Sunday, 18 August 2013

Snippets of advice

Earlier I posted about ingredients for an outstanding lesson. Here are some great practical ideas I wanted to share from The Art of Being a Brilliant Teacher: 1. This is a brilliant book and is definitely worth a read.

The average attention span for an adult is about twelve minutes. If you are expecting children to listen for any more than that, you are being over-optimistic.

Plan for 'awe and wonder' in your lessons. Build it in as a habit.

You won't possibly have time to keep changing every display continuously, but have a plan to change each display board on a rota basis. Good display boards send out powerful subconscious messages which say, 'this teacher knows what she is doing. She is worth behaving and working hard for.'

One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given was to collect in the books open at the right page, ready for marking. You will save yourself up to a third of your marking time because you are not flipping through each book trying to find the right page.

Let's ram home the importance of plenaries. Have you ever asked someone about their holiday? "It was superb. Lovely apartment right by the sea. And we went to the most fantastic fish restaurant on the Wednesday." And then, guaranteed, you will get this, "But it clouded over on the last day and the flight home was delayed by forty minutes." Your lessons are a bit like that holiday story, in that people will remember the highlight and the last bit. So, please don;t ignore the plenary, it will be one of the bits they are guaranteed to remember.

Make a note in your mark book when you have found out two things about each child, so that you can be sure you haven't missed anyone out. This will allow you to have mini-conversations whenever you meet these kids out and about.

Carol Dweck distinguishes between what she calls a 'fixed mindset' and a 'growth mindset', born out in her final test. She gave the children a test of equal difficulty to the first one: those who were praised for their intelligence showed a noticeable drop in their results, whereas those who were praised for effort increased their score by 30%.

10 Ingredients of an outstanding lesson from Jackie Beere

I recently read Jackie Beere's book, 'The Perfect Ofsted Inspection'. Included in the book are the ten attributes of an outstanding lesson. This is just a very quick summary - the book is well worth a read.

First impressions are so powerful. Engagement from the start of the lesson is vital.

Challenge and Feedback
Having high expectations of individuals with various needs requires accurate assessment of potential barriers to learning, then having challenging targets that make the child aim higher. Oral or written feedback that is specific and positive and that guides students to make progress in their learning journey is crucial.

Asking questions is the bread and butter of teaching. Use questions to develop learning and help students to make progress in their thinking. Good, open, engaging questions promote thinking at the highest levels are the basic tools of teaching.
I like the Plenary Review Grid.

Independent Learning
Spoonfed students who have not developed research or thinking skills and who have been scaffolded through their learning may not demonstrate real progress.

Embed the teaching of core skills in all lessons
This means taking every opportunity to connect classroom learning to the real world, modelling expert core skills and correcting mistakes relentlessly.

Progress for all
Make sure you know where the attainment gaps in your classes are and that you plan every lesson to help those pupils make extra progress.

Use assessment to support effective learning
Effective feedback that supports continuing progress, based on accurate assessment is a crucial aspect of outstanding teaching. Feedback must be focused exactly on what the student has to do to make progress. Clear, focused advice about how to progress must be evident in scrutinised books and oral feedback.

Subject expertise and progress in the subject
Good and outstanding teaching combines strong subject knowledge with effective teaching of the skills needed and a thorough understanding of what pupils already know. You and your students must be very clear about how to progress in the subject.

Behaviour for Learning
The leadership of the school must ensure that behaviour in the classroom and around the school is conducive to students thriving in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

Rigorous consistency
Planning engaging, challenging tasks that relate to the real world outside of school is the best way to ensure positive behaviour. You will also need to establish a consistent, relentless approach to a classroom ethos that has zero tolerance of any disruption of learning.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The exams aren't getting easier...

It's A-Level and GCSE results season at the moment. Here's a great analogy I learned from The Art of Being a Brilliant Teacher which I read recently.

"It almost seems like a yearly rite of passage now for teenagers and teachers together to pick up newspapers or turn on the news at the end of the summer to find that exams must be getting easier because more kids are passing them.

Let's apply the thinking to another industry to prove how faulty it is. The principle of 'Kaizen' or 'continuous improvement' has existed in car manufacturing for decades. Have you noticed that the quality of cars keeps improving?... Nobody seems to be arguing that we're lowering the way we measure car quality. Other industries seem to accept, without question, that methods have improved.

So, have our media colleagues ever thought that maybe, just maybe, teaching has improved significantly over the last few decades and pupils have been responding to it? We know many headteachers across the country who tell us that the new teachers joining the profession are arriving better prepared and equipped than ever before to face the rigours and challenges ahead."

Friday, 16 August 2013

Improving Standards

I recently read Jackie Beere's book, 'The Perfect Ofsted Inspection '. There are some real gems of advice given from the head teacher of a large primary school which will help to drive standards of teaching and learning.

  • Spend time together with your staff wisely through giving them time to share good practice and generate good ideas. Regular mini-Teachmeets will help with this.
  • Give teachers opportunities to plan together, prepare and assess together.
  • Give the middle leaders time together to share the strengths and weaknesses in teaching and learning in their phases.
  • Engaging the skills and knowledge of the support staff about the children they work with is vital. "Identify what the targeted group of children are finding difficult and then working on the issues and measuring the impact."
  • Make sure that teachers are given time to watch each other through a buddying system based on their strengths and development needs. I hope to introduce 'teaching trios' this year.
  • Take your pupils and staff to other schools to observe teaching and learning.
  • Always allow your staff and pupils to take risks together and make learning exciting! Let them make mistakes and learn from them!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Courage and Resilience

I recently read Jackie Beere's book, 'The Perfect Ofsted Inspection '. I loved the advice given on courage and resilience.

This is what I will look for from all members of my team:
"Being creative means breaking the rules - finding new solutions and pushing back the boundaries. This takes courage and confidence as it may go wrong."
Teachers can't be outstanding if they play by the rule book alone. They have to try something different - it will make them unique. 
"It feels good to be familiar and comfortable but exceptional teachers enjoy pushing themselves outside their comfort zones and helping students to do the same. Being ambitious for your classes means having to try new ways of working, particularly for groups of children that don't learn easily."
Teachers who try something different will be remembered by their pupils. Their lessons will engage, excite and motivate. The children will learn.

"Courage helps you to be resilient. You need to be courageous to want to take advice and to seek out feedback from leaders, pupils, parents and colleagues about your performance. You then need the resilience to act on feedback."
For this reason, it is important that feedback is fair, consistent and encouraging.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Embedding the habits that will make the difference

I recently read Jackie Beere's book, 'The Perfect Ofsted Inspection '. The first chapter is about embedding a vision. 

There are a lot of tips about embedding habits that I found really helpful. These are based on suggestions from a headteacher of a high school in Kent. Here are my favourites:

  • Create a culture from which achievement can grow
  • The physical environment is crucial
  • Nobody learns (or teaches well) if they are unhappy
  • There is no contradiction between order and discipline and a belief that being at school should be full of laughter and joy.
  • Ofsted success is based on replicating during inspection the good practice that occurs all the time, not on attempting to introduce last minute changes.
  • Recruit, develop and promote outstanding staff and let them get on with it.
  • Create a system that links CPD to individual classroom performance and personal need as well as whole school priorities.
If my school can follow these pieces of advice then it will be a clean, happy, disciplined, high performing, forward moving school. What more could I want?

Friday, 9 August 2013

Growing the vision and culture with everyone

I recently read Jackie Beere's book, 'The Perfect Ofsted Inspection '. The first chapter is about embedding a vision. 

We are asked 'What is your school famous for? What is your head's vision for the school? What are the key priorities for improvement? Which are the underperforming groups and what is being done about them?'
We are told that everyone in the school needs to know the answers to these questions - everyone! At first I thought this would be making sure that the school's mission statement and vision are clear and appears where ever appropriate. 
"No matter that the vision is expressed in a slogan on the school badge, no matter how many times you have repeated it, the vision isn't embedded until it runs through the school like the lettering in a stick of rock."
It reminded me about a motto that I heard once - "We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen." The speaker explained how clearly the motto is understood by everybody working in the hotel. It was evident in the way the staff spoke to its customers. It was clear in the decor of the hotel. It could be tasted in the food. The motto tells of high standards and, in particular, high standards of customer service.

That's what I'll be looking for - a simple message that will be shown in everything that we do.

I recently saw this mission statement on Twitter and thought it was brilliant(!):

The author is right - every school has similar aspirations - so what is special about our school? Our message, our vision, our culture needs to be clear, and everyone should be part of it.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Building a Vision

On my NPQH course so far I've learned a lot about embedding and building a vision for your school.

I found the chapter 'Embedding Your Vision' in Jackie Beere's book 'The Perfect Ofsted Inspection', therefore to be useful. The book is well worth a read.

She describes eight strategies:
1 Growing the vision and culture with everyone
2 Embedding the habits that will make the difference
3 Embedding the seven habits of highly effective teachers and pupils.
4 Getting middle leaders to buy in
5 Ensuring effective performance management and continuous professional development
6 Engaging with the whole school community
7 Rigorous self-evaluation
8 Using the self-evaluation form to produce a live school development plan

Over a series of posts I'll reflect on some of these strategies.