Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job


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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 simple homework strategies

mrs humanities shares

I hate to say it but on many occasions I have set homework just for the sake of it. All of my schools have had a homework policy of sorts i.e. students must receive so many minutes of homework a week. But if students are going to spend 7 hours in school and then complete homework as well it must be worthwhile.

This year I’ve been trying to improve the homework I set to limit the stress experienced by my students. These are some of the techniques I’m using.

1 // Finishing Classwork

It really is that simple. I want my students to have a full set of notes or the ability to be able to complete a task to the best of their ability. To ensure this I regularly set them homework to complete the task or tasks they’ve been undertaking in class. For those that finish in the lesson, there are stretch and challenge tasks to push them further or they spend time reviewing their work and applying it to an offered exam question.

The benefit of this is that my students work hard in lesson, but they know that if they’ve not had time to fully complete something or have needed help and guidance in the lesson and have been delayed in completing their work, they have the time to get it finished.

finishing classwork

2 // Exam Style Questions

Mainly used with exam classes, but occasionally with Key Stage 3. The use of exam style questions for homework is that they encourage students to review their notes and apply their understanding.

We regularly go through exam answer structure for 6 and 9 mark questions, plan the answer and discuss the content. Setting questions for homework then leaves students to apply their learning independently, the use of mark schemes in the hand in lesson then allows for students to self or peer assess before submitting. In order to assess students understanding I also set shorter exam style questions for homework to ensure they regularly apply their learning and develop their exam technique.

esq

3 // Learning Journals

This is a technique I recently introduced with Key Stage 3 so currently still in the trial stage. The concept is that students will reflect, summarise and explore the topic. I’ve set out the end of topic assessed piece of work with the students already so they are aware of the purpose of the learning journal and have allowed them to take whichever route they wish with it. Here’s an example of the instructions I’ve given.

learning journal

At parent’s evening I share the idea with parent’s and they loved the concept. I explained that students weren’t prescribed in the format in which they wish to present their learning journal it can be anything from recording their learning, questions and feelings on the topic in the back of their books to something a bit more creative such as a scrapbook or mood board. They only need to spend 20 minutes on it a week, but should use it to direct their interest into the final assessed piece of work.
Learning Journals

4 // Summary Picture

I don’t set this homework too often but I do find it effective as an insight into my learners understanding and thoughts on a topic. It is quite simple, after a lesson or series of lessons students have to find, take or draw a picture that summarises what they’ve learnt, the answer to a question or how they’ve felt about the topic of study. For example when studying global issues I ask students to find a picture that represents how they feel at the end of the topic about the issues facing our planet and society, they have to write a justification to support the image and we share these with the class. Some bring in images that represent doom and gloom whilst others have brought in images that represent hope and solutions. It’s always insightful to hear their thoughts, opinions and probably more so the justifications for their pictures.

summary picture

Alternatively you can ask students to reflect on their learning journey and bring a picture in that represents that.

5 // Self-Marking Quiz

Now these can take a little time to set up, but once done you can use them time and time again. There are numerous platforms that you can use such as:
SAM Learning
Google forms
Show My Homework
Moodle
EdModo

These are great as they assess students understanding of the knowledge and provides them with immediate feedback. As their teacher you can then look at their scores, their errors and plan appropriately before the lesson to cover misconceptions.

Self marking quizzes

 

What homework strategies do you use regularly?

Feel free to share them in the comments.

Mrs Humanities


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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 simple feedback strategies

mrs humanities shares

1 // Feedback Grids

Not only do feedback grids allow you to live mark, they provide students with success criteria. Get your grids made up before students undertake an extended piece of work; you then know what you expect from your students and they do too. As students work, visit them and discuss what they have achieved so far and tick off or highlight. Highlight through a dot, steps or other way the criteria you want them to focus on next.

Here’s an example…

levelled work feedback grid

I would simply highlight in yellow the achieved criteria and during live marking would put a dot next to the content I wanted them to focus on next. Once the task was complete, I would highlight in pink the ‘you could improve by…’ criteria and give the students some time to make these improvements.

2 // Dot marking

There are a vareity of ways you can use dot marking. Firstly you can use it as you live mark, put a dot on the students work where an error or misconception exists; students then have to try to work it out or are given verbal guidance from the teacher. Another approach can be that different colours indicate different successes or areas for improvement as shown here by @LDNHumsTeacher .

dot marking code

3 // ACE feedback

The teacher take on ACE peer assessment. Quite simply the teacher ticks and flicks successes, puts a question mark for mistakes or misconceptions and an asterick for an extension. The teacher can either write comments and questions in the book or write these for the whole class to see and share them on the board. These maybe indicated specifically to the student through codes.

ace teacher

4 // Whole class feedback

As I’ve shared many times before, whole class feedback is exactly that feedback given to the whole class. Students maybe required to write relevant comments into their books or act on specific feedback shared with the class. For more information on whole class feedback check out this post.

5 // Highlight and Improvehighlight and improve

Really is that simple, highlight work that could be improved. Use alongside verbal feedback, dot marking, ACE feedback or what ever other strategies you wish to use. Encourage students to reflect on their work and identify errors or improvements for themselves.

Mrs Humanities

 


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Resource – DIRT Sheets

updated DIRT sheets

Recently I shared a tweet with a link to my DIRT sheets and realised the link I’d added had been for the wrong set. I then noticed how my DIRT sheets were shared in several different posts and were a challenge to find. So to clear things up a bit and to make my resources easier to access I thought I’d put them all into one post for you to access and download from.

I’ve a variety of DIRT sheets which are used during Directed Improvement and Reflection Time for students to write their improved answers.

These are the first versions I created back in 2015, these can be found in the first generation folder here .

DIRT Sheets

Then I made these which allowed students to identify their area of focus and I could identify whether they had met the target or whether there was room for improvement.
DIRT Template

This led me to create subject specific versions which are associated with levels and can be found in the second generation folder here

Finally I created some associated with grades, which can be found here.

You can access all of my DIRT sheets here. Feel free to download them and use as you will.

Hope you find them of use.

Mrs Humanities


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Planning for Progress – A 5 year plan

This post began in December 2015, as I finished planning essentially what would be a 5 year GCSE course I started writing how I’d done it (Yes, how I had done it since I was a single person Humanities department with a few non-specialists teaching lessons). But for some reason I never finished it, but recently it’s been a topic of discussion so I thought I would come back and finish the post.

At my last school I developed a programme of learning that would take students through from year 7 to year 11 in Geography and History. Each step of the way setting foundations, building knowledge and strengthening their application of it. They would spiral through the content and skills time and time again, with each visit they would be strengthening what they had previously covered.

I left before implementing it at GCSE, so I’ve no idea how successful it was. The first cohort that went through the process sit their GCSE this year, 2018.

Rationale

The idea behind this 5 year outlook of learning was that students would learn the general content of a GCSE course in Key Stage 3, then if they decide to continue with that subject at GCSE they would build upon their knowledge and understanding to a much greater depth with greater focus on complex skill development and exam practice.

You could say that I considered that Key Stage 3 would teach the breadth of the course whilst Key Stage 4 would be the time in which they go into the depth of the course.

At the time I teaching Humanities through 2 hours a week, so I had to consider how the foundations would be set in both Geography and History.  Therefore I also considered it important that the content covered at Key Stage 3 would provide students with sufficient knowledge and understanding of the subject for their futures whether they were to choose the subject at GCSE or not.

What would be the benefits of a 5 year plan?

  • Prior knowledge of subject content before GCSE course starts
  • Can go into greater depth of subject content as not teaching from scratch at GCSE
  • More time to focus on higher order skills
  • More time on exam practice
  • Retrieval practice

However I wasn’t naive to the challenges this would also create for instance how would I ensure that students weren’t bored by returning to previous learning, how would I ensure the learning was age appropriate and how would I show progress and development of knowledge from prior knowledge?

Choosing Topics

In order to decide the topics to be covered at Key Stage 3, I worked back from the required content and skills of the selected GCSE courses for Geography and History.

From there I created topics that would cover the foundation content needed for later on, which ended up looking something like this. Pink topics are those that combine Geography and History, yellow are solely historical topics and green solely Geographical.

KS3 Outline

Many of the topics in year 7 and 8 were thematic inquiries. For instance I broke the historical topics in year 7 and 8 into inquiries across the ages, year 8 for example studied Conflict through the Ages by investigating changes to armour, weapons and fortification from the Anglo-Saxons to WW2 along with the reasons for conflicts through time.

Programme of Learning

If I’m honest I hate schemes of work, they are restrictive and too prescribed. I prefer an outline of the content and skills to be covered so that teachers can choose the appropriate format and approach to teach their classes. I’m very much a facilitator of learning, I like my students to explore the content in which they are studying with the ability to digress somewhat to explore avenues of interest.

Therefore after having spent the first year at the school writing ridiculously detailed schemes of work which had to have ALL of the work embedded in it prior to teaching I rebelled and merely wrote a outline for each year group.

Scheme of Work for one topic…. 

schemes of work

Programme of learning for the entire year… for Humanities and Opening Minds

outline

Tracking Progress

This was the final challenge. At the time, grade descriptors were yet to be published and I felt like assessing students was a minefield; yet it had to be done. The school wanted students to be assessed by grades 1-9 at both KS3 and 4 as well as a further break down into entering, developing, secure and mastered within each grade band. Mind blowing!!!

Anyway I created grade descriptors for grades 1-9 that could be taken down to KS3 from GCSE based upon what I already knew, what I’d learnt and what others were doing. Setting up a collaborative dropbox helped majorly and I learnt so much from other practitioners.

The descriptors were based on the assessment objectives from AQA Geography and History and looked something like this…

his 1his 2his 3

geog 1geog 2geog 3geog 4geog 5

Finally in order to help me to identify whether students were progressing effectively I created the following so called flight paths. These would then help me to identify the grades and where in the grade students were –  entering, developing, secure or mastered as mentioned above.

progress

Since the school required frequent data drops for all groups at the same time, I then decided that I would monitor progress through the use of a learning matrix for every topic as shown below. These essentially outlined what would be covered in the topic, what students would need to know and the extent to which students had demonstrated their understanding – these were associated with the colours white, bronze, silver, gold and platinum as shown above.

learning matrix assessment for learning

The best thing about these has to be the fact that they reduced my marking workload whilst demonstrating student progress. Simply I would write the code of the criteria achieved in the students book where it had been achieved, I or my students would then highlight it yellow. I’d then draw steps and write the code of what I wanted students to do next and again one of us would highlight it, this time in pink. Once the student had acted on the feedback I would tick it off if achieved. This clearly showed to students the progress they were making and helped them to identify and verbalise what they needed to do to improve.

Unfortunately doing all that alone in addition to the day-to-day of teaching, led me to burnout and I left the school before full implementation. I’ve taken so much away from the process however and can clearly see similarities in the approach my team and I have developed in my current school.

I hope you find this post of use, feedback welcomed as usual. Also feel free to get in contact if you want copies of any of the resources here.

Best wishes,

Mrs Humanities


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Classroom Ideas – Information Collectors

I love using resources with students that encourage them to discover information for themselves. I regularly use information collectors with my classes right from from KS3 to KS5.

They are a simple concept, an A4 sheet laid out so that students can collect relevant information from the sources of information provided. Students are required to read the information, watch videos or carry out their own research to find the required knowledge.

Here are some examples…

info collector 3 gorges damks5china

Once students have had access to the resources for a desired time I get them to feedback by handing out whiteboard pens and having the students add information to a copy projected onto the whiteboard.

As students add to the whole class version we discuss additions and students add to their personal copies. These are then used in the creation of another piece of work such as an extended piece of writing, a project or an essay.

I encourage my older year groups to take a photo of the board and either print it out or use it to add detail to their notes.

Hope this gives you some inspiration.

Mrs Humanities