This is my first blog…..
Professional reading is really taking off in my present school, it counts towards CPD providing an impact can be shown in the classroom, and a book club started by a colleague is well attended. The book we have started with is called Outstanding Teaching: Engaging Learners by Griffith and Burns (http://tinyurl.com/o9re4eu). The book is full of activities that can be used in the classroom with an aim to creating flow – becoming lost in learning. Flow is defined in the book as the state when high skill levels meets high challenge – students lead their own learning and teacher input is minimal (the book recommends three minutes to provide instructions to the class)!
With this in mind I have focussed initially on the use of learning grids as an activity to create flow. The example grid here What is Science? was created for my Year 7 Science class. I filled each cell with either a key word, safety symbol, or example science equipment. Students worked in pairs during the activity, rolling the dice to determine which cell in the grid they land on. On reflection I would recommend foam dice (as the book does) as the clatter of plastic dice was not ideal. In my first lesson with the class, after establishing the seating plan, I gave out the grids and a dice for each pair – the instructions were to explain as fully as possible the contents of the cell they landed on. If a student could not explain a particular cell then the old adage of the 4Bs (brain, book, buddy, boss) was used and the resources available to look answers up were explained. I considered the activity a success as the class enjoyed it, I could establish prior knowledge, and it immediately set the tone of student lead, peer teaching which I am trying to develop.
I have produced other grids for Year 8 Geology, Year 9 Photosynthesis, and GCSE Immunity & Disease and they have also gone down very well with each class although the simple definitions I am asking for is not as challenging as I would like and differentiation is not there! It worked well when I asked each pair to role for a cell twice – they were challenged to define / explain each cell but also to explain how one cell linked to another – this could be compare and contrast or a cause and effect relationship. This added more challenge to the task.
More recently, I have created grids (the students are getting used to using them making teacher talk even less) to include cells containing a question mark (students have to select a past paper question and answer in pairs), and a cell with EXAMINER (students have to peer assess using the marking criteria another groups answers). Here is an example Learning Grid where these are included in the Immunity and Disease topic from AQAs BL1. I am impressed with the number of GCSE past questions my KS4 classes are being exposed to and their confidence in answering them is really growing already.
I will be trying out some of the other uses of learning grids suggested by Engaging Learners. Next week I will challenge students to create a concept map using the learning grids – they role for a cell and they have to add the contents into a concept map for the topic – it seems a great way to build links in their understanding.
HOMEWORK – Providing students with a blank grid Template and tasking them with creating their own grid on a topic strikes me as a suitable homework activity and one that will build up a bank of resources to use with other classes and of course to share in this blog.