Folding feedback into learning

Number #2 in an occasional series of short posts on feedback, appearing in no particular order

FoldLast year, I visited a lesson in which pupils were analysing a newspaper article. They read the article as a class, then – in pairs, so that they were having to articulate their ideas before committing them to paper – they wrote answers to a set of questions. The level of analysis and of expression was variable but, on the whole, not very high:

 ‘The purpose of the article is to tell about what happened.’

‘The headline really grabs the reader’s attention’

Continue reading “Folding feedback into learning”

Post-Levels: tracking progress in English at Key Stage 3

Thoughts on assessing progress and attainment in English at Key Stage 3

This post is based closely on an article for NATE‘s Teaching English (Issue 8, Summer 2015)  I’ve re-posted it here since ‘post-levels’ assessment continues to be a major concern. 

Capture.JPGPost-levels, it was left to schools to decide on how to track progress at Key Stage 3. A number of teaching schools were funded to work on and share ‘approaches’, and these can be found published online; many other schools have formulated their own approaches, and are sometimes sharing these.

However, this juncture has presented English departments with a clear opportunity to assert some important, positive principles.

Progress in English is not linear

Progress in the knowledge, skills, understandings and sensibilities which compose ‘attainment’ in English is not smoothly linear. Children don’t usually progress to their ‘expected’ or ‘better than expected’ final outcome via a series of neatly spaced milestones, but will have periods of accelerated progress in certain aspects and of slower progress in others. This is normal. Continue reading “Post-Levels: tracking progress in English at Key Stage 3”

Written comments: three simple rules (and a fourth)

Picture1Number #1 in an occasional series of short posts on feedback, appearing in no particular order

When delivering training on feedback, I don’t tend to spend too much time on written comments: the focus tends to be on oral and whole class feedback, classroom culture, questioning techniques, editing and redrafting, ‘work-shopping’ approaches and so on. If anything, it tends to focus on ways to minimise written ‘marking’.

However, many teachers are bound by policies which insist on regular written, prose comments; many are even tied down to formulae such as ‘three stars and a wish’, or ‘WWW, EBI’. So here are some simple ‘rules’ for such written comments, which I have found helpful. (Note: there is nothing startling here, but it all seems to need revisiting!) Continue reading “Written comments: three simple rules (and a fourth)”

Developing critical readers: preparing students for GCSE English Language reading papers

Thoughts on how students are taught to write critically about texts in exams

This post was originally an article for NATE‘s Teaching English (Issue 12, Autumn 2016.) It has been edited slightly.

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Preparing for the new English GCSEs has compelled English departments to put their Key Stage 4 curriculum through yet another revision. For many, this has been taken as an opportunity to be creative with the curriculum, to devise fresh practice and to sharpen classroom teaching of knowledge and skills. However, the combination of a short time frame and a highly pressurised environment has pushed some departments towards an anxious, somewhat mechanistic approach to the specifications, with teachers focusing narrowly on the hoops through which students will have to jump. Continue reading “Developing critical readers: preparing students for GCSE English Language reading papers”

Objectives and purpose in English

Thoughts on learning objectives and on the way we frame learning in English

This post was originally an article for NATE‘s Teaching English (Issue 8, Summer 2015)

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‘Is that what you went into English teaching to do?’ Reflecting with English teachers on their planning, whether for lessons or whole schemes of learning, I often find myself asking them this question. It isn’t asked in a despairing sense but as a sort of a litmus test of the real value, integrity or power of an ‘objective’ (or an ‘aim’, or an ‘assessed outcome’.) For example, no English teacher went into the profession to get children to ‘practise expanding adverbial phrases’. No one followed a calling to help students to ‘make comparisons between texts’. Of course, these are important but they are not really an end in themselves; they are a means to students developing power in expression and critical awareness and discrimination as readers. They should not be the start and the end of English lessons. Continue reading “Objectives and purpose in English”

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