Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job


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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 tips for NQTs

mrs humanities shares

I remembed my NQT year as incredibly stressful, more so than my PGCE. I found myself in a challengeing school with extremely high expectations for staff. Whilst my department were amazing as was the NQT co-ordinator and lots of the other staff from across the school were very supportive, it was a difficult year.

Within the 1st term Ofsted decided to turn up, madness struck by the October half term. Workload was relentless, constantly planning, marking and assessing progress. It was hard work but taught me so much. So I thought I’d share a few tips for those embarking of their NQT year soon, these are based on personal experiences and others may have different advice.

  1. Forget progress in the first term. 
    Honestly spend the first term getting to know your students; how do they learn? What learning activities do they enjoy? What contributions do they make to school life? What hobbies do they have outside of school? Get to know the young people you are teaching. Build those all important relationships and make it clear what your expectations are in the first term. Personally I wished I’d done exactly that during the first few weeks of my NQT year rather than worrying about whether students were making progress. I now like to spend the first term finding out where my students are in regard to their subject knowledge, a bit about them and making my classroom expectations explicit. I make sure they are doing the little things that make the bigger things easier e.g. keeping their book tidy, meeting homework deadlines etc. and if they are not I crack down on it immediately – detentions, phone calls home, no second chances.
  2. Set up clear routines.
    My first school had a clear routine for students once they entered the classroom. Collect books, get out equipment, write the date, title and learning objective and underline them and then get on with the starter task until the register had been taken. This made it easy to set up initial routines. If your school doesn’t have a specific start to lessons, create one. Students like consistency and knowing what to expect. Lay that out for them from day 1; once they know they then know your expectations as well.
    However it’s not just the start of lessons you need to set up routines for. Consider routines for some of the following:
    – End of lesson
    Peer/Self assessment
    Class discussions
    – Handing books in
    – Toilet requests
    The list could continue but I don’t want to overwhelm anyone.
  3. Know your expectations
    Ensure you know what you expect from your students before the first day of school. It’s important when setting the foundations with your classes that you are clear in regards to what you’d expect from them and what they can expect from you. You will find yourself spending the first few weeks constantly repeating these rules and expectations but once your students are clear on them and are able to remember them (if you work in secondary, remember they will have numerous teachers with different expectations and routines they won’t instantly remember yours) you can then start to focus on the bigger picture – student progress. Word of caution though, ensure your expectations are achievable – if students feel there is no way or chance of them meeting your expectations you maybe faced with some behavioural issues.
  4. Know the school rules
    Consistency is important, ensure you know and understand the school rules and behavioural routines before you start teaching. In the long run it makes life in the classroom easier for you; give warnings clearly, set detentions and chase them up. Phone home if you have to. Once student’s know they can’t mess you around and that you a consistent and follow through life in the classroom eventually becomes a little easier. Also it’s really annoying when you constantly follow school behaviour routines and find that others are not, it makes your teaching life a lot more difficult if staff are not consistent and following the school wide routines. Firstly students know what to expect if they consistently come up against the same routines, also they can’t argue back if you do what everyone else is (or should) be doing. Be firm, be consistent. Ensure that you and other NQTs know and follow the routines set out.
  5. Smile before Christmas
    I’m sure you would have heard plenty of words of wisdom like the old ‘don’t smile before Christmas’. Ignore it. Greet your students on their way in and around the school. Talk to them off topic now and then. Tell them little snippets about yourself. Be human. Personally I tried too hard to be ‘a teacher’ and not a human teaching other humans; I felt I had to be 100% the professional and didn’t feel it was acceptable to share anything about myself with my students. I later realised this doesn’t work. It makes you unapproachable and unrelatable. Once you’ve established routines and expectations you can begin to ‘relax’ a little with your students and let them see a bit of you – you’re favourite colour (often related to the colour pen a student is using for their notes), your favourite parts of the topic (*insert excited face here* don’t get me started on climate change, I could talk about it for hours), your favourite books (oh,  I see your reading….I love it, have you got to the part where…. whoops was that a spolier?). I’m sure you get the picture. Have those conversations with your students; let them see you are human too.

I hope this is some use to you, feel free to ask questions or for the more experienced of you feel free to add your top tips in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

Mrs Humanities

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Marking, feedback and DIRT

Marking, feedback and DIRTThis week I had the experience of leading a marking and DIRT workshop as part of our Teacher Conference CPD day.

For me, this was the first time I’ve led and organised a CPD session by myself.  I really enjoyed it and had lots of positive feedback so I thought I’d share the resources from my session here.

The main aims of the session were

1. To introduce the marking policy to new staff

2. To improve and support current marking and feedback

3. To make marking and feedback more efficient and quicker whilst still providing high quality feedback

Everyone received a pack of ideas which included ways of providing marking and feedback whether it be teacher assessment or self or peer assessment. With each idea came an outline of the teacher’s role, the pupil’s role and then how Directed Improvement and Reflection Time (DIRT) could be incorporated.

I won’t bore you with the details of how the workshop was then carried out and instead I’ll share with you the resources I used. Some of these ideas I’ve developed myself, others I have picked up over the last 3 years of my career.

double tick DIRTannotation marking DIRTmarking codes DIRTfeedback grid DIRTlevel up marking DIRTdot marking DIRTWWW and EBI marking and  DIRTself assessment WWW and EBI marking and DIRTRAG123generic peer assessment DIRTpeer assessment mark my weakness DIRTpeer assessment kind helpful specific DIRTPeer critique marking DIRTmatch the techerexplain the mistake marking DIRTI use the majority of these regularly in my classroom as you can see by all the photos I’ve included, others I’ve trialled but didn’t feel were completely successful or that they suited my way of teaching. However they maybe useful to others so they were included. Some I’ve still left to try, I particularly like the ‘Match the Teacher‘ technique and think I will trial this with my GCSE group in the new year.

Self and peer assessment has taken time and effort, but it really is worth the investment. Now my pupil’s have the skill and can provide each other with high quality considerate yet constructive feedback it will set them in good stead for the future. I truly recommend developing right from September in year 7.

Hope these ideas provide you with some new ideas and some suggestions on how to incorporate directed improvement and reflection time.

Please note: RAG123 example by Mrs Griffiths was originally by B Yusuf. Sorry for error in original reference.
Mrs Humanities


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Differentiation 

This week during a discussion, I was referred to as the “Queen of Differentiation”. In response I replied “well it beats the PMT Queen as l was formerly named’. AWKWARD.

However it got me thinking about differentiation and how I embed the practice into each and every lesson. These days it is something I just DO, I reflect on it and improve it but I find it hard to explain it and since a NQT might join me come September I thought I ought to start considering how I share the concept and ideas.

Throughout the last 3 years of teaching I’ve developed a wide range of strategies which include task based, support based and outcome based differentiation. However throughout my training and NQT year it was always reiterated that differentiation by outcome was not acceptable and that we should always differentiate by task. But how true is that?

Since passing my induction I’ve started to realise that their is a lot more to differentiation than you are taught in the first few years of teaching. It might not always be one of the 3 approaches named above.

Sometimes it can take the form of changing the language you use with certain pupils, for instance I might use 3 different words to give the same meaning to 3 individual students of different abilities. The questions you ask may vary, they still provide the same outcome but the way it is worded changes. The pace of a lesson may vary between classes, groups and individuals. All of these could be seen in my lessons along side task, support and outcome based differentiation.

I thought I’d outline here some of my favourite ways to differentiate to give inspiration.

1 //  My favourite method has to be differentiation through choice. There are two ways in which I approach this, sometimes it is levelled based task other times is it linked to their preferred learning styles.

Levelled Based Choice

I will set up a range of tasks that develop the skills, knowledge and understanding for a particular level. I usually set 3 tasks per class. Those with the lower level range select from the first two options whilst those within the higher level range select from the second and third options meaning they either complete work that enables them to reach or exceed their targets.

A recent example was in an observed lesson with a year 7 class. You can see below that I set up 3 tasks and the students had to choose the level of spice they would attempt.

1 chilli = a level 3 task with a level up task to take them into level 4
2 chillies =  level 3a & 4c tasks with a level up task to take them into a confident level 4
3 chillies = level 4a and 5c tasks with a level up task to ensure they achieved a confident level 5

differentiation choice task

Learning Styles

On occasions I will give the class a range of options for the format in which they present their work such as through a presentation, a leaflet, a poster, an extended piece of writing, a model or story board to name a few.

For instance last term year 7 completed projects on a variety of natural hazards as part of our Dangerous World topic. Firstly pupils were put into ‘levelled’ groups, for instance those with a higher target grade were grouped together and given a hazard that would create more challenge in researching, understanding and explaining.

The groups were then given the levelled criteria and suitable guidance for their ability. They then set about creating their projects for presentation in which ever format they choose from the selection of ‘previews’.

Learning styles became very clear through the activity, those with a kinaesthetic preference made models that demonstrated their knowledge of the hazards, whilst the more visual learns seemed to create projects with lots of text and pictures. There were clear differences within groups as well, for instance one group half of them created a model of a volcano whilst the other half created a large poster for display with images and text.

2 // Questioning

Now this one is hard to evidence when you are questioning the class unless you prepare your questions and who they will be aimed at in advance, which was actually something I was made to do during my PGCE. Although annoying at the time, it  was useful to get me thinking about students abilities, targets and progress.

Nowadays I ask a question before I say any names, I then quickly consider who that question would be suitable for whilst also providing the whole class with thinking time. Then I pounce on the unsuspecting victim and wait for the response.If appropriate I’ll then try to get a higher level student to extend, correct or develop the answer or ask a lower ability student whether they agree or not and why before moving on.

3 // Third and final idea for today is by resource/task.

This is the most time consuming if I’m honest. In a single lesson I can be known to have created 3 levelled tasks then further differentiated them through the support given as well as the resources they are provided with. I may go OTT sometimes. I try not to do that to often however it doesn’t always work out.

Anyway differentiation by resource can take many forms.

For instance in one year 8 lesson, I wanted a number of pupils to achieve the same level of outcome but through different approaches that were suitable to their needs and learning styles.

The level 4 aim was to describe adventures in more than one location. In order to do this a few students were locating places on a map with different adventure possibilities and describing the potential adventures to be had whilst another group were given two adventurer profiles and using a Role on the Wall sheet they had to decide on a location for each and describe they type of adventure to be had there. They both achieved the level 4 objective just in didn’t ways.

Another example would be with my GCSE group when defining key words, a small group receive a number of choices to choose from whilst others have to write their own definition.

Another examples is from a recent observation lesson I gave level 3 and 4 students a very basic colour shading map of population density whilst the level 5 students were given a choropleth map to interpret (not that the observer noticed the different).

There are loads of other useful ideas floating around the internet such as these differentiation cards or this differentiation deviser many ideas for both the newbie and the veteran teacher.

Mrs Humanities