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Saturday Thunks

The Class Room Gift That Keeps Giving #SaturdayThunk

The gift that keeps on giving was a marketing slogan for the phonograph but could equally be applied to the teaching and development of metacognition and the ability of pupils to self-regulate.  It is one of those low maintenance high impact strategies which reward teachers, for their initial investment of time, many times over.  It’s what I think of as a high impact class room multiplier.

Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc

When working with new staff on our induction programme, I would introduce this topic by asking them to imagine the best learner they had ever had in their class.  You might want to do the same; the important element of this is not to think about the brightest but someone who made massive progress though these are not mutually exclusive.

A student who worked and I mean worked their way through St. Mary’s years ago is the one who always comes to my mind.  He arrived with poor literacy and numeracy skills and chose not to speak during the first months he was with us.  He was in a lower set but just put his head down and learnt as much as he could.  Ignoring nonsense, doing his homework and believing he could learn he had the most improved score on the cognitive ability tests CAT), which pupils take on entry to Year 7 and then again at the end of Year 9.  He moved from statistically well below average to almost average on this IQ test.  Two years later following numerous phone calls I managed to get him in by mid-afternoon for a photograph to celebrate A*/A grades at GCSE and another two years later he achieved A grades at A-level.  His belief and determination in his ability to succeed, in the class room and in the examination hall, his persistence, willingness to take control of his situation in order to plan, deliver and improve his work was genuinely inspirational.  Education is a great gift but that gift needs to be opened and used well by pupils.

Metacognition and Self-Regulation

The Education Endowment Fund Toolkit place metacognition and self-regulation as their top strategy “with pupils making an average of eight months’ additional progress” each year.  That is some progress particularly beneficial for low achieving and disadvantaged pupils as it allows them to close the gap on their higher attaining peers.  The more teachers who are willing to explicitly teach and provide opportunities for pupils to develop and use “specific strategies to set goals, and monitor and evaluate their own academic development” the better.  Planning is just one great example.

When working with Sixth Formers on their Extended Project Qualification I introduced them to planning using a GANTT chart.  A GANTT chart is a project management tool which provides a visual representation of what order tasks should be completed in and when each task should start and end.  It uses a series of horizontal bars, to represent tasks, with tasks’ names down the side and a time line across the top.  It really helped them plan and was very effective in allowing me to hold them to account for a completing task by a given date.

Planning a whole series of related or unrelated tasks needs pupils to be able to not simply list them but also schedule each one onto the date and time on which it will be completed.  It is this failure to plan or show the self-control needed to implement the plan that can undermine so many pupils’ best intentions.  I’ve used this planning approach for about 15 years now and it’s become intuitive.

Time invested in developing these planning techniques and requiring pupils to monitor their completion is never wasted particularly for many pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.  Just imagine a class full of youngsters who collaboratively support each other’s development as learners.  Now that would put a turbo drive boost behind pupil progress.

#SaturdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week.  The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short.  It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger.  The intention is for it to be read in two minutes as you’re relaxing or busy running around on you day off.

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