Wednesday, 23 July 2014

When questioning gets questioned!

I have been planning 1st September training day for a few weeks now. The theme is questioning classroom questioning and engagement techniques.

As a school we have loosely followed Blooms and revised Blooms for the past decade. Has it been successful in creating classrooms full of deep learning?  Yes, where staff have planned it into lessons, or skilfully adapt questions depending on student learning.

So I took time in term 6 to research and trial different options, before launching with staff on Term 1. Having used PLTS roles successfully over the years, I thought I'd try de Bono thinking hats. Not a great fit for me, it could be the years of using Blooms.

I then moved onto Solo. We aren't using levels as of tomorrow and this seemed to provide a framework for class tasks. As an MFL specialist it was easy to apply. I also managed to plan a 30 minute practical training session, I could run for staff with a humanities style lesson.

Twitter disaster.

Then I read @LearningSpy's blog that solo may not be the way to go. 

Staff choice

1st INSET plans: 3 sessions with different engagement foci, such as e-learning, students leading learning and student roles in lessons. Each session will have a questioning technique to underpin it. Then it will be down to staff choice.

It will be interesting to see if Blooms wins the day. I, however will stick to SOLO and  let's see how many hat posters there will be.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Building student engagement and confidence

Do you struggle with a class of higher ability students, who just won't put their hands up in class. They are happy to write, but will take the easy option of saying they don't know if you ask a question? Are they worried about being embarrassed or even too afraid to take any risks in answering questions?

Teaching group issue.

I have been teaching a group of Gifted MFL students this year, who have taken their GCSE German in one academic year. As a group they are great at reading and writing. Their controlled assessment grades in reading and writing were up to 2 grades higher than their speaking and listening grades. I had tried no hands up, lollipop sticks, specific role cards, group work, think, pair, share and was in need of inspiration. Once they sat their GCSE German they immediately flipped to learning French - as they need to take it next year. How was I going to hand them onto their teacher for French with equal skills and confidence?


As has been the case throughout the past 12 months, twitter came to the rescue. PedagooSW was launched and I signed up for the day. I was so pleased to see a session which appeared to be the answer to my problems. Kagan strategies run by Crista Hazell (Head of MFL).

Strategies for students to learn from each other, collaborate, communicate and be confident

The 4 strategies explained were introduced in Crista's school to get rid of the fear factor, they are embarrassment free, less pressure for students and there is no room for passengers in the classroom.

Inside, outside circle - students are provided with questions in the inner circle and the outer circle answer the questions, then immediate peer feedback and swap roles. Then move to new partners. All students must participate and they get feedback to act upon straight away.

Talking chips - buy a box of poker chips. Give a certain amount to each student, which they spend when they contribute to the lesson. It enables quiet students to contribute. In MFL you can differentiate by colour - blue (answer in English), white (answer in French). Penalty (red) chips can be given if students have not spent all their chips and next lesson they are given extra chips.

2 stay, 2 stray - groups of 4 work on an activity and then 2 can go and steal answers from other tables, the remaining 2 have to talk to other stealers about the responses they have. Again risk free as they are sharing information before the teacher asks for answers.

Round Robin - In pairs students have to provide rapid, multiple answers to their peers. A great starter, plenary or progress point. Again all students have to participate and it is a safe risk free environment to build confidence.

Did it work?

PedagooSW was on the Saturday. I was so enthused, and had just been told my formal lesson observation this term would be with this group, I decided I had to try all 4 techniques. Monday after school I headed straight to Argos, as they were having a sale on 200 Poker Chips. The next day I introduced Talking chips to the class - they didn't like it as it meant they had to participate, but the first question I asked that lesson saw a class of hands up! Amazing. The next lesson I ran talking chips and inside/outside circle - they were beginning to get the hang of participating. It was a boiling hot day, so went to the hall (right by my room) to take the activity out of the classroom. In two lessons students who used to shyly put their hands up / or didn't participate at all were trying to get my attention to use their chips.

On the third talking chips lesson 7 girls had not used their chips, so I asked them to stay behind and explained that they would have extra chips the next lesson. (Formal observation!) I set up at lunch time and made sure that the girls had the correct amount of chips. When they arrived they knew what was expected. My Head of MFL had heard me talking about PedagooSW and the Kagan stratagies I had been trying. The lesson had students participating and whether they had confidence in speaking or not, they had the appearance of speaking with confidence. Over time they are improving each lesson.


I cannot say that the class are raving about the techniques but they are speaking increasingly in French. The lesson observation could not have gone better and I will be using these tips with my groups next year. In fact I am now looking into learning more about Kagan stratagies. My Head of MFL is keen to try them too. As I'm on SLT I will run CPD sessions next year but I also know that our open door lessons will help cascade the information in Term 1 too.

Massive thank you to Crista for her session at PedagooSW and @ictevangelist for organising the day.
The impact of teachers training teachers in massive.