Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job.


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Resource – Metacognition in Lessons

If you haven’t already read my post on metacognition in the classroom, I’d suggest starting there as it provided some context to the resource I’m sharing in this post.

I first came across the term ‘meta-cognition’ 4 years into my teaching career when I attended a Stretch and Challenge Conference back in 2015. Yet I’d been applying meta-cognitive strategies since I started teaching. Once I was able to put a name to the strategies I employed it opened up a world of other examples, evidence and approaches. Since then it forms a regular part of my teaching practice and is fundamental to the feedup-feedback-feedforward cycle that’s constantly implemented in my classroom.

As a subject leader however, I didn’t feel it was as embedded across my department as I would have liked. So over the summer I set about creating a resource that would help my team to apply metacognitivie practices in their classroom. It started with a PowerPoint split into two parts, first part information and guidance on metacognition for staff whilst the second part consisted of question slides for use with students. I don’t use the resource myself, however these are the kinds of questions I ask students as we plan, as they work, as they reflect and as we evaluate.

I hope the PowerPoint is a resource from which my colleagues will extract ideas from for their own lesson planning.

Teacher Slides

I’ll be making use of these in the first subject collaboration session later in this term to outline what metacognition is and how it should be applied within geography as part of our day to day teaching practice.

Student Slides

These slides are simply a range of questions associated with the following stages of the teaching process used in MYP Geography:

  • Planning (feed-up)
  • Monitoring (feedback – student to teacher, peer to peer)
  • Evaluation (feedback – student to teacher, teacher to student)
  • Reflection (feedforward)

One of my objectives for the last academic year was to develop student understanding of MYP I&S Criterion B – Investigation (more info here). This meant developing our students understanding of inquiry planning, effective research, academic honesty and assessment of sources within the context of geography. Many of the questions incorporated in the student slides I’ve incorporated into the resources I’ve been building to develop the elements above (I’ll write more about these in due course).

If you’d like a copy of the Powerpoint, simply click here. Hope you can find it of use.

Best wishes,


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Meta-cognition in the Classroom

I first came across the term ‘meta-cognition’ 4 years into my teaching career when I attended a Stretch and Challenge Conference back in 2015. Yet I’d been applying meta-cognitive strategies since I started teaching. Once I was able to put a name to the strategies I employed it opened up a world of other examples, evidence and approaches.

What is Meta-cognition?

Put simply, it’s thinking about thinking.

However in reality is far more than just thinking about thinking. It’s active monitoring. It’s continual awareness. It’s our response and behaviours.

“Awareness of one’s own thinking, awareness of the content of one’s conceptions, an active monitoring of one’s cognitive processes, an attempt to regulate one’s cognitive processes in relationship to further learning, and an application of a set of heuristics as an effective device for helping people organize their methods of attack on problems in general”


Hennessey, 1999

It’s made up of two elements, meta-cognitive knowledge and regulation. The knowledge element being made up of the learner’s awareness of their cognitive abilities whilst the regulation refers to how learners monitor and respond to their cognitive processes.

Being able to consider, monitor and control how you learn, how you think and how you overcome struggles are vital qualities to build in our students in preparation for both exams and their futures.

“Metacognition describes the processes involved when learners plan, monitor, evaluate, and make changes to their own learning behaviours.”


Cambridge Assessment, 2017

Developing Independent Learners

I’ve posted many a time on strategies, resources and ideas for developing independent learners, but all to often I’ve not taken the time to discuss the use of meta-cognition in my drive to develop independent, self-directed learners.

I’m sure many readers will already apply elements of meta-cognition into their teaching but may not necessarily know it.

“Too often, we teach students what to think but not how to think.”


OECD Insights, 2014

I remember making use of some strategies back when I worked in EYFS between my PGCE and first teaching position. For instance when we were seeing what would happen to seeds grown in different locations I asked the children what they thought might happen and what made them think that, at which point they would apply knowledge they’d gained from other experiences. This led into a discussion of how they learnt that. Even at pre-school age they could think about what they knew and how they learnt it.

Encouraging and engaging learners to think about how they learn, the struggles they experience, how they overcome them and how to apply responses to future learning is essential to building independence in the classroom, so that when our students leave compulsory education they have the resilience and tools to be lifelong, responsible learners.

Below is a video of Dylan William discussing the importance of young people being able to reflect on their learning and how this has impacted his teaching practice.

In the Classroom

Until I started exploring meta-cognition, although I was applying elements in my classroom already I hadn’t been using it to its full potential. Once I got to grips with the theory, evidence and strategies I feel my practice developed and improved along with my understanding of my learners.

In my classroom you’ll see elements of meta-cognition on a regular basis from the planning stage to the reflection stage by both myself and my learners.

If you take my average year 8 extended writing task we will do the following:

Planning Stage
– discuss the aims and objectives of the task
– identify prior learning that will be relevant
– discuss prior strategies and struggles in applying the required skills e.g. evaluation
– review targets and identify which will be of relevance to the task or seek out new ones
– consider application of targets in this piece of work

Monitoring Stage
– as students work, meta-cognitive questions are asked about their progress and how they are monitoring their progress towards the aims and objectives of the task
– students are asked about the challenges they have experienced so far and how they’ve overcome them
– students peer and/or self assess the work against specific success criteria or using the ACE peer assessment strategy

Evaluation and Reflection Stage
– students are prompted to consider their success in the strategies they applied to achieve the aims and objectives of the task or learning goal either through questioning or written review.
– students are asked question such as
‘How well did you do at….?’
‘Is there anything that didn’t go well? What could you have done differently?’
‘What did you find hard with this task? How did you overcome this?’
‘What will you try to take away from this that you can apply to future work?’.

Impact

When I started at my current school there was a class I started with in year 8, I taught them again in year 9 and continue to teach some of them in year 10 at present. Over that time, I’ve witnessed their ability to self-regulate develop and grow as has their independence and enjoyment in the learning process. The ones I still teach, I do less for them now when it comes to meta-cognition. They’ve been scaffolded through the stages, supported in developing their independence and I’m now there to facilitate and support their self-regulation through meta-cognition. It really does support learners independence.

Useful resources

The EEF last published some useful resources on Meta-cognition and self-regulated learners including the summary sheet below.

Metacognition and self-regulation evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation

Metacognition and self-regulated learning from the Education Endowment Foundation

Getting started with Metacognition from Cambridge International Education Teaching and Learning Team
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Metacognition from Cambridge International

Meta-cognition: A Literature Review from Emily R. Lai

Hope you find the post of use. Feel free to share any other useful links in the comments.


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Resource – Learning to Revise Guide for KS3

Recently I’ve been doing a lot of work on revision and recall; primarily this arose from a number of concerns students expressed last year about not knowing how to revise. 

To support my students,  in February 2018 I was inspired to create a ‘How to Revise in Geography‘ booklet for Key Stage 4 and 5 students. I have two versions of the booklet one suited to AQA GSCE Geographers and another for IBDP Geographers. 

Last year I also covered a few different revision techniques with my form group to help them prepare for assessments. However I didn’t think to make them a ‘how to revise’ guide until more recently. 

I was spurred on a when a colleague mentioned that another might be in contact soon to discuss revision support for Key Stage 3. Consequently I figured a booklet for Key Stage 3 might be of use. 

The terminology is similar but less technical and it has far fewer strategies than in my GCSE and IB version but I hope it will be just as useful for suggesting suitable strategies for Key Stage 3. 

Click the download button to get an editable copy.

Hope you can make use of it with your students. 


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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 strategies for developing independent learners

mrs humanities shares

Are we doing too much for our learners? This question has plagued me a lot recently.

I’ve seen hundreds of fabulous resources that take the hard work out of learning for our students. That remove the responsibility from students to teacher. That take the independence from the learning process. That make them dependent on us, their teachers.

Now I’m sure many people will argue with me that it’s a result of increased scrutiny; the unrealistic performance management targets; the use of target grades etc. Which are all completely valid arguments and I agree, but it still scares me that so many teachers are doing so much for their students. Things that take away their students responsibility and independence in the learning process.

Things like case study guides with all of the content students need, completed knowledge organisers, again with all of the content students need. Completed exam questions, so students can learn to replicate. Revision booklets again with all of the content. It all worries me.

I’ve never hidden the fact that I facilitate learning, that my aim as a teacher is to make my students as independent as possible in my classroom and in their learning. That I want my students to leave school being able to learn for themselves; to be able to critically analyse and evaluate; to design and create; to research effectively; to be responsible for their own learning; to want to continue learning after compulsory education.

I’ve created numerous posts on developing independent learners such as these

Developing Independent Learners – Help Yourself Display and Resource Station

Developing Independent Learners – Seating Plans

Developing Independent Learners – Attempts at Flipped Learning

Developing Independent Learners

Developing Independent Learners – Independent Learning Projects

Developing Independence in the Humanities Classroom

Although my practices have evolved and changed over the last 4-5 years, developing independent learners is still at the core of my teaching.

Some ways I approach ‘developing independence’ are as follows

1 // ‘Help Yourself’ stations

I’m a big believer that students should learn to take responsibility for their progress and learning. That we should facilitate them in any way we can to help and support them but at the end of the day, we don’t sit their exams. That’s down to them.

Here’s some further reading from Tom Rogers if you’re interested

Anyway, whilst I do differentiate for students individual needs I also believe that students need to be able to identify when they need support and should develop the ability to be able to work out for themselves what that support looks like.

Therefore in my classrooms for the last 4 years, there have been a ‘help yourself’ areas or stations. This is an area where students can find resources that can support them in a variety of ways. For instance students can find sentence starter mats to help get them started with a variety of extended writing tasks, topic platemats/knowledge organisers that provide the key content of topics (see below for more details), blank maps, atlases, peer and self assessment sheets, note taking templates, timeline sheets and the list goes on. All of which students can help themselves to in order to help them with the tasks they are undertaking.

Initially I will direct students to particular support and overtime encourage them to help themselves to the resource they feel appropriate. Usually as students start to recognise their areas of ‘weakness’ they can independently select the appropriate support strategy.

Read more on ‘Help Yourself’ stations in my original post here.

2 // Project Breakdown

I start year 7 with a homework project that is broken up into smaller chunks, each with their own deadline. We cover map and atlas skills to ensure all students embark on the rest of their geographical learning with the basic skills required.

Student’s therefore complete a project as homework over the course of the first term on a European country of their choice. Each chunk of the project fits with the work covered in class allowing the students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they developed in the lesson.

The breaking down of the project into chunks develops students time management skills and teaches them to break down a project over time to ensure they do not complete other projects just before the deadline.

Over time these breakdowns are removed so students can independently carry out projects without the haste of

3 // Blank or Basic Knowledge Organisers (AKA Placemats, Knowledge Mats etc.)

I’ve seen knowledge organisers with the entire topic on one sheet. All the content a student needs to know. It makes me question why the student needs to listen, to participate in the lesson, to do the tasks set by their teacher. If they have everything they need to know in front of them, surely it encourages students to ‘switch off’. Some may argue that students have KOs in order to then apply the knowledge, but I fear this reduces their ability to retrieve information.

I prefer to use KOs or placemats as they were originally intruduced to me to provide a basic outline of the content students generally struggle with.

For Geography for instance I often find students confuse the 3 tectonic plate boundaries and find it hard to visualise convection currents.

placemat.png

In History it tended to be the sequence of events, names and places.

placemat History.png

Therefore I created a basic visual summary for my students to collect if they so desired. These mats would consist again of the very basics to support my learners.

I also encourage students to create their own KOs at KS5 and hope to implement this into KS4 in due course. In order for my KS5 students to do this I’ve created KO sheets with blank boxes, except for a question or statement in which they respond to in order to collate the knowledge they need to demonstrate thus retrieving and revising the content for use later on.

KO ks5

KO ks5 2

4 // Revision

I refuse to give students the content they need to know in the form of a booklet or similar in order to revise from. Sorry, but they should get that from lessons, why else bother going to lessons if it’s not to learn the content?!

Instead for I provide a variety of resources to support my students.

To start with for each topic students receive an AfL grids with an outline of the topic content. At the start of the topic students self-assess their prior knowledge and then at the end their understanding of the topic in order to highlight the areas for future revision.

Then in regards to revision of the content I’ve created how to revise guides to help students to develop an ongoing approach to revision as well as teaching retrieval strategies and exam technique in class.

In addition I’ve created case study templates for students to complete to summarise the case studies and examples explored. To support revision these have been combined into a case study and exam question booklet so students can also apply the content to exam style questions.

gcse revision

All these strategies require my students to do the work and be responsible for their own learning and progress. I’ve provided the resources, taught the content and given them the support they need to succeed but it’s up to them to actually learn what they need to know for the exam.

5 // Inquiry/Enquiry based learning

At my school we have a real ethos for developing inquirers. I love that we do loads of inquiry based learning across the school. Students get to question, research and develop their curiosity throughout.

In KS3, at the start of each unit, my students write down questions. These questions influence my planning, the resources I use and the lesson objectives over the course of the topic. Students are the driving force of the lesson content. I teach the same year group the same topic to reach the same outcomes but the approach varies dependent on the class questions.

Now that I’m settled in my ‘new’ school for a full year, I’ve seen the progression students make through this approach. Enquiry truly develops their curiosity and interest; they constantly challenge me to further my subject knowledge and keep it up to date as their questions get us exploring aspects I’ve missed in the past or thought not relevant when planning schemes of work.

Through their questioning comes exploration, analysis and evaluation; deepening their understanding and I love it.

How do you develop independence in your learners? Feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.

Mrs Humanities