Monday, 30 September 2013

Speed Dating

A TeachMeet always inspires me to do new things and re-try exciting things I've done before. #TeachMeetRE was no different...

Leigh Almey (@LeighAlmey) shared her presentation on 'The Argument Tunnel' which you can watch <here>.

This prompted me to change my Y13 lesson P6 to do some Speed Dating!

I first heard of this idea at #TMEssex last year from a HE lecturer who used it with PGCE students. It creates a buzz in the room and generates a high intensity atmosphere in the classroom, it's also fun.

As the class arrived I gave students an EdExcel Developments AO2 question and told them to get planning...

(ii) ‘The religious experience argument merely indicates the probability of God and this is of little value to a religious believer.’ Discuss. (12) - June 2010

They had 5 minutes to plan an outline to this question while I set up the room. Admittedly this is a reasonably hard question and I could see a number of students who had just set up a basic 'strengths/weaknesses' table which wouldn't allow them to rise to the demands of the question. Most ran out of ideas around the 4minute mark.

I then arranged them into two groups with a timer. One student instantly said, "This is like speed dating!". After all they sat in two rows, facing one another.

I then gave them a series of questions to talk about, carefully helping to develop understanding of this question and then reach some kind of conclusion:

  • What is religious experience? (1min)
  • What types of religious experience are there? (1min)
  • What conditions may lead to a religious experience taking place? (1min)
  • What does "probability of God" mean? (1min)
  • Is religious experience of value? (1min 30secs)
  • Is religious experience of little value? (1min 15secs)
  • What are your conclusions? (1min 15secs)

As you can see I altered timings and had each question appear on the board as it was covered. The timer and one side of 'the dates' moved after each go.

At the end I sent them back to their desks and told them to get writing... You could hear a pin drop as they furiously wrote away for the next ten minutes! I had to stop them writing as it was end of the lesson but they had plenty more than before the activity, yet essentially I had not imparted any new information to them.

The feedback was very positive: they learnt new things, they understood the terms better, they worked out what the question was asking... and they enjoyed it and were totally engaged!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

A2 Independent Learning - Part 1 (What I Tried)

The post-exam period is very difficult for Y12. They are exhausted after AS exams and largely in holiday mode, some are also leaving the subject (or planning to!). However perhaps as I know the demands of the A2 and want to get it started, or maybe because I am mean, we get back to work.

The slightly individual situation we currently have is that we teach the AS between three teachers, however the A2 is taught by just two teachers. As such there four lessons per fortnight post-exam where work needs to be set. 

My colleague and I who both teach the A2 decided on a topic each, and then set a variety of tasks. I simply emailed the students this video:

I provided some background reading, pointed them in the direction of the course textbook as well as the extensive resources stored on our Edmodo and via my student blog (see <here>).

I then scheduled ten lessons of independent study, supervised by our other colleague, which totalled 8hrs and 20mins. Plus homework.

I picked the section on 'Atheism and Critiques of Religious Belief' and the only advice I gave the students was: "Marx, Durkheim, Freud, Jung and Dawkins" (as seen in the masks at the top of this post!). This makes up the core of scholars covered in the EdExcel textbook, which I freely admit I use as a guide.

This section is important as it feeds into both papers we do 'Developments' and 'Implications' but equally is the least likely section to appear on the 'Developments' exam.

Deep down I knew I could recover if it was a disaster, but I was optimistic!

In my scheduled lesson time, I began 'Religious Experience' answering questions related to 'Atheism...' but trying to keep things to a minimum and trying to make all responses "Have you read...", "Have you looked in...".

Part 2 (What I found) is <here>.
Part 3 (What students said) is <here>.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Being The Boss?

To me, there will only ever be one Boss. However, it's undeniable that part of our role in the classroom is be in charge of learning, discipline, toilet issues...

As part of my schools' ACE working party (that's for another post), we decided to try and target the habit of many of our students who tend to put their hand up very quickly as soon as they encounter a problem. This runs from Y7 to Y13.

We decided to adopt Jim Smith’s idea from “The Lazy Teacher’s Handbook”,C3B4ME. We are using a student designed poster, see left, and decided to leave off 'Me' (or the Boss as I have also seen it). This was conscious as we wanted students to really focus on the tools available to them before asking for help.

It is designed to be a point of reference for the teacher and a reminder to students to take a minute, and see if actually they can tackle the problem on their own, or with the resources immediately to hand.

A poster has been put up in every classroom around the school at the start of this academic year (download <here>). A Y7 student designed the poster as part of a competition designed to help give ownership to pupils.

Measuring the outcome will be difficult. This is just one small part of a far wider strategy to make our students more resilient learners, less dependent on the teacher to take them every step of the way. It's also important to be concious that the teachers' role is far from redundant, there is a constant need to stretch the students and this will never go away.

I did think it was important to explain why this blog was called TDRE Boss Blog though; it's a Springsteen reference. I think as teacher, often you need to take centre stage as The Boss, but equally "nobody wins unless everybody wins" and it's important to constantly reflect on how that can happen in your classroom.

The Beginning...

And so it begins... After several years of using other teachers' blogs, I've finally got my own. No way will this rival things like the blogs of Ross McGillTom Sherrington, John Tomsett or Mark Anderson. I've been really inspired by fellow RE teachers Richtie Gale (who I did my PGCE with) and Sam Betts.

So here it is.

I'm going to blog about things I try in my classroom; things that work and things that don't. I'm involved in a few little projects and I want to write about them.

I look forward to hearing from you...