Sunday, 2 December 2012

ITP Session 6: Final Session

Our post-session task from lesson 5 was to plan a lesson in pairs and deliver it at the training school to a dozen of their Year 7 pupils. The lesson was to be a 20-minute PHSCE/Maths/English lesson that was to deepen thinking, role-model to students, ensure impact on progress, challenge expectations and engage students in a short session including a starter, main and a plenary. I joined up with the RE teacher on our course and we were struggling for some inspiration.

A pupil in her form whom I teach then gave us something to go off. I teach a year 7 bottom set who were due a test. Their homework was to revise and one pupil, rather outstandingly, said "How do you revise, sir?" "Well, there are loads of ways. I like to read through my book and write down the important stuff on a piece of paper with examples - I highlight this all over the place and write it again when I'm struggling with some of the other stuff. There are loads of web sites that you can use, like BBC Bitesize...". At this point I was interrupted by the aforementioned pupil saying "Bitesize is gay...". I informed him that the use of the word "gay" as an insult is inappropriate and wrote this on his report. Because of blatant overuse of the word "gay" as an insult from our students (don't get me wrong, they're outstanding with respect to many areas, but homophobic language just isn't challenged as much as it should be) we decided to run with this.

I trialled the session with my Year 8 form (more of which later) and ran with it.

The final session on the Improving Teachers Programme was a recap of what we had already covered. The bulk of the morning was the delivery of our sessions. We were split into a 4-session group and a 3-session group and year 7 pupils were sent in their dozens at the beginning of lessons. We had the four sessions, consisting of ours on homophobic language, another around 'Friendships' and the qualities of a good friend, 'Healthy Eating' and a healthy lifestyle and 'Recycling' and reusing.

1. The Deliveries
From observing the sessions, with the idea of providing feedback, I noted a few important factors for all lessons:
* Encourage pupils to speak loudly and clear to improve their confidence.
* Engage with pupils answers more - don't just pay lip service, but respond to every answer in as much detail as you can.
* Have pupils explain their answers or concepts to each other, for a bit of variation in voice, tone and pitch of explanations.
* Props are very useful - but be aware that they promote off-task activity, even with nice kids.

Our session was third to be delivered out of four - we organised the pupils as they entered into four tables of three pupils and introduced the session without an objective. We explained that we want to be given some one-word opinions on things they saw in four images - it was made explicit that this is not a place where we're writing Santa's naughty list and that pupils are encouraged to be as open as possible (as can be with 10 other adults in the room!) and write down the first thing that comes to mind.
Nokia 3210 - 'old', 'brick', ...
Leeds United badge - 'pigs', 'horrible', ...
Well-groomed golfer wearing a pink t-shirt - 'feminine', ...
Justin Bieber - 'yuk', 'horrible', 'best',...

This wasn't really what we expected, but we put it down to the sheer number of adults in the room. When I covered this with my form 16 out of 28 had written the word 'gay' on their mini-whiteboard. I was a little bit disappointed, but expected it. One of the girls said "Your lesson would be dead if none of us had written 'gay', sir" "I know, love, but kids are quite predictable, so don't worry about that". Maybe I should've listened to her a little more, but it gave me something to go off with the other kids.

We explained what had happened with my form and asked if anyone had ever used the word 'gay' to describe something. All hands up, and we discussed what 'gay' meant. With both classes there was a lot of focus on a 'male-male relationship' and a small number of my own form described it as 'loving someone in the wrong way'. We shared our definitions and compared these against the dictionary definition.

Developing our main, we asked pupils to empathise with four celebrities - Gareth Thomas, Chris Moyles, Kieron Richardson and Martina Navratalova. After a short discussion in groups, we asked another member of their group to share who their celebrity is, what they said, what may have happened for them to say it and how it made them feel.

To finish our session we asked the final pupil in each group to share something that they have learnt, a question that they have or a feeling that they have.

Our feedback was mostly positive - a brave decision to tackle such a subject, a very good way in which we dealt with pupils and had them participating and a good feeling of controlled enthusiasm in the room, interesting stimulus material, probing pupils using 'why?' - but it was highlighted by the course leader that she would expect us to speak less and have the pupils work harder than we did.

2. Sharing Feedback
We shared our feedback with the other participants in groups, giving us a chance to discuss where the session could be improved and what went well, giving others our feedback sheets so they had something to go off.

3. Plenary
After lunch, we had our final session, reflecting on the previous five and completing our audits. From these audits, we set four targets for development:
(1) Allow time to reflect on learning within lessons and through plenaries.
I plan to do this through developing opportunities through planning for pupils to reflect on their learning by setting aside time for mini-plenaries and plenaries.
(2) Be more specific in sharing and revisiting learning objectives.
During plenary sessions I need to make specific reference to learning objectives and allow time for reflection against them.
(3) Develop more tasks/resources for differentiated learning.
I'm trying to make the needs of all learners met by producing/developing some more differentiated tasks/resources to allow all learners to work at their own pace, rather than having all of them aim for the top end. (An aside - surely high expectations for all are better, though!)
(4) Promote discussion and thinking skills through group work in Mathematics.
I plan to create more opportunities for pupils to work in groups and share their skills and expertise with one another.

As a final task we were asked to feed back to the course leaders about our experiences on the ITP and what went well and what could be improved.
* I think that my involvement was a useful one and that I took more time to reflect on my practice.
* It definitely increased my confidence with regards to my own teaching and I've become more involved in the department and the school as a whole (see Young Leaders blog posts).
* The course itself was pretty full on - at times the time between two sessions was too quick, but this meant that it kept its momentum.
* The sessions themselves were appropriate in terms of topic, but could have done with being more in depth.
* As a fifth year teacher I think this might have been more useful straight out of my PGCE or in my second year.

I am very much hoping to build on this and participate in the Outstanding Teachers Programme at some point.

I hope this series of blog posts has been useful to you and has given you some ideas for your teaching/CPD. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to tweet me, leave a comment or send me an e-mail.