Plato called Socrates “the wisest, and justest, and best of all men whom I have ever known” (Phaedo) and yet Socrates did not write down his lessons nor stand at the front of his class imparting the results of his experience, personal study and reflection. Instead he questioned his students and, once they came up with an idea, he questioned them again!
Behaviour Management, Differentiation and Worksheetless Bottom Sets.
When it comes to teaching science I’m rather like an old and decrepit NQT! Having taught A level Psychology for twenty years, last year was my first foray into the wonderful world of little people who refuse to stay in their seats, tap you when they want attention and speak all at once at a volume level that would fill a concert hall.
‘Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him eyeless in Gaza, at the mill with slaves.’ (John Milton, 1671)
My title this week is inspired by Milton’s most quoted line from his play, Samson Agonistes. Poor Samson, through his physical blindness, eventually comes to find an inner, spiritual sight which reveals to him his true purpose as a martyr.
This week has revealed some very interesting things about me as a teacher and about the possible misconceptions I may have held regarding what being a teacher is about! These, I have decided, come from two areas.
The first is the fact that I trained over twenty years ago when worksheets were constructed using a banda machine (link provided for those who have no idea what this is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spirit_duplicator). Possibly the time and effort it took to craft these hallowed sheets, or (more likely) the hit one achieved from breathing in the chemicals, has caused me to adopt the belief that no lesson is complete without them. This is further confirmed by the plethora of other people’s work sheets available to download or buy online; the fact that there is a huge market for them fosters the idea that they are fundamentally important. The second is that I find it incredibly difficult to ‘let go’ of the pupils and stop leading from the front using the format; give information, discuss to deepen understanding and get the kids to answer a set of questions on what we have ‘learned’.
This week I asked myself the question, ‘Do I really need this work sheet?’ This has forced me to find other ways to structure lessons and has reduced a lot of wasted time and stress standing in a queue for the photocopier only to find out that, when it is my turn, it has run out of paper and/or developed a fault due to overheating. Here are a couple of worksheetless examples.
In a yr 12 health and social care lesson I wrote a quote on the whiteboard which stated that the attachment we form as children formed the blueprint for future romantic relationships. I asked the students if this was true and how we could find out. From this they planned a study using a ‘love quiz’ which looks at adult attachment style and which I provided a link to and they set about writing some questions for a survey about early relationships with parents. They then gave it to participants and recorded their responses. While they did this I cleared my list of ‘missed’ registers for 10 minutes and then floated around helping them; bliss!
In a year 7 science lesson I asked pupils if a virus was a living organism. They then had to work in groups to find out what information they would need to answer this question. By the end of the lesson, they had learned the 7 characteristics of living things, drawn a diagram and mnemonic to help them remember them and some had attempted to answer the question and justify their answer. They did some research to find out the characteristics of living things and, at the end of the lesson, they even worked out what the lesson objectives had been and decided whether or not they had met them! I had jotted these in my planner before the lesson rather than having them on a pre-prepared powerpoint slide.
I am going to spend next week trying as many ‘Pose a Question’ lessons as I can and try to measure if students actually learn more that way. I also intend to look at reducing the amount of feedback I write on work and come up with a method for getting the kids to work out what they need to do to improve, rather than me telling them.
Finally, I locked my large teacher bag in a cupboard and swapped it for a much smaller one. This has reduced the amount I can fit in and prevented me from bringing home lots of work; every little helps!
- Taught lessons (some well, some not so well)
- All tests marked during half term have been given back to students
- Students have responded to feedback on the tests, have ‘closed the gap'(more on this in future blogs) and set targets for improvement
- Planned most lessons for next week (half of which are not on powerpoint)
- Attended one meeting, one whole training day, and one professional discussion group
- Run the first ever yr 11 Psychology ‘after school’ club
- Planned an assembly for Monday
Jobs not done:
- Two UCAS references
- Trip paperwork for a trip to London in December which is now URGENT or the trip will not go ahead!
Time spent working out of school:
- One and a half hours marking a test on Wednesday evening
- A sleepless night last night worrying about not working in the evenings!
See you next week!