Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Precise Practice

Have you ever been disappointed with pupil outcomes despite having spent lots of time practising the skills that you thought they needed?

The issue might be that the practice wasn't precise enough, or maybe they were practising the wrong things. So how might we improve this? How can we get pupils to practise the right things? And how can we ensure that teachers are given the most precise and useful information about their pupils’ progress and areas for development?

Sequencing activities:
Pupils sometimes struggle to make connections across whole texts. Rather than waiting until pupils have read the whole story, it is often useful to ask pupils to put events into order even when they only have the bare bones of the story. If they understand the key moments in the text it is more likely that they will be able to then add extra detail and description.

Once they have grasped the sequence of major events in the plot, you can then begin to weave in questions about particular ideas, themes or images in the plot. 

Quick Listing
Sometimes, a good old fashioned ‘mind map’ (or a list if that makes more sense for the content your pupils are studying- I don’t think it really matters) can be a really useful form of retrieval practice, particularly for those pupils who have struggle to think of points to make in their writing. 

These activities test memory, of course, but they also give the teacher a sense of how much pupils know about specific topics. They tell you whether your class are ready to move on, can help to shine a light on misconceptions, and might provide a spring board on which to add further details about a particular idea or topic, as a way to deepen understanding.

Concept Links
In order to develop their understanding of connections between ideas in a text, and to improve their interpretations, pupils need lots of opportunities to think about connections and interpretations. Asking them questions that force them to choose between different interpretations helps to cement their understanding whilst making this visible to the teacher.

As you move forward you can increase the complexity by being less specific, and depending less on the most obvious description of the characters.

Because/But/So sentences:
This idea comes from this book, which is brilliantly summarised here. The idea is that you give pupils the same sentence stem, changing only the final word (to either ‘because’, ‘but’ or ‘so’). For example:
Arthur Birling refers to himself as a ‘hard-headed businessman’ because
Arthur Birling refers to himself as a ‘hard-headed businessman’ but
Arthur Birling perceives refers as a ‘hard-headed businessman’ so

What I particularly like about these questions is that they really force pupils to think about their answers. They have to draw on their knowledge of the plot, characters and ideas. These sentence stems also provide pupils with the opportunity to practise writing out the kinds of sentences they might have to write in an extended piece of writing later, but without having to worry about everything else. As ever, starting with sentence-level drills aids and supports writing further down the line.

Read the full article here

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