What ‘progress’ looks like

11/02/2007 (Day 73) – Evolution

Originally uploaded by Kaptain Kobold

I mentioned previously that there is a big push on “Learning and Progress” at the moment in school. Much discussion has been had and a colleague (we’ll call him Steve) and I sat down for a full PD Day to thrash out what a “learning lesson” looks like.

We both wrote lesson plans, observed lessons and ultimately I nicked most of Steve’s ideas. The emphasis, really, is on checking in with students during the lesson to see how they’re getting on. Sounds pretty simple, really, but without a bit of conscious effort it’s easily missed.

So here is the “learning lesson” I ran with a Y9 class this week:

We are part way through a unit of work on a Grand Designs topic – designing houses, creating them in Sketchup, tweaking a model to make the most profit, etc. We are now on to the promotional part of the unit and we need to start selling some houses.

As students enter they each find a mini-whiteboard at their desks, complete with a pen and eraser. On the main whiteboard is an instruction to write down 3 adjectives to describe the students’ houses.

This actually sparked some debate as to what an adjective is, so I’ve already learned something about the students’ level of understanding in terms of the literacy aspect.

After a minute or two the students held their whiteboards up and we quickly looked at what worked well (e.g. elegant, spacious, etc.) and what didn’t (e.g. big, cheap, almost finished).

We looked at a couple of estate agent web pages to see what language is used (interestingly spotting an apartment that was described as ‘spacious’ despite being smaller that the classroom we were using) and students then used a word processor to write a paragraph to describe/promote each of their houses (a starter home, bungalow and mansion).

I circulated to give tips and feedback – then the learning checkpoint. Three volunteers came out to be given a whiteboard and pen each. Three more volunteers read out one of the paragraphs they had written. In between each one we had a “Strictly” like judging moment complete with scores (someone always chooses “SEVEN!”) and feedback.

Although we didn’t read out every paragraph, every student was involved and engaged – and they were all comparing what others had written with their own. A couple more minutes to tweak what they had written, then save and change again.

The next task was to capture some images of the houses we had created in Sketchup. We discussed artistic style and 3-point perspective (contextual curriculum link with Art) before taking screengrabs from different angles and also a couple of fly-through animations.

To finish up students opened their Open Office Impress (think PowerPoint) slideshow (we’ve been spending 5-10 minutes on this each lesson), imported a screengrab from the last section and wrote about both what we had done and why we had done it.

Next lesson we’re using iWeb to create a website to promote the houses – using the paragraphs and images collected this week.

The only real differences between this lesson and how I would have tackled it last year is that I would have put less emphasis on the use of language and been less considerate in the way I check to see how well students are doing. Learning and progress is NOT about recording and assessing formally every 20 minutes. It’s about making sure that students are actually… making progress! If they already know it at the start then there’s no point, if they haven’t twigged part-way through then you’re doing it wrong and if they don’t know something new by the end then you’ve just wasted one of only 30-odd lessons you’ll get with them.

That’s a pretty long post, and pretty wordy. Promise the next one will be a little shorter.