Archive for the ‘Independant Learning’ Category

I’m just on my iphone sir!

May 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Tweet me a question. Check in to an activity. Write a few notes. Send a message to a friend.

Active engagement hook for afl, increasing active learning and part of my boosting independence drive.

Printed a4, laminated and available in every room, every lesson.



Boosting Independent Learners

May 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Inspired by @teachertrying







This “Passport” was given out in form and lead learners (4 in each class) had to sign for other pupils to confirm other pupils had done this element in a lesson. Pupils were given a week to get it all signed off with a prize draw at the end of the week!




A display was made and put up in a prominent corridor within the department for pupils to be sent to if they needed help or feared failure. Around the display pupils annotated the frames with ,top tips’ and ,easy mistakes to make’. All week pupils have been grabbing tips or replacing them with their own, adding their own ‘easy mistakes to make’ or just moving the contributions nearer to a relevant frame. Interactive display’s are key for preventing your content becoming just wall paper!

Independent Monkeys

May 19, 2013 Leave a comment

Consider this a lesson structure to train your kids into in order to boost their independence. Adapt it for your department at will. I completely stole it from two NQT’s I’ve never met who presented it at a school I’ve never been to and a colleague of theirs I follow on twitter wrote it up and posted this link –


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Pedaduel: Off You Go vs Chalk/Talk/Drill

May 12, 2013 1 comment

The things in life I am best at I taught myself. I pushed myself to get better at. If there’s something I cannot do and I want to do it, I can work it out. It may not be the quickest way, the most efficient or the “best”, but from asking questions rather than answering them I’ve carved myself out a very successful path in life and I don’t see why I should get in the way of others seeking theirs.

I approach my music lesson with this air of individual freedom to be creative and find ones own path. Finding someone to recompose Beethoven’s 5th, reinvent the piano or to write a sterling Shakespeare monologue is of absolutely no interest to me in the classroom.

“They express their own ideas and feelings in a developing personal style, exploiting instrumental and/or vocal possibilities. ” Exceptional Performance Level Descriptor for Music

A block triad chord is not a particular difficult thing to learn. Use three fingers; hit one, miss one, hit one, miss one, hit one and you’re laughing. Have one triad starting on A, the next on G and that’s Gotye’s ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ sorted. So when I’m looking at strophic form and pop music with a class I say to pupils “here’s the note each chord starts on. Here’s the lyrics. Now off you go and do a cover version.” A musician by nature must try things out for themselves. What’s the best thing for me to do in that moment? It certainly isn’t showing pupils the chords. It’s to go round being difficult. Could you do that quieter? How about that bit being louder? Does it sound any good slower? How could you turn it into a ballad? What does that keyboard sound sound like? Have you tried it with a guitar? What instruments does the original use? Everything else, and eventually even this, they can do for themselves.

If they come and ask me to show them the chord I say “No, Off you go…”

In essence I push rather than pull. My job in this instance isn’t to pull them kicking and screaming but to push thinking and learning forward giving them ownership of their own learning. My role is not to lead in the lesson by pulling from in front but push them forward from behind. I can only say today we will go from A to B, I cannot dictate the exact route. Otherwise I’m cheating my pupils out of the number one benefit to having PA on the curriculum; To improve their ability to engage with the creative process, learning to be creative and learning to channel creativity to get an end result.

Now, I don’t pronounce that all teachers should down tools and simply while away the hours on Angry Birds. My presence in a classroom is carefully constructed over time to allow such subtle workings to have maximum effect in independent work. I still want more of something , I want progress just as the inspector, the senior leader, the coaching buddy or pgce mentee will be expecting to see. It’s my job to try and change the diagram above; to improve the green rather than sit back and ignore the amount of red or amber in the process. Performing Arts is process and product and I do believe a product is important. Even if it is simply an example of how wrong it all went, with accompanying reference points and targets on how to be better next time. I’m steering from behind rather than from in front.
I learnt the piano with lessons of between half an hour and an hour a week with my teacher. I matched my lessons time every other day bar Sunday. Therefore I worked at improving my musicianship for 83% of the time without anyone else there to assist me. In my lesson I received feedback on how I’d rehearsed mistakes, practised it too quickly, not followed the right fingering and then readjusted these things the following week. As a model for the music classroom I don’t see why we need to massively shift this approach. I have 4 Grade 8’s. This isn’t some fluke. I drilled myself when I recognised I needed it. If I didn’t know how to practice something I asked, I’d been trained to recognise it and ask – not simply told I was wrong. Parts were still dry, tedious and a hard slog but as it was my slog I was a lot more invested in winning it.
This increased my resilience to learning massively. It kept me going in the darkest of hours at the piano or violin when practising performances simply not able to do what I needed to do. When composing it kept me at the keyboard edge trying out different ideas, or finding new ways to look at it. Resilience in learning and resilience to learning is something often identified as something we need to build within learners, however when we’re always there to tell them if and how they went wrong and how to do it better are they ever going to be able to do it for themselves? Aren’t we sometimes mistaking giving a pupil a fish for teaching them how to fish? Often in the music room having nothing to perform or having something of significantly lower quality to others in the class makes pupils come back fighting in the next stage of the lesson with no support, with a little support they are all there slogging to keep moving forward.
The cross curricular appeal? Well a wiser man than me once said a kid will work harder to learn a certain note on the clarinet if they ask you how to play it rather than you tell them they are going to learn it. Obviously we can’t have 28 kids in a class all taking it their own way but a group response to a thought provoking statement, text or example offered by a teacher may just get out kids utilising their inherent skills to be more independent. In music I made up my own, I recreated other’s with understanding of how I was recreating it effectively and I analysed the harmony following strict rules initially formed by Bach. I was able to do all of this from an off you go approach. If I was ever sat down and constantly informed mistake, fix, practice I’d have probably ended up ditching it. I’ve never been very good at sitting and paying attention – even now!
Yes it’s hard. The kids need some training before hand and need slowly introducing to being “let go” so they don’t end up lost at sea. There’s a risk of pupils having absolutely NOTHING to show for an hour or longer. There’s a difficult balance to allowing pupils some off task time when they hit the wall and letting them just chat all lesson. However, my experience shows it ramps up expectation and firmly places the onus on learning on the learner. It ups the pressure but immediately responds to inquisitiveness with large scale support. Musical Futures have revolutionised the teaching of music in thousands of schools with an informal “in at the deep end” model. It’s so successful because it works.
If someone was to put a gun to my head and demand that Pupil A had to make Outstanding progress in the next hour this is what I would do. I’d “Off You Go…” my way through that hour safe in the knowledge that the gun wasn’t going off. It gets me guaranteed results every time whatever @trueenglish365 might have to say about it.

The Expectations Game

June 4, 2011 1 comment

When I arrived at my current post one statement was said to me more than any other. “You won’t get students to stay late or come in during the holidays”. As a Performing Arts Specialist these two things were crucial to the extra-curricula programme I had been planning for the school and left me with a very simple question: Do the students not come because they don’t want to be involved or do they not come because the teacher’s tell them they won’t?

It’s an interesting idea, my former head of department introduced me to the idea that praising a pupil with a specfic behaviour related statement, for example, “you’re always very good at putting you’re hand up” will mean even if that kid doesn’t always do it they will eventual do it because that is what they do for you. They take the praise and will wear it like a badge of honour. I was sceptical, but it works, and continued to work when I moved from a rural back ground to an inner city school. Kids is kids.

Here is a short video I found that sums this up quite nicely:

The model for behaviour is summed up in another video here from Supernanny. Forget Jamie’s Dream School – get Jo Frost on the case. She, with each family, set’s clear expectations for behaviour (sometimes these include the parent’s behaviour as well) and then follows through with them. She has expectations of a 4 and a half year old that sometimes I perhaps forget of a teenager…

To quote a work colleague – pupil’s are capable of making the right decision, if they don’t then there is a consequence.

This for me stretches into all forms of school life. I recently set a homework integral to the lesson pupils were in. They had to go home and print out a chord and lyric sheet form ultimate guitar for a cover versions enquiry. Groups who didn’t complete the homework could not play instruments as they did not know what chords they needed to learn. It was that simple.

Pupils without a pen for an exam, should they be lent one? Why? They are capable of remembering a pen, they remembered their mobile phone. They are capable of buying a pen should they forget.

Unfortunately from wanting the best for our kids I fear the expectation of the pupils delivering the best for themselves is diminishing.

Pupils must face the consequences of the decisions they make otherwise we are failing the facilitation of guiding them to achieve their all.

I’m 4 weeks out from the school production and as it’s a challenging and rewarding experience for the pupils involved and I expected commitment and showed I gave it myself, the whole cast arrived on time for a 3 hour half term rehearsal, with lead parts having been there for 2 hours before the main cast arrived. It just goes to show how if we raise our expectations the pupils will raise their’s.

We’ve gotta stop giving the kids the fish (or letting them borrow it):