Tag Archives: feedback

Daily Whole Class Feedback Mark Two by @Mroberts90Matt

So, workload. It’s been shown to be quite high on the agenda by the DfE, Ofsted, Parliament and so on. Among the problem areas – marking has been highlighted. I previously posted a blog about whole class feedback which significantly cut back on the amount I was writing in children’s books and increased the engagement with the feedback. Find it here.

I have been using the method in the blog now for almost four years and would recommend it to anyone. What I have found is hours of freed up time to use to plan more quality interventions and next steps with the feedback I give to the children.

However, I have found something which may be even quicker (at least, in the week I have begun trialling it, when it used to take 20mins-30mins to mark a set of Maths books it now takes ~10-mins-15mins! To be honest, this web page explains it very well so I will leave it to do most of the explaining as I am considering my work-life balance 😉

1

It is well worth considering though – once again, my time has been freed even more and I have found (initially anyway) to have a much bigger impact on the children’s understanding through more regular, consistent verbal feedback. There have been a number of moments working with specific targeted children where they have had ‘a-ha’ moments because of the way this feedback approach enables the class to be moved forward with minimal effort from the teacher so they can plan an effective feedback time at the start of the next lesson.

Advertisements

READ THE QUESTION by @Mroberts90Matt

A tweet this week (and every practice paper we attempt in Year 6) remind me of a well-known, frustrating and exasperating conundrum all Year 6 teachers face often.

READ THE QUESTION!!

2.png

I seem to spout the same sentence individually, in a group and in whole class discussion every week. I have even said it and heard it said in a couple of staff meetings. I have also muttered it to myself when I have made the same mistake. It seems this pandemic is a global problem, no matter the ability, progress, cultural background or age of the person. But why does this happen.

The Documented Problem of Reading the Question

‘Underline key words’

It is a researched fact that in exams and tests one of the biggest issues that occurs is that students, from primary all the way up to university level, often trip with reading the actual question.

When revising, students often rehearse answers in their head. says Roy Jackson, course leader in religion, philosophy and ethics at the University of Gloucestershire. “Although we don’t deliberately intend to catch them out in exams, we do set questions that requires them to think and reflect under timed conditions. But instead students will often pick up key words in the question and write out a rehearsed response.”

In education we are obsessed with key vocabulary, and rightly so. Learning, understanding and categorising key language can underpin a lot of key concepts and skills in many, if not all, subject areas. Angle, adjective, hypothesis, artery, evidence, source, hemisphere, continent, analyse, evaluate, strokes, pivot, endurance…we throw all sorts of weird and frankly wonderful words at out learners to assist them in becoming more proficient in each of these subject areas. The grasp of key words is important in this endeavour. However, this fascination over key language seems to permeate into exam ‘practice’. This may help…but is it also a hindrance?

Many primary and Maths teachers will be aware of the acronym ‘RUCSAC’. I’m calling it out. I know many others have cast this aside for many reason, however I’m accusing this seemingly helpful skill of causing more problems in actually understanding the question.

I’ve seen the ‘U’ stand for one of two things – Understand or Underline. Understand: if I could get children to understand questions by just telling them to ‘Understand’ I would make a fortune. ‘Underline’ seems a bit more helpful but even this can cause problems…

Take this question for example: ‘I am going to share 3 boxes of chocolates between 5 friends. There are 30 chocolates in each box. How many chocolates are there to share?’ On the surface a very straightforward question.

However, as we know in Year 2, 6 and other high-stakes exam years, a lot of time is spent practising tests. If a child is trained to ‘underline’ key vocabulary and use THAT to identify the next stage (C – Choose operation) then they may misread the question. The higher attainers and rapid graspers (whatever phrase you’re using these days) will contextualise the problem and realise they need to multiply 3 by 30. However, the lower attainers and some middle attainers who are clinging on, will follow the strategy as they have been taught and identify one word – ‘share’. Now, all the followers of the RUCSAC strategy will know ‘share’ means one thing – divide. If children are taught to look for key words and phrases and to follow a strict guideline of how to solve, they will become stuck. They haven’t read the question properly and make the mistake.

Short-term Reliance

The ‘cramming before examming’ culture in academic exam years is also geared toward short-term memory. Scientific American says:

“Memories like what you had for dinner are stored in visual short-term memory—particularly, in a kind of short-term memory often called “visual working memory.” Visual working memory is where visual images are temporarily stored while your mind works away at other tasks—like a whiteboard on which things are briefly written and then wiped away.”

We teach children mnemonics, quick tricks and rehearsed answers to help them gain procedural understanding. However, in teaching this way, whilst we may gain lots of marks on some papers, that understanding is extremely limited. Conceptual understanding, the kind of understanding that enables children to see the bigger picture of a question, is lacking. This means they will read a question and struggle to contextualise it. No wonder they don’t ‘read the question properly’! They can read it but their short-term memory is trained to look for the procedure to answer the question.

Take 1/3 x 5/7. Every child in my Year 6 class would tell you the answer is 5/21. What does that ACUTALLY mean?

However, give them this question: “3/4 of a pan of brownies was sitting on the counter. You decided to eat 1/3 of the brownies in the pan. How much of the whole pan of brownies did you eat?” and see the confusion settle in…

And we wonder after a solid couple of terms on this method at least why there are drops in progress or attainment in Year 3 and 7…

The Solution?

A solution is worth searching for. Children may lose marks and not attain their potential not through a lack of understanding but just simply not having processed the question, or even their own working carefully. I have seen a child not achieve a Level 5 and then in later years miss out on Expected by one mark, both because they added decimals perfectly in their working but then forgot to include the decimal in their answer!!

Unfortunately I have no better solution to this problem of reading the question properly other than quality first teaching (or whatever phrase you use for that). I am also a hypocrite wilst saying this. Whilst I am now trying to help children understand the concept properly first more so now before showing them the ‘trick’ – I am still reverting back to little tips and tricks as we get ever closer to the SATs.

One thing I have done though which does open the children’s eyes a little bit to tackling this issue is this document which I found a few years ago which I share with you. Try it yourself…just read the question carefully 😉 (Answer at the bottom of the page so…spoilers down there if you want to try it yourself)!

It’s best if you get all children to promise to only say what they have to from the sheet, no helping or speaking to each other…

1

 

 

If you haven’t gathered, the children who read the sheet correctly will end up watching their classmates with smugness complete the ridiculous list of 19 or so challenges on this sheet until they realise they mistake at the end. Everyone else will look daft and you will have to control your desire to chuckle as one by one they say their name and eventually stand up and declare proudly ‘I HAVE FINISHED’…and then look in shock at the final sentences. Hopefully the ones who are fooled will look slyly at you at the end and keep quiet and enjoy watching the rest of their classmates fall into the same trap.

In three years of teaching Year 6…no one has completed it properly…let me know how it goes with you. DM me @Mroberts90Matt if you want this sheet on a Word document.

2.png

Daily Whole Class Feedback by @Mroberts90Matt

A recent idea shared by @_MissieBee has prompted me to share this. It links very closely to a brilliant idea where the class are given a whole class feedback slide or sheet to stick in their book which highlights good things done and common misconceptions. I shared a very similar idea previously and have updated it over the years. It is different to what was shared as it offers a regular, even daily, model which could fit into most, if not all, subjects which require recording in books.

One of the most frustrating things I  (used to) deal with as a teacher was the amount of time marking takes. It really is one of the biggest causes of workload. The most tiresome aspect was writing the same comments in multiple books. Things such as “Don’t forget to line up your place value,” or “Check you use punctuation at the end of your speech,” or even “Name one impact of exercise on the body.” Yes – not only can this approach address misconceptions, but give a follow up challenge without either the teacher writing it 20-odd times or cutting it out and sticking it in multiple times. This Daily Whole Class Marking allows me mark a set of books within 30 minutes complete with personalised comments on misconceptions and challenges. It hones in on each child with the teacher only writing in two or three symbols into their book.

Some examples are here: Cinquain Poem Writing

12Another one for Suspense Narrative writing:13

Maths this time – with challenge questions:

14

And finally a Science:

15

The Idea

I would start straight away by 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 numerous 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 5 mins at the start of the next lesson, I am then able 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, I have been using this method in my feedback approach for over three years now. There are issues:
1. It may be more challenging for Phase teachers younger in the school (particularly KS1) to adapt this. Possible, but more challenging
2. The first week is always the most ineffective as the children get used to the method of feedback and are given the opportunity to take responsibility for their learning. It does take focus from them and reminders on how to use the time best but each year I have done this, the most challenging learners I have had have seen the advantage of this and taken it on board.

Despite these potential barriers, there has been clear outcomes. These are listed below:

  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 20-30mins 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. We all know providing written feedback is a huge drain on time and whilst some schools may be moving away from written feedback reliance, many are still expecting this. This approach allows this still to be met, whilst freeing time for the teacher.

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! One big loss in the later books in my pile would be follow up questions. I would be less likely to write these in later books. Also, if I planned to stick in follow up challenges, I often forget to print these off and take them home. Once I have the books home, I have forgotten them and therefore no challenge question to push my learners further. This way, there will always be opportunity for follow up challenges.

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. 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.

We all know the frustration when we spend all this time writing comments then the children just turn the page without taking it in. This approach means the children have to at least read, write and respond to the feedback (in their purple pen) to indicate any difference to their learning.

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

This marking approach has been used under two senior leadership teams. Both of them have stated that they feel this is outstanding practice in feedback. 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. The whole reason I have decided to use this is because it has an impact on the children’s learning. This can be seen in session, in the books and in the data. Learning is the centre of this approach.

5. FInally…the children GET 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 to see what they receive! Some even utter a ‘yesss’ when they know it’s MAD Time before they then find they have a ~) or 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.

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?

Educational Idealism @Mroberts90Matt

Recently, as has been commented on, EduTwitter seems to have been rocked with graceless mud-slinging and overloaded accusations from both sides of the debate. The Michaela Academy has caused massive verbal rants, cruel insults (from both sides) and elongated Twitter conversations. Seriously, I actually spent 20 minutes reading through one of them, captivated at how…pointless…the debate was and then realised I had wasted 20 minutes of my life.
(By the way, I say pointless not because there was nothing to be debated – rather that hundreds of tweets were casted and nothing really changed, just a negative tone on my Twitter feed).

Despite this raging issue, which as I write this still is ongoing, there are issues in education which everyone seems to agree with. So why is everyone using their efforts to engage in discussions which are having no impact other than to cause divide and paint others in the negative light. It is clear that those within Michaela feel there has been a hate campaign and that others feel that their methods go against their personal views. I have my views, yet I am not going to comment on who and which side I am in agreement with – there’s enough practitioners doing that very well.

I want to focus on those issues which have popped up alongside the Michaela debate that are either ongoing or that are changing. Unfortunately, it seems that these issues that everyone agrees with are more difficult to overcome or never seem to have an easy answer. I call these ‘Educational Ideals’ because we all know that there must be a better way – it just seems that right now there isn’t a clear way forward. However, if all educators unite their efforts to these, then positive change will happen. I will list a few examples here:

  1. Ending the SATs Anxiety

Here I am not calling for an end to SATs. They are necessary. I personally feel that we can  keep schools accountable by measuring the progress of pupils. However it is the way that these tests and results are used that are the issue. High-stakes testing is causing a strain on schools, staff and children and this negative source will have an impact. We can agree that the anxiety caused by SATs is unsustainable – what can teachers do to raise their voices and end this anxiety?

2. Reducing the Ofsted Workload

Here I am not calling for an end to Ofsted. They are necessary. I personally feel that we can keep schools accountable by ensuring there is a good level standard of teaching and learning going on in schools and they are maintaining educational excellence with outstanding leadership. However it is the way that these inspections and visits are conducted and prepared for that is the issue. High-stakes monitoring is causing a strain on schools and staff and this negative source will have an impact. We can agree that the fear caused by Ofsted inspections is unsustainable – what can teachers do to raise their voices and end this fear?

Fortunately teachers have been heard on this matter. Ofsted, however this has been done, have heard the outcries and they are starting to make more proactive steps to try and reduce the workload created by their visits. Ofsted produced a document a couple of years ago which outlined myths which unfortunately a number of schools still haven’t taken into consideration: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-inspection-handbook-from-september-2015/ofsted-inspections-mythbusting

As recently as the 18th January, Sean Harford posted a blog outlining again some myths about safeguarding in Ofsted inspections to try and make expectations clear and consistent. https://educationinspection.blog.gov.uk/2017/01/18/keeping-children-safe-in-education-and-ofsteds-role/

Of course some schools may be reluctant to listen to these assurances by Ofsted themselves in case they receive an inspector who still expects something that has been debunked. That’s when we can refer to these documents from Ofsted. We must spread this to all schools so all staff can be relieved of unnecessary burdens.

3. Ending the Marking Madness

Here I am not calling for an end to marking (…or do I mean feedback – that’s a whole other debate). It is necessary. I personally feel that we must  keep children aware of their learning by feeding back effectively on the learning they have recorded. However it is the way that this marking is monitored and in what format it is expected that is the problem. High-volume marking (in amount and expectation) is causing a strain on schools and staff and this negative source will have an impact on well-being if not managed. We can agree that the fatigue caused by marking is unsustainable – what can teachers do to raise their voices and end this fatigue?

Again, this is something which has had a recent development! Ofsted – in the updated myth-busting document mentioned earlier – have made it clear that they have no specific expectation on the quantity of marking. They state:
“Ofsted recognises that marking and feedback to pupils, both written and oral, are important aspects of assessment. However, Ofsted does not expect to see any specific frequency, type or volume of marking and feedback; these are for the school to decide through its assessment policy. Marking and feedback should be consistent with that policy, which may cater for different subjects and different age groups of pupils in different ways, in order to be effective and efficient in promoting learning.

Perfect news right? The days of complex colour coding and dialogue between teacher and pupil written endlessly in books are gone right? Ofsted have done their part and made it clear what they do and don’t expect – but again, not all schools will know/take this on board for fear they will be inspected by an inspector that will expect it. As such, their marking policy may not be reducing teacher’s workloads. And because of the statement highlighted in bold (Marking and feedback should be consistent with that policy) whether you like it or not – if your school has a ridiculous marking policy, you will be expected by Ofsted to mark ridiculously!

So what is the answer? If your school is still implementing ineffective, workload-inducing marking policies then speak out. Say something to the SLT, show the Ofsted document and present a new strategy that will still fit in Ofsted guidelines but reduce workload.

Use our Teacher Voice

As educationalists we can make these ideals happen – but instead of throwing comments and causing divides, we must raise our voices on what really matters. Positive change is happening – let’s shout about it so ALL hear this and prevent any negative changes in the future.

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?

small__8668129713

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/wwworks/5119120679/”>woodleywonderworks</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/ludwg/8668129713/”>ludwg</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;