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Saturday, 21 April 2012

Teach, Do, Review - An outstanding lesson

One of the great things about my job is that I get to see some fantastic lessons being taught by some amazing teachers. This week we had our teaching and learning review day which was a huge success. We saw a 6% increase in the number of good and better lessons which was a big step forward for us.
I'm going to describe a year 10 PE revision lesson which was in preparation for an upcoming exam.
As I arrived to the room, students were being met at the door by the teacher and assigned to one of three groups. I could tell at this point the students were being grouped on ability. The lesson started with the teacher explaining that each group had a dry wipe pen and they had to write on the desks everything they could remember about bones and joints. Students had been given two mind maps to revise from over the Easter holidays on these two things. A simple strategy of writing on the desks made it different and immediately engaged the students. As the groups were working the teacher approached one group and got them to look at the board which had extra words and numbers on it. For example, 206 and cranium. Students in this group had to explain what they had to do with the topic. This ensured the more able group were extended.
The teacher stopped the activity and got some feedback from the groups about what was on their desks. He then explained what the next task was going to be. This is where teach, do, review comes in! The teacher explained that they needed to move themselves in to one of three groups. If they felt that they were really unsure about the topic they had to move to the teach group. The teacher would work with them and teach the material again. If the students felt that they were reasonably confident on the topic but maybe needed to deepen their understanding they were going to go to the do group and do a number of activities. Finally if they were really confident on the topic and knew everything they possibly could, they would go to the review group to have a go at an exam paper. Each group had a learning objective to achieve and an extension task.
It was really interesting at this point as the class was composed of a number of friendship groups and I wondered how they would sort themselves out. That is, whether they would stay with their friends! However, up they got and moved themselves to where they felt they needed to be and therefore took control of their own learning. This was really impressive to see.
As the groups worked on their tasks the teacher spent most of his time with the teach group but checked on the do and review groups every so often, intervening with prompts such as mnemonics that had previously been learned. There was real collaborative learning taking place, particularly in the do group.
At this point I had to leave the room to observe another lesson but I was so impressed at how such a simple strategy had ensured that the needs of all learners had been met!

Monday, 9 April 2012

Why R words are important!

It seems that recently a lot of the things we have been doing with students at school involve words that begin with the letter R. As a school we have implemented the 5R's in to our practice and will now reward and report on student progress towards achieving gold in each of the 5 R's. (I will write more about this in a different post!)
However, this post will be about the 3R's of Revision.
Over the last few years I have ran a 'how to revise session' with students. This year's event took place on the last day of term with our current year 11. Maybe not the best time to have done it, but we wanted to make sure students who were going to revise over the Easter holidays were going to do it effectively and were also mindful of the fact that staff did not want to lose year 11 students out of their class at this crucial time! We felt there may be less resistance on the last day of term!
To prepare for these sessions I always ask year 11 to complete a survey about revision which asks the following questions: Do you think revision is important to pass your exams? When are you going to start your revision? How much revision are you going to do? How do you revise? Have you ever been taught to revise?
The session starts with the results of the survey being shared. Nearly all of the students think it is important to revise to pass their exams which makes it a good starting point. The other answers show that students are often vague about when they are going to start revising (soon) and how much revision they are going to do (lots). There are always a few answers that are quite funny. One of my favourites this year was a boy who was already revising every hour that he was not in school and was going to do 1000 hours of revision! There are others who are very honest - "some revision but not enough to affect my social life". Students often claim to have been taught how to revise, with one student proudly proclaiming "I was taught to read in year 2". These types of answer reinforce the need for such a session as one of the main aims is to challenge their perception of what effective revision is. We point out the fact that a lot of students are not revising effectively and we will show them how they can improve their revision during the session.
The 3R's of revision are then introduced. Registering - which is how we get the information in to our heads. Retaining - which is how we keep the information in our heads and Recalling - which is how do we make sure we can recall the information we have registered and retained once we are in the exam.
Students are given booklets with all of the strategies in, but as there is not enough time for students to have a go at each of the strategies the session aims to give an overview whilst modelling a couple of the strategies.
When discussing Registering students were introduced to MindMaps and the laws behind them. They then worked in groups to produce a MindMap of the various ways we can Register information (Skimming, slicing, simplifying, networked notes and MindMaps). When discussing Retaining information the Loci system was modelled to them. This was something I came across in a Derren Brown book and found it very effective when getting students to remember Geography case studies! The Loci system works by attaching images to places along a real life route the students know well. In this case I used the students' houses to remember the effects of the Montserrat eruption. Retaining strategies also include mnemonics, mind pegs, reports and films, remembering numbers and the linking technique (another one from the Derren Brown book!) To finish the retaining part of the session we talked about memory fade and showed the Ebbinghaus graph. One student at this point declared "what's the point then if we are going to forget so much". But this then leads to the importance of review. As Mike Hughes says "learning without reviewing is like filling the bath without the plug in". We introduced students to four ways of reviewing information. They were transforming, verbalising, reducing and snowballing.
When discussing Recalling we went through the importance of time management, ways to reduce stress and making sure they are prepared for their exams.
To finish the session I showed the following video
This proved to be a powerful way to get the point across to students that they can be given all the strategies in the world but at the end of the day they need to have the desire to be successful and the best that they can be.
Finally, to prove these strategies really do work we played the number board game from a question of sport. Behind each number was a room in a house and they had to say what effect from the Montserrat eruption was pasted there from earlier in the session when we were looking at Retaining. All of the students got them all right, which was quite a surprise to some! Especially those who thought my story of dust on their TVs and tourists sat in Hawaiian shirts on their toilets was a load of nonsense!
Now all we hope is that the students have been using the strategies over the Easter and continue to do so until the exams are over!