Monday, 2 July 2012

SOLO and Teenage Voice

So the proof of the pudding...
A national project – C21st UK - wishes to collect from young people writing which reflects life in the UK in the C21st. Your writing should focus on aspects of young people’s lives which you feel are important. You can choose the form of the writing e.g. journalism or narrative.

Not satisfied with the pressure of having to prove my new lesson plan works, I decided to have my PM observation on a Friday afternoon and also have my first observation using SOLO taxonomy... oh yeah... and it was videoed.
So, here is the plan (names of students have been changed):

The resources were:
Extracts from the books above (it is actually possible to find bits that are not too graphic!)
SPLIT the text worksheets (Structure, Patterns, Language, Imagery, Themes)
A student response
Venn diagram comparison thinking tool (each circle represents a text)
A1 sugar paper and felt-tip pens
SOLO display and post-it notes
Students showed their progression at the start, middle and end of the lesson by moving their post-it. I questioned target students (identified on the plan) about their choices and also students who felt they did not want to move. By the end of the lesson, it looked like this:

At the start no one had put themselves beyond multi-structural. An student absent from the previous lesson was able to show progression from pre-structural to extended abstract thinking!
And here is the feedback:

Planning for Progress

If I had my way, the perfect planning template would be a blank piece of paper. That way, people could just put down what they found helpful in a way that meant something to them. And if they didn't need to, then they didn't have to. In that world, all the teachers would be amazing and not need a scaffold, or prompts to remind them of someone else's agenda!
The biggest problem is that, in order to include everything we know makes a good lesson, you have to write a book. It simply isn't possible to show everything you can do with a group, so signposting to the observer where you want them to look is essential.
Added to that you have the problem of different subjects, agendas, educational theories and trends, skills, objectives, outcomes, assessment, feedback, taxonomies and so on. Also, people like to plan in the way that suits them, nine times out of ten focusing too much on the 'what', rather than the 'why'.
At school, we had a perfectly serviceable plan based on the Accelerated Learning cycle. This saw us through two Ofsted inspections, but as the goalposts have recently shifted, it needed looking at again. It also suggested that there was only one cycle in every lesson, when we know that one lesson could have several cycles, or one cycle take several lessons to complete, depending upon what you are doing.
So, after feedback from lots of departments and researching how it works in other schools, is is the result:

The key thinking is that starting with the question: What progress do I want students to make? And then planning the activity, AfL and differentiation alongside it, helps you to plan a really good lesson AND demonstrate clearly to an observer WHY you are doing what you are doing. Homework gets the same treatment to ensure it isn't tagged on as an after thought.
With the lesson plan comes a group plan:

On here you can put target levels, actual levels, which groups students belong to (G&T, SEN, FSM, etc.) and make it clear how you are targeting underachievement. I colour code it red and green. It forces me to work those students into the lesson plan if I've highlighted them for an observer! Once completed, the boxes can be dragged to create a seating / group plan very easily, taking all that student's info. along with them.
And finally, the crucial checklist: the ABC of Lesson Planning:

The Politics of School Car Parking

As I approach my 40s, as a teacher, my thoughts naturally turn to joining SLT, ditching my partner for one ten years younger, and buying an Audi.

It would also be nice to have a reserved parking space for my shiny new Audi at work. Some people already do have one at my school, but I'm not talking about the head or deputies here, I'm talking about those people who reserve their own spaces. In a manner similar to the politics of staffroom seating and the borrowing of coffee mugs, parking in someone else's self-appointed space can cause ridiculous amounts of stress in school. It is all about territory.

The fundamental problem seems to be that most schools weren't designed at a time when every teacher had a car. On top of that, you have early starters and late finishers. From my experience, those who come in late usually stay longer after school, and early risers leave closer to the bell. Well, unless you have ample spaces for everyone, or a turntable in your car park, that simply doesn't work, does it? I'm not a morning person, I live 2 miles from school because I'm not a morning person and I scrape in just before half-past eight, because I'm not a morning person. As a result, I have two choices: park on the mud and risk having to be towed off, or block someone in and face their wrath later in the day.

Imagine if you will, the panic that sets in when it's dark and cold, and you are one of only a couple of cars left on site and you are stuck in the mud. Wheels are spinning and digging you in deeper and deeper. The situation seems hopeless. Images of being airlifted out wrapped in tin foil start to flood your mind when, out of the darkness comes your hero.

"Can I give you a push?"

You suck back the tears of panic/frustration and grab desperately at this hand pulling you away from the precipice. Together you pack the wheels with cardboard from the skip and finally sit back down behind the wheel to give it one last go... and you are free! The only problem being the horrible guilt when you look in the rear view mirror and see your Samaritan covered from head to toe in the fountain of mud sent up from the spinning wheels.

Not something either party needs on top of a full day of teaching.

In fact, just having somewhere to park your car doesn't seem to be asking too much to me. For a start, we only have one space marked in our car park and that is a disabled space (which someone regularly takes as their reserved space on the days the disabled member of staff isn't in). For some reason, people don't take it as a guide for where other cars should park and you get the frustration of people leaving a three-quarter size gap not even the most determined male PE teacher can prove his spatial awareness (and therefore manhood) by squeezing into.

Because yes, there is a difference between men and women when it comes to parking. And it is largely women who use the most annoying 'trump card' of all for parking badly: child care. Apparently, if you have children, you gain the right to park in the same place (note place, not space) every day, block the way out, and block people in by double parking. No thought for other people who might have to leave early, or have meetings elsewhere during the day. Perhaps I should review my comments about turning 40, forget about joining SLT, stick with my trusty Corsa and just get pregnant instead. 'Reserved' parking space here I come.