Having almost completed a single rotation of a new two week timetable, I’m still smiling. Smiling because being in the classroom with students is totally and utterly brilliant. I’m one of those people who loves it passionately and misses it immensely during the school holidays. I am also one of those people who, despite starting their 18th year teaching, still has the ‘back to school’ worries and they hit me this year at about 4:30pm on Sunday September 4th.
I don’t have many new classes this academic year as within the MFL team I like as much continuity as is effective for the students, their enjoyment and progress whilst also considering what is good for my amazing team of fantastic teachers. However there are always new, more grown up faces at KS4 and the new year 7 cohort, new to our school and eager, if not a little scared, to learn the array of new subjects, and this is always a fresh challenge to get them hooked in to learning in your classroom!
At my school they’ll learn 12 and for me it’s important to make sure that as a classroom teacher first and foremost I’m doing my utmost to keep them motivated, excited and most definitely hooked in to learning languages! And every year I take time to ponder with the team and alone; what went well, what was enjoyed, how can the language learning experience be more engaging and exciting to ensure the hooks are there; fresh, new and exciting, present in schemes of learning and weekly planning grids, feature prominently in lesson activities, bursting from project work through to the purposeful homework reinforcing the classroom experience ensuring that we continue to have them hooked and learning, making progress, enjoying languages and smiling! Working with students asking for their honest feedback of my lessons, my teaching and the learning activities is a very daunting task especially when compared against the vast array of subjects they experience and other teachers they have but to me it is is an important non-negotiable each academic year which allows for purposeful co-construction to keep the learning journeys and activities engaging, relevant and fresh for the students in my school. And me on my toes!
If you have ever heard the rather fabulous @hywel_roberts speak (author of Oops! https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1781350094/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474059627&sr=8-1&pi=SY200_QL40&keywords=hywel+roberts&dpPl=1&dpID=41lTVjh7IkL&ref=plSrch) he recalls fondly and vividly his school years running to the lesson of a particular teacher who always brought something spectacular in a jar! What. A. Hook. The utter excitement and glee, as well as horror and morbid curiosity, that ‘the jar’ and its peculiar pickled contents must have stirred across that school must have been akin to a tsunami rising up through the students – What a delight for the students in that school!
You’ll be pleased to know my hook, or collection of hooks do not appear in a jar. It doesn’t instil horror nor fear and most definitely will not result in nightmares. The hook for me is the way in, when faced with 1 or 34 students, familiar or brand spanking new, it’s about getting those students learning, and loving it, so at the end of a hour or two when you tell them it’s packing up time they use the phrases ‘wow really, that lesson shot past’ or ‘that felt like 5 minutes miss’. It’s about getting them in, getting them going; leading them towards the ‘full on doing and learning zone’ so imagination and curiosity take hold and the learning activities on offer entice them deeper. The hook is encouraging the children to enter the ‘wonderland of learning’ and be so ‘in-the-moment’, deep within the ‘flow’ that concepts such as time, hunger, the thunderstorm raging outside the window and their next lesson cease to be of interest. It is for me very much about being me, the professional teacher with a smile and a story to share as well as an array of secret weapons of tried and tested activities which will engage the most reticent of learners and have them hooked on learning even if they make slow and steady progress.
At #PedagooHampshire16 Candida Gould and I are delighted to be able to share some foundational principles, strategies and hooks to ensure you achieve high levels of engagement and excitement in your classroom whilst also developing your arsenal of secret weapons to engage, excite and enthuse the lucky students who you’ll be teaching this year who might not always be smiling at the start of your lesson! All of which have been road-tested this last fortnight by my students for extra robustness! We look forward to meeting you and sharing your classroom experiences.