#teacher5aday update – Easter


So it’s the holidays and I’m not quite sure where this half term has actually gone. I am sure many people feel the same. Five short and intense weeks have passed since the last break and for the first time this half term I went up to @wildplace to volunteer. I hadn’t been for a number of weeks as the day job required things to be done and I haven’t been able to work in school with lessons to teach, meetings to attend, support to give and a year 11 tutor group almost in meltdown so I have had to work both Saturday & Sundays to keep my head above water. 

This morning has been absolutely brilliant, the weather was awful, quite foul considering summer time has started. Seemingly torrential downpours alongside almost gale force winds but it was lovely to not be sat at my desk working to update the RAP or intervention blogs, not marking, not planning but to be out in the fresh air albeit windy and rainy. Puddles, mud, fleeces, waterproofs, hats, walking boots and wellies were the order of the day except for one keeper in shorts!
It has been ace to catch up with the animal keepers and volunteer coordinator hearing updates of the new arrivals and changes to protocol to keep animals, visitors and volunteers safe. Exciting to hear that one of the keepers will be going on a ‘journey of a lifetime’ to Madagascar to work with lemur conservationists to share knowledge and understanding. Exhilarating to meet the new arrivals and to see some familiar furry faces this morning too.


In the midst of everything the ‘fun stuff’ had got lost along the wayside but this morning has reconfirmed to me the need to get out and volunteer, I feel refreshed, awake and enlightened, the cobwebs have been most definitely been blown away.
I feel so lucky that I am one of the volunteer rangers @wildplace as they are a fab bunch of amazing people. I’ve almost been there a year, it’s truly great to just put ‘all that other stuff’ to the side and actually do something for me, to have a rest and to get outside. 
The pile of marking, planning and paperwork is still there but having had sometime away from it I feel a tad less hassled by it. I just need to remember that. 
Images thanks to @wildplace and Brian O'Donoghue

Images thanks to @wildplace and Brian O’Donoghue


Adventures in my classroom 6 Revision strategies


Revision strategies in MFL

It’s that time again when controlled assessment has been marked, moderated and checked as there are less that 4 weeks left until we all dutifully post it off to examiners and moderators. So all that should be left to do is revise, well more revision, or to squeeze another spoken slot for that very borderline student just in case this is the task that finally brings the best out of them language-wise.
Two final assessments on the same day in the same session. One bite at the cherry and it’ll be done for another year. Brilliant yet terrifying!
We were invited to speak at pedagogy briefing last Friday about our MFL revision strategies to get the best out of students so here they are: 
  1. Revision T-shirts
  2. Top 100 exam fail words using Wordle or Tagxedo 
  3. Quizlet
  4. 9 questions (thanks @misskmcd)
  5. Postcards
See previous blog Adventures in my classroom 4.
In addition to this we have shared @andyphillipday ‘s revision preparation plan with students, to prepare the body and the mind, and have completed an Easter revision project using the amazing collection of resources on @gcsepod , @thisislanguage.com as well as issuing reading and listening papers created through Edexcel’s exam wizard since December so students are fully prepared for May 12th or May 15th! 
I also spent some time playing with the @photofunia app (check it out if you haven’t yet) and have created some fab postcards and posters. In addition to the constant verbal reminder we have decided to reinforce the revision message with fab posters which the school will be imminently poster bombed with. The first round of postcards went in the post yesterday with a general message for each student to ‘get to it’ and a more personal directed message based on the data and their performance to date. We have two more postcards motivators to go home between now and the exam. I hope they give students the lift, support or direction they might need across the two weeks over the Easter holidays. As they need to dig deep and get on with it. 
The Easter revision project was launched with them this week to complete and I know that some of them have already started as they can choose what they want to do. Choose which skill to develop and which components to complete after another self review using the exam syllabus so they know where their gaps are. And they are absolutely crystal clear that they have to do something about it. Little and often with review, chunking in to edible bites with 100% focus so no phones, music, background gaming, tweeting or social media-ing with a positive ‘I can do it, I am doing it right now’ mindset.
This week I also ditched the planned lessons to trial a new activity, following a swift phonecall with a friend. I gave them all an exam paper, a listening – the skill they seem to find the most challenging and frustrating. They all had the same tier, the challenge being issued that they need to get 80% of the marks. They were raring to go however I made them wait pondering the question ‘what advice they would give each other if I wasn’t there to direct and remind them with a pep talk in May 12th?’ They fell silent and I left them to think. While they thought about the question time was ticking away and I was willing them to not be in silence for much longer. But thinking takes time, and after a few minutes they started. Talking to each other about how to complete the paper and how to best use the 5 minute reading time they will have on May 12th. It was music to my ears as they were discussing how best to tackle this and to ‘do it like a boss’. They gave superb advice to each other and we collated it to remind ourselves:
  • read the questions, so you know what to anticipate and so you know exactly what’s coming
  • write as much as you can 
  • listen for gist but also the entire text
  • listen for negatives and little words like sans, sauf, tot, tard
  • write when you want at any point in the exam
  • review your answers 
  • think about word families, cognates and false friends for unknown elements
  • check what the example answer is
  • know how many marks there are attached to the question and make sure you provide the correct number of answers, the right quality of answers, in the correct language
  • always, always write an answer, never ever leave a gap
It’s not a groundbreaking list but they know it, exactly what they have to do and that’s the most important thing. 
So they completed the paper as per requirements with reading time and they asked when I would mark the papers to give them feedback. I had no intention of marking the papers, I had decided that the other year 11 group would be doing it. They were shocked. I repeated the activity with the other group and on Thursday distributed papers, green pens and the mark scheme asking them to get their ‘teacher on’. They duly got on with the task, checking responses and totaling up taking this extremely seriously. I then shared the Examiners Report with them detailing the successes and pitfalls of each of the questions completed. Some admitted they had fallen in to the ‘traps’ and they were very aware if the other students had too. Still with green pen in hand I asked the students to write some advice to their peer based on the performance, their experience and the examiners report highlighting 
what areas they should seek to develop. 
Yesterday students received their papers back and all of them glanced at the score and then turned to the advice written on the back page. Students were delighted with the feedback given, it was clear, precise and fair and gave them direction highlighting the next step. This process has been really illuminating, I would normally have marked their papers and given feedback but they seemed to really appreciate the feedback from their peers as were really motivated to act upon this. 
I can’t commend highly enough this process and I know time is very precious but it is absolutely worth it students were highly motivated and raring to go with increased vigour and  conviction.  It was an ace idea shared by a dear friend and one that I shall be repeating. 
Ultimately as @ictevangelist posted recently, there are no lifelines in the exam all so we have to do everything we can to help them to help themselves to do their absolute best. 

  Image thanks to @ictevangelist 

Unconditional Positive Regard


Unconditional Positive Regard was a phrase I first heard last year in @davewhitaker246 ‘s session at @nrocks14. I’ve said previously how the session hit me ‘right in the feels’, made me stop dead and think about how I could change the feelings of frustration and failure and work with my class, a year 8 class of complex characters with huge personalities and not a lot of love for French, rather than continue to battle with them. 

So that was it, I took on a new outlook with them, THE class, that since the start of the academic year no matter what I did, too many of them just wouldn’t arrive on time, settle, arrive with a pen or their French book, the horror!! And tragically, they refused to love the subject that I bounced out of bed to deliver every morning. It scared me that I knew they were my ‘worst’ class because until this point I had brilliant relationships with all of my classes who got on well in French with a sprinkling of ‘banter’ here and there – why well because I hadn’t experienced this. And I wasn’t happy that I was now almost two decades in to teaching!
 “Unconditional positive regard” he said, “batter them with kindness” and ensure warmth and support and stop throwing consequences at them that they didn’t care about. My school isn’t a bad school, far from it actually, but the building frustration I was experiencing was such that something had to be done. And it was my job to make it so, so did from the first lesson after #nrocks14
A year on I find myself almost yelling “I’m not going to give up on you because you can do this” and they can, they know they can, but they are teenagers who are über-conscious of losing face in front of their peers, the ones who they now seem to fancy. Pep talks and squawks of positivity, rewards and phone calls home and loving them for turning up and trying is what I consciously ensure I do every lesson. Even inviting in the Y9 pastoral team and SLT to celebrate their successes and progress. 
Sometimes it works and sometimes it really doesn’t and they have to leave our learning space to return at a later date greeted with a welcoming smile and they volunteer an apology. And it’s forgotten. We move on. We have to, grudges aren’t held. They get smiles & positivity instead.
I have grown to love teaching this class and they are far from perfect but they are making ace progress and I am proud to be their teacher because they challenge me every lesson and I love them for it. I don’t know how they are going to be or what will happen but even the best planned lessons can go awry but we always do our best together as a unit. I even have the sad feeling that in two terms I shan’t be teaching them as my class, any more because the class will cease to exist as a result of languages being an option at my school. 
This said, last week was options evening and so a guerrilla poster and postcard campaign took place thanks to the awesome app Photofunia (it’s ace and free!), the reprographics team and lovely admin ladies and stealthy student helpers plastering the school with fab imagery as departments are working their magic to entice students to opt for their subjects, choosing theirs above the many others. 
So today I had them, and I was desperate to ask but I was actually scared, concerned that there would only be a small few who had opted and I’d be gutted. So I pushed the question back down, ignoring the nagging feeling in my stomach and we produced some really brilliant creative written and spoken pieces. Then at 11:05am, just as morning break was approaching, one rather vocal lady voiced her concern that I ‘even hadn’t asked how many had opted’ for French when every other teacher had and then, as we were packing away, backpacked up and stony faced they raised their hands one by one and two thirds of the class have opted for French either as a first option or as a reserve. I was pleasantly surprised, delighted actually, truth be told, that they all wanted to continue learning a language. A language that they will never regret learning and one that shall open doors for them for the rest of their lives. 
So Unconditional Positive Regard really works, it’s hard work, day to day, lesson to lesson and term to term but with consistent and absolute effort we have done it. And I’m
absolutely delighted. I adore teaching this class and it’s an absolute pleasure today and it will be on Friday when I see them again despite it being the last day of term. 
So thank you @davewhitaker246 and @nrocks14 for the session that fabulous rainy day in Leeds for inspiring me then and helping me to win them back.