‘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
As much as the concept of Bloom’s hierarchical structure really appeals to my quirky need to find structure in most things, I HATE that ‘some’ think every lesson should be a 60 minute dash to the top of the mountain.
And, why does it have to be a mountain? I quite like it flipped; it’s fun to start with the creative and then work backwards, exploring why things might not have turned out as well as they could. I like it circular: jumping in at any point and I like it in 3D which combines knowledge and the cognitive process. I need to think more about the relationships of creating order out of chaos and chaos out of order but either way, both are welcome in my classroom.
Something I can’t seem to tame into my fundamental need for structure is the way verbs are listed under each of the Bloom’s stages. On the Bloom’s page under the Progression tab on this site, I have included one version of verb classification if only to remind myself that I’m not happy with it; surely ‘infer’ should come higher up the scale than ‘comprehension’ – trying to teach it daily, I find it is a higher order thinking skill that exists way down, deep in the subconscious of a lot of my students. Do boys find this harder than girls? I’m open for discussion on this.
Much to the detriment of my appalling OFSTED observations (I assume but never asked), on my journey through the unit, I like to meander across my mountain over a 6 week period; I want everyone to appreciate the landscape, the flora and the fauna and have a broader understanding of their environment before, if not reaching the summit, then hopefully coming in sight of it. How else can they feel enthused, knowledgeable and motivated enough to commit to their own opinions and have the courage to adopt opinions on the ideas of others?
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, .gov.uk 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.
Do you too think that planning a unit of work is a little like planning a journey? And with that thought, I often ask myself how I can fill it with fun, discovery, adventure, learning – and all other elements of a good trip in order to open and grow minds?
As all good journeys, I move through considering the destination, identifying the landmarks I hope to see along the way, ensuring I’m heading in the right direction, considering which modes of transport I shall use to get there and taking a break somewhere along the way to acknowledge how far I’ve come. I then read the opinions of others who have visisted the same places, and decide how I’m going to make a record of my own experience.
Which roughly translates into how I plan a unit of lessons and looks something like this:
The Strands – all my planning starts from the ‘strands’. If i ensure I’ve cover those, I can be more confident my students are making progres in the skills that count for English assessment
APP – after ensuring I am guiding the students to learning the right stuff to progress in English, I like to know there are benchmarks to measure progress. I use the APP grids for self, peer and teacher assessment.
Bloom’s Taxonomy – after having decided where I’m trying to get them to by the end of the unit and how we’ll know whether or not we’re heading in the right direction. it’s time to think about not running before we can walk. To make sure the students have some knowledge before they try to applyt it. And only then, to make sure we push on to higher skills.
The reading strategies – Now is the time to look at the more basic reading skills for researching and collating information – fact and opinion, making links etc
Writing conventions – once the students feel confident they have something they want to share, they care about correct use of structure, punctuation. spelling – looking at presentational devices for non-fiction and media texts which are more information based.
Platforms for writing – giving them a real audiences for their work motivates them to better writing and presentation. Giving them options of a range of output such as presentations, moving image and sound files and print.
The reading strategies – now that they have the confidence of a knowledge base, higher reading skills to read between the lines, form own ideas on writer’s pov and effect on readers can be explored.
Choices in writing – being selective about vocabulary, sentence structures, rhetorical devices, text structure to show voice in their own creative writing.
Platform for writing – again, giving them a real audience for their work will motivate better engagement
Note to self – do some digging around for ‘progress arcs’.