Helping hands

Super simple strategy today, this one is a structured approach to exam questions for students who need extra support.

structured support

The idea originated from a Primary colleague (who attended the epic #TMLiteracy), Paul and his colleagues use hand templates to provide students with feedback and easy to action targets.  Students were able to self assess using them as well, as the hands could either work as a memory cue for success criteria or a review template.  I have used the template in a number of ways over the last few months (see the end of this post for ideas).

However, the most practical seems to have been for students working towards the iGCSE Core paper this summer.  Here’s an example of what students were given to memorise.

Written on the palm of the hand and each finger:

Reading Section – 1 hour

1) Highlight the key words in the question (students are drilled that this includes the line reference).

2) Read the passage.

3) Answer all the questions.

4) Do the 1 and 2 mark questions quickly.

5) If you can’t answer a question move onto the next one.

It’s a ridiculously easy set of instructions isn’t it? But for this particular group of students, they needed the memory cues to keep them working, otherwise if a question stumped them, they would just stop.  In the mocks, I would stand at the front of room and point of my little finger, then my students would mouth their way through the instructions and remember that “if you can’t answer a question move onto the next one”.  A light came on, the pen started moving again.

I want to thank @Kris_Boulton at this point, for his very useful session at #PedagooLondon on memorisation, which has prompted me to rethink the importance of recall for English.

The purpose is not to teach students a structure for answering questions, but to support them with the process of answering.

It takes a lot to be exam ready; content and skills are all very well, but if the process of working through a paper is a challenge, then we start on the back foot.

More ideas for the hand template:

1. Target setting – stapled into the front of classwork books, each time a target is met and a new one set.  I have used it for “5 steps to Level 5”.

2. Success criteria – teacher sets 3 of the criteria, students sets the last 2 individually.

3. 5 things I know – this week it was 5 things I know about Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

4. 5 sentence structures – a permanent prompt for the best writing structures. The more, more, more sentence etc.

Lot’s of possibilities…

A postcard from the 90s #PedagooLondon

Very overdue summary of the activity I shared at #PedagooLondon earlier this month.

stamps

A while ago I joked to a colleague that my year 11s knowledge of Animal Farm was just about enough to fill a stamp. Whilst I hope my hyperbolic tendencies are proven unfounded, this conversation also reminded me of a good friend from my university days.  Pete was (and is) an artist.  He delighted in being quirky and gauche, his best expression of this was the teeny-tiny notes left under my door, which needed a magnifying glass to be read.

DSC_0064 (1)

 

 

This activity was inspired by Pete and his tiny writing ways.

The Postcard Essay

The idea is simple.  Instead of writing an essay in their books, students write it on a postcard.

Why?

This activity started as a blatant gimmick to persuade exam prep exhausted students to write just one more paragraph on a Friday p5.  It’s only a postcard, I encouraged positively, won’t take you 5 mins to fill it with a lovely, lovely essay on Of Mice and Men.

postcard 1

 

Just the activity of writing on something small was different enough to engage my weary students.

Then we started to play around with them. Student A would send Student B a postcard essay, which they would improve and send back.  I even have a postcard postbox in my classroom now.  With multiple exam classes, across different ability groups, Class A can send Class B postcard essays, commenting, improving, celebrating and then sending them back.

postcard 2

postcard 3 postcard 4

 

Any postcard will do, of course.

Here are the ones I use.