of firsts for me in my professional life and there are some things that stand out.

Anyone can start a blog!

I did! As it turns out, people don’t always read it. But that’s not really a problem, is it? Until today I went two months without a post, so it is probably as well I don’t have thousands of fans to disappoint. But when I have found the time to write something it has been an enjoyable and rewarding process. I feel more connected to a world of bloggers sharing their own ideas and experiences, and the self-reflection involved is great personalised CPD!

Target for 2015: NOT go another 2 months before posting again.

Twitter took over my Newsletter!

Twitter took over my Newsletter!

It’s a small world with Twitter

This year, thanks to Twitter, I have:

  • Connected with teachers and educationalists all over the world
  • Had views of my blog from the Republic of Korea, Brasil, Canada and even… the UK!
  • Discovered some fantastic blogs on teaching and learning and school improvement
  • Come to a new understanding of what CPD is (especially the “C”)
  • Discovered great resources that I have used in my own teaching and shared with colleagues

Target for 2015: reach 100 followers. Not just for the sake of it, but as a sign that I am in touch with more people and getting stuck in, really.

Teachmeet Sheffield was awesome.

Teachmeet Sheffield was awesome.

Sharing is caring – Teachmeets!

Went to my first one in late November. Brilliant! Great atmosphere because everyone has chosen to be there (on a Monday night, no less) and full of positive energy because people are there to share. Reminded me of the groom’s speech at a wedding reception – everyone is rooting for the presenter. I wasn’t a sharer, just a sharee… hence

Target for 2015: present at a Teachmeet

Teachers got golden in December

Teachers got golden in December

Whole school is cool

I love teaching Maths and working with my brilliant department to try to do things better. But this year for the first time I have picked up a small whole-school responsibility, for Teaching and Learning. (NB T&L is not small, just my responsibility for it!). And this is cool. I have already learnt so much in a few months from my colleagues in other departments, and discovered a positivity and willingness to share that I somehow managed to overlook before. Over the years I have come across so many great ideas which I felt just wouldn’t work in Maths teaching… now I have an excuse to engage with these ideas and think more deeply about the bigger issues in teaching and learning.

Target for 2015: Elicit at least 5 new first time contributors to the school T&L Newsletter and try out a 15 minute forum (thanks @shaun_allison).

Can everyone line up on the left, please?

Can everyone line up on the left, please?

Growth/fixed mindset

Warning: personal/private life crossover. I went for a run today for the first time this century. I’ve had a chronic back problem since the late nineties and over the years had settled comfortably into a paradigm entitled “I can’t run”. I do other physical activities, principally cycling, but have always run scared, as it were, of running. I realised I was not practising what I preach. I had a fixed mindset, on this issue at least. Well, through facebook (I’m in my mid-thirties, so approaching the right demographic for FB now) I found someone willing to lend me an old pair of fell running shoes. So today I had no more excuses! Result? 3.7km in the snow and mud. A light jog, by most people’s standards, but for me it’s a start!

Enough digression: in my teaching and my whole-school outlook, Fixed vs Growth mindset is probably the no. 1 thing on my agenda. There have been a number of great blogs on this topic this year and my target for 2015 is to explore this further, try something in the classroom, and blog about it.

Quality, not quantity

This sub-heading is just a pre-text/excuse for me ending the post here. There is tons more I could include, but would you read it? Also, this way I can post it now then get on with hoovering ready for tonight’s NYE party (it’s the kiddy/family kind… I’m so rock and roll).

Hope your 2015 is awesome.

Growth mindset: it’s not just for Christmas

A great read from someone who can properly write and is saying exactly the right things.

Reflecting English

Growth-Not-Just-For-ChristmasWEBImage: @jasonramasami

Every Saturday, I take my three-year old son shopping. I must admit I am forever the teacher. My partner draws him a list of things to find and together we look for them. Today, we were after garlic, even if the biro sketch had more than a whiff of onion about it.

It was on our way past the Christmas tree, from the garlic to the carrots, that we saw him, dressed in the signature green and yellow of Morrisons. A stooped stockiness had replaced the gangliness of adolescence, but even so, the crooked smile, open and shy at the same time, instantly sent me back four years. Here was Tim [name changed] again. A delightful boy – who could barely write.

I tend to bump into a former student or two most weekends, more often than not in a retail outlet. Sometimes I find these meetings awkward…

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Substitution (…and Continued Fractions)

This one’s really only for the Maths teachers of there. But I saw it and just had to reblog it! Awesome. SC.

Continuous Everywhere but Differentiable Nowhere

Today in Precalculus I went on a bit of a 7 minute digression, talking about continued fractions. You see, a recursive problem showed up (we’re doing sequences): Write out the first five terms of the following sequence:

$latex a_{n+1}=sqrt{2+a_n}$ where $latex a_1=sqrt{2}$

So obviously they go like: $latex a_1=sqrt{2}$,$latex a_2=sqrt{2+sqrt{2}}$, $latex a_3=sqrt{2+sqrt{2+sqrt{2}}}$, $latex a_4=sqrt{2+sqrt{2+sqrt{2+sqrt{2}}}}$, and $latex a_5=sqrt{2+sqrt{2+sqrt{2+sqrt{2+sqrt{2}}}}}$

So great. Awesome. NOT. Booooring. So I showed them the decimal expansions:

$latex approx 1.414, approx 1.848, approx 1.961, approx 1.990, approx 1.998, approx 1.999, approx 1.9998, approx 1.99996, approx 1.999991, approx 1.999997647$

WHOA! This is getting closer and closer to 2… Weiiiird…

And then I say I can show them this will continue, and we can find a way to show that $latex sqrt{2+sqrt{2+sqrt{2+sqrt{2+sqrt{2+…}}}}}$ [where the pattern continues forever] will practically become 2.

DIGRESSION WHICH IS ACTUALLY WHY I WANTED TO BLOG ABOUT THIS

To do this, I start with something else. I…

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EDpuzzle. A leap forward for flipped learning?

I’ve been a big fan of the flipped classroom for a number of years now. With many classes I find that lesson time is too often devoted to “delivering content”, as it were, en masse. Typically, unless you are some kind of differentiation god (which I am not) there will be some people who latch onto the new idea pretty quickly and start to get bored as I am required to repeat, re-explain or look at from a completely new angle whatever gem of knowledge I am trying to impart. I can’t go as fast as the quickest, nor as slow as the slowest. It’s a balancing act. This means I only really get it exactly right for a few individuals.

I know there are many ways to try to get round this problem without flipping the classroom. I have great admiration for colleagues who can cleverly structure learning activities so that they are differentiated and meet each learner’s needs much more effectively. I can do this too, sometimes. But I like flipping.

I have gradually introduced my students to the idea of flipped learning and over the years have created a number of videos at www.youtube.com/mrcampbellmaths, most of which have proven successful. There are many advantages of the flipped classroom. For me I would sum it up like this:

  • Students can learn at their own pace using the video, at home or out and about.
  • Students who lose their notes, missed the lesson or want to revise can re-watch the video at any time.
  • In lessons I can spend much more time working with individuals or groups to help move their learning forward.

But there are limitations…

  • How do I know who has watched the video?
  • How do I plan my lesson if I don’t know if they have understood the video?
  • How do I make sure they actively watch the video, rather than passively copying down notes from a computer screen?

This is why I got so excited about EDpuzzle.com

This website provides a simple to use structure in which you can embed a video from almost anywhere on the web (or one you make and upload yourself) and both augment the learner’s experience through questioning, audio comments etc, and track in close detail the activities of each learner. So, basically, addressing the three key limitations listed above.

So the weekend before last my “To do” list (after “Set up blog!”) included “Make video on factorising quadratics and use via EDpuzzle”

But who ever has time for everything on their list? So it got to 10pm on Sunday and I knew I had no time to start recording. I decided to turn to the number one teaching strategy which almost never fails: nick something someone else has already done! A quick search on Youtube found this excellent video by the equally excellent @HegartyMaths. The perfect introduction to this important skill. All I had to do was EDpuzzle it.

The process was so quick and easy I might as well take you through it (I had already set up an account, which is dead easy, at edpuzzle.com):

Click on “Create” then “New Video”

EDpuzzle Create

Choose your source! TED, Khan Academy, Youtube… and the list carries on down the page!

EDpuzzle ChooseI had already found my Youtube video so I simply pasted in the URL and it appeared. You then get the option to crop the video, removing as much as you like from the beginning or the end of video. Very useful if the perfect 5 minutes happens to be in the middle of an hour long yawn-fest!

EDpuzzle CropNext you are taken through three options designed to enhance the video and make the experience interactive. The first two (which I skipped on this occasion) let you record either a voiceover for the full video, or audio notes to appear at times of your choosing while the video pauses. The third option is to add Questions. These can be added at specific points in the video and come in 3 formats:

  • Open. You type a question to which the student must respond with a simple text answer. These are not marked/verified automatically – you log in and do these yourself later.
  • Test. I used this. You type a multiple choice question and any number of correct or incorrect answers from which students will choose. See image below. These are immediately marked for students and the correct answer revealed.
  • Comment. This is simply a way to add a typed comment which students will see but do not have to respond to. Very useful if you want to clarify something from the video or for many other reasons.

EDpuzzle Add Question (blank)

Now use it!

The whole process was very quick – taking only as much time as it took me to think of the questions. My next job was to ‘deliver’ the video to the students. First I created a ‘Class’ by going to ‘My classes’ and clicking ‘Add Class’.

EDpuzzle Add Class After some thought I called it “10 set 2”. I then found my freshly EDpuzzled video in ‘My Content’, selected it and clicked ‘Assign’, after which I had the following choice:

EDpuzzle AssignI chose my class from the list, then (of course!) chose “Prevent skipping” – so simple but so brilliant! Students can navigate backwards and forwards through the clips as much as they like except that they can never skip ahead beyond what they have already seen.

Once assigned to “10 set 2” I had to give my students instructions for how to join the class. Sign up is very simple – they all went to edpuzzle.com (at home) and followed instructions to “Sign up” as a student, and once in they simply chose “Join Class” and input a short code I had given them (specific to my class) and that was it!

What happened?

So I set this “homework” on a Monday, to be completed before the next lesson on the Thursday. By the Tuesday night, when I logged in to check how they were getting on, I could see that around half the class had completed the task. I had a quick scan through the available data and I knew straight away that this really was going to prove an invaluable tool for flipping my classroom.

Planning perfection

On Wednesday night, late(ish), I logged in again to take stock and plan my lesson, the aim of which was to consolidate the knowledge gained at home through the video.

I could see that…

Four students had still not logged in. Not a problem! I went to the school portal and booked a few laptops for tomorrow’s lesson (Ok, it was lucky there were some available, but still). Then in the lesson I sent them off to fetch them straight away and after 20 mins they were done.

Three students had achieved full marks. Great! These would be my Peer Tutors and for the first fifteen minutes of the lesson they would circulate and help the others. (They did. It was great!)

One student had clearly struggled much more than the others. Ok, so I planned to spend the first 5 minutes with her while the Peer Tutors looked after everyone else. What a luxury to have the time!

The majority of the class scored between 50% and 83%, meaning that while many would need a decent amount of practice, a large number of them would probably be ready to move on before the hour was out. Knowing this, I planned a suitable follow on task, to which students could “self-refer” once they felt “green” on the main task.

I was buzzing by the time I finished planning my lesson. And in particular I was impressed by all the data at my fingertips. On the top level, the first thing I saw was this snapshot of results and (at the top) the questions ordered by difficulty:

EDpuzzle Results overviewUseful. But now drill down – look at a particular question. I can see how many students gave each answer and who gave each answer, so I get a good idea of what the misunderstandings were (especialy if my multiple choice wrong answers were carefully chosen). Useful for deciding how to group students for follow on activities.

EDpuzzleGreat! But now drill down more! The data you get on an individual student was what blew me away. Click on a student’s name from any page and you go straight to their analysis. You can see all their answers and whether they were correct or not. Take this example:

EDpuzzle Question comparisonFrom question five I could see that she had not quite grasped the need to ‘cancel down’ each bracket, getting the second one wrong. But then, having seen that this answer was incorrect, she was able to correctly complete the next one! Brilliant detail.

And this is just awesome:

EDpuzzle video viewsThis girl watched each part of the video at least twice. But she watched the section with which she struggled most (evidenced by the red question marks – incorrect answers) eight times! I would never have had this information from students watching videos on my youtube channel. I was really happy to be able to praise and reward this student for her determination.

Phew!

I realise this blog is already excessively long! Time to stop. If you’ve got this far, I hope you’ve found it interesting. I would encourage you to try out EDpuzzle, and I’d love to hear what you think about it. I know there are other similar options out there (e.g. Educanon) – have you used any of them?

If you want to experience what my year 10 experienced, I have created a new class which, if you log in as a student, you can join! The code is e92Qk4. Tip: Set up an account as a teacher, but then log out and back in as a student (using the same credentials) – this lets you join classes. The quadratics video is there, along with a shorter one entitled “How far away is the moon?”. Knock yourself out!

Thanks for reading and please feel free to leave comments.

Getting Students’ Hands DIRTy

Making feedback work.

A couple of years ago I was lucky enough to take part in a professional development programme linking several schools in Yorkshire from both the state and independent sectors. It was a good example of how getting teachers together and letting them share ideas can make some of the best CPD.

I took a lot of ideas away from the programme (for example “snot” from my earlier blog) and one thing I remember really loving during the session at Horizon Community College was DIRT. I remember it as “Dedicated Improvement and Reflection Time”, thought I have since seen it referred to as “Directed Improvement and Reflection Time”. There is a subtle difference between the two, and actually I think that including both the D-words is essential.

When coffee is not enough

When coffee is not enough

So we are talking about the hours we all spend marking work, and what good it actually does. As an NQT 8 years ago my head was full of Assessment for Learning and I carefully avoided awarding marks for homework, instead spending a good deal of time writing individual comments which would allow my students to see how to improve. It took me a while to see the bigger picture, however: what was happening next? I knew enough to know that some lesson time should be given over to reading my comments but it had not occurred to me to assign time to doing something about it.

DIRT by @TeacherToolkit

DIRT by @TeacherToolkit

This is where DIRT comes in. To me, what you do in this time might vary enormously according to your subject, the type of task, etc. But the essentials, to my mind, are:

Improvement and Reflection. This is time in which all students are expected, and helped, to reflect on their work and consider both what makes it good and what can be improved. But they do not only consider it, they actively make those improvements.

Dedicated. Set aside, and ringfence, some of your lesson time for this process. In some instances, where work can be endlessly redrafted and improved upon, this might even be a whole lesson. But not a token 5 minutes.

Directed. Give the process some structure. This will vary with subject and task as well, just don’t leave students with 15 minutes to fill and only your written comments to go on.

Time. Um…

Quite apart from the benefits to students’ work, the fact that everyone is expected to use this time to improve strongly reinforces the idea of a growth mindset. If we return work and immediately follow with “right, now we’re all going to see how we can improve”, this sends all the right messages about effort and achievement, drawing attention away from the ego-involved “what mark did I get?

There are tons of great blogs and articles about DIRT out there. Most recently I saw this one from Carol Stobbs (@littlestobbsy), in which she shares the poster below as well as her interpretation of DIRT as a History teacher (see the ppt within the blog).

Thanks to @littlestobbsy for this great poster

Thanks to @littlestobbsy for this great poster

I also saw this excellent post this week from Shaun Allison on the use of very carefully structured DIRT in the Maths department in his school. This looks like it would take a good deal of planning but the benefit to students is obvious.

Twitter is also full of #DIRT at the moment. @TeacherToolkit tweeted the image I used above as well as this interesting (and acronym-filled) blend of DIRT and the 5 minute lesson plan:

5 minute DIRT?

5 minute DIRT?

So, when you are next marking work and carefully considering your feedback for each student, ask yourself “what is the point?”. Then either plan some dirty lesson time so that the effort you are going to will mean something, or just get an early night instead.

You’re either SNOT, or you’re not

Fostering habits of independent learners.

Do students need a lot of help in lessons in your subject? I should re-phrase: Are students constantly asking for help in your lessons?

I get a LOT of questions from students in my Maths lessons. A good deal are related to self-esteem/confidence: “Mr Campbell, is this right?” Not indicative of a growth mindset, but sadly pretty common. My natural response would be “You tell me!”. The same goes for “What do I do next?” and “Can you tell me what I’ve done wrong?”. Usually, when prompted, students can reason their way through the problem they are encountering. Sometimes a little scaffolding is needed, but it is amazing how often the students do all the work themselves.

Of course, there are always some who have not yet grasped the idea or technique with which they are grappling (in fact, this should apply to every student at some point in a good lesson) – these students might be in urgent need of my time, but at the back of a queue of “is this right”-ers.

So in the status quo each of the protagonists described above (including me) is being prevented from working to their maximum potential by the whole setup. There are two questions: 

  1. Why do students so often need me to prompt them to think for themselves?
  2. How can I make them more independent learners (thus making more time for those who really need teacher input)?

There are some great practical ideas for prompting the sort of habits which we would wish to see, my favourite two being:

Thanks to E Salton (via TES) for the poster

Thanks to E Salton (via TES) for the poster

“3B4ME” – written in classic (and brilliantly outdated) text speak, this is a quick slogan to remind students that they should be consulting (at least) three sources before the teacher. I’ve seen a few interpretations of this, my favourite being “Brain, Book, Buddy, Boss”

 

Snot logo

Ok, so I got a bit carried away making a logo…

“SNOT” – along the same lines as 3B4ME, but probably more memorable to a 14-year old and a lot more fun to say! Stands for “Self, Notes, Other, Teacher”. Thanks to Kerry Wade of Clifton School, Rotherham for that one. She said she would ask her students “Have you snotted?”. Brilliant!

 Why is this on my mind right now? On Saturday night when I was meant to be marking but was instead lurking on Twitter I saw this tweet:

This was something I used to do all the time, but which had somehow been squeezed out of my mental teaching toolbox. So I had to reply…

And a brief, but inspiring, conversation ensued and I resolved to bring this technique back to my classroom.

Doing it

So what happened in school this week? Well, I tried the 5 min thing with my Year 8, 9, 10 and 11 classes, and I threw in SNOT for good measure! Some of the things I learned:

SNOT

  • If you get everyone’s attention and say “I need to tell you a little bit about snot”, you really have their attention. Helps if you write “snot” in green pen on the board.
  • All the classes embraced SNOT pretty quickly. Some Y9s rolled their eyes at first, but soon one girl was asking “Please can I move next to Emma as I’ve got no one to snot with?” – brilliant!
  • In response to a request for help, use Kerry Wade’s line “Have you snotted?” – it works a treat!

5 Mins no teacher support

  • I gave them 5 mins warning each time and this worked well – they know they have to make sure they understand the task properly in that time
  • Combines really well with SNOT – I had written a horrible green “snot” on the board and so I rubbed off the “t”, telling them “you only have “sno” for the next five minutes
  • It was good to see girls who are usually VERY dependent on encouragement finding other resources or simply getting on with it.
  • Students got up and moved round the classroom to discuss the work. It worked.
  • You have to choose the task, and the time within the task, carefully, otherwise you can leave them out to dry!

The main thing I noticed after each 5 minute period was what I  mentioned in my tweet at the weekend: When you tell them you’re putting the “t” back into “snot”, you never get the equivalent of 5 minutes’ worth of questions fired at you.

Conclusion? At least some of them have been more resourceful and determined than they might otherwise have been, and figured it out for themselves. It is not a revolution in the classroom, but it is surely a good start.

What do you do to encourage independence in your students? And what is the answer to question 1 above?