All posts by anewhoffod

Curriculum planning

This blog post does not claim to have all the answers. Lord knows I definitely don’t but I do a lot of listening and then thinking and then planning and then every year, we move forward just a little. So this blog post reflects nearly three years work and is a reflection of where we, as a department, are currently at, and where I am in terms of my thinking.

(Apologies for the quality of the photos, where possible the documents have also been attached.)

NB 2 – you know when you write a blog post and someone simultaneously writes a blog on the same topic which is just so much more innovative and inspiring.  Well, that just happened.  So whilst I would describe my curriculum as  ‘safe’ currently, it is what is entirely right given our context at this point in time.

Assessment objectives at KS4 is where it all begins.

To plan an effective curriculum, one must be clear on how the students are going to be assessed. With a new specification came new assessment objectives:Edexcel criteria.jpg

These assessment objectives, therefore, provide teachers with a framework for their curriculum in which we know that our students need to develop skills in interpretation and personal response, analysis of language, form and structure, context and the relationship between text and context and comparison. In writing, students need to be able to write in a range of different forms for a range of different audiences and purposes, organise their texts effectively, use a range of vocabulary and sentence structures as well as demonstrate accurate punctuation usage.

The framework is there. To dig deeper, analysing the mark-schemes from exam boards enables one to see what the development of a particular skill might look like. For example, this mark scheme assessing AO2: analysis of language, structure and form.AO2 criteria.jpg

Therefore we can see, at GCSE, a student working at a lower level will start to be able to identify language, form and structure techniques within a passage whereas a student working at a level 3 will be able to identify these techniques but also show an understanding of how these techniques have been used using relevant subject terminology. Finally, a student working at the highest level will be able to evaluate all three: language, structure and form cohesively using precise and integrated subject terminology.

Progression maps

This level of progression is a great starting point for thinking about a curriculum beyond the GCSE years. My first task, therefore, was to create a progression map for yrs 7 – 13 using the AOs as my framework to map how our students would develop their skill sets.

Progression maps 1617

(NB this needs to be updated for 17-18 as we have changed our A level specification and I need to ensure this continues to marry up).

When this progression map had been created and a flight path for students established, I then began to look at each year group working with our assessment system in KS3. We have a very simple system in which students are either Learning, Mastering or Extending. If students by the end of year 9 are mastering then we expect them to be ready to achieve a level 4/5 at GCSE or whatever an old school C might look like!

Using this framework, I then came up with our LME grids for each year group. The year 7 one is below.

LME grid.jpgYear 7 LME v2

Curriculum content

Once the assessment structure was in place, the curriculum planning – in terms of content – could begin. The department sat down collectively under the leadership of the KS3 co-ordinator and constructed the curriculum, deciding, like many other schools, to reduce the content down from six core units to four. For the most part, this curriculum will stand moving into 2017-18. The only change being less teacher autonomy over text choice so that we are all teaching the same texts. Here is our KS3 curriculum content.

curriculum content.jpg

One of the main drivers for our curriculum was that reading was at the heart of it and that students across the three years were exposed to a range of reading texts. Whilst we have sought to challenge students with particular texts, we’ve also opted for texts that we think are the most engaging for our students as we want to capture their imagination and love for literature early on.

Mapping assessment to curriculum content

Once the curriculum content had been established we then needed to map our assessment objectives to the curriculum content. I have re-drafted this for the academic year 2017-2018. The reason for this is that I want to ensure, as far as possible, that the AOs being assessed in each unit mirror the AOs being assessed at GCSE. So, for example, when studying a play I want students to be assessed on the same criteria they would be assessed on when studying a play at GCSE so students begin to become familiar with the structures of GCSE. Here is our year 8 assessment mapping:

curriculum map.jpg

Y7 Long Term Plan

Y8 Long Term Planv2

Y9 Long Term Plan

Our academy has moved to an assessment system in which students complete three summative assessments per year. These are formal examinations, with the majority of these conducted in the exam hall. All other assessment is used formatively.

This year, we have allowed the formative assessments to be decided by the teacher but I have decided that, again, we will all complete the same formative assessments to ensure a level of consistency across the department. These are identified in the medium term plan. Below is an example from a year 7 MTP

formative assessment.jpg

(NB – not all formative assessments follow this rigid structure but this is unit 1 and a foundation unit).

Each of these formative assessments target the key AOs for the unit to ensure a focus and clarity in terms of skill development and are only short in length – 1-2 paragraphs at most. Depth rather than breadth. Formative assessments will be marked using the Whole Class Marking Sheet as invented, I think, by Mr Thornton on Twitter. An example of this is below:

whole class markingWhole class marking sheet

These are being used to speed up the marking process and reduce workload for staff. I was privileged to observe two feedback lessons at Michaela in which this kind of document was in use and the level of personalisation and improvement / response to feedback was staggering. We are currently trialling this with a few teachers at the academy and are incredibly pleased with the results so this will be rolled out as standard practice across the department from September.

Our summative assessments are also identified in the Medium Term Plan. Below is an example from the same year 7 MTP for the reading section of the summative assessment.

summative assessment

Our summative assessments all contain three sections.

Section A: MCQ questions to test students’ knowledge (this is differentiated in terms of volume and focus of questions asked depending on ability)

Section B: Reading (this is differentiated. At the higher end, students are provided with one essay based question whilst at the lower end, students are provided with a number of shorter questions)

Section C: Writing (this is not differentiated. An image is provided and key bullet points given to act as reminders for what students should seek to include).

Here is an example from the year 7 unit for the lower ability

Dec summative assessment LA

To support the marking of the summative assessments, mark-schemes are provided to staff for the MCQ questions and a marking grid for the reading and writing tasks. See below for the accompanying grid to this exam paper. Staff green criteria that is met and pink one area for development.

(NB. The L1, L2 will be changing this from September. To fit in with our school process we will be awarding a proportion of marks to learning, to mastering and to extending (much like the GCSE mark schemes) so learning 1-5 marks, mastering 6-10 marks etc or something along those lines).

exam marksheet

Yr 7 Novel Summative Assessment marking sheet

For both formative and summative assessment, staff are directed to complete 1-2 feedback or DIRT lessons addressing misconceptions and areas for improvement.

Workbooks

However, as you can imagine, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes before any formative assessment or summative assessment occurs. I have always been a fan of booklets, having produced a number of grammar workbooks for the department. However, after my visit to Michaela I have become even more determined to create a workbook department. The benefits of workbooks are plentiful:

  • Abandoning power point or active inspire strips back all of the gimmicks and places a real focus on content and learning
  • All resources are in one place – no forgotten resources or last minute photocopying
  • Students have all the information they need in one document. This is excellent for revision. Our GCSE students place their workbooks into their folder for revision after use so all revision materials are already prepared.
  • If a student is away or sent out / isolated, you have work ready prepared for them to complete as they can be directed to complete a lesson.

The workbooks contain all class work. They contain the notes, the exercises, the practices. These fundamentally are like exercise books which will be lightly marked. Students will be provided with one other exercise book in which they will complete all their formative assessments. This will, therefore, function as an assessment book which I am hoping, again, will focus teachers on the important stuff to mark and reduce workload.

Here is an example from our year 7 workbook

workbook 1

The entire workbook is available here: Y7 Unit 1 Lang Through Time booklet

All booklets begin with a LME self-assessment – although keen to review this as I’m not sure all of the language is student friendly – in which students RAG themselves against the AO criteria. This is then RAG-ged again for each formative assessment and for the summative assessment so progress can be tracked. Then the booklet is divided into lessons with a vocabulary activity, retention questions / do it now task and then the content for each lesson. (I will need to add in our learning goals and learning objectives as this is a focus for our head).

As Head of Department, I am in the process of producing all the booklets which is a huge task. However, my SLT are very supportive and are giving me time once year 11 have left to complete this task. I am doing this because I am clear about my expectations and the core knowledge / skills I want taught / developed and after years of variable planning and quite a new department next year, I am more keen than ever that a bar is set and a level of consistency achieved.

Staff will be provided with these booklets alongside quite a detailed medium term plan – here is a year 7 one:

medium term plan.jpgY7 Unit 1 Lang Through Time MTP

Staff will be provided with both the Medium Term Plan and the workbook with a shared understanding of core coverage. If they choose to accompany with a power point, with an activ inspire that is up to them. If they wish to add to the unit, that is also up to them. I am simply providing them with a base package, if you like.

Homework

The final piece of the puzzle with regard to core curriculum is homework. We don’t set enough homework and I am mindful that homework is, in fact, valuable in preparing independence and the realisation that with hard work comes success. I see so many students in year 11 who think that work in the classroom is enough to gain them the grades they need and want to push that the harder you work, the more effort you put in, the more successful you can become. However, I am also keen that homework is not onerous for staff. I do not want to generate huge amounts of marking.

Amy Forrestor and Kate McCabe have provided an excellent idea for meaningful and impactful homework without it being onerous on staff.

Amy recently presented at Research Ed on her retention strategy which is here:

amy homework.jpg

Kate McCabe then shared her revision strategy for year 11 which is here:

kate homework.jpg

I love this approach and feel there is so much mileage here for KS3 so, along with my current and my new KS3 co-ordinator, will be constructing these to support the units we teach at KS3. Thank you so much to Amy and Kate for sharing.

KS3 units

Three years into my role and three years of constant spec changes with changes affecting KS3.  No more.  I’ve decided this year…even though it means working every Saturday…I am going to have all units written and in place before September for ALL year groups.  Next year, I am going to reclaim my life.  For sure.  Well, that’s the blinking plan.  So as I write them, I will share the KS3 units here.

Long Term Plans

y7-long-term-plan

y8-long-term-plan

y9-long-term-plan

Y7

Unit 1: Language through Time

A four week unit revising / introducing year 7 students to analysis of language and the TEEE structure (Technique, supporting Example, Explanation and Effect).  Texts used are Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, All the World’s a Stage and The Ballad of Dick Turpin.

Medium Term Plan

y7-unit-1-lang-through-time-mtp

Student booklet

y7-unit-1-lang-through-time-booklet

Low ability summative assessment

dec-summative-assessment-la

 

Unit 2b: Text structure

A four week unit introducing students to some of the different features of text structure using a range of fiction text.

Student booklet

y7-unit-2b-text-structure-booklet

Low ability summative assessment

march-summative-assessment-la1

High ability summative assessment

march-summative-assessment-ma-ha1

 

Y7 glossary (in development)

Y7 glossary

#teacher5aday #slowchat4 #data

If my SLT knew I was leading a chat on workload and data, they would laugh their heads off.

I hate data. I’m not very good at data. In fact this week, I spent an hour trying to teach myself how to get a column in excel to convert to percentages. It still doesn’t work and my poor data Deputy Head will have to help me at our line management meeting on Wednesday.

I think it stems back to my GCSE in maths. Boy, did I have to work really hard for that C grade and my only memory of the examination was my working out of a simultaneous equation which ran up the sides of the paper as I determined to do the sum. I’m just not so logical.

However, the chat I am leading on Thursday is about workload and data so in preparation for the chat, I have read the Workload Review Group’s report on ‘Eliminating unnecessary workload associated with data management.’ Here is my summary of that report:

The report begins by stating that data can have a profound impact but recognise that, too often, data collection has become an end to itself, divorced from the core purpose of improving outcomes and that all parts of the education system have contributed to excessive data collection (especially when Ofsted identify key groups).

The two main reasons why data management is a burden for teaching staff is

  • When the purpose of collecting data has not clearly identified how it will be used to improve outcomes
  • When the process of collecting data is inefficient

Therefore, the ideal is to ensure that every data collection has a clear purpose and that the process is as efficient as possible. Leaders and teachers need to determine what data will be useful and for what purpose and then collect the minimum amount of data required to help them evaluate how they are doing. The group recommend that leaders produce an assessment and data calendar to ensure transparency and clarity for staff. The key questions for teachers and leaders when thinking about data, therefore are:

  1. Am I clear on the purpose? Why is this data being collected, and how will it help improve the quality of provision?
  2. Is this the most efficient process? Have the workload implications been properly considered and is there a less burdensome way to collect, enter, analyse, interpret and present the information?
  3. Is the data valid? Does the data actually provide a reliable and defensible measure of educational attainment?

An emphasis in the report is on data collection reflecting pupil progress against the bigger ideas. Teachers need to know if pupils are on track to achieve end-of-year expectations, whether pupils are where they should be. Therefore, the workload group recommend that teachers should make professional judgements of pupil attainment against key performance indicators – the big ideas that tell us whether a pupil understands and has grasped what they have been taught. However, they suggest that these judgements are made through their professional knowledge without recourse to elaborate assessment, data generating and recording systems.

The workload review group also recommend that formative assessment should be used for the teachers’ own planning purposes and to inform professional dialogue only and should not be routinely collected at a school level because of the additional burden.

It is worth noting that the report notes Ofsted’s recent announcement: Ofsted does not expect performance and pupil-tracking data to be presented in a particular format. Such data should be provided to inspectors in the format that the school would ordinarily use to track and monitor the progress of pupils in that school.

So to summarise the document suggests that the following common overarching principles should apply to all:

  1. Be streamlined: eliminate duplication – ‘collect once, use many times’
  2. Be ruthless: only collect what is needed to support outcomes for children. The amount of data collected should be proportionate to its usefulness. Always ask why the data is needed.
  3. Be prepared to stop activity: do not assume that collection or analysis must continue just because it always has
  4. Be aware of workload issues: consider not just how long it will take, but whether that time could be better spent on other tasks

 

On Thursday the 12th January, let’s consider the following questions:

Q1. Are you clear on the process of data collection within your school setting? (In terms of a calendar, the systems used to collect data and why the data is being collected etc) and do you feel the system in place is effective?

Q2. How has your school attempted to reduce or simplify data collection processes whilst still ensuring data is used in a meaningful way to support pupil progress?

Q3. How efficient do you feel your school’s approach to assessment without levels is? Has it increased or reduced workload?

Q4. How does your school approach formative assessment? Is formative assessment tracked?

Q5. What would you like to see put in place to ensure any unnecessary workload is eliminated with regard to data collection?

 

The report referenced to in this blog can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reducing-teacher-workload-data-management-review-group-report

 

Nurture 16/17

Here were my hopes for 2016

Hopes for 2015/2016

Professionally

  1. Bring the cohesiveness of the team back but with increased expectations and shared workload.  Try and balance the schizophrenic feelings this year and accept that all will not be perfect but good enough will have to do this year.  Continue to write SOW and push progress forward.  Maintain good results whilst trying to step back and let our KS4 co-ordinator do the job (very hard!)

Our results held – I mean language dropped but lit was good.  Schemes of work are still in development and, to be honest, it’s exhausting.  Three specifications (both Lit and Lang) in three years has meant soooo much upheaval. I hope these new specs stay for a while.

2. I am fortunate to be given the opportunity to work with PGCEs, NQTs and Teach First participants by our VP.  If I was to consider progression upwards, then this is where i would like to go so I want to make the most of this opportunity.

I loved working with our two Teach Firsts and our NQTs.  This position has now gone to a VP so not something I’m involved with currently this year.

3. Continue to think about the health and wellbeing of staff.  This year so far I have organised a staff bake off and the chocolate box.  Want to up this in 2016.

I’m going to pause on this one.

Personally

  1. Be happy.  I have been miserable these past two terms because they have been hard, really hard.  I have cried.  I have written my resignation and i have nearly given up.  And yet i am one of the most resilient people i know.  I need to find the fight to see this through.

The first term is the toughest and I think I am learning that November is the month that makes me want to quit.  Next November I might sign myself off for a month

2. Travel more – Sweden is booked with two of my fab colleagues and I have a feeling Italy will be a place I see fairly regularly this year.  I need to pick up the Italian again.

Yep. Went to Sweden, two weeks in Italy and ticked Auschwitz off the list.  I love to travel.  It makes me feel alive.

3. Work on my friendships.  Have people over for dinner, meet up with people more often.  Laugh with others.

Lots of laughter.  I moved to Salisbury as well – so much more sociable

4. Lose weight – portion control, gym and care.

I’ve joined the gym.  I’m going to be fat and happy.

5. Have one day off at the weekend.   I need to rest.  I am tired.

Yes!  Have Saturdays off generally.

6. Blog more often.  I have achieved so much and i would like to blog more about the professional aspects of what I do.  Aim = two a month.

I blog.  Not that often.  Like others I often not sure what to say.

7. Read – Count is currently 32 so let’s go for 40 next year!

With one day to go, am on 43.

 

Hopes for 2017

  1. Simplicity.  I love being at home.  Love reading.  Love films.  Love sleep.  Keep things simple and life is totally good.
  2. Continue to travel: Copenhagen is up first in Feb.  Still got Norway, Finland and Portugal to do.
  3. Continue to be uncompromising.  Education is not about being put into a straight-jacket (nor is leadership).  Remain true to myself.  Follow my heart but make decisions carefully, using my head.
  4. Write SOW for the GCSE spec which means I don’t have to do any new spec planning for a while.
  5. Have a Eurovision party.  My house would hold a great party.
  6. Read 52 books.

Edexcel resources

 

  1. Exam overview

exam-overview-key-ring1

2. Exam overview door posters

lang-paper-1-door-overview

lang-paper-2-door-overview

gcse-english-literature-overview-for-door-paper-1

gcse-english-literature-overview-for-door-paper-2

3. AO overview

Chart summarising each AO, percentages and which parts of the paper each AO is targeted in.

edexcel-ao-overview

4. Edexcel marksheets

poetry-time-and-place-mark-sheet

post-1914-literature-mark-sheet

prose-marking-sheets

shakespeare-mark-sheet

writing-mark-sheet

unseen-poetry-mark-sheet

5. AO2 glossary

I scanned all the mark-schemes to come up with the definitive glossary for my students (although having read The elements of eloquence I now have some more to add!)

edexcel-student-glossary

6. AO2 booklet

AO2 is worth 15% of English Language GCSE and a staggering 42% of the Literature.  Therefore, during the revision period, it is a must!  I have created this booklet.  The booklet is divided into three sections:

Section a – subject terminology with definitions and a few exercises

Section b – nine distinct lessons to practise applying and responding to key questions.

Section c – further practice papers (mine will do one a week)

ao2-classroom-booklet1

 

Time and Place

7. Poetry glossary glossary-of-poetic-terms

8. Retention quizzes final-poetry-retention-booklet

9. Nothing’s Changed and Stewart Island booklet nc-and-si-poetry-booklet 

10. Presents from my aunt in Pakistan and Hurricane Hits England booklet  PP and HHE Poetry booklet

11. Micro-quotes Time and Place micro-quotes-for-poetry

 

An Inspector Calls

12. An Inspector Calls plot summary bookmark aic-plot-summary-booklet

13. An Inspector Calls Easter revision booklet An Inspector revision

 

Blood Brothers

14. Knowledge organiser blood-brothers-knowledge-organiser

15. Blood Brothers plot summary bookmark blood-brothers-plot-summary-bookmark

16. Blood Brothers Easter revision booklet Blood Brothers revision

17. Blood Brothers structure strip Blood Brothers structure strip

 

Jekyll and Hyde

18. Pre-reading – chapter questions: jh-comprehension-questions

19. Jekyll and Hyde six week booklet jh-booklet1 

20. Jekyll and Hyde bookmark (chapter summaries) jh-bookmark

21. Jekyll and Hyde Easter revision written by Kaz Armstrong Jekyll and Hyde revision

 

 Macbeth

22. Macbeth Knowledge Organiser macbeth-ko 

23. Macbeth Easter revision booklet Macbeth revision

24. Macbeth part (a) structure strip Macbeth Part A – Structure strips

25. Macbeth part (b) structure strip Macbeth Part B – Structure strip

26. Macbeth part (b) homework macbeth-part-b-homework

27. Macbeth quotations by theme Macbeth quotations organised by theme

28. Macbeth Sample question 1 Sample Macbeth question LM and ambition

29. Macbeth Sample question 2 Sample Macbeth question M and B and deceit

30. Macbeth Sample question 3 Sample Macbeth question M and kingship

31. Macbeth Sample question 4 Sample Macbeth question the witches and supernatural

32. Macbeth Sample question 5 Sample Macbeth question M and revenge and justice

33. Macbeth section a formative marking slip Part a formative marking slip

34. Macbeth section b formative marking slip Part b formative marking slip

 

A Christmas Carol

35. A Christmas Carol Easter revision booklet A Christmas Carolv2

 

Writing

36. Knowledge Organiser written by our wonderful Sophie Francis writing-ko-sfr

37. 250 word writing challenges (incomplete)

Created by our fab English department

poetry-writing-challenges1 (Time and Place related)

macbeth-writing-challenges written by Kaz Armstrong and Sophie Francis

A Christmas Carol writing challenges written by Marija Rutherford

250-word-acc-1

250-word-acc-2

250-word-acc-3

Jekyll and Hyde writing challenges written by Ria Macrae

jhbb-250-word-rma

 

Speaking and Listening

38. Presentation booklet (not quite finished – needs lessons on responding to questions and presentation skills) gcse-speaking-and-listening-booklet 

 

Paper 1

39. Sample Paper 1 no. 1

40. Sample Paper 1 no. 2

41. Sample Paper 1 no. 3

42. Sample Paper 1 no. 4

43. Sample Paper 1 no. 5

 

Quizlet

Quizlet

Our Science department have recently bought in Tassimi and after hearing our Curriculum Director gush over it, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated that something similar for English wasn’t yet available. And then I visited Michaela and they told me about an app they use called Quizlet to aid students’ memory and retention.

So one evening last week I sat down and went to the website on my computer. It is, in fact, a great resource and incredibly simple to use.

Setting up classes

You need to set up your class and I’ve simply given my classes their names so the first group I set up was ‘11S4 Romeo FOD’. You can then invite students to join but we have actually found it easier for students to search for the full class name above and then request to join the class. Students will need to create an account for themselves first.

Creating quizzes

The intention of quizzing using this tool is simply memory retention. My students haven’t yet demonstrated a confidence in using subject terminology so the first quiz I created was one on word classes. You simply need to type in the key terms and the definitions and then the quizzing can begin. It took me all of five minutes to create. Ria, my fantastic English colleague, discovered that quizlet will actually provide definitions for you – but always check these over first! Whilst Courtney, one of our fab geography teachers, has also discovered that you can import documents to make the creation of quizzes even quicker! I initially went a little crazy and created four or five quizzes and have decided to rethink this so that I am officially offering one quiz a week and then additional quizzes for those who want to complete further study. I am simply putting these details into the titles of the quizzes.

Student access

Students have a range of activities they can complete: flashcards to test knowledge, then a learn quiz, spellings to check they can spell key terms correctly, a mix and match task and then students can test. I am encouraging mine to do as many of these activities as possible before taking the test.

Teacher feedback

Whole class feedback is shared with the teacher. This is provided in terms of the % of students who have got a question right. This tool has been invaluable. Prior to my lesson with year 11 this week, I looked at the whole class feedback and saw that only 47% of students were confident with comparative adjectives. I then re-taught this with activities to practise their identification and use of comparative adjectives and then encouraged them to re-quiz. Now 71% of students are confident with comparative adjectives. I love that I can use quizlet to inform my planning and address areas / misconceptions quickly.

quizlet-3

Individual students – the dashboard allows me to see which students have completed which activities. When completed, this is shown up in green and if the test has been attempted, this shows up in yellow.  The test feedback allows me to see the % of answers students got correct so I can see how they are progressing. I am encouraging all my students to keep quizzing a particular test until they get 100%.

One student immediately asked me if I would award prizes for those who quizzed and got 100% so am just mulling this over but the biggest win for me this week was with a student who is sadly underachieving when she turned round to me and said ‘I love quizlet. I do it on the bus every morning’ because I know she will get better using this device and that is all I want for my students.

Things to ponder / next steps:

  1. I contacted all parents to inform them about this app and that I expected all students to quiz for 5-10 minutes each day.
  2. I have four members of my faculty, across subjects trialling this out before rolling it out across the whole faculty.
  3. How I use the individual data to inform my next steps.

Appreciation postcards

image.jpgIf you have been lucky enough to visit Michaela, you will have experienced family lunch and appreciation.  Not being in charge of my school and, therefore, not having the capacity to do something similar, I pondered over the next best thing.  This is it.

Every week, students in my form are asked to write one appreciation postcard for someone has helped them, supported them, been kind to them etc.  I then collect these in (for checking) and deliver them to the relevant people.

I did this for the first time today.  Staff were genuinely touched and it brought a smile to the students’ faces.  Wonderful.

Below are my postcard designs.

appreciation-cards

I

I bloomin’ love Michaela!

Michaela is phenomenal.

To be honest, I’ve always been supportive so the book launch on Saturday and my visit on Thursday was simply about taking the opportunity to learn more so that I can continue to grow and develop my faculty area.

I arrived on Thursday, feeling incredibly nervous. After signing in, the lovely Katie Ashford came over to chat with me. One thing that struck me on Saturday, which was reinforced on Thursday, was just how lovely and friendly all the staff are. Nothing was too much trouble and all were willing to openly chat and talk through the methodology behind the practice, as well as the practice itself and it was great to have an initial quick chat with Katie.

Reception informed me I would be meeting with Katharine before going on a tour. I was going to meet the scariest head teacher in England! At this point, my nerves trebled. Katherine is inspirational. A week before the Michaela book launch, Katharine had written a blog on how important it was for leaders to put their staff before the students – a happy, healthy staff, after all, will perform better in the classroom, positively impacting on the students. This was so aligned with what I’d been promoting over the last term that she instantly became my new heroine. Then on the Saturday, her passionate talk about social justice made me cry! In front of us all stood the most incredibly compassionate leader who not only promoted the wellbeing of her staff but the importance of ensuring all pupils, regardless of background, achieve and that we, as staff, empower them to believe they can be anyone they want to be and achieve anything they put their mind to. I have to admit I was terrified to meet with her on a one-on-one basis but she was lovely and warm and most importantly, talked sense. In an increasingly frustrating educational world, this was so unbelievably refreshing.  Over the past few weeks she has really inspired me as a female leader.  She has reconnected me with my values and the belief I have in myself to stay true to who I am and to continue to act with my heart by prioritising the wellbeing of my staff and the students in my care so that all are healthy to perform at their best.  I cannot speak highly enough of Katharine and the respect I have for her.

After my chat with Katharine, I was shown around the school by two of the most wonderfully polite and respectful pupils. They exuded confidence and spoke articulately about different aspects of the school, sharing lots of information from how the library was organised to the self-quizzing / assessing process. They were extremely knowledgeable, discussing with me their favourite composers and artists. One of the students told me how Michaela had transformed him from an unruly pupil in primary to the kind human being he felt he was now. In describing his transformation, he stated he felt he had won a ‘golden ticket’ and in wandering the school and speaking with them both, I couldn’t help but agree with him.

In touring the school, the thing I was most struck by was how purposeful the school felt.  It was absolutely silent. Reception when I walked in was silent, the corridors were silent, the classrooms were silent and the staffroom was silent. This was a place of learning and everyone was focused and engaged with just that.

After my tour, it was time for lunch. I have never seen anything like family lunch. I had to hold back my tears. I got to the lunch room a few minutes early, as advised by Katherine and watched as pupils began to fill the room, reciting a poem, led by the wonderful Jo Facer. To see the room fill with just under 200 students all reciting the same poem was captivating (especially as I am an English teacher). Pupils sit in groups made up of pupils from different year groups. This gives all pupils in the school the opportunity to sit and get to know lots of other pupils in the school. Each pupil is assigned a position and this correlates with a job to fulfil over lunch. This is a slick operation and before I even realised, I had been served my lunch and water. Once lunch had been served, Mike Taylor offered the topic for discussion – attendance. With teachers sharing the same tables as pupils, this was a lovely opportunity to spend time talking with the pupils (diverting from the topic occasionally). After lunch, it was time for appreciation. Pupils were encouraged to think of someone they might want to show appreciation to and when asked, nearly all of the pupils raised their hands. In fact, the two pupils sat directly next to me asked me my name as they wanted to offer an appreciation to me. I can’t tell you how lovely this was. And then after lunch we made our way out to the playground. The most striking thing here was that on filing out, I was met by the other half of the school in the corridors and hallway lined up ready to enter the dining hall in absolute silence.  It was an incredible sight.

Playground duty gave me a further opportunity to talk with staff, especially the lovely Olivia Dyer and the pupils. Many of the pupils played sport and table tennis whilst some sat and self-quizzed. I sat with some wonderful young ladies who told me about their studies and I listened in awe as they listed the literature they had read in class. They were full of joy and there was much laughter as we discussed everything from literature to aspirations to imaginary family trees.

After lunch, I gate-crashed Joe Kirby’s lesson. What a wonder! Watching Joe give feedback to the class was a sight to behold. Michaela don’t mark and yet not having marked the essays in the way in which many of us are accustomed to, I have never seen such personalised and detailed feedback. The pupils’ essays were phenomenal – the range of vocabulary, the structure, the content, the knowledge – they were incredible pieces of work and I was in awe, once more.  I promised myself that I would continue pushing my own expectations of our pupils to ensure that they too could feel the same level of confidence to produce work of a similar standard.

And then I saw the lovely Jo Facer. She was also giving feedback to her year 7 class. Again, without having marked every single word with a WWW and EBI, Jo gave personalised and detailed feedback to the pupils. I particularly enjoyed the spellings and vocabulary at the start which I thought was done brilliantly and replicated with my class (different spellings!) the next day.

In both lessons, there was laughter and joy. Pupils demonstrated remarkable knowledge and so many contributed and were eager to contribute throughout. Pupils proudly shared their work. When incorrect answers were given, they accepted their errors with humility. The pace was fast and yet all pupils kept up. Their level of independence was a sight to behold as Jo encouraged them to check their work and self-assess it.

A question I’ve been asked so many times since my visit to Michaela is what can you actually learn from Michaela? There are many sceptics who think that what happens at Michaela is because a) they have been able to establish their expectations from the start and b) (some would argue) they have a selective intake.

However, I’m inclined to disagree. On Friday, I replicated a Michaela lesson with a low ability year 7 group – a group which contains a range of pupils including one boy with extreme autism who regularly calls out. I copied Jo’s approach on spelling. The pupils then finished some work off from the previous lesson. And then I gave them a comprehension which we green penned afterwards – again magpied from Michaela. They worked in silence. I haven’t seen them as focused as they were on Friday in a long, long time. So can it be replicated? Absolutely it can.

As I’ve said on Twitter, the best teachers and leaders have open hearts and open minds so that they can learn from others. I learnt so much on Thursday and my practice as both teacher and leader will improve as a result. This is because I am, unashamedly (sorry Michaela!) going to magpie so much.

Already in place

  1. Knowledge organisers – my faculty started creating these three weeks ago but the original idea I believe came from Joe Kirby
  2. Quizzing
  3. Tutor time reading – I started reading Frankenstein with my year 7s on Monday
  4. This week, prior to visit but post book launch, my students have started to learn and recite ‘All the world’s a stage’ by William Shakespeare.  I am so proud of them and the sheer joy in sharing the poem together in that way has been wonderful.

 

Going to introduce / develop

  1. Self-assessing. Students, in my faculty, will be given a self-assessment book and each night of the week, one of the five departments within the faculty area will set self-assessing homework.
  2. Subject knowledge. I need to improve mine and think we need to have an enhanced subject knowledge throughout. Wider reading and collaborating more can support this.
  3. Vocabulary development. Magpied Michaela’s approach.
  4. Booklets. Lots of school use booklets and I’ve created a few as has @FKRitson.  For January, I am going to continue creating booklets for my classes. I will not be using my projector, unless I want to show a short clip.  Interestingly, I have already planned a booklet to use for the next two weeks since Thursday.  It took me about four hours and it is the most focused and knowledge based piece of work I have produced in months.
  5. Whole class marking and the much more personalised feedback sharing excellent examples of students’ work more frequently.
  6. Green pen. Loved this. Such a simple idea but so brilliant.
  7. Three warnings and a lunchtime. When imposing a warning, explaining why the warning has been given especially if their actions have a detrimental effect on others.  Michaela reminded me of ensuring that this was explicit.
  8. Insist students make eye contact with me when they enter my classroom – a number of my students lack confidence and these basics will really help them develop that confidence.. Using the language of respect constantly by ensuring students address me as Miss and say please and thank you always.  This is not to say my students aren’t respectful – they are but again explicitly reinforcing respect and kindness is something I am going to do more often.
  9. No calling out. Hands up only.
  10. Expand the tutor programme so all students in year 7 are reading the same book during tutor time.
  11. Year 10 and year 11 to begin learning the anthology poems off by heart.
  12. Produced and now need to implement – appreciation postcards once a week with my tutor group (checked) and then distributed by me

 

Things I would love to introduce

  1. I loved the fact that students at Michaela register in the morning and the afternoon. In the morning, they leave their coats and bags in their form room and each student has a plastic wallet type thing in which they carry all their books and equipment. LOVE this!
  2. Family lunch – this was so unbelievably powerful.

 

I am sure there is more but two days on, I am still trying to distill everything.

A huge thank you to Jo Facer for organising my visit and to Katherine for letting me visit.

A work in progress – Macbeth linguistic and structural technique flashcards

These are not complete.  They are born from an idea I saw on Twitter, re. inference cards and I thought they could be applied to linguistic and structural terminology which my students are finding hard.

Flashcards to be laminated for revision purposes or for challenge tasks when all other work is done.  Students could use these to practise constructing paragraph responses ahead of their exam 🙂

macbeth-language-flashcards

macbeth-structural-flashcards