Category Archives: Differentiation

Do Children want to learn?

The Guardian posed the question ‘Is the curriculum putting students off learning?’ which lead to ‘Do children want to learn?’

Isn’t it a condition of basic survival that we are created to learn? So, of course children want to learn but, should it be enough that we say ‘You need to know this’ and they sit down and learn it? Isn’t it our job to put them in a situation where they realise they NEED to learn something – other than to pass a test?

I’m new to expressing these ideas but… isn’t the process of learning and wanting to learn cyclic? We use something until we exhaust its possibilities and then we look for something more appropriate/sophisticated which we use until we exhaust it. If a replacement doesn’t exist, we have to be creative and invent it. For example, we use apps until they no longer satisfy our needs when we look for a new one. If the new one doesn’t exist, then (if we know how) we create it – and if we’re lucky, we’re quids-in.

Similarly with punctuation (got a problem mixing semi-colons and 12-year-olds at the moment), we use full stops capital letters until we can do joined up thinking then we need something more and the more our thinking becomes joined up, the broader our need of punctuation.

Maybe I think like this because I raised sons who were very selective and economical with their commitment to school work but quickly learned computer games, musical instruments and software, photography and graphics programs from Youtube, blogs and forums – and books. They needed to learn for a project they’d set themselves (nothing to do with school) – so they learned. And I’m sure this contributed to them becoming more literate young men – building on what teachers had started of course.

I will have to develop this idea further with more joined up thinking, but at the moment it meets my needs. And, although it exposes the limit of my ‘achievement’  in this area, I know where to find it when I feel ready to show ‘progress’.

If you got this far, thanks for reading.

APP WAF6 – Competitive Punctuation Points

How DO you get the ‘darlings’ to punctuate without the dispiriting ‘I’ll put it in when I’ve finished, Miss’?

In my experience, the stats that say boys don’t like to write is wrong. Speaking generally, they like to write IF they can write about something that interests them but, it seems they’re not too concerned about helping out the reader. They have something to say and they want to say it as quickly as possible – no time for distracting technicalities such as punctuation. However, adding a competitive element is always conducive to encouraging desired behaviour and for that, I am always on the lookout for good ideas.

Skimming through Twitter the other day, I came across this fab idea that is being promoted by @DeputyMitchell. And, although it was presented as a primary resource, I NEED it in my KS3 and KS4 classes – especially for encouraging those C/D borderline students who are just on the cusp of moving into using a variety of meaningful syntax.

It’s quick, it’s easy and more encouragingly, it generates winners. Also, on laminated sheets, they can be used over and again.

punctuation points

And futhermore, it generates conversation and uses numeracy.

The Reading Strategies – Getting Started

‘I know how to read!’ they declare indignantly year after year.

‘Yes, I know you know how to read the words.’ I reply. ‘But, do you understand the significance of what you’re reading?’

It’s a battle (which DOES have something to do with the all boy cohort) to get a lot of them to read independently but getting them to think about their reading skills helps.  Sharing the reading strategies listed in the reference section of this blog encourages them to think about more than just enunciating the letters on the page. It gives them what many boys need – short term goals. They can see how to progress.

Regularly (because they forget) I use these reading strategies to discuss how they are going to approach a new text. We start by skimming and scanning for ideas we understand, then we move on to asking questions of what we don’t understand and reading backwards and forwards for clues. This naturally leads to inferring and interpreting and finally, they feel confident to develop their own ideas about the text. This also works really well in small group guided reading.

With non-fiction and media texts, this can be followed up with ‘What I knew, what I learned, what else I want/need to know’ which can prepare them, with clear goals, for independent research.  When reading fiction, starting with the reading strategies gives them a lot more confidence to proceed with voicing their own opinions about writer’s point of view and how readers might react

I’m open for discussion, but in long term planning I try to structure the reading strategies alongside Bloom’s taxonomy – progressing through continuous and overlapping arcs of learning.

  • Knowledge – skimming and scanning
  • Comprehension – asking questions, reading backwards and forwards
  • (Application – categorising, organising, re-presenting facts)
  • Analysis –  interpreting, inferring, visualising, predicting. empathising
  • Synthesis – Synthesising to develop own ideas
  • (Evaluation – judging effectiveness of own and others’ texts)
Learning arc

Learning arc

I like this diagram from which illustrates how I like to think I progress, using the reading strategies, through a unit of work

APP Assessing Pupil Progress

APP – love it or hate it? I know people who fall into both camps and I change my mind daily.

Having been washed up in the English department, from MFL,  just before the publication of the grids, I was at a loss to understand just what I was trying to achieve each day in the classroom.  Then one enlightening day the APP grids arrived in the department and all became clear – ‘so that is the difference between a level 5 and a level 6 reader’. And for that, mostly, I love them.

Once the learning objective has been set using the strands, I use versions (student friendly where necessary) of the APP descriptors to let the students set their lesson outcome. Deciding what target to set themselves often gives an opportunity for valuable discussion on achievement. They can set on or above their target grades depending how confident they feel and lesson by lesson, it gives them a sense of either success or understanding what they need to do to progress. Using short term goals in an all boy’s school is a powerful motivator.

As per the norm, posted them as PDF files and as PDF files, they are a nightmare to manipulate. Using the tabs at the top of this page (AFL/Assessment), I can easily access, copy and paste these descriptors to the IWB for classroom activities.

The APP grids, do you love them or hate them?

Learning Objectives and the English Strands of Progression

Knowing what the students should be achieving and by when is, more than ever, nationally prescriptive. Although some people grumble about this, rather than seeing the framework as constraining, I use the strands (see under ‘AFL’ tab on this site) as a kickboard to spring from and for regular reality checks to make sure, with all these new tools where the technology could take over the lesson, that I am teaching English and not applied IT.

Alongside the APP assessment descriptors, the strands are shared with the students so they discover and apply these skills. In the last couple of years, I have started using the strands to set a learning objective at the beginning of each lesson which, along with differentiated lesson outcomes drawn from the APP grids, have generated some good student discussions about progress and achievement.

Getting these objectives and outcome targets onto the IWB and worksheets is always a faff because mostly, like to use Adobe to post their information. This might be convenient to them, but not for the classroom teacher as I find PDF files are fiddly to manipulate. Using the ‘AFL‘ tab at the top of this page to access a ‘copy and paste’ friendly version of the strands, I can now easily use these descriptors on worksheets and the IWB in my lessons.

Tweet me, Facebook me, comment on this post – let me know if and how you set learning objectives for your lessons.