Giant’s Causeway – SOLO Taxonomy, By Rebecca Kent, a great MFL teacher.

“Something to do with the Giant’s Causeway…..”
Building story telling paths in MFL using the SOLO Taxonomy
I have been experimenting with the SOLO Taxonomy with some of my KS3 classes in French and Spanish since February. As a result of the work that I have been trialling with another colleague, I was asked to provide some INSET training. I must admit that I had not considered using hexagons in MFL until another colleague’s comment during one of the sessions led to a connection being made in my mind. He is an Irish mathematician and one of the questions that we asked him to answer during the session was: “Why do you think that hexagons are good shapes to use?” He did not realise that we were asking him that question because he is a Maths specialist, and he assumed that it was because he is Irish. His reply to us was: “Is it something to do with the Giant’s Causeway?”
I began to make a connection with storytelling and pathways and I created a series of lessons with this in mind. I taught a series of lessons on the past tense and when I was satisfied that the students were ready to start to be creative with the structures, I taught the following two lessons:
Lesson 1
Task 1. – The big question (a dramatic picture of the Giant’s Causeway was projected on the board) “What has this picture got to do with telling stories?” This question resulted in some interesting links being made between the natural world, storytelling being our original science, pathways and structures made with hexagons and some interesting theories about giants and bees thrown in!
Task 2. Hexagons. Pupils were given small hexagons in an envelope and they were asked to write single words in French that would prompt them to say a longer past tense sentence.  For SEN pupils some words were already provided. During a short feedback session, pupils read out some of their words, which I then wrote on laminated giant hexagons and stuck on the board.

Task 3. – Oracy Pupils were asked to move their own hexagons around in order to make a path or structure. The path needed to allow them to tell a story. They were asked to plan the story in their heads and when they were ready, to tell the story to the person sitting next to them. Connectives, time phrases and verbs were naturally included as a result of the need to link the hexagons together.
Task 4. Pupil led demonstration – Eight students were invited up to the front and were asked to take one of the giant hexagons down from the board and to hold it up to face the class. Another student from the class arranged the giant hexagon holding students in order and then verbally demonstrated a story. We did this twice.

Task 5. Drafting Pupils returned to their seats, glued their hexagons into their books and used them to write a rough draft of their stories.


Task 6. Peer assessment – Pupils swapped books and wrote ideas for improvement. Pupils re-drafted their stories for homework.

“Something to do with the Giant’s Causeway…..”
Building story telling paths in MFL using the SOLO Taxonomy
LESSON 2 – Let’s go outside!
I divided my class into mixed ability teams of five. I gave each group a giant hexagon to use as a template, some chalk, a mini whiteboard, pen and rubber and we went out to the yard. They were not allowed to use their notes.
Task 1. Path creation Teams were asked to draw hexagons on the floor with chalk in order to form a path. They then wrote single, French prompt words in each of the hexagons. 

Task 2. Storytelling walk – The teams were asked to walk along their paths, telling the story as they went.  Another student recorded video footage of the outcomes for analysis next lesson.

Task 3. Test their skills –Teams were asked to visit another team’s story telling path and to try to tell a different story.
“Something to do with the Giant’s Causeway…..”
Building story telling paths in MFL using the SOLO Taxonomy
Coming soon…………….

A class patchwork quilt of finished stories mounted individually onto coloured, illustrated hexagons

Anonymous Bloggers – scum of the Earth

Ok. So a silly title just to attract you to read what I have written. But anonymous bloggers do seem to attract their own kind of attention. I think it is a little odd that they should and I will try to give some reasons why they are not folk to get worked up about, or robots if you think some of them are not even human.

Why might one get worked up by realising the Tweeter @I_Don’t_have_a_name is not revealing their real identity? Several reasons come to mind, but let me first tell you a short, true story. When I was very young and out with my mum we came across two people in a park engaged in an activity. My mum said, “Don’t look. Don’t pay them any attention.” To my young eyes what they were doing looked interesting and also odd.

The first reason for not getting worked up by anonymous bloggers, I am going to call them ABs in future, is that they are only doing their naughty stuff, anonymous blogging, ABing, to attract attention. Simple. You don’t have to interact with them in any way. Your choice.

The second reason I can think of is that you disagree with them. Fine. We all have our reasons for believing what we believe. I happen to think it is quite useful to have a few folk to check out who do not agree with me. They keep me honest. I can test my beliefs against their statements. We all know about cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias, don’t we? There is not a lot of danger in being corrupted by their ideas if we hold fast to our own…

Perhaps you worry about the validity of what they are saying. Perhaps they tell lies. So the test for a non liar is to have them say who they are? Really?  If you knew, that a certain anonymous blogger was a maths teacher, aged 40+, who taught in a challenging school in the West Midlands, would that make what he says any more accurate? I don’t think so. Look at the ideas ABs have, not just the rants that they engage in, and think about the sense or nonsense they are making. Focus on the message, not the messenger.

Perhaps you think their anonymity is hiding something more sinister. They are not all left handed, I assure you. You believe that one of them is Toby Young, or Michael Gove in disguise. Perhaps they are. They are not. So what? if what they say is nonsense, then argue against them in a manner that blows their argument out of the water.

Perhaps you think they are ABs because they lie. They use anecdotal evidence to prove a point. Like we all do. I use anecdotal evidence to provide and example, a more concrete description of a situation, to try to get my point across. Again, if you agree with what they say then fine. If not, fine as well.

Perhaps you feel a little threatened by an unseen being, a hider in the shadows, or some other literary allusion. Don’t be. They are only the result of electrons. They are virtual. They will never meet you in their AB persona. The power they have is in what they write; the ideas that they put forward. The influence they might have. Perhaps it is this influence they have on others. Are you feeling less powerful than you think they are? Fine. Again it is the quality or otherwise of their argument that decides if they are effective change agents.

Or is it just annoying not to know?

Just hear the words of my mum. “Don’t look, Peter. Don’t pay them any attention.”

Discussions with an HMI. Re post from @AflPie

Link to a blog on discussions with an HMI.

The main issue of concern is the idea that progress can be shown during a 20 slice of a lesson.

The above link contains a discussion with an HMI that makes it clear that is not a feature of the evidence collection by Ofsted.

So where has this idea come from and why does it have such currency? It comes, I believe, from the conflation of a number of statements, some slight ambiguity in the Ofsted instructions, and the lack of clarity in some schools about the purpose of schools as places of learning as their core role. Without the single minded focus on learning some schools are willing to be swayed from this core purpose to try to jump through hoops to meet what they “think” and have “heard” that Ofsted want. There is then the local authority network of advisors and some of the consultancy industry who run INSETs on these erroneous hoop jumping. Remember, hoop jumping if for trained dogs, not for professional educators. Woof, woof!

What are these statements?

The first is that Ofsted will judge progress. They will. It is the main judgement to be made. Great progress and, probably, outstanding school.

The second is that, clearly, progress is “progress with learning”. I know other bits matter but learning progress is what really matters. progress is measure in two main ways. Data is number one. End of Key Stage results and examination results will feature highly. Progress will also be evidenced by looking in students’ book. Over time, what are they learning.

The next element is Ofsted reports that say things like, “Progress is secure because of the good teaching in lessons.” This is a reason for good progress and NOT a description of the erroneous short term progress in a lesson while teachers are teaching. It is a bit of an obvious statement really. Over time, consistently good teaching produces consistently good, secure learning. Progress is made.

The next is the fact that some observations will be for only 20 minutes of a lesson.

So add that lot together an done can see how Ofsted might be saying, “We will be judging progress in 20 minutes of a lesson.”

Come on, leadership teams. Think about it. Get tough and be professional. Is it really possible to show secured learning in 20 minutes every time you go into a lesson. progress will be evidenced by matching the start of a level with the end of a level. Can that happen in 20 minutes? No way!

What you need to get your teachers to do is teach great lessons. Get them to plan so that learning is visible to the teacher, and to the students. That visibility of the learning will be enough to allow any inspector or observer to see that learning is happening. But the reason for making learning visible is NOT to jump, dog like, through an observational hoop. It is because making the learning visible is what correlates with great lessons.

Now Merlin, my Belgian Shepherd, where’s that hoop?

Dyslexia, ADHD and all that .

This could be a very long story if I went into detail about the history of my ex-school, a challenging London comprehensive. But I will just give the end of the story with only a little of the previous detail. Suffice it to say that during my tenure the school moved from 11% 5+A* to C up to 65% 5+A* to C. From a very disrupted place to a school where visitors commented on how quiet it was. From a school with a high staff turnover to a school that had one of the lowest turnovers of comprehensives in London.

The way we worked with dyslexia and ADHD and physical disability and ethnicity any other “feature” of a child was, essentially, to ignore the label. We certainly did not ignore the child. We developed a rather simple way of looking at the data. If a child was underachieving then we needed to do something for that child. So, if we identified children whose reading age was lower than their chronological age we thought about what we could do. Usually it was a multiple input process. Some direct support, some modification of worksheets, some phonics work- whatever it was that made the difference. Heads of Year were critical in this as they had a good overview of a child’s performance. One of their roles was to see if there was a difference in a child’s work in different subjects and go and explore that difference. If it was a teacher effect, the head of year would support the department so that the teacher could alter their teaching so that the child improved. If it was a behaviour issue, over which the child had control, and most children can control their behaviour unless there are significant aggravating circumstances, then the child would be spoken to and worked with so that their behaviour was appropriate to them learning, and more importantly, allowing others to learn and allowing teachers to teach.

I had little time for programmes that required the labelling of students. Black Boys programmes, or white working class boys underachievement (actually the data does not show white working class underachievement – it shows something else!) or any other such classifications. I liked the money these programmes brought in and I did acquire as much as I could, quite successfully, actually. But I did not always spend it in the way the provider tried to stipulate. We did raise attainment. We did meet their outcomes.

When Raise-on-Line was the data God we had no groups below the line. ROL folk know what that means and you can probably guess. But we did not do it by identifying a group of children and acting on all of them. For example, looked after children have outcomes that are, nationally, scandalous. But a couple of our Looked After children were doing fine. Why lump them into a group and spend cash when they were doing fine? Sure, check and make sure they are, but don’t assume that they needed additional support without their being evidence for that need. Simply check to see if they are progressing as expected. I know that is not always easy. What we did was used FFT D plus 5% as our benchmark. We also used other data sets but essentially we had as high a set of expectations as were possible.

Back to our Looked After folk. We would have identified them as being a student who was not progressing as well as we would have expected. Two questions would be asked. First, why? What factors, attendance, attitude, or whatever were affecting this child?

Second, what could we do? So we had a list of underachieving children and we would then look to see of there were any useful sub groupings in that list. Not grouped by some external feature, ethnicity etc but by the learning difficulty they were having. Inattentive, poor reader, maths limited or whatever it was allowed us to group when appropriate. An inductive process, one HMI exclaimed as he beamed and gave us a great report!

That’s it really.

  • High expectations based on data plus a bit.

  • An expectation that teachers need to be allowed to teach.

  • A firm policy that stopping others learning was a real issue to be sorted.

  • An intelligent, pragmatic approach that worked for us.

  • A willingness to try and find something that worked.

  • Involving parents etc

  • Only jumping on bandwagons to get the cash! Staying on if it worked.

  • Keeping going for long enough to make something work but getting out of it if it did not work for us.

Simple, really!

Feedback using PEF – more effective and slightly less time consuming

I think I have just thought of this but it may be I have read it on Twitter. Probably I have constructed it from the subliminal messages that Twitter feeds into my brain while I am reading something else.

My apologies if I have stolen your idea. If you are fussed then I’ll either credit you or delete this – but only after I have given my mum a copy!

You have to read through the work the children have done and I would suggest that you add some kind of a comment, or rubber stamp to evidence that you have seen the work. You know why…

But label is with a title like, “Peer Evaluated Feedback.” PEF – we like three letter things in education.

What is a PEF?

As you read through the work note the errors. This will be subject dependent and tick an error that has already been noted. If you are really clever then you can note and tick the errors on your laptop so the next phase is almost done.

At the end of the pile of books, that you have really only scanned to collect errors, you will have a list of the errors made which you can print out for your students. Each students gets all the errors – not just their own.

In class the next day they then work through the error list with their own books and a friend, partner, neighbour or whatever and they try to identify the errors, from the list you have given them, in their own work. They correct the errors. They then do the same for their partner’s book.

Seems like a good idea to me – and my mum said it was a great idea. She is a little biased.

Tell me how you get on.

Too Much Teacher Talk? Perhaps not.

In my continuing attempts to balance the somewhat one sided view from some bloggers about teacher talk, I want to make the following point.

if one judges a lesson to have less learning than one would expect one of the reasons for this could be too much teacher talk. It is rather obvious that in some lessons teachers will not have recognised that they have said enough. The students have got it! You don’t need to go on any more! So there will clearly be Ofsted reports and other observations that can have identified too much teacher talk as detrimental to learning. Too much talk can waste time, as much as anything else that does not drive learning forward.

Just did not want you to get the idea that more talk was better.

Nor do I want you to get the idea that less talk is better.

What is best is that children learn as much as possible, as well as possible in the time they have available in the lesson. That could be through lots of teacher talk or not a lot of teacher talk.

Learning Styles do Exist…

Despite all the Twitter and blog activity I can confirm that learning styles, VAK etc, do exist. BUT, we do need to be clear about what exist means and what the implications are for teachers and, more importantly, for learners.

If you Google Daniel T Willingham, and many others, you will find that he provides the evidence you are seeking. Of course, you are free to ignore the evidence. You can argue the particular issue is that learning styles in your situation are valid. As you do that just check that you know what confirmation bias is and how it might be persuading you to ignore the cognitive science research evidence.

So how can I assert that learning styles exist? I think the answer to this is one of the reasons why some teachers hold on so tightly to the belief in learning styles. The answer is:

Preferred learning styles do exist. We all will identify that we “like seeing picture as they help us remember”, or, “I lke lectures as it is good to be told what to do”, or “I get bored if I have to sit still for too long. We may even add that we are kinesthetic learners. That is all fine. We can all describe how we prefer to learn. Children do that as well. So learning styles exist?

the issue is not that learning styles exist it is that we then extrapolate that to the statement, “It is better to teach someone by taking into account their preferred learning style”. That is the issue. There is no peer reviewed evidence that supports that claim. If you have read the Daniel T Willingham link, or watched the John Hattie: Visible Learning Pt1. Disasters and below … then you will see that the respected scientific community can find no evidence for matching teaching styles to students’ preferred learning styles. No evidence it is worth doing the matching.

What is worth doing is providing a variety of ways for students to access the learning. Provide different ways for them to practise and check out and challenge their learning. But, let’s use the evidence about what works and what does not work and let’s stop using a wrong construct to plan great lessons. Ofsted do not want learning styles matched work. What they want is good learning. If you have children in your class who are not learning it will not be because you have not matched your teaching with their preferred learning styles.

Finally, let’s just take a quick look at the learning style kinesthetic. First, focus on the learning, the stuff you want the children to learn. Card sorts, making hand movements, and anything else you might call kinesthetic is not. It is probably visual. It is not the moving of a card that allows a child to remember the contents of the card. Moving blocks to represent a mathematical equation is a kinesthetic activity, but the learning is because it allows the learner to visualise. Just think about it. How can it be that we remember all the movements we made? Moving the blocks allows us to make the visual more concrete – most of us are not able to play blind chess, where we don’t look at he chess board. We need the physical board and pieces to be able to play! Chess is not a kinesthetic activity. You know it makes sense.