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Bennett’s Behaviour Brilliance (and #PrimaryRocksLive) by @Mroberts90Matt

On Friday, a new publication was made available on the DfE website. These new publications always tend to be published on a Friday and so sit in my ‘I’ll get to it when I can’ pile. However, I had been anticipating this particular one for a little while and it has a lot of excellent infographs produced by Oliver Caviglioli (@olivercavigliol) . As such I determined that I would read this particular offering by Tom Bennett (@tombennett71) over the weekend as soon as I could. I had also been considering changing the paradigm of behaviour management in my classroom since #PrimaryRocksLive and hearing the input from Paul Dix (@pivotalpaul) . More on that later.

I could not even begin to attempt to capture the whole of this comprehensive report in one blog and I would not do it justice. To read the excellent report (and I strongly suggest you do) then follow this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/behaviour-in-schools

I will attempt to highlight some key messages and thoughts and enhance this with my own evidence and ideas:

1. The Way we Do Things Around Here
Early on, Bennett states – “The key task for a school leader is to create a culture – usefully defined as ‘the way we do things around here’ – that is understood and subscribed to by the whole school community.” This is a vital part of making behaviour excellent in any school. The challenge here is that this is very dependent on the school leadership. If the school leadership do not set an example of how we expect things to be, always, then it will become more challenging for staff to enforce this in the classroom.

I have experienced this in both extremes. Fortuntaely I currently work at a school where there is very much an ethos of “this is our way, and we all will follow this way”. What this does is not only instil a feeling working together to make behaviour work around the school but as teachers we become empowered to drive home these principles in the classroom. We remind children “this is not what we expect at our school” and suddenly they recognise this ethos will be expected by all. Of course some will naturally not conform, but the vast majority will, and this is the first step to ensuring excellent behaviour across a school.

2. Behaviour Focus must come from higher than Heads

Despite the importance of the previous point, it is important to note that Bennett states that actually, the way behaviour will improve across the country is for the focus and resources to come from higher than Headteachers. He says his suggestions “…are designed to stimulate change and improvement in the field of school leadership for behaviour.” The Department for Education must make certain changes and provisions to make the biggest impact – which will have an impact on recruitment and retention (which in themselves are main focuses right now for the DfE).
The suggestions to the DfE can be found in the report on page 9-10 and are well worth a look and hopefully, as they commissioned the report, they will act on the advice.

3. Behaviour must be a priority for all

There are many pressures in education. Teachers, school leaders and other stakeholders in children’s education will all have different priorities. For some it’s developing the whole child. For others it is imparting as much knowledge as possible. Whatever an educator’s core value and goal, behaviour from those involved in the classroom will have an impact. Thus, research and effort into how to develop better behaviour in the classroom is important, necessary even.
“Whatever one believes the aim of education to be, all of these are best realised in schools where good behaviour is the norm, and antisocial, selfish, or self-destructive behaviour is minimised.”
All schools can take note of this. How do they address behaviour? Is there a robust, clear behaviour policy. Is there a valuable induction for new members of staff (not just teaching staff) so all understand “how we do things around here”? Who holds whole-school responsibility for behaviour, is there a Behaviour Lead? Is it necessary to have one person given the responsibility to plan and consider behaviour?

4. Is expecting good behaviour oppressive?

Fairly recently, I got caught into a brief discussion on Twitter. It happened when there was that uproar over (guess who…) the Michaela Academy deciding to recruit a ‘detention director’. Now, I felt that this was unusual but as was pointed out – if this is how they ensure behaviour is kept excellent then so what? Some tried to argue that this clearly shows Michaela have behaviour issues in school. However, as Bennett points out, the best schools address behaviour and make plans to act on it when behaviour is very good so the fact they wanted to recruit a ‘detention director’ is no indicator of poor behaviour.

Going back to the discussion I got pulled into – there was one line in the job description someone pulled out, about expecting obedience in school. Someone had an issue with this and I asked “When would you not expect obedience in a school?” Of course I got all sorts of answers (including, when a member of staff asks a child to join them in a quiet stock room and when a member of staff says they cannot go to the toilet despite the fact they are desperate) but of course we are talking about obedience to school rules here. Some teachers seem to feel that saying we expect obedience to all rules is oppressive but, to be openly frank here, this is why we have behaviour problems in school. Expecting good behaviour is not oppressive, it is surely standard in any school.

5. Behaviour thrives in complacency

Behaviour strategies are easy to implement, they are harder to maintain. I have seen this in the microcosm of my own classroom. I am only teaching in my third year but I have seen how if a behaviour management strategy is not kept relentlessly on top of, then it’s impact decreases dramatically. Think then how slippage can happen across a school. Another things I have noticed is how the effectiveness of some behaviour strategies decay naturally over time so keeping children on their toes is sometimes necessary.
Below if a diagram showing just *a few* elements of how behaviour can deteriorate in a school which can be found in Bennett’s report:

Behaviour Barriers(page 60 for the original image)

Thus, Bennett suggests all school leaders should take an audit on behaviour. Whilst self-auditing is a start, Bennett suggests the audit will be most effective when done cross-schools. If leaders look at all this practice-changing information and say, as Bennett suggested ‘they already do that…’ then they will miss out on improving the already-good behaviour system they have. The work has to be done when things are going well or not.

So now what?

Well, for me I knew I had to change. I was unfortunate to not go to #PrimaryRocksLive but I followed on the hashtag for quite a while and it was clear that Paul Dix’s presentation on behaviour was a shining highlight.

For me, the concept of faming good behaviour rather than shaming poor behaviour rung true. I and, from the reaction I read, many other practitioners do not fame good behaviour enough. So I took this on board, and magpied an excellent assembly idea from the influential Chris Dyson (@chrisdysonHT) who took the ‘Best Seats in the House’ concept from Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. Simply, the children win the ‘best seats’ through behaviour above and beyond what we expect. I applied this to my own classroom:

This has already evolved since Monday and now the children love it – the children chosen from the previous day get to do their learning in the best seats, they get a little reward (of a chocolatey nature) and they get to leave the class first for break, lunch and end of day. Most importantly, they are announced in the class and their behaviour is famed.

If a child wins it one day then shows above and beyond behaviour to win it the next day? So what?? They win it two days in a row. That blew some of my kid’s minds! How is that fair? I had questions – and I asked one back “Was their behaviour above and beyond yesterday again?” They have quickly learned only above and beyond will earn the exciting reward! Try it out and improve on what I’ve done – I’m sure there are better ways.

 

Initial Thoughts on Whole Class Guided Reading @Mroberts90Matt

So, a few days into a new journey for me. Guided reading at my school setting has been quite transient over the past few years I’ve been teaching there. I will list the various ways it has been implemented and consider the pros and cons of each. Over the 2 1/2 years I have tried three different styles of delivering Guided Reading and to hear anyone’s thoughts on the various styles would be much appreciated!

1 hour focus session a week

This was a style of Guided Reading I had never seen before and I doubt I will ever see again. Simply put, this style entails splitting the whole class into 4/5 groups once a week for an hour. Within that hour, all the TAs available in that Phase Group were pooled together so that each group would have a focus for a whole hour. So let’s have a look at this…unique style:

+Far more time to explore a text with a supporting adult

+More time to try and integrate more drama-based activities to enhance understanding of text

– Not every child is read with by the class teacher, only one group

– Only one GR session a week per child

– Highly reliant on all additional adults being available

– Requires a lot of different learning spaces to make most of benefits

Carousel Guided Reading

This is the regular version of Guided Reading. The Dairy Milk, the Ready Salted, the Kit Kat classic if you will. Wherever you’ve seen Guided Reading, this is probably the style you’ve seen implemented. Put simply, the class are split once again into around 5 groups and each day for 20-30 mins (depending on how long it takes your kids to actually figure out where they’re sitting and which daily activity they’re on) each group is undertaking a different activity and complete all of them in a week. Once again, benefits and negatives include:

+ An opportunity for a variety of challenges

+ Chn (in theory) become more independent

+ Teacher gets to work with everyone at some point in focused reading once a week

– Differentiation is a nightmare

– Chn from other groups will interrupt you when in discussion with focus group

– Due to different texts in each group, some do not access higher level texts

– Depending on the age and independence of your age group, setting up and settling can be tedious

Whole Class Guided Reading

This is the new craze that seems to be sweeping the Twitterverse. Quite a few Literacy leads (including my own) are raving about whole class guided reading. This is the reason why I am going to be trying it out this half term. The premise as far as I understand it is the class are introduced to the text/chapter/section all together (perhaps with a hook) to engage. Then they all read independently and the teacher moves to work with a focus group during the next section whilst the rest answer a variety of questions on the section they are working on and this lasts over 2-4 days depending on the Year Group. Once again, benefits and negatives are:

+All engage with higher level vocab from a higher level text

+Opportunity for all chn to access deeper thinking through peer discussion

+Less workload in terms of differentiation

+All chn receive some level of input from class teacher every day

+Less need for ‘set-up’ time

-Perhaps less of a chance for a variety of activities (but depends on how it’s implemented)

-Harder to integrate speaking and listening activities which the teacher can monitor and assess with it being a whole class task

By by non-exhaustive thinking, Whole Class Guided Reading should be the more effective method but many will have their opinions and other benefits and negatives to add (or maybe take away). Half our staff are trialling Carousel with One Text for All and half are trialling Whole Class with One Text for All. I had set up my carousel really effectively so I was a little reluctant but we were meant to trial as a Year Group and my Year 6 partner is the English Lead so I had little choice! However the class seem to be enjoying it so far!

Green for GO! by @Mroberts90Matt

As the eagle eye of you may have noticed – I have not written a blog post for quite a while, most of the holidays in fact. I decided to take step back from EDUCATION for a few weeks, just so my family knows I still exist – you know, those people who I love the most in the world.

Anyway, this one is a short post sharing a thought I’ve had that is not original but I would like to try out in the classroom, then I’m hoping normal service will be resumed from next week.

Ever since I guest published on Teacher Toolkit just over a year ago about self assessment I’ve been trying to think of ways that I can integrate the principles of self-assessment into my teaching and learning without detracting time from the lesson and, at the same time, making it useful to inform my teaching in my Year 6 class. I’ve tried a few things over my NQT Year and toward the end of my ITT which have had benefits but also downfalls. As we go into a new school year, I have read that if a teacher does not do anything new or differently, they are not progressing. So this is what I’m thinking of doing…

I’m pretty sure most educators would know what I’m thinking about when they see the above picture. What I want to try is to have each child have a green, yellow and red paper cup in front of them and, during the activity in the session, the pupils display whichever ‘colour’ they feel they are at in their learning – green they are confident and may even want a challenge, yellow they are going ok but want to work on it a little more and red they are struggling with the learning going on and want a little support. In my mind, this is a marvellous idea…

Yet, in the back of my mind, I know there must be something that will make this a hindrance. Maybe the cups will be a distraction on the desk? Clearly there would have to be some sort of agreement between myself and the students to ensure that the cups are not misused, lost or damaged (they cost money you know, shall I send the bill to your parents etc). Maybe they could sign their cups at the start of the year, Starbucks-style, so they would have some ownership over the cups?

I’m sure there are probably other downfalls that I might not have noticed – has anyone had experience of using this self-assessment tool? Has it worked incredibly well? Any tips on how to make it work really well? Anyone think that this is a horrible idea that has no hope in working? Would love to hear your thoughts!…

Are you MAD?! – Using An Assessment Idea by @Mroberts90Matt

I mentioned this idea for marking in my last post of NQT Resolutions as a tool to help me keep on top of the amount of marking a teacher has to do. At the time of posting I had been given permission to try it out by my Headteacher (something I felt I had to do as an NQT) and actually marked a couple of sets of books using the technique. However, it had not yet been put in front of the biggest critics (the kids) and I had not yet seen if it would benefit them. Since then I have found great success with it and even a mention in my first NQT Observation done by my Headteacher – please read on if you want to save literally hours of time a week!

How are you getting feedback across to your children?
How are you getting feedback across to your children?

The Idea

I would start straight away by re-emphasising that this is not my original idea. I came across the method in a series of excellent summer blog posts by @LearningSpy who referenced it to Joe Kirby’s blog! The idea is so simple – basically instead of writing comments that is expected by a teacher to praise what the child has done and give constructive steps on how to improve – you write down three symbols. Then, in the very next lesson (as this method allows you to mark books for the very next lesson with ease) children are given 5 mins to copy down the relevant feedback to those symbols. Typically I have 8-10 various comments that are used across a set of 30 books ranging from correcting common misconceptions to a gentle reminder to underline the date and LO. During this specific silent 5 mins I then take the time to target individual children i have made a note of to give some extra verbal feedback on what they’ve done and try to progress their understanding further. I personally have labelled this time ‘MAD Time’ (Make A Difference) but the concept is that the children write the personalised comments down, rather than the teacher.

Does it MAD?

Well, it has been a week and a half since I have introduced MAD into my teaching, and it has indeed MAD!

1. My workload has balanced

Before I would spend up to an hour, maybe more, marking a set of class books. After having written repetitive comments in books the children would then barely give them a second glance, despite my attempts at the start of each lesson to get them to read and initial the words painstakingly etched by me. This would become disheartening after time. Now, I find I am spending 20mins or so on the same number of books. This means I have more time to prepare engaging follow on lessons from the learning I’ve just assessed.

2. The feedback has improved

I am not afraid to admit it – after marking 20-23 books, my enthusiasm would deplete and my comments to the children in their books would become more and more generic and rushed. I suppose this is human nature (and why a wonderful piece of writing from a child might get more rushed toward the end!) Because of this technique, the level of personalised feedback is constant for the whole class, not just the children whose books are nearer the top of the pile!

3. The technique gets the children to take the feedback in

Now that the children are, in essence, writing comments on their own work they seem to take it in more. Just this past week I have seen direct improvement on a child’s work from comments they have written. Would those improvements have been made if I had written them? Maybe, but it is less likely the child would have read them. This way, the feedback is certain to be acknowledged, even if then the child makes no effort to act on it.

4. It shows innovative practice which is centred on one thing – learning

As mentioned, this MAD Time was observed in my first NQT Observation last week by my Headteacher. I said beforehand I would not focus on the grade, if I was given any, as Ofsted would not grade me. Then I was given an Outstanding…I couldn’t help take notice of that! The MAD Time was stated as an extremely good way of helping children make a difference in their learning and straight away set a precedent for that lesson that we were there to learn, and they would have the feedback yesterday to work on.

5. FInally…the children LOVE it!

I did NOT expect this outcome! Quite honestly, I thought my class would hate it to begin with. However, now when I display the 8-10 comments they may find in their work, they actually get excited! Some even utter a ‘yesss’ when they know it’s MAD Time before they then find they have a ~) and a +) which they need to work on. Why? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it’s a new idea and it’ll lose it’s freshness after a couple of weeks. Maybe it’s because they feel they are actually engaging in something they feel is new and a good way to improve their learning. They actually care that they understand why they’ve received certain feedback and what they can do to achieve that. I’ll probably need a bit more time to fully understand why they like it so much but I am certainly not complaining!

Will you try MAD Time in your teaching and learning? How do you get written and verbal feedback across to your class and are there any other ways that have been effective for you? Are you MAD?

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Breaking back in! by @Mroberts90Matt

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Do you remember when you were at school after the long summer? What was one of the most difficult things about being back in school? What was a struggle to begin with? For me, it was getting back into handwriting..

Invariably, during the summer I would not write a lot, if not at all! There was generally no homework set as we were transferring between teachers. So when it came to the first day back in September I had to graft to fit my hand around that pencil/pen and write in the joined up handwriting I had been taught as an 8 year old. If you were to look in my books at the start of the year there would certainly be a lot more wobbles than later on in the year.

I can’t help but feel the same in my practice as a teacher. I’ve had a slightly longer summer than most because, despite working as a supply teacher, the supply work dried up the last couple of weeks – so I finished early! This means I have had a while without teaching. Now, there weren’t any ‘wobbles’ really in my first day as a full-time, proper, paid teacher – to be honest it was pretty awesome! However, I am not naïve enough to think that there will not be difficult days as
an NQT, Year 6 teacher. However, I’m sure that as time goes on, I will ease into the routine and strategies that I used so fluently in my placements and supply teaching.

(Now I’ve just got to let my legs get used to being used a lot again…very stiff!)

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