I’m usually workin’ both night and day
No time 4 fun
Prince – Get Yo Groove On – Emancipation
Earlier in the year, I was thrilled to be asked by Jude Huton @judehunton to present at
#rEDRugby which took place on 9th June. The following blog is part of my presentation and slides – without my waffle in between. My talk was suitable for any subject or phase. If you are a different subject/phase teacher just replace the English resources for your own subject/key stage. I have also split KS4 and KS3 strategies/interventions otherwise this blog will go on and on; you can read about KS3 here.
I took a big risk this year and decided to put all my eggs in one basket, rather than offer several interventions, then not know which did or didn’t work I only used one central intervention which was run by myself.
I do need to state in advance I work in a small, private independent school and I fully understand that makes managing classes/students easier than in a large secondary. The interventions have been successful with our students showing the highest % of progress I’ve ever seen and when I questioned students they said the interventions were helping them improve.
Targeting underachieving students
As teachers we want all students to reach their potential.
But how do you do that? How do you get each student to be as successful as they can be? Here are some ideas and ways you can use, or pick and mix from – after all, context is key. What works in one school, or for one student, may not work for others.
First, why don’t interventions work? I’ve worked in schools where we’ve done all of the following – sometimes with the same student!
If one strategy doesn’t work, not to worry we have plan b, c, d…quite honestly, no wonder students were confused! But why is that?
- Tests often mislead more than inform.
- Some skills are harder to monitor.
- Students need intervention in the area they are weakest in.
- You need to use strategies that have worked elsewhere. But that doesn’t mean the program will work for you. Research-based doesn’t mean that it will work automatically; you have to make such programs work. Visit other schools similar to yours.
- Don’t put an intervention in and assume the problem is solved.
- Intervention has to involve everyone; SLT, MLT, class teacher, student, parent/carer!
- Don’t just leave up to the intervention, find moments for these students in class!
- Involve parents in their programs as well.
- Put strategies in place that help struggling students become successful!
I’ve worked in some schools where class teachers would teach students one way, intervention teachers another. No wonder we didn’t see students improve as much as we hoped. Departments need consistency – not in the way they teach, but the success criteria delivered to students to get the best marks.
The first thing I did was to take the above advice; I broke the exam paper down. After mocks, I wanted to know exactly what our students could/couldn’t do. I went through:
- An exam paper
- mark scheme
- SAM provided by exam board
- Examiner’s comments
Using all those, I mocked up a student response analysis sheet for each exam they sat in English. These were for teachers but kept in the student’s file. All I wanted to know was ‘can they do something well, or not’.
Teachers completed these for their groups as they marked. No comments needed, just a tick or cross. This helped me decide the intervention needed for each student, they were also grouped together by need (AO). Here’s a completed one – So this student:
chose a quote from the right area, but not the correct quote to get the mark! However, this is only worth 1 mark.
only scored 2/6 because they didn’t analyse the quotes in relation to question.
student scored 6/15 because they didn’t ‘evaluate’ even though they used quotes etc – This was the priority AO as student lost 9 marks.
These worked well, but if I am honest were time-consuming to analyse. I had to go through each one and enter data into a spreadsheet.
How will I improve for 18/19 – I will use an online version eg google/microsoft forms instead of paper. This way staff enter data and I can analyse immediately.
Using the analysis sheets and data, I created a set of AO specific questions in the same style as the exam questions with a short text, question or prompt (mini exam questions, scaffolded and differentiated with sentence starters, hints). I made loads of these for each AO! Then each week I would visit students in form and ran the intervention sessions. These worked because the sheets (see below) broke the AO skill down into small chunks and students were able to slowly, over time, discover facts and relationships for themselves.
This was because:
- the AOs were in taught in isolation (go back to Sweller image at the start)
- Students read a variety of short unseen texts, so became more adept at selecting correct information (see Bruner)
- they only had 20 mins to read/answer – it got them used to writing quickly!
- the short space also ensured succinct answers
- The targetted AOs meant students worked in groups of same need.
- They didn’t take me long to read/mark so could give instant feedback
Here are some completed ones:
Grouping students together and breaking down the exam paper meant students were also able to discuss ideas with other students on the same AO.
How will I improve for 18/19 – I will begin intervention from September not January, the routine is key with students. I would also follow any issues up much sooner with class teacher/student/parent etc.
Other strategies used in the classroom
The above is how I, as HOD, and my department tackled intervention. Our data showed significant progress using those strategies convincing me to continue with them, developing them further. The following are other strategies we used in class and homework:
- Starters – I put together some simple 5-minute starters using language and literature skills – I have tweeted these out.
2. For September I want myself and team to get better at live modelling using our visualiers so that students can see how to structure responses.
To aid this I’ve created extract based Knowledge Organisers for the teachers focusing on key extracts/lines from texts. I made this one using Amy Forrester’s (@amymayforrester )A Christmas Carol Sliced resources she tweeted out:
Eventually I hope everyone in my department creates them as they go along for key texts/scenes/lines, they can be added to year on year as you teach, so eventually, I hope we end up with a bank of high-quality extract based teaching resources.
3. I used Chris Curtis (@Xris32 ) 200-word challenge for homework. You can read more about them here: 200 Word Challenge (see image below for example).
As a department, we set a two-part homework for KS4:
- students need to read a text, could be fiction or non-fiction – this gave them more opportunities to read new and challenging texts.
- students need to answer a question based on the text – often topics they have zero interest in.
The text to read and the task to complete are saved separately to PDF and uploaded to our homework platform.
My last strategy in the classroom is thanks to the lovely Becky (notoriously known as @shadylady222 ). This is a teacher that achieves amazing value added to students at her school. It can be easy to get good grades when you have well behaved/high achievers to begin, not so easy when they’re not. Anyway, a few years back Becky tweeted two documents I’ve used again and again but with different texts.
The first is connected to the vocabulary choices made by KS4 students when analysing literature. By giving them a set of words to memorise, their analysis improves immediately. Becky has tweeted these out, the one on the left is the original Of Mice and Men and my ripped off version for A Christmas Carol.
The second inspired by a few on twitter; firstly Claire Hill (@Claire_Hill_ ) tweeted back in 2015 on the banishment of PEE and much more effective What Why How:
and Louisa (@englishluluis ) inspired Becky’s attempting to dump any form of PEEing and instead focusing on 3 qs- What? How? Why? Again these have been tweeted out:
All of the above are not set in stone, no strategy should be. They evolve as we work out the strengths and weaknesses.
For September 18/19 I will also be creating interleaved starters for all the texts we use (I haven’t started making these yet) and I’ve already begun to create mini Quizlet quote tests for the texts we use. As you can see below I limit to 5-15 terms/quotes to learn so I can set a couple of these a week. I have made these for all the texts and poetry cluster to help students learn quotes and subject terminology. They take minutes to create.
You can have a little go on this ‘sample test’ I’ve put together for KS3 spellings: Test – 5 spellings
Students can download the app and do these quickly on their phones! All the options from learn, test and match are just so easy to use. (Note to use ‘spell’ you need to use a browser, not Quizlet app. I think these will prove very useful).
Once you create them, you can do any of the above – I’ve keyed in the words and meanings. I’ve limited to 5-15 terms/quotes as we already have the comprehension homework. I’ve also used Quizlet for literary terms/definitions (subject terminology).
These are some strategies I’m putting in place from September ’18 (KS3 in particular) but I will also try to do these for KS4 where possible:
- I’d like students to number lessons, that way ‘if’ a student is absent they can catch work up – easier for me to keep track of missed lessons.
- Students will be given a table to list their scores from both starters and homework (spelling and comprehension test). This means I can check any issues quickly and intervene early:
If you aren’t keen on the above, here are 6 further strategies, according to research, that do work:
- Metacognition and self-regulation
- Collaborative learning
- Effective feedback
- 1:1 tuition
- Peer tutoring
Finally, we want to be in a position where we don’t need an intervention – getting it right in the classroom from year 7. To do that we need to get our KS3 right. You can read about our KS3 strategies and interventions here.
Thank you for reading!