After two terms back at work, Frances Ashton (@FKAEnglish) is relishing retuning to her true love and experimenting in the classroom.

Recently I uploaded a quick Tweet featuring four pictures of resources I had made my year nine class on war poetry. It garnered a lot of interest: likes, retweets and requests for resources. For the last year I have been either blogging about family friendly schools or my work with the fabulous MTPT Project. But this was a reminder of how it all started. I initially started blogging five years ago out of a desire to share new ideas, resources and my general love of pedagogy which hasn’t faded over the years.

My favourite thing about my return to work has been the ability to put all the new ideas I have seen on Twitter during my maternity leave into practice. I enjoy sharing what I have tried out with my colleagues in my department but this month has reminded me that particularly since my appointment as an SLE last month that I should look further outwards and talk more widely about what works with my students and what might work for others. With this in mind I’ve uploaded the resources that are referenced in that Tweet with a brief explanation of how they worked and how successful they were. I look forward to balancing my interest in wider educational issues with my first true love: lesson design.

Retrieval wheels.

We studied about eight war poems across the term and although there was no need for them to be remembering specific things about the poems for the assessment (which was unseen) I wanted them to start practising the skills that would come in so handy when they start GCSEs in year 10. I wanted them to build confidence with retaining information about texts, retrieving key points and quotes and analysing them with dexterity and empathetic personal response. The wheel task was set up after a specific revision homework and was deployed in a way that courage students to remember what they could without retrieving without looking back at their notes. Thanks to the guidance they were given in the homework, they were actually surprised by what they did remember and the most able in the class started to make links across the wheel between the poems as well.

This activity took a whole lesson but could easily be used as a starter and I have been using smaller versions with my GCSE classes to get them to revise individual chapters staves quotes and poems for the GCSE specification.

‘Front’ the writing

This resource is essentially stolen from Doug Lemov and is an example of a resource I saw and just had to try out. My year nine class are incredibly able and thoughtful in their analysis, but there are also some very quiet members of the group who when it comes to writing pieces about the poems, do tend to lean quite heavily on the ideas that others have voiced during the lesson. I don’t for one second think that they don’t have their own brilliant ideas, but they are easily swayed. What I love about ‘Front the writing’ is that it is a way of seeing what every member of the class has thought about a poem within the first 10 to 15 minutes of engaging with it and then it gives space for making selective informative notes on discussions which can then be used to tailor and improve paragraph. As Lemov points out in his blog, it is not about writing more just writing better. This as an AFL strategy is working really well as a way of taking the temperature of what shy and retiring members of the class are thinking and treasuring the little nuggets of gold they might be keeping to themselves.

Feedforward success criteria.

My main focus last term was reworking our marking and feedback policy. The driving premise is that any marking that is done should be fat a logical point in the lesson sequence and necessitate student action. For that reason I love these feedforward success criteria grids. They are an enormous timesaver if designed early on in the planning stages, being overt with students about how they can be successful and importantly immediately directing students to take action to improve their work in a meaningful and constructive way. They are also easily differentiated and tiered using a Bronze Silver Gold Challenge system.

Judicious comparisons

I’ve always struggled with how to get students to compare poems in a way that doesn’t become an almighty mess. A way for them to systematically and strategically select areas of comparison without getting muddled or confused with the excessive possibilities for what they could say. Whilst we discuss the links between poems in detail in class discussions, when they’re thinking about writing under timed pressure about poems and selecting judicious links to make they need more structure. I have found this grid to be the most successful. Students have two poems juxtaposed on the page with four or five boxes in between which they can then colour code or number as they see fit. They know they only have these boxes to fill so don’t become sidelined or overwhelmed by the number of things they could possibly say about the poems. It also helps to give these boxes headings so that they are incredibly focused about what they are comparing.

Resources available here

I hope these resources are helpful and would love to hear if anyone has any success when using them.