“Chaos And Disorder”

“I get hit by mortars, everywhere I go I’m loitering
Chaos and disorder ruinin’ my world today”

Prince – Chaos and Disorder – Chaos and Disorder

Two things have been on my mind lately, both able to cause new staff a great deal of chaos and disorder.

Firstly, raising the bar at KS3 has featured heavily on my twitter timeline for a while now. I think many of my followers feel the same, schools often shift resources and focus to KS4 (which is understandable, they have exams to get through).  But what happens when the dust settles, the future little year 7s will be quickly be our new year 11s?

Secondly, the new English language and literature specs don’t appear that straightforward; summaries that aren’t really a summary, evaluations that are more like a personal response with evidence, coupled with the fact we have several new staff starting in September ensures interesting times ahead.

I wanted to do something to help the new staff get their head around both of these issues. If you’ve moved school recently, you will know starting at a new school is a frenzied time; new policies, names, room numbers, systems, documents etc. You get so much thrown at you, it’s difficult to see straight after a couple of hours. I remember those first few days, no matter how organised you try and get yourself, by the end of training day(s) you feel as if you’re sinking under a mountain of (for want of a better word) ‘stuff’.

So, as KS3 TLR, I’ve tried to put steps in place to alleviate some of the pressures faced as a new member of staff: a teaching pack for each unit for year 7 and 8. After speaking to my HOD she suggested; comprehension, inference/deduction, analysis (language, character, mood/atmosphere etc) comparison and some type of creative writing task. She felt often students read a piece of text without actually understanding it, they then find it difficult to answer questions appropriately. I have a slightly obsessive personality and at the moment I have booklets coming out my ears; I made one for each year group, covering language and literature. Each booklet is approx 8-12 pages in length, covering my HODs requirements, exam board AOs and hopefully set the bar for year 7 and 8 right from September (although I still need to sit and go through with my HOD and a fine tooth-comb); they may well change before September!

Each set contains:

  • Teacher 7-8 fully annotated extracts with extended questions
  • Student extracts / question pack
  • PPT of lessons to accompany the set/unit

The hope, for me, is if I’ve sourced the extracts, questions and answers, staff can follow as much or as little as they see fit. This could then possibly free up their time to focus on standards, behaviour, marking, supporting, establishing class routines etc. Any students finding the work difficult (or not being challenged enough) can be picked up quicker.

These are my draft versions, you may be able to see they are annotated and need work on them, but will give you an idea of finished product:

You can download a sample of each here – please be kind they are a working progress!

Year 7 Gothic Language SAMPLE

Year 7 Dickens Literature SAMPLE

Year 8 OMAM Literature SAMPLE

Year 8 People Language SAMPLE

Also analysing language can be ‘dry’ so, again, to help new staff I’ve put together a table of tasks ranging from different ways of analysing text, to more creative tasks – here’s a snippet:

Suggested Tasks

The Teacher Assessment Objectives (1 x literature page, 1 x language page) can be found below. The hope here is to help new staff understand AOs, what they are, what they actually mean and how to teach them and/or mark them in student work ‘accurately’. Again, below is only a sample, the actual version contains all literature/language AOs and includes exemplar student work marked, to help new staff in those first few weeks.

Teacher AO booklet SAMPLE

Finally, an ‘at a glance’ set of questions for literature and language used by exam board (style, wording etc) to help staff set appropriate extended writing tasks.

Style of questions

Please leave a comment if you feel I can add or improve these!

“Resolution”

“When the storms come again
Pray for resolution”

Prince – Resolution – Planet Earth

 

In case you are reading this blog, hoping for a golden solution to the teacher retention problem, I’ll warn you advance, this isn’t the blog for you! I merely offer one solution, actually a sort of sticky-plaster, to a difficult problem faced in schools: setting cover work. A situation every department needs to handle with resolution.

If you type teacher crisis into any search engine you’ll be bombarded with newspaper articles, reports on the current issues facing the British education system, or countless blogs from various teachers leaving the profession in droves. In fact Vic Goddard (@vicgoddard) Principal of Passmores Academy recently tweeted a photo of applicants received at his school: core subjects vs PE.

Untitled

Reading posts or tweets like that, as KS3 Lead I was relieved I wasn’t replacing a vacancy with few applicants,  however, my own problem was a slightly harder issue: planning and supplying daily meaningful work to cover a long term absent member of staff.

So what do you do if you’re covering long term absence?

Long term absence is described as 28 days or more (I’ve read). Now, covering a member of staff off for a day or two can be a pain, but covering work for a long term absence can have a serious impact on the rest of the department.  You are juggling your own timetable and commitments, including planning, marking, duties and any other number of current initiatives thrown your way with another full-time timetable of classes.

In January I was faced with exactly that! I was setting work for long term absence.

Every day I’d stand at the copier whizzing off countless worksheets etc and after a couple of weeks I was almost tearing my hair out. You could always guarantee somebody else was there before me (how annoying) or worse there was a queue (even more annoying). And let us not mention the meetings I missed!  So I turned to ‘twitter’ and Ann (@agwilliams9) let me run a Monday evening English chat session; my topic “How are you dealing with long term absence?”

8pm arrived and I tweeted out my question then sat nervously wondering if I’d get any replies. Soon enough the tweets came in so quickly I struggled to keep up.  Many English teachers were facing similar problems. It became clear short term absence was more common and therefore discussed more. My problem wasn’t as simple to resolve and nobody seemed to have a solution that suited me and the school I work in.

Out of the darkness I was feeling came a shining bright light in the form of Freya (@fod3). She suggested a possible solution could be to turn my SOW into booklets.  Students could follow the same unit as others in their year group, but more importantly all worksheets and responses are kept ‘tidy’ in their workbooks.  You see if you work in a school you quickly work out that many students cannot master the art of gluing in a piece of paper ‘straight’!  Class books become messy quickly.  I made up the booklets (or workbooks) with both the necessary resources and adequate space for the student to write, including short answers, extended writing and several creative tasks covering a range of forms and purposes.

Gone was my moody face at the photocopier, my rushing across the site, like a witch on her way to meet Macbeth, putting cover work on the desk with large notes. Suddenly my mornings were mine again. The booklets were a success!

All I can say is if you are faced with a similar problem and can turn your SOW into a workbook, do so. They have quite literally saved my hair being torn out and saved other staff having to put up with me huffing and puffing every day!

Here’s a selection of booklets – I have them made up to last a couple of weeks.

 

Below are a few examples for you to download if you want. Oh and before anyone complains about the quality of work, I need to point out the actual booklets are over 100 pages each covering a unit from start to finish including several SPaG exercises. The skills build as the unit moves towards an end of unit assessment covering the literature or language AOs. I’ve only attached 7-9 pages (not necessarily in the same order the actual booklets).

Oh and finally another bonus is if a student is off school for one reason or another, I arrange to have one sent home and they can work through these easily!

Year 7 My Hero booklet SAMPLE

Year 7 Noughts and crosses booklet SAMPLE

Year 7 Poetry workbook SAMPLE

Year 7 Weight of Water booklet SAMPLE

Year 8 Blitzed booklet SAMPLE

Year 8 MAAN workbook SAMPLE

Year 8 Survival booklet SAMPLE

Year 8 Poetry workbook SAMPLE

Thanks for reading. Please leave a comment – I’m always learning!