This term I’ve been using independent learning projects with some of my classes in year 7 & 8.
At the start of the topic I discussed with the students the success criteria for the topic and asked them how they would like to go about carrying out the scheme of work.
We discussed several ways of working on this SoW
a) a menu – where students select ‘items’ from the menu to produce over the term to produce a piece of work that meets Bronze, Silver or Gold standard.
b) personal choice – where students could make their own decisions on how to present their work
c) guided – where the teacher provides suitable learning activities to meet the success criteria
Each class voted for b – personal choice.
We then discussed whether working in groups or individually would be better. All of year 8 decided on groups of no more than 3 so they can easily learn what others have discovered.
The majority of year 7 decided to go with groups, again of no more than 3, but a few wanted to work individually as they felt they would get distracted working in groups. Very mature of them to admit so I was happy for them to work alone.
We then had a planning lesson; focusing on how we would learn what we need to learn. We discussed approaches to research, presentation and feedback.
As guidance all students have a copy of the Need to Know Questions and topics success criteria both in the front of their books and in their planners. Here’s the year 7 version.
In the initial lessons we discussed the meaning of the command words e.g. describe, identify, locate, define and what these might look like at Bronze, Silver and Gold standard.
To support and direct students with their learning I’ve put resources in the ‘Help Yourself’ Resource Station for students to access. The main purpose of these has been to support students when they just can’t quite find the answers they are looking for or need focus on what it is they need to do. I’ve a variety of resources to enable students to meet the success criteria from information sheets like this…
…to worksheets/activities like these…
…all intended to help them to learn about an aspect of the topic that could then be applied to their project.
Students have been very good at using the resources to develop their understanding and then apply it to their chosen project format.
Students have set their own homework based upon their groups or individual progress. A few I’ve had to guide in the process but on the whole students have been self-motivated in and out of class.
Presentation of Work
Students opted for personal choice. This is enabled a variety of approaches to meeting the same success criteria. Some are making information booklets, others posters or PowerPoints. One group is demonstrating their learning as a blog another has created a Passport to Britain. The creative has been incredibly.
For example to meet the same objective one group have started to create a 3D relief salt dough map by interpreting a relief map from the Atlas.
(A work in progress, by the end of term this will have human and physical features located using cocktail sticks)
Whilst another group have traced a map of the British Isles and coloured in their relief map, they followed this by doing the same with population distribution so they could overlay and compare the two.
To check student progress throughout the lessons I have been having ‘progress’ chats with groups and/or individuals to check their understanding. During this process I tick off and highlight with them the criteria they have achieved and the criteria they need to focus on. I question them and challenge them to further progress on what they have learnt.
Having this time with students has enabled me to get to know more about how my students learn and what I can do to further support them on their journey to independence.
In addition to the chats they’ve done a few quick fire quizzes at the end of lessons and have completed exit tickets and entry tickets.
For example after the first week of lessons, students completed a simple exit ticket. I assessed their answers and those I felt hadn’t demonstrated enough progress were identified using traffic lights and answered the corresponding questions. This encouraged them to develop and level up the initial answers they’d put on the exit tickets in the previous lesson.
Then each lesson since they’ve then self-assessed their work and had discussions with me on the next steps to either reach gold or to securely meet the silver criteria outlined.
Students have either chosen the criteria they are aiming for based on their progress this year so far and their confidence in the task – most are aiming for gold. I’ve directed some to the criteria they should focus on however.
Some students I meet with at the start of the lesson and bullet point the criteria they need to focus on that lesson, some I will provide specific resources for to enable them to do so. The rest are either directed to resources or simply have mastered the independence and get one with it completely by themselves.
In year 8, groups have been awarding each other points for the following team work, leadership, creativity, out of a school work, self/peer assessment and personal effort. They’ve been looking at the successes of others in their team and awarding one another what they see as suitable. It’s created a very collaborative environment with the icing on the cake being their explanations as to why the person deserves the points. Creates smiles all round.
Conclusion so far…
These are my finding so far
- Engagement across the board, students arrive eager and leave happy
- A collaborative and supportive atmosphere is clear
- My favourite phase has come to be… “Miss, did you know…” my year 8 students are frequently teaching me things about the adventurers and the explorers.
- Students feel empowered in their learning
- Opportunity to have conversations with students has enabled a greater understanding of how they learn best
- Opportunity to share successes and excitement about the topic and their learning
- Freedom to work at their own pace – some have spent more time on certain aspects whilst others have spent less
- Consideration of what they already know has allowed for different starting points
- Students are deepening what they already know
- Marking and feedback has been on-going in lessons, students have accessed feedback immediately
- I’ve been doing less ‘work’ in lessons and students have been doing more.
I can not wait to see the finished pieces and final projects.
Do you do anything similar? How could it be applied in your classroom.