At Oriel we aim to plan our lessons in four key stages:
The aim is that each stage builds effectively on the last and that also each lesson fits into a scheme of work that follows a similar pattern, with learning being built so that at the end of an individual lesson or scheme of work the student knows where everything fits into the bigger picture of learning, can show what they can now do or know and that it has all been drawn together with opportunities for reflection to consolidate the learning. The idea is based on the principle of accelerated learning by Alistair Smith which whilst nothing new, is a model that we feel provides enough scope to support teachers to effectively plan lessons that deliver outstanding learning but also offers enough professional freedom to teachers to plan and deliver lessons in any way they see fit to achieve student learning.
In this blog I want to try to explore the connect stage a little more and draw together a number of ideas that I think are relevant to this stage in our lesson planning that when implemented will produce better learning for the students. The main purpose of the connect stage is to make links between the prior learning of the students; show how the planned learning fits into the bigger picture and is relevant to the students and to make the learning goal explicit.
Challenging learning activities on entry:
As with all lessons a strong start ensures that things get off on the right foot. To make this happen the most effective teachers that I have the privilege to observe have challenging learning activities prepared for the students as they enter the classroom; after the students are welcomed into the room they are immediately engaged with learning rather than administration, copying down the learning objective is replaced with a task.
More details here; Effective Lesson Starts
After the initial effective start has been made students are often faced with a possible question to solve that helps to link prior learning to intended new learning:
“Look carefully at the picture (related to the learning goal); please construct eight questions about it”; some question starters provided; who, what, where, why, when, what if etc….
“Working with your partner, now try to answer each other’s questions”
After this point the teacher then picks up various questions from the class and the answers and uses it to frame a discussion that starts to answer some of the bigger picture issues such as; ‘Where might this fit with my learning?’ or ‘How could this be relevant to me?’ Something I notice time and time again with lessons that start this way is the level of engagement that comes with it can then be sustained throughout.
Challenging learning goals:
When presenting the learning goal teachers who present it in terms of: ‘We are …so that….‘ benefit from an increased level of buy in from the students as they are able too see the relevance of what is planned. Also a high level of challenge can be built in which when combined with high levels of teacher expectation can produce great conditions for progressing learning. Zoe Elder has blogged about this on the link above and here with some interesting ideas in the comment section about leaving the ‘so that’ blank making students consider the purpose of what they are learning or why they are learning it in a particular way. Another benefit of presenting learning goals in this way can be seen in the consolidate section of our lesson planning but that is another blog….!
Positive behaviour management
At some point all teachers will face the student who, for whatever reason, arrives to the lesson not in the right frame of mind for learning. Teachers who are most effective are able to manage this situation effectively to marginalise any possible disruption to learning for other students and then quickly and effectively deal with the situation they find themselves in in a positive and private way. Bill Rogers has some useful tips for achieving the settled and focus class here. The ‘Teach like a champion’ 100% technique is also useful. For Bill Rogers top ten general behaviour tips check out @headguruteacher blog here.
Our Maths teams has been taking the lead on trying to build the practice of providing students with DIRT at the start of lessons. DIRT stands for Directed, Improvement, Reflection, Time. There are loads of blog posts about it, a good place to start is Alex Quigley’s (@huntingenglish) blog here. In essence this is about planning time for students to respond to feedback and work on securing improvement. This can be a useful activity to have in the connect element of your lesson as it can allow the perfect bridge from what happened in the last lesson to what is happening in this lesson. However that is not to say that this technique is only suitable at the start of lessons, if you read Tom Sherrington’s blog about the impact it has had in his science classes you should be able to see it can be used as an entire lesson or twos activity if it is planned correctly!
For now if you need to see evidence this is a great video about the power of self reflection and feedback: