So today crept up really quickly. A colleague and I were talking first thing about how we had planned and organised Y11 provision, lesson activities weekly since September with our schools ‘100 days of Y11’ document (though clearly we started at 200+ days)
Today I had my last lessons with Y11 before their GCSE French listening and reading terminal assessments. I had a double (2 hrs) with one class and a single lesson with the other.
The plan was to ensure that they left the lessons, my classroom and school today with a huge smile on their faces and bursting with confidence for their two final MFL exams. Of course I plan to see them for a final spaced learning / warm up session on Tuesday morning however I wanted to ensure that they left today having no worries at all about Tuesday.
The aim was to fill in the remaining knowledge gaps. Students have been assessing themselves since midway through Y10, and throughout Y11 in earnest, to identify the gaps in their knowledge. Once these gaps have been identified we support them in closing the gap so the terminal listening and reading exams are not a chore nor something to be feared but a pleasure. We call them ‘random vocab surprise’ exams as we don’t know which out of the many topics they are going to have 8 or 10 questions (depending on tier) to complete. And they know that it is their job to ensure that they don’t give any marks away as a result of ‘not knowing’. Armed with recommended vocabulary lists, 100 most common words, @michellecairns ‘ wordles, plus advice from the Principal Examiners on where students lost marks, alongside text books and various other revision sheets we got work to plug the final gaps, albeit creatively.
In our MFL dept we discovered the revision tshirts concept at #TMBristol and the fabulous NQT +1 insisted we try it in 2014. It worked so brilliantly that we knew students would enjoy the freedom to learn and create through this superbly calming and fun strategy was to be employed again. Tshirts and coloured sharpies at the ready I let them get on with it and off they went, happy at being given a tshirt and a selection of sharpies to be creative. Below are some of the fab revision tshirts they worked on. All of my students have taken them home to continue adding to, to ensure the gaps are filled. In the lessons students were settled, serious and tirelessly searching their minds for what they didn’t know. It was so brilliant to see. I was, and am still so impressed at their amazing collaboration, tolerance and support for each other as well as creativity at a selection of songs being created and sung to learn ‘more random’ vocabulary to thwart the exam monster next week who’ll try to steal marks away. I even saw one student with completed exam papers searching for incorrect answers to ensure he nailed the topic should it appear next week!
In addition to this with Y11 classes we have been working on having a positive mindset with them to ensure that how they feel today and on Tuesday are the same, calm, relaxed and focused and ready to build upon and strengthen their controlled assessment marks. Walking them through their exams, we do a lot of walking-talking mocks in our school which I am sure many other schools do too but I wanted to take them to the spaces where their exams would be. I have been reading David Hodgson’s book – ‘The Buzz’ A practical confidence builder for teenagers. It has been a brilliant read and has helped me support the students I teach even more. (Definitely check it out! You won’t be disappointed!) Despite it being mid-lesson I took my class for a walk, the purpose was to visualise Tuesday morning, to talk about where we would look, where I would be, how they feel now and how this should be the same on Tuesday morning despite it being the exams. Their visualisations were brilliant, being very honest about fears that creep in and to deal with these swiftly and with confidence and also how they should and want to feel. I was blown away by how well they responded to this and I am certain that they will be more ready than ever to enter the exam room and do their absolute best based on my adventures with them today.
Back at the classroom we talked about the personal preparation plan. They know what is expected of them and this was a simple reminder to keep anxieties at bay. Thanks to the brilliant @andyphilipday for sharing his Geography original which I adapted. Then back to tshirts it was for a final burst.
In the last 5 minutes of the lesson I decided to give them their revision goodie bags. Everyone loves a gift and I thought that it would be fun to do it ‘revision style’ to keep them motivated and pepped up over the weekend. The revision bag contained a few items to help practically and emotionally. I have always bought Y11 students ‘lucky socks’ at this time of year again to keep anxieties at bay, so as they dived in to their bags one called out, ‘er Miss why socks?’ That was my cue, to inform them that they weren’t just socks!! They were lucky socks – blessed by fairies, leprechauns and any other good luck deity that they could think of. Smiles spread across the room like wildfire and it was then I told them that they had to be worn on Tuesday morning, without fail. Smiles turned in to grins as I recounted a student who tracked me down last year to inform me that he had completed his finals in Pharmacy and still wore his ‘lucky socks’ that I had bought him some time ago. He went on to say that for any exam he had ever completed since his GCSE French oral he couldn’t think about wearing another pair of socks. I glanced around the room and the sparkles in their eyes shone and the wonder on their faces was an absolute joy to see.
I can’t wait to see their smiling faces on Tuesday morning, and their multicoloured lucky socks giving them confidence and helping them believe that they can absolutely do it.
Interestingly I was informed by several students who came dashing to my classroom at the end of the school day, that the quietest, most studious non-confrontational student in our class dealt with a peer belittling the gift of the socks in another lesson. Apparently the quiet student walked over to the more vocal one and audibly cried ‘they aren’t just socks, she gave us LUCKY SOCKS’ then returned to his seat to continue working. The more vocal student was speechless. I’m astounded that a pair of socks can give such confidence!
Ultimately the MFL team have been working really hard to improve confidence as well as skills and knowledge and I hope that on Tuesday, and Friday, they stay afloat and are smiling.