I’m of the generation of PGCE students that were introduced to teaching with the three part lesson and it’s a hard habit to kick.
I admit my lesson almost always starts with a starter activity, a hook for the lesson or something to draw upon prior learning.
In this post I share with you a few of my favourite 5 starter tasks.
Quite simply students are given a stimulus such as a photo, sound, object, key term etc. and they draw up a series of questions. In year 7 I start students off with what makes a good question and introduce the question grid to develop their practice in this area so eventually they are creating their own awesome questions. In my new school I set up the questions to ponder area, students have posted some of their questions there and we come back to them throughout the topic.
5 in 5 minutes
Students are given 5 categories and are given 5 minutes to write a list of 5 associated with the category given. For instance recently in a lesson on ecosystems and the cycles of the ecosystem the categories were as follows
1 – Biomes
2 – Climates
3 – Water cycle stores
4 – Carbon cycle stores
5 – Transfer processes in the water cycle
I find it useful as a recall activity to activate prior learning.
As a teacher of Humanities I loved this activity to stimulate the senses at the start of a lesson, to get the students engaged and questioning what they would be learning. Using YouTube I’d find a suitable clip for the students to enter to, sometimes the sounds of a battle field or the fauna of the rainforest, a tornado or trench. Sometimes an image would be displayed alongside the sounds, other times simply the sound clip. Initially students to head straight into asking questions but the refusal to answer and reminder to the task on the board soon quietens them and quickly engage their senses. This has worked through for me through the key stages, although the older they get, the less likely they are to want to close their eyes and engage fully.
4. Find your Match
This one usually requires a bit more planning than the others. As students enter they are given a card which has a corresponding card such as a key term and definition or map symbol and description or part of a key term. Quite simply students have to find the person with the corresponding card. Sometimes this is used to partner students up or to create a new seating plan. Other times it initiates the learning for the lesson and other times it is quite simply used to recall learning.
5. Mind the Gap
A simple activity to get students practicing the spelling of key terminology. These can be made as simple or complex as you wish. I differentiate on occasions by providing several lists of varying challenge or will give particular words to students that keep making the same reoccurring errors.
What are your go to starter activities? Share yours in the comments.
I think we all know by now that I actually love providing feedback in all shapes and forms. Over the past 3 years I’ve tried a large variety of methods to find what works best. Some methods are my go to approaches, a few I come back to now and then, others I’ve tried the once and binned.
I thought I’d share my top 5 feedback approaches that have become my #feedbackNOTmarking toolkit.
- ACE Peer Assessment or the more recent take on it SpACE Peer Assessment.
This technique I use frequently with my classes. Often when students are working on an extended piece of writing or a prolonged task I will get them to stop where they are (usually about half way into the task) and get them to ACE their peers work. Students will peer assess in purple pen using the coding system and write comments/questions at the end or in the margins. Once peer assessed the work is returned to the student and they act on the feedback there and then in pink pen. They then continue with the task and each time they make the suggested improvements, these could be anything from the spelling of a key work to the use of data as evidence, they do it in pink to clearly demonstrate the improvements and progress they have made in the remainder of the work. I usually use this approach with Key Stage 3.
I also however use ACE peer assessment with my 6th formers however rather than being carried out during a piece of work, students will peer assess at the end of an essay or extended piece. They are given time to act on the feedback before submitting the work as complete.
- Marking and Feedback Grids
I use these in one of two ways. Firstly as a students work through an extended piece or assessment they are given the feedback grid as an outline of the success criteria they need to meet; as they achieve the criteria it is highlighted and discussions occur in relation to the next steps that could be taken to improve it. Depending on the age range and ability, sometimes I will write what to do next, highlight in a different colour next steps or give a specific task that will enable the next steps to be completed. The second way in which I use them are for the summative assessment of piece of work, I will create the feedback grid as a way of identifying the successes and areas of improvement for the student. Students will read and then reflect upon the feedback to identify their own targets and next steps to focus on through the next topic or piece of work.
- Double ticks, successes and next steps
This approach I use for formative assessment throughout the term. I quite simply single and double tick pieces of work. Double ticks identify to students that these are particularly strong aspects of the work and they have to explain through annotations in the margin or at the end why it was double ticked – this is in relation to the skills used within the work such as use of evidence, use of case study facts, stats and specifics and so on, rather than topic specific achievements. At the end of a marking session I will write a brief and concise comment in relation to their successes and next steps. Students will then act on the next steps feedback if it requires to so for instance a question to move their understanding on or to develop an answer they’ve given or it can be a target they need to focus on in the remainder of the topic again to move their learning and progress on. When possible I also carry out double ticks as I walk around the classroom looking at and discussing work with students, usually we will verbally discuss why the double tick has been given.
- Whole class feedback and feedforward
Sometimes it is not necessary to write diagnostic comments in students books, particularly in relation to everyday classwork so I use the whole class feedback approach. On a regular basis I will take a look through students books and record which students require praise for any particularly outstanding work, any students with unfinished work, any reoccurring misconceptions and SPaG errors and next steps that apply to more than 1 student on my feedforward sheet.
I then use this information to plan the next sequence of lessons to ensure misconceptions are dealt with and students have an opportunity to act on the next steps. The whole class feedback sheet is shared with the students by scanning and projecting it onto the whiteboard. In the assessment of understanding section I RAG the students understanding of the work undertaken and those with in the Red section I deal with first in class to ensure their understanding is clear and their learning and move forward. I no longer display this aspect to the class and cover it up; this is just me to help with support students with appropriate in class intervention strategies. Students write down comments relevant to them. To find out more on how I use this, head over to my original post on it here.
5. Verbal Feedback
This is my most powerful feedback tool, my voice. Before starting an extended piece of work, a project or a summatively assessed piece we feed up by discussing the success criteria, what a good one looks like, what the mark scheme might want from us, what skills will be used etc. Sometimes we discussed work that has been similar in terms of the skills used and think about the challenges faced and how they could be overcome this time around. We do this verbally, usually discussing in groups, with discussion as a class followed by confirmation from me. Students then start the work and are provided with verbal feedback as they work through it, this might be from myself or their peers. Simple discussions of where the work is going and how it could be improved. It’s timely and purposeful. Verbal feedback isn’t just given for extended pieces of work but also those little tasks, usually in the form of discussions of clarification. The last verbal approach is feeding forward, whereby students and I discuss as a class, individual or in groups the successes and potential improvements for future work, students discuss the challenges they faced and may then make note of their reflections in their books for future reference.
Well there’s a guide to my feedback toolkit, I hope this post is of some use to you.
What approaches make up your toolkit? Feel free to share your ideas.
This weekend I had the pleasure of attending and presenting a workshop at the Beyond Levels #LearningFirst Conference at Canterbury Christ Church University.
I went away inspired as well as with a sense of confirmation that I’m doing the right thing by my students.
My workshop was on the 3 Pillars of Effective Marking and Feedback. I was lucky to have had a full workshop (with a few additional attendees not on the list). Whilst the majority of those that attended were from a primary background it was interesting to hear a wide range of perspectives on the why we mark, the problems surrounding marking and providing feedback and then approaches to it.
As promised these are my slides from the workshop, free for your use. Simply click here to download them from my google drive.
If you would like an editable version, feel free to get in touch.
Hope they can be of use.