Friday, 21 August 2015

Before... The One Hundred Minute Lesson

I was getting changed for football on a Friday after school when a colleague made a throw-away comment about something that was pitched at a Middle Leaders meeting the previous day. It didn't make a big impression on me at first, but my intrigue perked as someone replied and we were told that we'd find out on Monday and that those present had been asked not to divulge anything beforehand.

I waited over the weekend, taught on the Monday and went to a staff meeting where the idea was pitched: "50/100-minute lessons". There was a lot of negativity in the room, but I made a few points that were more constructive than destructive, shying away from my normal response of 'AAARRGH! CHANGE! NOOOOOOO!'

I think that in maths the kids need opportunities for repetition - my starter is always the previous lesson's work to test understanding and give an opportunity for consolidation. Taking my year 8s into account, they had 3 lessons per week last year and this gave a decent number of opportunities to recap. I thought that 50-minute lessons, and having four of them, would be totally worth the change and extra planning time, but that 100-minute lessons, and having only two of them, would limit the number of chances for consolidation. I also think that 50-minute lessons from hour-long ones wouldn't make too much of a difference to lesson structure, but that a change to hour-long lessons would challenge students' attention spans too much and make us totally re-think our lesson structure.

So, the decision was made... Mostly 100-minute lessons with some 50-minutes. Making us totally re-think our lesson structures.

Our curriculum leader and assistant curriculum leader visited Trinity Academy in Halifax and brought something that looks like the following back. I put our own slant on it and came up with:

The idea is that lessons are delivered in the same way so that any changes between sets have a limited effect on the kids who move.

I'll be putting these on my SMART Notebook files:

 'I do!' is the bit where I teach my bit. 'WE do!' is the bit where we'll do as a class, with mini whiteboards, class discussion and questioning. 'we do!' will be where students have the chance to work with those around them and 'You do!' is the bit where students will work independently on a task.

To go along with these, I'm looking at using these icons my .notebook files too:

The equipment icon and gold star will be on the front page of every lesson as a reminder for me to check equipment and to make reference to the school's 'Gold Standard' expectation of presentation. The homework icon will be used to remind me to collect homework and when setting homework to inform students that they'll need their learning journal out.

I've also thrown these together:

These icons will be used when students are set a task to highlight the expected noise levels and anything that exceeds those expectations will be reprimanded.

The whole lesson might look something like this:
0 - 10 minutes - Starter activity. This is likely to be a recap of work from the previous lesson or an appropriately chosen @mathschallenge starter.
10 - 20 minutes - Teacher instruction (I do!). This is where I'll do my bit, imparting wisdom and knowledge whilst students listen diligently.
20 - 30 minutes - Class discussion / Whiteboard work (WE do!). This is the part of the lesson where students will answer a few questions on whiteboards or I'll ask for hands up or direct questions at individual students.
30 - 55 minutes - Paired work (we do!) / Individual work (You do!) in exercise books. During this part of the lesson, students will work with those around them or individually on tasks set on the whiteboard or from a textbook.
55 - 65 minutes - A mini-plenary. An opportunity to share the answers to the tasks they've completed, as well as a chance to recap the key points to the first part of the lesson.
65 - 75 minutes - Teacher instruction (I do!). An opportunity to extend learning or go through a few problems relating to what has been covered in the first part of the lesson.
75 - 90 minutes - Individual work (You do!) in exercise books. A chance for students to show their ability to solve problems or their extended knowledge.
90 - 100 minutes - Plenary. A chance to recap on what we've done today, hand out any homework and 'RAG' their learning using the following:

I intended to write this post in a few weeks, but having shared the forthcoming 100-minute lessons on my blog yesterday, I was given advice from many on Twitter last night, and figured I should add this here. I'll also be posting a 'during' blog after a few weeks and 'after' during October half term to recap my experiences in the first half term of this year.

@emmaemma53: "Important to break up the lesson with lots of short activities", "challenge is to maintain the pace and focus"
@MrGibbsMaths: "Great opportunities to assess throughout - starting points, progression and plenary"
@WorkEdgeChaos: "You'll get to about 80 minutes and then their brains will give up", "just keep it snappy, lots of review, and anticipate brain shutdown"

Thursday, 20 August 2015

One in, one out... That's how it goes!

I've found this year difficult. Whether that's to do with the current climate around education as a whole or just the climate in my school I'm not sure, but the screws are being turned and I've struggled.

I've found it difficult to remove myself from work, but I'm determined that this won't be the case in the forthcoming year.

As for the previous year, I've found it difficult with my bottom end year 7 classes, but thoroughly enjoyed teaching year 8 and 9. I've loved having my first GCSE top set in Year 10 and they're making great progress, but my year 11 were hard work after getting them as part of a 'firefighting' mission.

They received their results today (Set 4/5ish, 80% 3LOP, 17/22 Cs from Ds and Es in September 2014 - not representative of the school unfortunately) and many barely gave me a second look as they left. This doesn't get me - I'll miss them less than they'll miss me - but what did was the response of one girl who threw her arms around me and let a few tears out at her relief at finally getting there. It's what makes 9 months of hard work worth it!

Aside from my classes, the second Academic Smackdown event was another hit and the Quizmas Smackdown was bags of fun too. I had a hard (but good) week away with next year's Young Leaders, and I've also been delivering Further Maths to 14 of my year 10s at lunch time.

Next year looks like it will be no different in terms of workload, but I must make a few changes personally.

I have some more time in school this year (thanks to my head, deputy and HOD) to complete tasks that have taken their toll last year and will be paid lunch duties for delivering Further Maths and the departmental AGT club, but my plans are basic:

* Stick to a homework timetable for my classes.
* Stick to a marking timetable to keep up to date with my books.
* Listen to, and follow, instructions more.
* Not get bogged down by the switch to 100-minute lessons and rethinking my delivery.

Personally, there's a lot going on this year, so I need to keep my head straight.

* Stag do in October half term (meat, Zombie hunting experience and golf).
* My previously posted Christmas plans.
* A week in Finland during February half term, during which I'll turn 30 AND get married.
* 2 nights in New York and a 12-night Caribbean cruise at Easter for my honeymoon.

I'm excited, but I'm apprehensive. Two more weeks to go, loads of work to be done and shared. On, on, on...