Reading all the blogs and many of the books

I have just spent a happy tea break reading another of Jo Facer’s excellent blogs in which she distills her experience and research into a clear and practical strategy. At the end she shares an example of the very resource I most need right now and ends by welcoming feedback. I suspect she means feedback on the resource but I have chosen to wilfully misinterpret this.

Here then, is my take on PowerPoint vs booklet vs textbook vs worksheet vs standing in front of a class with nothing but a dog-eared copy of the text and a board pen that’s seen better days.

Historical context: I am not quite old enough to have sniffed the banda machine fluid but I did start in the era of worksheets. We crafted those with great care and my HoD could draw about twenty different kinds of text box in thick black fine liner. The filing cabinets bulged. We used textbooks regularly but sparingly, for lessons such as explicit exam skill practice. I still remember my first whiteboard and the training we had when classrooms got pcs (some staff got an official certificate for learning where the power button was) Then came PowerPoint, smartboards, VLEs, apps, podcasts and so on. Unsurprisingly, I had a bit of a wobble a few years back as there were now so many options it all became a bit much. How could I communicate and model a clear strategy to my team, particularly to younger staff for whom PowerPoint seemed the only option? Happily my school has a well developed coaching programme so this became my focus. I interviewed colleagues from a range of ‘eras’ and looked for ways to promote learning through whatever format would deliver this best.

What I figured out: in short, we need it all.

We need approaches that define our house style and we need highly trained practitioners to share them often, so that the bar is raised for the whole team. In my department, my deputy is often this person and since her preferred mode is PowerPoint, often ours is too. We chose whiteboards over smart ones so we can project and scribble over extracts, exemplars etc and board pens in rainbow colours because why not.

I love a worksheet and I did create a y8 booklet on Twelfth Night of the kind Jo is using but it didn’t fly, by which I mean it is still in use but hasn’t lead to a shift in planning choices more widely. It’s an excellent strategy and one I have used for working in a different setting as part of my subject lead work for our MAT.

The noise I have made about Knowledge Organisers and quizzing however, has changed and improved practice across the school, not because these are great approaches per se but because they are successful for our context.

I am a great believer in a partially completed worksheet grid, ensuring students with many ideas must be selective and those with fewer do not feel overwhelmed by a blank page. In my media lessons, PowerPoint is easy to populate with weblinks that support independent research, meaning I’ve been flipping the learning before I even really knew what that was. In this era of reformed curricula, textbooks are a curated source of guidance and practice tasks that can stay as they are or inform the planning medium of your choice.

Don’t mistake this ‘do what you like’ message for a lack of clarity however. One of the things I proudly demonstrated when the Inspector Called was the way that my team matched their own style to the students’ needs, underpinned by a shared understanding of fundamentals of excellent t&l. Differentiation works through micro and macro layers: selecting what will work for your school/team/teacher/text/phase of learning/class/group/student on any given day requires a varied toolkit and the confidence to adapt. I am grateful to Jo for supplying materials that do some of the heavy lifting and to others on Twitter for this minor revolution in collaboration. The below resource was based on one I picked up and changed. One of my team told me last week he liked it so much he had changed it again for his class, which is exactly what we are all going for.


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