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Idea of the Month Archive

A Taste of PEEL archive

All of the following articles address the teacher concern - students don't think about why or how they are doing a task. Further articles mentioned in the test can be found on the PEElL database PEEL in Practice

Reverse learning PEEL procedure  A42 (Posted 26/03/2018)

This procedure involves beginning with what might otherwise be an end point in teaching a piece of content reversing the learning. Instead of beginning with theory and moving to examples, the teacher begins with examples of a new idea or concept and then has the students work backwards from these to develop the relevant organising idea or ideas.

This makes theory more accessible and relevant as students are more likely to perceive a need for it to explain the examples they have seen. For example, instead of teaching the formation of coastal landforms and then going on the excursion to see them, the teacher Cheryl Edwards (Reverse learning) took the students out with cameras as a starting point. They took lots of photos and made some observation notes. Back in the classroom the photos were analysed to identify the important physical features and then students researched the forms to find out how they had been formed.

In another case, the teacher Donna Jennings (Web based scavenger hunt) sent students to view animations showing the nervous system on the internet. They used the animations to make notes involving diagrams, flow charts and also answered teacher questions.

Allowing students to learn from their mistakes is a form of reverse learning where instead of the teacher insisting on all the planning be done before students engage in a task students attempt the task then go back to see where they went wrong. Russell Kealey (Slightly reverse learning) describes a media class where the footage was an absolute disaster. This led straight into a discussion of what the class needed to do to fix it. Compared to his previous approach of simply insisting that the pre-planning was done, allowing the class to make mistakes and learn from them produced more effective learning and also a much greater understanding of why so much planning is necessary in a video / film production. It also resulted in the students being much more motivated to complete the necessary planning.

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Debriefing - why are we doing this? (Posted 19/3/2018)

In the following article Judie Mitchell makes very clear to her students the purpose of the tasks they are doing, finding that this improves their understanding.

Throughout my teaching I encourage the question why are we doing this? I am reversing the roles here in that I am asking them a question that students, often with an implicit criticism in mind, sometimes ask teachers. I have an agenda that I expect the students to gradually build the understandings that firstly I have a set of big ideas and secondly that every activity we do is connected in some way to at least one of these. 

My first stage then, is that I explicitly raise the question why are we doing this? . Once I have made a big deal of this for a term or so, I then switch to the less specific  Does anyone have a question   and someone will always come up with why did we do this? again. Eventually they start to ask this unprompted. I always debrief on the importance of the question, as well as answering the question with my agenda being that, over time, they will start to respond to these questions in terms of our big ideas.

Later in the course, as they develop these skills and understandings,  students will ask questions that do make links to big ideas, such as:

Is this conflict in Syria (discussing an article in the newspaper) about religion, like the things that are happening in Afghanistan with the Taliban?

After watching a Youtube clip on the history of Israel, one student noticed  They used really emotional words at the end, does that mean it s  biased towards Israel? (They learn about emotive language in English).

The why did we do this question is  part of my end of lesson debriefing procedures. Other ways of debriefing are to stop and reflect during the lesson, and ask questions such as:

What has what we are doing now got to do with the point of this task?

Why did I ask you that question? .... to do that task? ....To write that way?

Did you notice? ....   E.g. how Steph made a link to the topic/question/last comment?


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Assessing Previous Learning

The following is an extract from an article by Kristyn D'Aprano.(Posted 12/03/2018) It details how Kristyn encouraged her students to reflect on their learning and why they were doing particular tasks. The full article can be found in PEEL in Practice the online database which contains over 1500 articles and teaching ideas and over 200 teaching strategies.

The students have been documenting their learning. They have done this by using digital cameras and their mobile phones to photograph their work. This way they have a clear visual record, outside of their workbooks, that allows them as individuals, and as a class, to see the work and visualize the thinking they have been doing - this also allows us to  examine and discuss the ways different learners and thinkers respond to the same question or instruction. That we have an Interactive White Board (IWB) in class enhances this as both record keeper and display case for previous lessons. I have kept track of their photos and given them access to them when required on both the intranet and using the photo site www.flickr.com  By starting these reflective thinking routines at year 7, I hope to improve their ability  to access knowledge for revision and help them take further responsibility for their learning.  Having completed the content of the unit I dedicated the last week of term to reflecting on the learning they had done. To do this I used two procedures spread over two 75 minute lessons: Past Present Future in lesson one and Before, Before, After, After in lesson two.

1. Past-Present-Future (P.P.F)

The natural use of this activity is to show students how content is linked from lesson to lesson. A student begins with a visual stimulus and must state what has happened in the image, what has happened before and what happens later. This is a way of accessing prior knowledge or just covering historical content. It also has a broader use in allowing students to discuss their own learning by focusing on particular activities or tasks.

In their initial study of fables, one of the procedures used was the Think Pair Share to brainstorm their ideas under the question What is a narrative? For their Past-Present-Future, the students were given an image of two of their peers sitting together comparing notes. Most students picked up that this was the share part of that day, having been prompted with regular visual reminders, in the form of photos, of what we had covered previously. The goal of this procedure was to build the students understanding of the procedures we had used in class to access prior knowledge and build on it. I was looking for students to be able to articulate the task by making sense of the Think Pair Share. The Past-Present-Future procedure encourages students to describe what they are learning, building their language for learning and enabling them to more effectively discuss not only what they are doing, but how and why they are learning. 

My reasoning for using the Past-Present-Future to specifically look at the Think Pair Share is that this procedure forms the foundation of my brainstorming procedure in early Year 7. I encourage students to think independently and then confer with a partner before sharing with a group. Using P.P.F. to reflect on the Think Pair Share allows students to have a ready reference to how the Think Pair Share works that also includes in their own words why the Think Pair Share is a procedure worth using.

The following lesson I guided the students through a procedure that again relied on a visual stimulus but required them to think about the entire unit and reflect on what they had learnt across six weeks. Having seen the Before-Before After-After procedure modeled during P.D. run by a Rosehill colleague  and the table used by the students to record their thinking and ideas, I decided there was great potential for its application in class.

Rather than use Before-Before After-After as an unlocking tool, I have used it to encourage the students to link a terms work and reflect on it using a single graphic organiser. Using an image of one students work from the centre of the English unit on Fables, I have given the students the opportunity to look at the entire units work, see the causes and effects of their learning, reflect on the process and thinking involved in getting to the final story and, hopefully, be able to transfer their understanding of the process and the steps to their next writing task.

The first section contains both the prior knowledge and the knowledge building by asking open questions (What is a narrative? What is a graphic organiser?)

The second BEFORE contains the knowledge building and more specific focus of the unit (fables.)

The middle section contains the stimulus- a photo of one student s planning for their own fable. Interestingly the students identified this in a number of ways. Some identified the student and referred to her by name, others realised that this was supposed to represent the process, not a particular student, so there was some clarification of what language they should use when referring to the work they had done.

The AFTER sections contain the drafting process of the fable. The final product, their own original fable, fills the last AFTER. In addition they had to expand on what they had done and suggest how they could use what they had learnt in the future. This extended their thinking to consider future applications of the past unit.

The Before-Before After-After was a rich activity in terms of showcasing the different interdisciplinary parts of the unit as the students could now see on an A3 sheet with the specific learning goals and outcomes of the narrative unit, including the content focus (narratives/fables), thinking focus (graphic organisers) and literacy focus (paragraphing, show dont tell etc). This then formed the basis of their movie which aimed to document their learning. The film had to use both the visual pictures they had taken and a running commentary of what they had learnt, how and why they had gone about it in that way. The Before-Before After-After gave them a clear picture of what this movie would cover by looking at each aspect of the unit.

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Animal Research by Tanya Whiteside (posted 5/03/2018)

This article is an extract from a wiki set up to document the research of the PEEL Sharing Pedagogical Purposes Group. This group has been investigating new ways of working with students. Some of the themes being investigated by participants included:

  • Doing things WITH students, not for or to them.
  • Teacher models being a learner/thinker
  • Remembering/recounting vs reflecting
  • Noticing good learning (and getting excited)
  • Students select procedures.
  • The physical environment
  • The emotional environment
  • Language for learning
  • Learning as a journey.

In this article, Tanya shows how working with young children, she was able to get students much more involved in tasks so they were really thinking about what and why they were doing particular activities.

As well as our study groups this term, the children in my class (Grade 1/2) were also interested in learning about sea animals and creatures, as this was evident in the questions they were asking at the start of the topic. These were nearly all to do with animals!

In our class, I asked the children to start thinking about one animal they don t know a lot about, that they want to learn about. They were told to start thinking about a week before we got to the first lesson. When we got to this lesson, we brainstormed all the animals they had been thinking about and there were lots! From this, the children were asked to continue to think for a few days about what animal they wanted to research about. 

The first lesson involved getting lots of books out and looking at pictures of our animals and having a go at drawing some. I stressed the drawings were not to be animated versions with cute smiles etc, they need to be sketches and try to look like something they had seen in a book.

WOW!  The drawings have blown me away.  WOW WOW WOW.

We have spent 3 afternoons on the drawings alone and trying different pictures and different ways of drawing. We turned these into art works - I photocopied all their drawings and they chose the one they wanted to use on their art work. We painted backgrounds and folded paper to give our art work a 3D effect.

This morning I asked the children to think about a procedure we could use in the afternoon that would help us to note down what we know about our animal now. I said I didn t want to know now, but to start thinking about it.

The afternoon came and we had 7 suggestions of procedures we could use to note down our prior knowledge;

- fish bone

- make a list

- venn diagram

- fact file

- brainstorming

- KWL

- semantic map

I accepted all responses but said we have to look at why/why not these are appropriate. We looked at the semantic map and I asked what the children thought about this. I asked if we could add our new learning to it at the end- yes we could, so it would work. Brainstorming our ideas would also work. Making a list, yes we could do that, then add new ideas in a different colour at the end. KWL - could we use this?  Jayden, "Yes, because it s what we know and want to know and what we learnt after".  As for Venn Diagram, I asked what was this for...Courtney, "It s for saying what is the same and what is different". I gave them the word, comparing . I asked if we were doing this at this point? No, so maybe it would be useful later on. Fish Bone - I asked them to think whether they have that many ideas at the moment? They shook their heads and thought it might be better at a later stage. Same with the Fish Bone - Do you know 8 things at the moment about your animal? Everyone said no. 

So together we chose the procedures, and the children chose what one they would use to note down their prior knowledge. I didn t give any templates, they had to draw it up themselves.  This worked really well.

AND THERE'S MORE..

The following lesson involved research where the children used Encarta Kids to look up their animal. With my support, some children also surfed the Internet, using Google as the search engine.  Information found by the children was printed off.  In the days to follow the children used this information, as well as books in the classroom or from home.  The children got highlighters out (at their suggestion) to highlight interesting or important information. We first discussed what might include interesting or important information - size, habitat, what it eats, mating, colour and so on.

The next 2 - 3 sessions were spent reading and searching for more information. I then asked the children to choose a procedure to display what they had found from their research. We again brainstormed procedures that could help us; fact files, semantic maps, lists, labelled diagrams. Again, the Venn diagram came up and we had to discuss the use of this - where we looking at two animals at this stage or just one? I had some templates of procedures for the children to use, and if I didn t have one they needed, they drew it up.

Following this, my initial thought at the start of the unit was to get the children to decide how they would present their research to the class. However, time really got away from us, so instead of the choice element for this part, I suggested to the children I would teach them about making posters - they were all very happy with this. From my prior knowledge of the children, most of them did not know a lot about presenting work - eg. borders, headings, pictures etc. I do believe you need to teach children things like this. So step by step, we did this part together. I suggested ideas for borders, and the children offered more suggestions, and then everyone went away and did it how they wanted. We came back as a group and suggested ideas for headings. Each child went and did their heading. We talked about adding a picture to the poster and where we might put it, eg. in the centre of the page. We talked about now using the information from our procedure/s (some children got through more than one) to add it to the poster. 

The posters turned out a treat! It was a worthwhile investment spending time to teach the making of a poster. It is my thought that next term we will make posters for something else, and I will be able to leave the children to it as they now have the skills to work independently on it. I will then be looking for children who make links to these very posters and note how they plan their work.

The children completed self assessments on it using the Quality/Quantity grid we made as a class at the start of the year. They were really proud of their posters and so they should be, they were fantastic!

The children presented their poster and research to each other in small groups of 5 or 6 children. Each child was given another child to peer assess - I told them they were going to be the teacher and comment on someone else s work and presentation.  Following the presentations, the children completed a peer assessment page.

I asked the children, "Why did we bother sharing our work?"- several knew, Jonte responded, "So we can learn about other animals and see what other people did". 

It turned out to be a great sequence of work. I am now thinking of ways to do more of this next term.

The first four posts for 2018 focused on one of the Teacher Concerns identified by teachers in the PEEL project - Students don't think about the meaning of what they read and hear.

This article by Sara Taylor (posted 26/02/2018) describes how Sara used a different technique which had the effect of stimulating student reflection, constructive argument and analysis. While this is an example from literature study it could be adapted to any area where a deeper understanding of material is desired.

Earlier this year I was teaching a wonderful but complex text The Last Life by Claire Messud - complex in the sense that it had a familial timeline extending back to the early 1830s in Algeria and a contemporary timeline which was the life of the protagonist Sargesse La Basse, who at various times of her life lived in America and France. While written in the first person, Sargesse has conversations with members of her extended family who tell stories about themselves and their ancestors. To add to the complexity different versions of the same story sometimes occur. As the book covers a ten year period in Sargesse s life and we have these flash backs , the text is quite dense.

To assist students to come to some understanding of the sequence of the contemporary and historical events, and therefore the structure of the text, I required each one to write a brief summary of a couple of chapters . Every chapter was reduced to a paragraph. I collated these summaries,I then eliminated all references to chapters and pages and cut them into chapters. I put a couple of chapters in each envelope and gave each student an envelope. I then provided them with coloured paper and asked them to cooperatively arrange their chapters in some sort of format that made the structure clear. I did not mention the word timeline. They needed to move from their seats to the back of the room where I had pushed some tables together.

Getting them to move was initially a challenge - they were so used to sitting in the same place, facing the front and writing and discussing texts from that position. They also knew that I had collated the chapters so wondered why I did not just hand it to them. Once over that hurdle, coped with by saying we are trying something different today to make sure you really understand how the text works as a narrative and family history (I wasn t quite confident enough to go down the metacognitive road), I let them commence the task. At first they had no idea what I wanted. They opened their envelopes and put their chapters with everyone else's - so that idea of taking responsibility for their own chapters at least initially, went out the window. It took sometime for the notion of a timeline to evolve. Most of them sat down and were reluctant to move around to see where their chapter should fit into a chronological sequence. Eventually Alex said I know what she wants us to do. She wants us to put them in a timeline as distinct from the order in the book. As they started to do this they realized they needed a long piece of paper on which to stick each chapter. Alex proved to be far more astute in seeing the logic in my approach and guided the rest of the class. I imagine I would have had to be more didactic if no one had taken the lead. Then someone said, What about the historical stories? Do we put these in Sargesse s timeline? Eventually they created a second timeline above Sargesse s but as the historical stories were not told in chronological order within Sargesse s timeline and there were sometimes different versions of the same event, the whole exercise became quite complex. Eventually two timelines were created one from 1830 to 1960 and another from 1989 - 1999. Arrows linked the historical events/stories to where they were told in Sargesse s narrative.

The students struggled with the purpose of the task, the fact that it was okay to argue about the order of events, and that they had to sometimes acknowledge that their knowledge of the text was not as good as it could have been. However, they did acknowledge that: it assisted them to sequence events; it highlighted the complex structure of the text; it allowed them to discuss the nature of the family s past and its migration to France, and it opened up discussion about the family s impact on Sargesse's relationships and her view of herself. One heated discussion arose over Sargess' s problematic relationship with her disabled brother simply because that confronting episode had to be placed correctly. While the task was originally created to assist students with their knowledge of the events of the text, it actually provided an opportunity to probe deeper into its themes and characterisation, and to analyse the purpose of its structure. The product while valuable was not the only benefit. The process proved to have unexpected benefits in terms of stimulating student reflection, constructive argument and analysis.

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In the following article (posted 19/02/2018) Vojtech Markus explains how he uses analogies to promte better understanding in his students. Althouhg this is a Science example it can readily be applied to ther subject areas.

Introduction

A continual challenge in Science classes is to try and get students to make connections with concepts that may appear abstract or unimaginable. One of the strategies often utilised is the idea of analogies. We have all used them at some stage in our teaching. One of the most common in biology would be the "cell is like a city". In this article I would like to share a few other biology analogies that I have used with the Year 12 class that have led to some interesting results. I came across the analogies mentioned while searching the internet.

The physical analogy: explaining enzyme interactions

It is difficult to imagine the interaction between enzyme and substrate at the chemical level. After covering some theory in a previous lesson, I brought to class a bucket, basketball, baseball, golf ball (or marble), tennis ball and my trusty baseball glove. I asked one of the students to lob the basketball towards me and then proceeded to catch it in the bucket. At this point I flipped the bucket over to show that the basketball was fitting tightly in the bucket. The next step was to ask a student to lob the golf ball at the bucket. In this case, the golf ball was able to fit into the bucket but when flipped it fell out, thereby demonstrating that the enzyme-substrate interaction involves a "snug" fit and is specific in nature.

Now it was time for the baseball glove. I asked another student to throw the baseball towards me. It enabled me to show how the glove s shape moulded around the baseball. At this point one of the students called out "It s an induced fit". I couldn t help but smile. The next step was to have one of the students throw the basketball towards me. As you can imagine student laughter was plentiful as I tried to catch the basketball with the baseball glove. Again, the specific nature of enzymes was highlighted again. The final demonstration involved the use of a tennis ball. With the tennis ball snugly in the glove, I asked yet again for the baseball to be thrown. Before the baseball was even thrown students were already calling out that the tennis ball was acting like a competitive inhibitor.

The party mixing analogy: explaining the role of enzymes

By year 12 going to parties, dating and socialising are an on going topic of discussion amongst students. In this analogy, I refer to a party where the chance for someone to meet a potential partner can be seen as a random event which involves moving around and "bumping" into people. The opportunity for time to talk to each other and ultimately bond is limited. This process, however, can be quickened and strengthened with the assistance of a third party. If there is a mutual friend at the party who introduces two people to each other then that is simulating what an enzyme does when it brings two reactants together.

The use of analogies is something that I hadn t tried before and the effect this had on the students wasn't revealed until a later lesson about the transmission of a nerve impulse. The propagation of an action potential along a neuron can become a complicated concept and easily confuse students. While demonstrating the "all or nothing" idea by referring to my arm moving or not moving, one student commented "Is it sort of like a Mexican wave?" "What an insightful comment", I thought to myself. A discussion followed about how the Mexican wave was like an action potential moving along a nerve. Students began to search for any connection between the analogy and theory. One example was the idea of a threshold being reached (represent by the arms being half way up) and then exceeded (hands go all the way up). If a person put their hands up then this was the stimulus for the next person. In addition, some students also mentioned inaccuracies with the analogy. Of course the students couldn t resist and began their own Mexican wave in the classroom. Why not?

Evaluation

I had not expected the students to come up with their own analogy for the nerve impulse. Perhaps it was the earlier analogies that I had presented to them that assisted or inspired them to try and visualise some of the more intangible concepts. Irrespective of the accuracy of any analogy, they are still worthwhile if students are asked to evaluate their accuracy, searching for valid connections and also determine where the analogy falls down, all examples of high-order thinking. Based on the experiences in this classroom, having students physically involved and using an analogy that is very relevant to them (at this point of time in their lives) helps develop a stronger learning experience. Upon reflection, the "party" scenario could have been given to them as comic strip which required them to look for similarities with the theory. Another possibility is to role play the "party scenario", an idea I will consider in the future.

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Active Listening

The following article by Sarah Langford (Posted 15/02/2018) highlights the importance of developing active listening skills in students if teachers are to develop greater understanding and improved learning in their students.

My Year 6/7 group is particularly sociable and chatty. During group discussions they have a tendency to become distracted and off-task. While these discussion times result in students becoming quite motivated, they subsequently forget the communication rule of "no calling out!" Whilst it is great that students wish to share ideas with the group, it is imperative that this is a controlled process so that chaos doesn t reign. If students call out ideas, they miss hearing others ideas and some students get all the "airtime".

I therefore decided to focus on "students actively listening during discussion time" for my involvement with PEEL. I introduced the topic to my students firstly, by discussing poor and good learning behaviours in general. We talked about some examples and what impact they had on the students learning. We then discussed our target which was to focus on students actively listening to one another and not interrupting during discussion times. We talked about why we had a rule of "no calling out" using the "Five Whys Strategy". I asked the question, "Why don t we call out during discussions?" Then continued to ask "Why?" of the responses that followed. We reinforced the need for such a rule to exist.

A strategy I used with the students during brainstorming activities was to get them to jot down their ideas rather than call them out. After I'd given them time to write down their ideas I would randomly select students to share an idea with the group. This way students who don' t normally volunteer to share ideas can also be included in the discussion. Alternatively, in groups, I get students to construct charts where they brainstorm and record all ideas and then one member reports back to the group.

During discussion times I say to students "no hands up". After giving them some thinking time I select individuals to share ideas without getting everyone to write down ideas. I find this strategy is more useful when time doesn t allow for students to write down their ideas. When time is more plentiful (not often, but occasionally!) I get students to sit in a sharing circle and each share an idea as we go around the circle. This encourages all students to share thoughts and builds confidence in public speaking.

If students continue to call out during discussions I stop the discussion and ask the student what rule they have broken, and why the need for such a rule to exist. This simply reminds the student they are breaking a rule that we decided upon together at the beginning of the year. When following up from this I would choose only students who were doing the "right thing" to answer questions and share ideas. I also engage in "tactical ignoring" those students who call out, and do not select them to share their thoughts.

I also acknowledge those students doing the right thing. This is in the form of positive feedback to them and occasionally a reward if students achieve a goal - i.e., in my classroom, students get a "pot luck" (raffle ticket) when they achieve something, and they then go into the draw. At the end of the week a ticket is drawn from the "Pot Luck Box" and the winner chooses a prize. A goal to suit this focus might be if the students don t call out in a set time frame (the goal needs to be seen as achievable by the student in order for them to be successful). I do, however, keep this strategy to a minimum as I try to avoid extrinsic rewards and focus on encouraging intrinsic rewards.

In discussing all of these everyday teaching practices I realise that I still don't really address the question, "What can we do teach active listening and teach students to value listening?" In order for students to actively engage in listening, I believe that the tasks set by the teacher need to rely upon students listening and acting upon other students opinions and ideas in order to be successful. For example, when students make verbal presentations to the class, peers might assess the presentation through constructing questions based on the content of the presentation. They than have to actively listen in order to construct their own understanding to form a basis for their questions.

A game I play with my students which involves a form of active listening is "Beat the Panel". The object of the game is to gain the main ideas of a text. The game needs 4 students who volunteer to be "the experts" on the topic in question. They form the panel. All class members then have time to read through the text and pick out the main points. They then write questions about the text; these must be able to be answered by the information they are given. The panel doesn t write questions, it continues to re-read the text to absorb as much information as possible. After a time the information is taken away from the panel members and they answer questions from the floor. For each correct answer they gain 5 points; incorrect responses lose 5 points. Students then actively listen to classmates questions in order to be successful.

Actively listening is also crucial when introducing a task to students. As a teacher, I need to focus on making my "tuning in" activities exciting and unique in order to engage my students in active listening. After all, there is only a narrow "window of opportunity" in order to engage students. I think the key to all of this is variety. In order to keep students excited and on their toes I need to provide various "attention getting" and "tuning in activities" for, as they say, "variety is the spice of life".

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This is the first of a series of posts where we will highlight a number of ways teachers have addressed the problem of students not thinking about what they read or hear in class. All of the teachers are aiming to develop deeper learning and greater understanding in their students.

The Harvey Krumpet Project by Damien Toussaint   (Posted 5/02/2018)

To start with I wanted to do a number of things including:

  • introduce them to a range of good question asking techniques and move them beyond basic comprehension questions;
  • help them understand that some questions are better than others;
  • empower them with a range of question asking starters and stems to help them develop their own questions;
  • use short animated films as a way of engaging the kids and encouraging them to develop their own questions.

The first activity involved a couple of Adam Elliot s (of Harvey Krumpet fame) early short animated films.

I had the students watch the film Uncle without the sound. I wanted them to explore their ideas through questioning. I wanted to shift their thinking from Sunday afternoon, passive film spectators to participating, active, analytical film critics. I wanted them to engage with the visual imagery the film used and focus on how the film created meaning and conveyed its message. However, I really wanted to use the film without sound activity as a stepping-stone to the kids devising their own questions as a way of making sense of the film s or text s ideas, characters etc and eventually promote some discussion about some questions being better or more effective than others.

As expected, the kids found watching a film without the sound daunting and confusing and some of their questions included "Why are we doing this Sir?", "Why watch a film if we can t hear what s going on?", "How are we going to know what the film s about if we can t hear it?" and "This is stupid!". I wanted to try and move them from being passive film observers to thinking harder about what the film was doing and trying to say - the meaning . Their task was to record their own list of questions that they could ask me (or someone who had seen the film) to help them work it out . The film only runs for about 4 minutes, so we watched the film in short sections and I gave them a chance to record their questions as they watched. From the moment the film started, the kids were transfixed. Looking at the detailed questions more carefully, it was obvious there was some hard thinking going on. I then asked them to organise their questions into Groups (if they could). Some kids could do this, others really struggled. In most cases, the kids who had difficulty forming groups only had one group which came to be known as FACTUAL questions. Most of these questions started with What , Who , or Why . Only Mat and Sarah had two groups, including questions like: "What if the Uncle got better treatment in the nursing home?"

"What if Uncle s family kept in contact with him?"

We then moved into a discussion about the types of questions the kids had asked and formed two groups - FACTUAL QUESTIONS and POSSIBILITY (their term but also referred to as HYPOTHETICAL by me) questions. The kids swapped questions with a partner and for homework they had to have a go at answering some of their partner s questions through speculating about possible answers. Part of this homework activity was for them to build an interpretation of the film by being able to justify their responses. An answer would be no acceptable if there was not a reason or some justification included.

The next lesson I wanted to introduce them to another two groups of questions. I split the kids into groups of 5 and handed each group an envelope that contained a mixed up bunch of question stems. They had about 10 minutes to sort through the question stems and sort them into groups of their groups choosing. I explained that they would need to think about forming new groups of questions. This jigsaw activity and post-activity discussion resulted in the class deciding on two new groups of questions - OPINION questions and COMPARE / CONTRAST questions.

(Later that week I talked with a Science teacher about the idea of watching a science documentary without the sound and ask the students to write the narrative for the documentary as a way of demonstrating their knowledge and understanding of a topic or idea. Small groups of students could be given a 10-minute section of a documentary and asked to become experts in that area and write the narrative. We talked about the potential of this as a unit test, a way of developing students literacy skills in Science or as revision in using some of the fantastic Discovery Channel Science documentaries without the sound and asking students to write the narration for different sections or as a way of promoting more thoughtful student questions.)

We then watched the next film in the series Cousin which was only 3 minutes long. This time (before they were allowed to watch the film with sound - at this stage the kids would do anything just to hear the real narrative and work out some of the more confusing and ambiguous parts of the film) the kids had to use the all of the 4 question groups and decide on questions they would use to work out the characters, meaning and themes being explored in Cousin . This time, they were only allowed to create 5 questions from each group, giving them 20 questions. I limited the number of questions they could create to encourage them to develop 5 good questions.

Before watching the films with sound, to explore their thinking and their questions and to engage them in some creative writing, I asked to them swap their questions with their partner, have a go at answering their questions and then write their own original narrative to accompany the short film of their choice (they could choose between Uncle or Cousin ). I also gave them the option of writing a 1 st or 3 rd person narrative.

This was an amazing activity to do and a great way to make the point about developing your own interpretation of a text and being able to justify it. The narratives that the kids wrote were not only fantastic and highly imaginative pieces of creative writing, but they also demonstrated how I started to realise that this initial activity was leading to so many different learning opportunities.

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These samples taken from PEEL resources illustrate how PEEL teachers have worked in their classrooms. All of these were posted in 2017.

PEEL procedures, developed by classroom teachers over many years provide a way of promoting deeper learning in students in a number of different areas. Below are a number of proceures/strategies that aim to improve student understanding and encourage deeper thinking. Articles mentioned in the text  can be found on the PEEL in Practice database.

B11 Semantic maps (Posted 07/08/2017)

Figure 1 shows a handout given to students to construct a semantic map, in this case on convict life in the early years of white settlement in Australia.

Figure 1. A Template for a Semantic Map

As with all semantic maps, the central theme is placed in the centre. Between three and five categories relevant to this theme are placed around the map and under each of these, the students list (in dot point form) as many things that they know, think they know, believe or have some basis for an educated guess about. It is essential to stress that one cannot be wrong on a semantic map; its purpose is to bring up as much as possible of what the learner thinks about a topic before there is any classroom teaching or other activity associated with it. This helps the learner to make links between new information and their prior beliefs and knowledge.


Figure 2 contains the semantic map of a Grade 5 student. It shows how the semantic map has been revisited and amended several times during a unit on Caves to help the student monitor (her) learning. In this case, the teacher had begun with three categories to think about, however the student had initially added two more - Climit (sic) and Features - and later had added another (Area). She had also added, in a different coloured pencil (shown here with dots) new things that she had learnt during the unit. She could have crossed out some things where she had changed her mind, in this case there were no examples of this.

Figure 2. A Semantic Map

Semantic maps can be done individually or as a group activity. They help students group and organise their thinking as well as identify areas where they agree or disagree with other students. The categories can be determined by the teacher or by a teacher led discussion. Very young students can use drawings or a mixture of drawings and writing to get down their ideas.

They are most often used very early in a unit, but they can be used (for example) to summarise the content of a novel (eg plot, setting, characters and main events).

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B23 Before, before, After, after (Posted 30/7/2017)

This procedure was developed by Jo Osler and Jill Flack. The procedure involves students brainstorming what they can see in a visual stimulus such as a photo or drawing. Then they brainstorm what they thought could have happened before the photo, then after, then before their before and finally after their after.  They do this in three stages - ie they do not begin with a five panel layout, rather with a focus solely on now .  It is important to make it clear that the students are speculating, engaging in talk which is exploratory, tentative and hypothetical (PEEL Principle 5) where there is no right answer, but that they are making inferences from clues in the picture - not just engaging in wild flights of fantasy.

A photo of the pyramids for example, led to great thinking about the effect of tourism thousands of years later.  Similarly a photo of the bombing of Pearl Harbour will generate different sorts of brainstorming if the timeline is days then months, or years then decades.  This decision on timeline could, of course, be taken by the student. 

A variation in English was to read a story to a class, stop in the middle and get the students to complete the story for after and go beyond the timeline of the story for the after after .  They then wrote an alternative to the story for the before and events before the story began for the before before .

One use of procedure has been as a precursor to the students writing a creative story based on the picture - all their thinking about before and after leads to much richer and more creative stories.  Another use has been to get students into an issue: a photo of a column of refugees walking along a railway line in Bosnia stimulated an excellent discussion that opened up a range of issues about why and how people become refugees and what can happen to them when they do.

Kristyan D Aprano (Assessing previous learning and teaching links in learning) made a quite different use of the procedure when he used it (in two ways) to get students to link different episodes of their own learning using digital photos of them engaged in activities that were stored on an interactive whiteboard. He firstly used a photo of students engaged in the share part of a Think Pair Share to reflect on what they had done relevant to this in the lesson before and then the lesson after. Then he used all five stages of this procedure to encourage his students to reflect on and link the components of a six week English unit on Fables. Using an image of one student s planning for their fable as the centre panel (the Now ), he had the students reflect on how they accessed their prior knowledge of fables and the graphic organizers they used in planning, how they built experience with and meaning for fables, how they drafted, edited and shared fables and finally what they had learnt about writing. Students could see the causes and effects of their learning, reflect on the process and thinking involved in getting to the final story and, hopefully, be able to transfer their understanding of the process and the steps they followed to their next writing task.

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B8 Probe of prior views (Posted 24/07/2017)

This is a strategy often used in Science but aplicable to other subject areas, where the teacher aims to establish what students already know or think about a topic. By using this procedure the teacher can better design their teaching to match what students already know and to correct misconceptions.

The purpose of this procedure is to bring out the views/beliefs/explanations that the students have brought into the classroom on a topic where no teaching has yet been done.  Often there are a number of competing views and an important goal is to identify this range and to use it as a a starting point for the unit or lesson.  There are a number of ways by which this has been done.  In a common one, one or more real world situations are described and questions asked which call for the student s current opinions. The students give written responses.

The teacher stresses that the particular concern is not what individual students have said, rather the range of views present in the class. Testing and resolving competing views will become an important element of subsequent teaching. The teacher collects and summarises the responses and reports back to the class on the range of views that were present. It is also helpful to report on response patterns from other classes as this helps legitimise the holding of alternative views, and thus to reassure students that they are not alone.  The strong emphasis on the value of the students views makes this an effective tactic in building a sense of shared intellectual control (PEEL Principle 1).

An example in English is to conduct a probe into the students views on what kind of writing constitutes poetry. Students are given a selection of pieces of writing, including such pieces as a dedication from a book: an In Memoriam, greeting card verses, doggerel such as rhyming slang, playground rhymes, tongue twisters, limericks, selections by writers such as Ogden Nash and Rudyard Kipling (who wrote very "poetic" prose), as well as publicly regarded "legitimate" poems.  With every piece they were asked their opinion about the same question "Do you think that this is poetry?"  This form of probe is called a series of instances; a series of pictures of living things: a sparrow, worm, trout, spider, human,dog with the question Do you think that this is an animal" is another example.

When introducing a probe of prior views it is important that students do not feel that their views will be assessed. One way to overcome this concern is to ask for views to be given anonymously. However we have found that once students are used to this procedure they are happy to "own" their views. This has the advantage that students and teachers can identify later if and where they have changed or extended their views.

Using diagrams or posters as a medium has also been found to be effective. In one example, students represent major body systems within a life size outline produced by one student lying down on a large piece of paper. As they do these activities, they are encouraged to keep a list of questions raised by their discussion, in order to make subsequent reading and research more purposeful.  Another approach has been to write a single word or phrase on the board as a heading, and ask the students for things to put under it.

The emphasis of the approaches just described is for both the teacher and the students to become more aware of what the students beliefs, opinions and existing explanations and conceptions are in the topic to be taught. Michael Bucklow has provided a extremely rich list of ways of ways of identifying what students already know about a topic in his article How do we know what students already know?  Finding what students know and do not know can have a somewhat different purpose to finding the range of existing beliefs, but there is clear overlap and Michael s article is a very useful resource.

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Mind Maps Procedure B28

Mind maps (Posted 17/07/2017) provide a graphical representation of ideas or tasks

A mind map starts with one word that is the central or main idea to be explored. This is placed in the centre of the page. The students then brainstorm connected ideas. The ideas are one or two words and are drawn coming from either the original word or from a subsequent word: the map explodes outwards with each branch having the potential to lead to a brainstorm of its own.

One value of the mind map is that it provides a graphic organiser of what could otherwise be an apparently chaotic discussion. Figure 1 contains the result of a brainstorm about a recipe for a chocolate cake (see Chocolate Cake ).

 
                                                          Figure 1: A mind map for cake baking

The mind map is usually an activity used at the beginning of a topic. It allows students to recall prior knowledge and to group or organise their ideas. The mind map can subsequently be used to frame questions or plan tasks. Figure 2 contains a mind map constructed during a brainstorm planning some libray research (see The research process).

 
                                                 Figure 2: A Mind map for library research


A mind map can be used for preliminary planning to identify the key elements of a research task. In the case below Denise Green (Six Steps for Processing and Presenting Information) asked students to use mind maps to clarify their ideas on Wegener s theory of Continental Drift

                                   Figure 3: Preliminary map


During or after the first reading of further information, the student can add to the mind map above to identify the evidence and reasons as follows.

 
                                                                        Figure 4: Detailed mind map

This mind map serves as the basis for the students written response and a useful study summary for the student during exam preparation.

A mind map can resemble a Concept Map (Procedure A1) in appearance, in that both have lots of terms linked in a graphical way. However the method of construction is quite different. In a concept map, the student is given a set of terms and asked to think about how each term links with every other term - the writing on the lines connecting the terms is central. With a mind map there is no initial list of terms - only a central term. The other terms emerge from subsequent discussion/brainstorming, this means that there is a strong visual emphasis on the big idea and on how other things relate to that (PEEL Principle 10).  There is usually no writing on the lines leading outwards from the central term and cross links between branches are not sought. Semantic Maps (B11) also have (3 to 5) sub topics expanding out from a central topic, but there is no further expansion of issues within issues within issues - students list what they think about each sub topic.


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Listening discussions Procedure B7  Posted 10/07/2017

The procedure below is a form of class discussion where the focus is on students litening and responding to their classmates. See also Procedure B3 Interpretive Discussions on the PEEL in Practice database

Discussions and learning improve when students react to the ideas, explanations and questions of other students. This involves complex and sophisticated skills - it means asking students, who are waiting their turn during a discussion, to remember what they want to say and, at the same time, reflect on the comment being made, contrast this with earlier contributions and, where necessary, modify what they intended to say. This procedure is intended to raise students awareness of these skills and to provide training in them.

Listening discussions have been used with classes who have gained some experience in interpretive discussions and are thus used to offering and defending ideas. The teacher reviews, in a positive manner, progress to date in discussion skills and introduces, as a further step, a list of behaviours associated with reflecting on other students contributions. A short summary such as the one below is built up on the board.

Offer a new argument which supports or opposes another student s ideas:

  • I agree with Katie because....
  • If what Brad says is true, then why does...occur?
  • Link two different comments made at different times.
  • I think what May said earlier is a reason why Peter s idea won t/will work.
  • Suggest a way of testing another student s idea, or extend another student s idea.
  • We can take Tien s idea further....

The teacher announces that they will shortly have a discussion, on an issue relevant to the current topic, which will include a game aimed at gaining practice in these new skills. Each contribution will be scored on a 5 point scale for relevance, originality and, most importantly, the extent to which it reflects listening skills. (In practice, the teacher scores all comments as 3, 4, or 5 so that all are seen as useful.)

The class is divided into teams, of about five students, selected by the teacher to be balanced with respect to usual level of contribution, usual level of performance and gender. The teams do not sit together or confer during the discussion; they contribute as individuals, but their scores are totalled. The purpose of teams is to keep the discussion orderly - the teams get equal opportunities to contribute and hence individual students do not need to shout out comments to score. The teacher begins the discussion with a suitable input and then scores each comment (possibly with a very brief explanation). The public scoring helps students build an understanding of what the teacher regards as good listening skills.

When devising this procedure, we were concerned that the public scoring might interfere with the spontaneity of a vigorous discussion, or make contributing excessively stressful, or both. Pleasingly, these concerns were not realised in practice. This procedure, more than most others, is clearly a somewhat artificial means to an end. The students realised this, enjoyed it, and during the discussion did an excellent job of displaying the skills.

Allison Horn (Talk Time) uses the "Discussion tools" wall chart below  - which she builds up gradually, to scaffold good discussion behaviours and build a wider range of ways of thinking about or responding to other people s comments. She gets students thinking about what they might contribute by announcing that there will be a discussion and having them discuss the topic in pairs for a short time. The students then move into a whole class conversation mode. Rules require that respect must be shown to others and their ideas. It is quite alright to have a guess, share an opinion or ask a question and the wall chart below is used to build good listening/responding behaviours.


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Predict, Observe, Explain is one of the first PEEL procedures to be developed and is extremely useful in getting students to think about what they are learning. The articles mentioned below can be found on the PEEL database PEEL in Practice

Predict Observe Explain procedure B1  (Posted 3/07/2017)

This procedure has three stages. Firstly the students are shown a situation and asked to make a written prediction with reasons as to what they think will happen when some change is made. Crucial to the procedure is the discussion at this point of the various predictions and the reasons for them, it is, of course, essential that the teacher gives no indication of what he or she believes. Then the change is made and the students record their observation of what happened. Finally they attempt to make explanations to account for any differences between their prediction and their observations. As an example of this procedure, part way through reading a novel the teacher stopped the class and asked them to predict, with reasons, what they thought would happen next. When this was done, most students did not draw on strong indications that the author had already given about the hopelessness of the position of the main characters. Most students predicted a quite unrealistic happy ending. When they had finished the book they had to explain why the author had written an unhappy ending. This led to a deeper understanding of the characters and their motives.

POEs have been used a lot in Science. They provide an important way of tacking the poor learning tendencies of Non Retrieval and Ineffective Restructuring; the students predictions are based on the beliefs that they have brought into the classroom and sorting out why they predicted incorrectly can be very effective in restructuring these ideas. Students might be asked, for example to predict whether or not they think a ballon full of air will weigh more, less or the same as an empty balloon. Students thinking during many conventional practical activities can be improved by asking them to predict, and discuss what they expect will occur and why.  This focuses their thinking on the range of possible outcomes and the significance of each of these. POEs are diagnostic, they involve the whole class, they demonstrate to students that they do have views, and they stimulate students to find out, if their prediction was wrong, why it was wrong.  The centrality of the students ideas (rather than the teacher s) to the activity provides a good way of building a sense of shared intellectual control (PEEL Principle 1).  The discussion promotes tentative, exploratory talk (Principle 5) as well as encouraging students to listen and respond to other students ideas (Principle 6).

However, one problem with this approach is that students often are reticent about committing to a prediction and writing it down in fear of "writing the wrong thing" in their books. To avoid this, Misja Carbo and Penny Hondrakis (Using Logbooks in Year 10 Electricity) asked the students to make a special "logbook" out of the (recycled) paper and card they provided. Because the logbook was not their regular science book, students were more willing to commit their ideas and predictions to paper. First they asked the students to draw up a concept map using terms from the unit on static electricity that they had done in year 9. The Logbook helped here because it did not seem to matter as much to get "the right answer" on paper. They then proceeded, using a series of POE experiments to explore the nature of current electricity.

The students responded very well to this approach. "Can we please have Logbooks for every topic!" was one comment. When asked why, they liked it the answers varied from: " you look after them (the logbooks) so we can t lose our work" to "You can see how your ideas about electricity change."

There are a number of criteria for a good POE:

  1. The students must feel able to give a prediction - pure guessing is not at all useful. Using a familiar situation where the prediction involves a problem likely to be a real one to the students will assist in this process.
  2. The "O" of a POE should be clear. We have found a strong tendency by students to "observe" what they wanted to see. The result should be concrete.
  3. When POE s are being used to specifically challenge student views the result should be surprising - in direct conflict with that predicted by the common alternative views. However, POE s don t always have to "surprise". Using POE s only in circumstances when predictions do not match observations can firstly result in negative feelings towards the procedure and secondly lead to students picking the "unlikely" result because "we always predict wrongly". There are many occasions in Science subjects where predicting a change correctly can help build students confidence in their new understandings; sometimes this can occur as part of a series of related POEs, where the teacher expects many incorrect predictions early, but a shift to mainly correct predictions as students restructure their understandings.
  4. Students should be able to explain the result. There is no point in giving a Year 9 class a POE which requires Year 12 physics to explain.

The following points are advice drawn from experience.

  1. It is crucial that the students realise they are not alone in their predictions. This means it is important to summarise the class views and report these back to the class. An effective way of doing this is in written form where the teacher collates their results.
  2. It must be seen by the students as a non-threatening situation. Never give marks or even praise for "correct" answers. Stress to students that you only want their opinions, and predicting incorrectly can be at least as helpful as predicting correctly. If the class is unfamiliar with the procedure, it can help to collect the responses anonymously.
  3. Incorporating an interpretive discussion (B3) after the "P" and before the "O", where the competing positions are debated and clarified, is almost always important in helping students clarify, and sometimes change their ideas.
  4. At the end of the exercise ensure that the "incorrect" predictions are seen as often sensible and always helpful to the learning (by stimulating constructive debate).  This debrief helps build a classroom environment that supports the risky learning behaviours of offering and defending ideas and expressing disagreement (PEEL Principle 7).

Further activities can reinforce the correct predictions. Together with a P.O.E. on particle theory, Julie Morrow (Combining a role play and P.O.E.) found having students act out what was happening further reinforced understanding of the key concept.

Creating a situation which intrigues students to make and test a series of predictions which build on each other can lead to a classroom atmosphere that recognizes students ideas and lateral thinking . The improvement in student behaviour (as described by Ian Mitchell in The Floating Paper Clip) can be dramatic.......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Below are four examples of procedures/teaching strategies that PEEL teachers have developed to promote better understanding of knowledge and ideas.

All four procedures can be found in  The complete book of PEEL teaching procedures. The articles referred to in the text can be found in the PEEL online database PEEL in Practice

Procedure A42 Reverse Learning  (Posted 26/06/2017)

This procedure involves beginning with what might otherwise be an end point in teaching a piece of content reversing the learning. Instead of beginning with theory and moving to examples, the teacher begins with examples of a new idea or concept and then has the students work backwards from these to develop the relevant organising idea or ideas.

This makes theory more accessible and relevant as students are more likely to perceive a need for it to explain the examples they have seen. For example, instead of teaching the formation of coastal landforms and then going on the excursion to see them, the teacher Cheryl Edwards (Reverse learning) took the students out with cameras as a starting point. They took lots of photos and made some observation notes. Back in the classroom the photos were analysed to identify the important physical features and then students researched the forms to find out how they had been formed.

In another case, the teacher Donna Jennings (Web based scavenger hunt) sent students to view animations showing the nervous system on the internet. They used the animations to make notes involving diagrams, flow charts and also answered teacher questions.

Allowing students to learn from their mistakes is a form of reverse learning where instead of the teacher insisting on all the planning be done before students engage in a task students attempt the task then go back to see where they went wrong. Russell Kealey (Slightly reverse learning) describes a media class where the footage was an absolute disaster. This led straight into a discussion of what the class needed to do to fix it. Compared to his previous approach of simply insisting that the pre-planning was done, allowing the class to make mistakes and learn from them produced more effective learning and also a much greater understanding of why so much planning is necessary in a video / film production. It also resulted in the students being much more motivated to complete the necessary planning.

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Procedure A28 constructing a continuum (Posted 19/06/2017)

This procedure was developed by Pat Beeson and Misja Carbo and refined by the PLC PEEL group. In Sequencing in Science and Geography they give two examples and also detail how the procedure was developed and elaborated in both classrooms and PEEL meetings.

Getting students to construct a continuum is relevant to any content where there is a sequence of many stages and where the order matters: reclaiming land from the sea, what happens to food during digestion, river systems and the historical development of safe surgery are some examples. The teacher prepares a set of (large) cards (laminating helps), that students have to assemble into a sequence or continuum. There have been two variations reported. In the first of these, the teacher assigns two ends of the room as the beginning and end of the continuum. Each student then takes a card, decides if their card refers to something early, middle or late in the sequence, goes to that part of the room and negotiates an exact order with their neighbours (students whose card refer to adjacent stages). The class ends up in an agreed line. Pat and Misja describe several extension activities using the continuum such as redistributing cards and reforming the continuum on sending different foods down the digestive system with the students role playing the action on their card when the food passes them.  Helen Ball (Year 11 Biology: Two activities for processing information) had students give a verbal explanation of why they were standing next to someone and what was happening to substances that passed from what they represented to the next stage.  Then she had them repeat it going in the other direction if this involved the movement of different substances (e.g. oxygen moves from the mouth to trachea to lungs to pulmonary capillaries, but carbon dioxide goes in the reverse direction).

Chris McKimmie (Sorting as a Group - CPR Health) and Lyn Boyle (Developing an Understanding of River Systems) both ran the process as a whole class discussion around a long table. Each student had a card (given out randomly) and, when their turn came, placed this card where they thought it should be on the table. While placing, they were allowed to move any cards already placed, but they had to justify both their placement and any such rearrangement.  Sara Taylor (Analyzing text using parallel timelines) used this variation to sort out a novel that had two interacting timelines.

In both these variations, the fact that every card must be placed somwhere means that all the students have to get intellectually involved and make a commitment to where they think their card might go.

The students clearly must have some basis for decision making. This could come from knowledge gained from previous lessons, or from personal experiences (eg, degrees of intimacy in sexual behaviours - see Boundaries in a Relationship). It could also be that the content allows the students to deduce or make reasoned suggestions about what should follow what. In all the cases reported, the students were working out part of the sequence, ie it was not a pure revision activity.

Vojtech Markus (Collaborative work on the interactive whiteboard) used an IWB to create a slightly different form of continuum in his senior biology class. He gave the students a geological time line of the ages of the earth -this then was a scaffold for the continuum. Vojtech also gave the students a list of different organisms that appeared at different times in the earth s history and (in groups) they had to put the organisms at what they thought were appropriate places on the timeline. Each group also had their own timeline, but Vojtech also put up the geological timeline on the IWB and, after they had got started he had one group at a time add one organism to the "class" timeline. He decided not to let a group change something they though was wrong, but only to add something that fitted with the class timeline -so the individual timelines were not all the same as the developing class timeline. Eventually nothing more could be added without changing the class version and Vojtech revealed the "correct" answer -the IWB allowed both the class version and the correct version to be displayed side by side. All this generated a lot of debate and thinking about an area that involves a lot of pieces of information to organise.

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Procedure A35 Guess the Picture (Posted 12/06/2017)

One important challenge for students is to apply their knowledge in unfamiliar situations. When a large body of factual content is presented to students, as can be the case in senior school Science classes, students often spend time memorising facts rather than using ideas. Vojtech Markus in Guess the Picture describes a way of developing students problem solving skills when attempting to apply what they already know.

A series of sets of three slides are made, using Powerpoint, that contain photos, diagrams or any other non text image. On the first slide only a few sections of the photo are visible by superimposing a grid made of rectangles, filled with black with no fill colour or line colour. The second slide reveals more of the photos and the third slide has the entire photo. Students are shown each slide in turn and have to try and guess what they are looking at. They also have to say why.

The task is challenging for students particularly with the first slide where much is blocked out (think carefully about what to leave in here). It requires students to search their knowledge and see if they could make a link with some structural feature or other aspect of the images. Importantly misconceptions and weaknesses of student understanding are quickly revealed allowing for further discussion and revision of a particular concept. Sometimes students are able to guess correctly with the first very incomplete slide leading to some satisfaction.

The procedure can be adapted to a range of areas in Science and the Humanities such as a photo from a certain historical period, a scene from a particular country, a map or an electron micrograph of a particular type of cell.

Picture 1


Picture 2

r

Picture 3

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Procedure A 10 Translation tasks (Posted 5/06/2017

(Examples of other linked procedures are included below)

Translation Task is a name we have given to tasks that require students to take information presented in one form and translate it into another form. Turning text or notes into a piece of creative writing (see Procedure A7) is a translation task as is constructing Role-plays (A8), Turning notes into diagrams (D2) and Character Graphs or Fortune lines (D15). There are many other variations in both what students translate from and to. Michael Bucklow s very rich article How do we know what students already know, for example, includes asking students to turn their prior knowledge into (variously) a newspaper headline plus opening paragraph, an epitaph, an advertisement and a poem or jingle. Russell Downie (Haiku) asked students to turn previously learned material in to a haiku (this is a three line poem with the first line containing 5 syllables, the second 7 and the last 5 syllables) here the very brevity of the task forced deep thought and economy of expression.  Donna Jennings used URLs with animations as a starting point for students to make notes on the nervous system. Web-based scavenger hunt.

Translation tasks require learners to monitor aspects of their learning - to think carefully and systematically about the information they are translating: What are the ideas? Do I understand these? What does this mean? Often they do this by requiring the learner to distil information into highly summarised forms such as newspaper headlines, or cartoons. However tasks such as turning (detailed) pictures into dialogue stimulate learners to make a detailed, comprehensive interpretation of the information they are given - both types of task are valuable.  Because most translation tasks can be done in a number of ways, they provide opportunities for choice and independent decision-making (PEEL Principle 3). 

How do we know what students already know by Michael Bucklow  (Posted 5/06/2017)

A few ideas

  1. Select What s Relevant: List facts or events about a person or event. Some are relevant/correct. Some are not. /students tick/cross the list. Discuss answers whole class or in groups. (PS Where/when did they find out what they think they know?)
  2. Select What s Relevant: Jumbled cut and paste of extracts. Students choose those they think are about a person/event/place. They list them in order of importance or in some other logical sequence or grouping.
  3. Brainstorm Bingo: Students write down everything they think they know about a topic. They are told not to worry about whether they think a point is important or not. This can be followed up in many ways. One possibility is Bingo. Teacher reads out a list of points/fact about the topic. Students tick off matches with their lists. The first student to five (or whatever number) matches calls out Bingo .
  4. Translation Task: Produce a visual representation of a topic: collage, cartoon, sketch, comic strip, panel, symbolic representation, etc.
  5. List how the topic is similar to/different from an SRC meeting, a pop concert, a flea, eating chicken in the dark.
  6. Select What s Relevant: Present a list of adjectives. Students choose those they think go with the topic and explain why. They do the same for irrelevant adjectives.
  7. Translation Task: Students mime an aspect they think is related to the topic individually or in groups. Other students attempt to link the performance with the topic.
  8. Predict The Topic: Play a song. Say that the song is related to the new topic. Ask them to hypothesise what the new topic will be and why.
  9. Predict The Topic: Show extracts from a video on the topic, possibly with the sound turned off. As for 8.
  10. Provide a picture that is not related to the topic. Students asked to explain why it is not related to the topic or - even why it could be.
  11. Listening Discussion: One student says what they think they know about a topic. Other students do the same while explaining how their point relates to that of the previous student.
  12. Translation Task: Write a newspaper headline and opening paragraph for this topic.
  13. Promoting and Using Student Questions: If you could interview this topic, work out five questions that would provide key pieces of information about the topic. Try to answer some of the questions.
  14. Translation Task: If this topic had an epitaph, what might it be?
  15. Would there be information on this topic on the Internet? Why or why not? If yes, what kind of information would you expect to find?
  16. If you were a teacher and had to introduce this topic in a way that would interest and motivate students, how would you do it? If you think the task is impossible, explain why. (You are not allowed to use the word boring .)
  17. Translation Task: Devise an advertisement for this topic.
  18. Translation Task: Use what you think you know about the topic to produce a short poem or jingle.
  19. Angelina Jolie,  Harrison Ford, Matt Damon, Jennifer Lawrence Tom Cruise, can all ask and receive salaries of about $25 million (US) per film. Which of these actors would be best suited to starring in a film on the topic. Why?
And.???

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The following articles deal with promoting collaboration and co-operation in the classroom.

Building collaboration and co-operation by Ian Mitchell  (Posted 29/05/2017)

In this article (from PEEL in Practice) Ian summarises the finidngs of a group of teachers who worked for some years on improving the learning of students in their classrooms.

Some ideas:


Explicitly teach what is meant by good learners co-operate   including different roles and their purposes. Use and debrief informal role play on collaborative skills. A Y chart can be built up of what good co-operation looks like, sounds like and feels like. Sarah Foley also focuses on the behaviours good learners show work organization she reports that the combination of these two GLBs is very powerful in her class

 

 Begin the year by grouping students in different groupings, Vary how you group students - same and mixed ability, gender, shared and different interests are all possibilities

 

Teachers reported using grouping methods that were clearly based on chance, such as giving students a card asking them to find someone with a similar birthday or the same football team and to sit with that person for that lesson. In other words working with others can begin with sitting with others

 

Debriefing and sharing pedagogical purposes about why you are mixing then differently are important here. One reason for this is, of course, to learn to work with a range of others, another being that different groupings were better suited to different tasks. If, for example, the task required different skills such as planning, oral presentation, IT, art, then the groups need a balance of these. This leads to the value of getting students metacognitive about their strengths so they can make decisions about what is a good group for them to choose. Different tasks can (should) have different mixes of skills, so to some extent groupings will be task specific.

 

Debrief on how students worked with each other and what they learnt about this.Group work can release teachers to withdraw from actively leading the activity to observing and later give students feedback 

 

Use and build a language of collaboration and community. This includes labels for helpful and blocking behaviours as well as using the pronouns we. our, your.

 

Set tasks that require student interdependence and co-operation

  • There are features of tasks that lend themselves to this:  Tasks that cannot be done by one student, but require contributions from two or more students
  • Tasks where students must listen to and/or build on/use each othe s  ideas or contributions.
  • Tasks that cannot be split into several small tasks which need little re-synthesis.  Tasks that require decision making, problem solving and brainstorming.
  • Tasks that can be done successfully in more than one way and with greater or lesser degrees of sophistication and creativity. In this way, all groups can succeed, but all can also be challenged appropriately.
  • Tasks that cater for multiple intelligences.

 

Collaboration can be at a whole class as well as a small group level. Whole class discussion is an example of the former. For this to have a collaborative dimension, it is crucial that students listen to, use and build on the contributions of others (PEEL principle 6), so 6 talk needs explicit teaching (procedure B7 Listening discussions is one way of doing this)

Limiting the number of questions students can ask promotes collaboration.

All teachers have experienced individuals and groups making no real attempt to work out what do do, but calling on the teacher to do this thinking for them. Sam Scheele reported limiting each group to being able to ask the teacher no more than three times during a group task. It resulted in an immediate rise in co-operation as they worked more things out for themselves

Low self-esteem students in group work may need reassurance, but make them ask something specific

This was another insight from Sam Scheele. She pointed out that when groups have a task that is planned to run over several lessons, groups with low self-esteem and confidence are more likely to ask whether or not what they are doing is OK. Sam said that they needed this reassurance, but that there was a real danger of it turning into excessive dependence on the teacher. She therefore required them to ask something specific, not just  is this OK?


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What's happening to cooperative learning now and what's  in store for it in the future?   (Posted 22/05/2017)


This article is on the PEEL database PEEL in Practice. It is not an original article having been previously published elsewhere, but it fits very well with PEEL teachers' thinking and provides some good ideas for any teacher promoting collaborative learning in their classroom

Any former student who was ever assigned a group project knows the difficulty in group work: more often than not, the bulk of the responsibilities fall on one or two students while the others quietly tag along. Cooperative learning is a highly structured educational model where each member is not only responsible for learning an individual concept, but also for educating other group members about it. While the theory has really gained traction in recent years, cooperative learning was first developed in the early 90s-  it began as an approach intended to be equally applicable in traditional classrooms and in business settings.

It s based on the premise that all group members succeed or fail together. A commonly used iteration of this model is called a jigsaw activity. Each member is required to take ownership of an idea, or puzzle piece, and gain an understanding of it. Then all other group members share their knowledge of other puzzle pieces to fellow group members. When each puzzle piece is understood and assembled, the group successfully grasps a new concept.

There are three styles of cooperative learning groups: formal, informal, and cooperative. Formal groups are very common in classrooms today; educators structure out a particular study method and then designate a strict list of activities, built around a clearly defined subject, all of which is finished over a short period of time. Informal learning is somewhat off-the-cuff and is often used to break up lectures with group exercises. Cooperative-based groups are designed to exist over a longer period of time; group members support each other by meeting regularly and holding each other accountable for their contributions.

The Five Fundamental Concepts of Cooperative Learning

All cooperative learning is distinguished by the presence of five key elements: positive interdependence, face-to-face interaction, accountability, interpersonal skills and group processing. True cooperative learning study design incorporates all five of these concepts for each member to successfully learn. Student motivation is crucial to the entire process; as group members move through an assignment, momentum should be generated by each member s desire to share information so that the entire group succeeds.


Positive Interdependence.  Students must understand that they essentially sink or swim together. Each member of the group must participate fully, or the entire group will fail. Each participant is assigned a distinct role without which other group members will not complete the assignment. Groups may be assigned to develop a solid understanding of a complex idea, to develop a product that has multiple interdependent components or perform peer review of scholarly literature to reach a consensual opinion.The idea here is to use the division of labor to accomplish a mutual goal. Carefully structured design creates an atmosphere that is far superior to seating several students in a group and simply instructing them to discuss an idea. The project outcome, whether it be a grade, a paper or a product, is judged equally among all participants, so all group members have a stake in the success of the project.

Educators can create this interdependence in a variety of ways. The group may have a common goal or incentive; the group s progress may be dependent on each participant s contribution; groups might compete against other groups; or group work can be bound to a designated physical space. Written lab work, research projects, case study review and interactive role play can all serve to foster this interdependence.

Face-to-Face Interaction: Sometimes referred to as promotive interaction, this element of cooperative learning relies on group dynamics to exchange ideas and collaborate effectively. Instructors strive to create as much oral discussion as possible; this is accomplished via classroom message boards like Blackboard or pre-scheduled online chats. These interactions underscore the idea that participants are dependent on one another for success, which ultimately ends up building up the group s trust. Cognitive learning is reinforced when students share data and resources, problem-solve, and support one another s group roles. Educators should consider this an opportunity to challenge traditional societal roles; group facilitators can also use these interactions to observe individual skills or competencies in group members and ensure that each member s  talents are put to the best use. Incorporating spontaneous face-to-face encounters often helps group members get to know one another in a non-threatening environment, which can strengthen a group s  personal commitment to success.

Accountability: Individual and group accountability is really what makes cooperative learning different from the days when lazy participants could get away with little to no contributions. Educators design projects so that accountability is built into the process at both expected and random times. Formative assessment occurs while the project is ongoing and serves to provide feedback to group facilitators and students. Summative assessment takes place at the completion of the activity, and evaluates individual participation instead of evaluating the whole group.

Educators, members of a particular group and the other participating groups can all provide accountability feedback. Teachers may assign roles like secretary or recorder; these individuals must be able to give a current report on the group status at all times, thus requiring good communication among participants. Teachers may also request unscheduled oral reports or administer pop quizzes to test the group s participation; group participants also benefit from this as its a chance for them ro refine their extemporaneous speaking and writing skills.

Students may assess one another s participation during and after the project is completed. Anonymous ratings sheets can be used for this purpose. Other groups may assess the group s accountability by evaluating the finished product or quizzing various group members during project presentations. Students may be required to teach other students or groups what was produced or learned during a project.

Interpersonal and Small Group Skills. The social skills that are required for effective group collaboration are learned skills that students often need to be taught. As group participants learn to function as part of a team while they accomplished a defined task, this cooperative learning increases cognitive development. Social nuances such as leadership, trust, confidence, good communication and conflict management skills are all required to function in a group; educators anticipate this in project design and focus on this aspect of learning just as much as the task at hand. Over time, students should be able to appreciate other group member strengths and weaknesses, and then learn to articulate questions and answers about projects.

Group Processing. This fifth component of cooperative learning is absolutely essential, though it is the step most likely to be rushed at the end of a project or class. During group processing, participants reflect individually and collectively on what worked and what didn t. Helpful and unhelpful behaviors are identified; ideally, decisions are made about the next time the group works together. This important phase adds much to students   comprehension of the material.

In a best case scenario, all students give and receive positive feedback on individual contributions; this positivity will drive momentum in future group work. Students reflect on that feedback and then set goals for improvement. For example, a participant may choose a social skill that he or she would like to improve, or a group can decide to ask more questions of one another in the future. Finally, participants should have a celebration of some sort that marks the end of the project; this will also motivate positive cooperative learning experiences in the future.

Advantages to Cooperative Learning Models

Cooperative learning is of enormous benefit to schoolchildren. Academically, group participants gain a better comprehension of the course material when all five elements of cooperative learning are instituted. Students work with participants who have different learning styles; teaching a peer not only reinforces cognitive comprehension, but is likely to be better understood by the other student. When working in groups, lower-performing students will work harder to keep up with high-performing peers. Since group grading provides more students with an opportunity to win in the somewhat competitive school atmosphere, there is additional incentive to achieve.

Socially, learning in a group model exposes children to different learning styles, cultural or ethnic backgrounds and varying levels of enthusiasm. Cooperative learning allows educators to reinforce concepts of equality in the classroom, using a group environment to discount stereotypes. Sharing is implicit in this teaching model, enforcing the idea that knowledge is for everyone. Children who receive recognition for taking risks become more comfortable in doing so. Students also enjoy classes that require participation more than a traditional lecture class; in fact, they are more likely to attend and complete these courses.

Perhaps most importantly, cooperative learning teaches necessary life skills. Working as a group to reach a common goal demonstrates the value of teamwork, for example. Some group participants will emerge as natural leaders, allowing them an early opportunity to develop effective leadership habits. The ability to communicate ideas well, obviously a cornerstone life skill, is necessary for successful cooperative learning. Conflict can unfortunately be part of any collaboration effort, and conflict management skills cannot be taught too early. Learning to make decisions within a group also prepares students for a productive career.

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Developing a collaborative classroom by Tanya Whiteside  (Posted 16/05/2017)


This is the second article from PEEL in Practice on the theme of developing a collaborative classroom.. Tanya's article highlights the ways she developed collaboration and co-operation in her young primary school students

I wanted to create an environment within my classroom in which students happily worked with each other. For me this was incredibly important to start the implement from the very first day as students were often very reluctant to work and socialise with students who were not their friends or in the class the previous year.

Initially this was done in quite an informal way. My first step was for students began to become familiar with their classmate through play. Each morning my students would start their day with different forms of investigations. Sometimes this would be board games, lego, construction materials etc inside the classroom where the students had the choice who they worked with and what activity they participated in. This allowed the students to informally socialise with each other and work as a team to play and create. Each morning students started their day in a different way. After the first few days students were then randomly allocated a buddy to play with. This allowed them to work with someone new. With their partner they were able to choose which activity they wanted to do and could join with another group to complete their chosen investigation. The purpose of this was to encourage the students to work with somebody new as after the first few days the students would play with the same people each morning.

This continued over the first few weeks of school and allowed the students to get to know each other and also find in an informal way commonalities between each other. This initial investigation time would continue normally for the first half an hour to forty minutes. After this time we would reflect as a grade on what we did, who we played with or new facts we learnt about each other. The collaboration was the main focus of this reflection and the students understood that this was not just play but there was a purpose to what they were doing.

My next step was to see how this would then transfer into their work. Each morning for the first few wees  students would sit with a different person in the grade. Initially this was initiated by me by providing the students with different criteria as to who they would sit next to.

"Find someone who barracks for the same football team"

"Who has the same amount of people living in their house as you?"

And so on. My aim in providing students with questions like these was that they would find similarities between themselves and their new classmates. My students quite liked this and by the end of the first week were providing questions of their own. Students knowing and understanding each other is only the initial step in creating collaboration in my classroom, creating a classroom atmosphere in which my students happily worked with whoever is a term long process.

Throughout the term students completed many activities which required them to work with a partner. Initially it was important that students learnt the behaviours needed to one with just one other person. As much as possible during English and Maths sessions students would work with somebody else to when completing an activity. When completing this it was important that one of our WALT s (We Are Learning To) was teamwork as this would then guide our reflection at the end of the session.

Moving on from small partner activities I would also intersperse activities which required the students to work in small groups. One such activity was our straw challenge. In this activity students needed to work in a randomly allocated team and in 15 minutes needed to use the materials on the table to create a structure which would hold as many books as possible. A WALT was shown to the students and they understood the purpose of this activity was teamwork. It was interesting to see how the students went about this activity and which teams did and didn tt work well together.

Throughout the whole of the first term activities like these were completed with the kids. Over time the students became more comfortable working with each other. What I learnt from this experience was the importance of explaining the purpose of the lesson to the kids. When they understood that they were working on teamwork and this formed our reflection at the end the students then understood why I thought this was important. As the term progressed the students also understood why this is important and they too wanted to develop a classroom in which they didn t care who they worked with.

I would not say now I have the perfect classroom and like every grade 6 room there are students who always want to work together and others who always struggle to find a partner or group to work in but by spending this time at the start of the year and continuing throughout the year completing small activities which encourage them to work with different people I now have a grade who will work with anyone.

The next step was for my students to make independent decisions about who works in their team to benefit their own learning by choosing to work with students based on their own strengths and weaknesses. But that is a story for another time.

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PEEL procedure C14 Jigsaws - Posted 8/05/2017

Jigsaws were not a PEEL invention and many teachers are aware of the technique and use it in their classrroms. It is one example of many that PEEL teachers have

used to promote colaborative learning in their students.(Some of these articles are listed below).

Jigsaws were developed as a procedure to promote co-operative learning (see Slavin, R. (1985) Learning to co-operate: Co-operating to learn. New York: Plenum Press).  Co-operative learning places a

premium on students working in collaborative groups, learning with and from each other.  A jigsaw requires students to be arranged firstly in expert groups and then rearranged into home groups. 

Each expert group researches or in some other way builds a body of expertise in a (different) part of a topic or skill.  The group has a collective responsibility to ensure that each member shares the expertise

and is ready to teach their colleagues when they return to their home group.

The home groups contain one or two members from each expert group.  Every student is now an expert in one aspect of the topic and it is their job to share this expertise with their home group colleagues.  The home group now has to collaborate to synthesize the information or skills brought by each member with some overall product.  In a classroom making regular use of co-operative learning the home groups are often stable over several months.

Another variation is described in (Using PEEL Strategies in VCE Biology and English ) called Analyse, Summarise, Teacherise. In  the first stage, each student was given one of seven themes to analyse a text that the class was studying.  Rather than working in an expert group, the students used previously learned rubricks to make notes analysing the text from the perspective of their theme.  In stage 2 they had to put aside these "expert" notes and in a fixed five minutes time period, prepare a summary of their thinking on a template provided by the teacher.  In the third stage, each student acted as an expert" on their theme, but rather than doing this in a home group, they did it in pairs where each member had (again) 5 minutes to teach the other on their theme, the students repeated until all had been exposed to every theme.

Jigsaws have been used where the different expert groups variously consult different sources on the same topic (see Note Take Activity - Year 8 History), or research different aspects of a topic (perhaps the most common use - see Experts), or construct different ways of representing the same information (see Introducing Statistics), or learn different parts of a musical performance (Using the Jigsaw Procedure) or to construct a student set test for revisions (Jigsaw Group Tests). Sarah Ebsworthy (Putting the Zing back into Creative Writing) used a jigsaw technique to improve her students creative writing skills; the (3) expert groups brainstormed imaginative adjectives and adverbs that could be used in one of three parts of a bland sentence and the home groups used these ideas to expand the sentence into a vivid paragraph.

In setting up a jigsaw, it is essential that the home group contain at least one member of every expert group, hence the number of members in the smallest home group determines the possible number of expert groups and there must be no more home groups than expert groups. A class of 25 could have 5 expert groups (A to E) of 5 students who then rearrange into 5 home groups of 5. With 23 students you could only have 4 home groups if you still wanted 5 expert groups. The best way to work out your groupings is to construct a quick grid of home groups v. expert groups and populate it with the number of students present. Figure 1 contains an example for a class of 23 students:


Expert Groups
Home Groups A B C D E
1 2 1 1 1 1
2 1 2 1 1 1
3 1 1 2 1 1
4 1 1 1 1 1
As can be seen, Expert Groups A, B and C each have 5 members, with 4 in the remaining expert groups while Home Groups 1, 2 and 3 each have 6 members with 5 in the remaining home group.

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Teachers who have worked with PEEL ideas regard student reflection as critically important in their development of their independence as learners. If our students are to take more control of their learning, they have to be able to reflect on their work, analyse their errors and understand where and how they can improve.  They have to be able to recognise the times when their understanding may be a little shallow, and then take steps to redress this situation themselves.The following articles all come from PEEL in Practice

How exactly can we build good student reflection  by Ian Mitchell   (Posted 10/04/2017)

(Members of the group whose ideas are used below are Amy Coath, Sarah Foley, Judie Mitchell, Nicole Murnane, Sam Scheele, Damien Toussaint, Deborah Taylor and Tracey Van Gemert)

Since the first year of PEEL we have been trying to get students reflecting on their learning and on lessons. There have been many successes reported, but it is not simple to achieve, Tracey wrote:

Reflection has always been a challenging area of teaching for me. The main areas of challenge are

1.       Coming up with meaningful reflection questions

2.       Engaging the students in the reflection as part of their learning, and not just the end of the class.

3.       Encouraging the students to Take a Risk and contribute to the reflection even if they were unsure about the relevance of their comments.

The phrasing of the questions is vital, they should embody the kind of thinking you require of them and, ideally be phrased in such a way that students can see where this might go in the short term - that the reflection will be of some value to them.

At a recent meeting of the sharing pedagogical purpose group, we looked at an analysis of articles written earlier and pooled ideas on specific teacher questions/prompts that had been found to be likely to be successful. We were pleased with where we got to, although of course this is an incomplete list:

What prior knowledge did you have that was useful?

If the lesson has been one where some students have rethought their ideas, use the stem

Now I think .......

To get students focusing on the big ideas that underlie your tasks ask

How does today s lesson link to our big ideas?

Later, as students get used to linking to big ideas Judie asks

Why did we do this activity? and builds an expectation that the answer must be in terms of big ideas

How does today' s  activity/lesson link with previous lessons?

Is particularly useful  if the lessons involves different types of activities such as theory and practical work, but for students to see that this is going somewhere useful, the teacher needs to show how this can (for example) help them write up their practical activity

How is [a piece of content] different from [a similar idea dealt with earlier]?

e.g.  how is dissolving different from melting? How was the invasion of Iraq different from the crusades? The payoff for students here is if they can see how they are likely to confuse the two (similar) ideas

What sort of thinking did this procedure get you doing?

Again the students need to see that understanding this will help them use this procedure, or help their understanding of an idea, or help them do something better (it depends on the procedure).

Sam has reported a trio of questions that she might stop a class to ask after a good question (or some other good learning behaviour).

Why do I love Jarryd 's question?

What did Jarryd show me by asking that question?

What was Jarryd linking back to by asking that question?

One agenda here is to raise Jarryd s self-esteem, but Sam is also showing how his question can help learning. Sam wrote that it is not until they have unpacked the question that she actually addresses it. She deliberately shows a lot of enthusiasm, even excitement as she unpacks the question to convey how important it was to her.

Did your plan help you structure your work?

Other questions relating to (say) writing can get students thinking about how to do this better

Are there other ways we could have done this?

Is a question that can help build a sense of shared intellectual control

A more sophisticated question, appropriate after students have understood that the teacher has an agenda of improving learning is

Why am I asking you to reflect on this in this way?

In an earlier meeting Sam made the point that An activity that promotes higher order thinking is only worthwhile if we take the time to talk it through with our students.

To do this you need the right questions, ones that relate to changing students ideas on learning being more than recall and, critically, coming to value this

So far this article has been about debriefing on a lesson but at an earlier meeting, Amy pointed out teachers need to stimulate reflection at the end of a unit or extended task, and that this was often missing. This led to discussion that teachers often do not think carefully about how to finish a unit in ways that generate reflection about what was done, why and what has been learnt. This is a strength of focus questions; at an earlier meeting

Nicole made the point that a good focus question will cohere the sharing (this actually provides one criterion for constructing focus questions). However once again, the teacher needs to keep the focus question prominent throughout the unit, not just use it to get things going.

To sum up, good reflection involves high quality learning and students need to learn to do it, but the journey of doing this has to be one which they see worth undertaking and well framed teacher questions as well as linking the reflection to things that the students see value in doing better are important.

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When is the best time to review learning?  by Darren Mead  posted 24/04/2017

In this article by Darren Mead taken from PEEL in Practice, Darren explains how he encourages students to review their learning throughout the lesson.

Like all good assessment for learning strategies,  I believe an effective review should start at the beginning of the lesson establishing what the students already know, giving them something to measure their success against, something real to reflect upon. This is why the PEEL strategy of the "Semantic map" is so effective. Students are given a topic broken down into smaller concepts. They quickly bullet point their knowledge at the start of the lesson, it is important that at this stage all responses are welcome. Teachers may want to phrase this task as "write down what you think you know"  They then return to it later using a different colour pen and add new learning and correct any misconceptions they originally had. It is vitally important that the new learning is made obvious to everyone. It helps the student see their success and highlights the areas students have missed to the teacher informing future planning.

As a modification to the Semantic map I came up with a graphic organiser that does a similar but more structured job, which has assumed the title the "time" review. The desire was to identify for students when they had learned something, in an attempt to assist their meta-cognitive process.



Semantic map

The benefits of not back loading the review section include a possible way of tackling the problem of getting students to review. Avoiding a teacher led review is imperative so that the review has meaning to the learner. Obviously a student who has the skills to review will do so more effectively, although this is dependant upon two key dispositions of the student. Firstly their "sensitivity" to the need to reflect upon their learning must be high, thinking along the lines of "I m getting a little confused about this topic, I should pause and try to make sense of it" would exemplify a learner "sensitive" to this need. Secondly not only do they need this awareness but also the "inclination" to do something about it, almost a motivation to do it. Without explicitly trying to develop these traits, we will always have less effective reviews. My immediate thoughts on how to tackle this focus relies upon the regularity of reviews where they become part of the norm and hopefully sensitizing them to the need to review. The "time" review graphic organizer also highlights to the student their progress so hopefully increasing the motivation to review. To capitalize upon this it is important to feedback on their reviewing.

Time review

In using this over a couple of years I have found that it only takes  a few minutes every 20 minutes or so for students to reflect upon what they have learned scribbling down the key points. A longer period of time is beneficial to the "what s new?" and what was wrong at the beginning?" section at the end. This can lead to a very interesting discussion about how they know they were wrong or have learned something. This in turn helps the students complete, what they often find the most difficult thing to do and comment on how they learned. This meta-cognitive thinking could also influence these dispositions especially if they identify the method that helped them most was the reviews during their learning!

In summary reviewing every lesson is useful in the development of our learners, but regular reviews during our every lesson is better still.

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