As I waved goodbye to the last child on Friday at 3.20pm, I heaved a heartfelt sigh of relief. The Autumn Term was finished. It had been challenging, exciting and fulfilling but mostly it had been exhausting!
The best thing about finding the education community on Twitter has been the sharing of ideas and successes. The realisation that I am not alone, my school is not alone, in struggling with the demands of teaching in the current climate.
This term I read a post about the use of questions in place of learning objectives from a secondary school colleague. Could this work in a primary school setting I wondered? I tried it. Rephrasing learning objectives such as ‘Start sentences with conjunctions.’ into a question, ‘How does starting with a conjunction affect the punctuation of a sentence?’ has led to a huge improvement in children’s understanding. I have noticed a marked difference in achievement of the ‘lower ability’ children compared to previous years. This year the lower ability groups are producing work of a higher standard than before, although the quantity of work is less than their more able peers, the quality is as good. So it seems to be going well. Is it a successful strategy? Well so far, so good is all I can say now. I am lucky that we have a peer coaching model in operation at my school. I will be working with my colleague next term. I want to look at whether it is as useful a strategy as I think it is.
I had an epiphany on the day when the first four children I asked a question about the parts of a plant, could not give me an answer, despite us having just completed the lesson on the same work. I looked at their blank faces and realised that they had not expected to learn it. They took part in the lesson, they listened to me, they watched the clever DVD clip, they worked with their peers making and labelling the parts of the plant but they had no expectation of themselves in terms of remembering any of it. Then I realised, that maybe the reason was not their expectations, but of my expectations. Had I accepted that these children were ‘low ability’ and ‘well she’s EAL’ as a reason to allow them to not remember? Was it my expectations holding the children back?
I decided right then that whatever the reason, no longer would I allow any child to say, ‘I don’t remember,” as a ‘get out of jail free’ card. I explained carefully that it would no longer be acceptable to ‘forget’ things. I was expecting them to remember. We had a few ‘rabbit in the headlight’ moments but gradually we had more and more successes. Nothing breeds success like success and this has certainly been the case for my children. They love being able to answer my questions, and in my ‘Quiz of the term’ assessment, the majority of the children could recall all the work covered in a variety of subjects. They may not of remembered all of the functions of the parts of a plant, but they all remembered some of them. And that, for me, was the best Christmas present ever!
I therefore say ‘Thank You Twitter’. I have had a fantastic Autumn Term but now it’s Christmas, pass me the prosecco! Happy Christmas everyone.