Beyond the success criteria (or Badger, Badger, Badger)

This idea was sparked by a series of different things: a visit by a SEN specialist who looked at classroom displays, the need for children to take more responsibility from SOLO work in my lessons and the feeling that sometimes in Literacy, Success Criteria were often being repeated and children took less and less notice of them as time went on.

The Success Criteria
We had been doing a 2-3 week unit on formal writing, persuasive, on encouraging tourists to visit a holiday resort. The SEN specialist had said that all classes in our school needed more visual displays – and by that, they didn’t just mean that the writing should be colourful, it meant that ideas for children on learning walls should be visual, memorable and connecting – a bit like this:

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Incidentally, I pinched that from another colleague and it works well. But I was after something else that also had the ‘visual’ aspect but addressed (what I saw in my class sometimes) as the ‘switching off’ that some of my students were doing when I would go on to doing a SC. Now, I do vary their introduction, from class knowledge/synthesis on board, to showing on Corkulous on the IPad to just plain putting them up on the board, but fundamentally, I felt there were times when the children just switched off with a SC. And I can kind of understand that. Our own insistence (or Ofsted’s?) that we use them in every lesson must ultimately be a turn off to some students – it just becomes part of the everyday background noise of school. So, I wanted to come up with something that a) could still be used in conjunction with a SC lesson to lesson and b) would force the children to take more responsibility for the application of key things in their learning.

Moving towards ‘Badgering’

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This picture shows what I came up with. Remember this was for a unit of work based around persuasive, formal writing.

  1. Used with a unit of work for literacy
  2. Consists of no more than 4 key things for writing in that unit
  3. Has a strong visual aspect (in this case, BADGERS!)

The Badgers comes from the idea that these were 4 things that I would ALWAYS ‘badger’ the children about. It meant we all got to say ‘badgerbadgerbadgerbadgerbadger’ very quickly and stupidly every lesson (as Jim Smith always advocates in his RING mnemonic) which helps the children remember it and reinforce it in a positive way every lesson.

Here’s how it was used. As we moved from guided to independent writing it got used more and more. Eventually, over the course of about 4 lessons, it was used every lesson just before writing began. Because the headings have an element of generality but contained 2 key writing areas from that area, it could be used every lesson:

  • Either based on prior learning, volunteering or just teacher’s wishes, 4 children were picked to have one of the four headings. The specific writing ones (impersonal language) might go to Higher Ability – but I didn’t find this was necessarily the case.
  • The cards are laminated, on blu tak, so they got stick to the children’s whiteboards. This meant that big reminder was always in front of them. I made it clear that this was a main focus of their writing and that I would be looking to see evidence of it at the end of the lesson. If I did see it then I wouldn’t need to badger them anymore!
  • I varied the children who got it from lesson to lesson, giving me a chance to focus on different children lesson to lesson. Children became more interested in having the ‘status’ of being one of these four children.
  • There was ample evidence in writing outcomes that it did have an impact on the writing produced – more care was always taken in the focus area.

I’ve liked this so much that I intend to keep using it on the other units of writing I am going to do. It’s a small thing that doesn’t take too much time to set up and can be re-used repeatedly from lesson to lesson. It is fair to say that children took more notice of it than the SC, because when they had it they felt it was personal to them and it always fitted the learning of the writing we were doing.

So, keep badgering!

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Using Microsoft Word to deliver quality peer assessment

Today I had one of those ‘why haven’t I done this before?’ type moments that occurred to me when I was planning a 2 hour lesson with my media studies class. I use Microsoft Word all the time to produce documents and so do my students. I have reflected on how to use plenty of other pieces of software as a teaching tool before, but never the humble word. This, I now think, was a mistake!

I knew that students had to show me their skills at writing in the tabloid style for the upcoming exams and I knew that I wanted them to peer assess each others’ work. As their writing was a ‘work on progress’ I wanted them to be able to edit it easily, so I decided they could use the computers to write their articles. I then thought I would just let them print off an early draft of the work. Could I avoid the hassle of 23 students printing off work at once then going crazy with post-it notes? Then I remembered the ‘review’ feature on word – what if I could get students to do the process of peer assessment in ‘real-time’? What I envisaged with this is that another student could quickly offer written feedback to the student on their word document and then the student could return to their own computer and edit their work quickly.

Q: So how did I achieve this?

A: In word click ‘review’ (top menu), highlight a piece of text and click ‘add comment’. Done!

 

 Key notes from observing students carrying out this task:

  • Easy to be specific. Sometimes when you get students to peer assess their work on paper they don’t like drawing on the other person’s work or underlining key things. With reviewing on word all the comments are made on a wider right margin and so don’t actually impinge on the actual content. Students generally seem to enjoy working on computers and this is another way of exploiting that engagement for learning.
  • Keep it moving. The slight kinaesthetic element of this activity meant that students didn’t have enough time to become bored sitting at a computer – after five minutes they were shuffling onto the next one! I wonder if in the future I could make this moving a bit more fun…
  • Success criteria to frame comments. Before students started, they had a display on the board that modelled the kind of language they should use to make comments (e.g. they should imagine someone else is reading it and that they can understand the explanation) and the kind of language techniques that you would expect to find in a tabloid style article. This meant that students had an expectation, right from the beginning, of the quality of the peer assessment they were supposed to produce.
  • The text box problem. Students who had done fancy layouts to mimic the look of newspapers were left a little despirited, because you can’t add comments to text inside text boxes. If the focus is on writing, then next time I do this I’ll make a point of saying that layouts are not our focus and should not be used.
  • Highlighting too much text. Often students (by mistake I think) highlighted the whole part of the text. I will make it clear to them next time not to do this, or to delete any comments they make doing this by mistake.

Conclusions

I got a little carried away by how well this process was going that I didn’t leave enough time at the end of the lesson for students to go back to their work and use this to strengthen their learning. Many students raced back to their computers and immediately started editing their text based on the suggestions other students had left. This made me realise that the best way to use this will be in short, sharp bursts. What I mean is this: Students spend 10 minutes writing a paragraph, break for 10 minutes to peer assess using word and then return to their work. Repeat when necessary. Having, in a sense, a series of peaks and troughs of peer assessment is going to be valuable for the reasons above but also for the purposes of ensuring all students are engaged and on-task at a similar level – if they know that in ten minutes another student will be seeing their work, I believe they might just sit up and take a little more notice of their writing.