You may well have read that Liz Truss is bringing a large number of Chinese maths teachers to the UK to work in hubs within schools. She hopes that we can learn from Chinese teaching methods. I read one article in which a British maths teacher suggested that in many ways our maths lessons are better than those in China. This got me thinking about what makes English lessons better.
It is always good to look at those who get things wrong if you want to learn what is really good. A good place to start would be my own lessons last year with my year 11 history class of A* to C/D grade kids. At my school I don’t have to teach any particular way and no one from management observes me much and so I am left alone to teach badly – really badly.
With that class…
- I didn’t really do starters or plenaries.
- Three parts? One part lessons were commonplace (in fairness lessons are only 35 minutes long) although I suppose I did sometimes talk for quite a bit before they got down to work.
- I didn’t put up objectives and only sometimes thought to tell my class what the lesson was about at the start.
- I didn’t ever fill out a lesson planning proforma – ever. I did have long plans scribbled on bits of A4 paper including phrases like: ‘Do cause thing’ or ‘ALEX Homework!!!’ but not sure that would count.
- I didn’t think about learning styles.
- I never, ever differentiated my tasks.
- Peer assessment? – not really- although I did get them to read each others work.
- I didn’t purposefully plan in any independent learning (in the Ofsted sense) – unless I suppose homework can count.
- The odd time, on a Friday afternoon, we all gladly opted for a full 20+ minutes of ‘History File, Nazi Germany’.
- I didn’t flip my classroom or innovate my teaching by getting them to write on desks while manoeuvering post it notes.
- I didn’t really go in for group work – I suppose I did the odd debate and a decent amount of pair stuff.
- I didn’t do taxonomies. Goodness knows what the kids would have understood by the word Solo but they wouldn’t have thought about improving their analysis.
- Bloom was also unheard of and I didn’t try to focus on ‘higher order questioning’. Ditto de Bono and Claxton.
- I am no raconteur and no one laughed at my jokes (they did laugh at me but again that isn’t the same…)
- I never knowingly ‘did AFL ™’.
- Sometimes I did teacher led stuff for the whole lesson.
- My desks were in rows (of course).
- My students did not have any formal targets, so that solved any problems about them knowing them.
- I don’t even understand how you might use progress data to aid your teaching.
- Sometimes to nail the events we read from the textbook around the classroom (After all it gave me a welcome break from hearing the sound of my own voice).
- I didn’t do ‘interventions’. I did make some kids come back at lunch because they hadn’t understood their homework but no one was (scary thought) ‘targeted’.
Yes I was a very bad teacher indeed. If you saw the hours I spent every day planning those lessons you might well wonder what on earth I was doing. It is unfathomable that many of the class said that history was their favourite subject and a majority went on to do A level. How can I dare to be enormously proud of how I taught that class when I should be ashamed of my low standards?
The one plus is, like the students of the Chinese teachers, my class did get extremely good results ( .8 value added). That is something I suppose.
If you’d like to know more about what I did actually do with my class click this link https://heatherfblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/your-shepherds-pie-requires-improvement/