No Year 11 study leave this year? Exam classes driving you mad? They just don’t seem to be taking this seriously do they? Don’t they know how important your subject is? Of course they do – it’s just as important as the other nine teachers’ that have lately begun incessantly hounding them for their time.
Take a moment to imagine the current situation in a year 11’s shoes. Five lessons a day and five days a week; no study leave and no time to breathe. English revision, maths revision, geography revision, RE revision, period 6 in Science, catch up lessons for media, Spanish and business. So much to do and so little time! Chances are, they’ve never felt this kind of pressure before. They’ve just heard they’re booked in next Saturday for another booster session and that’s the step too far that makes them want to curl up and die.
Being on the other side of the classroom and having the impending doom of data and results isn’t easy either. One lesson a day, four days a week; you wish they were on study leave to give you some space to breathe. Coursework needs completing, topics need covering, and skills need perfecting. So much to fit in and so little time! Remembering the pressures of last year, you can’t wait for it to end. You decide to book in a Saturday lesson to ensure you’ve covered all bases but the thought of it makes you want to curl up and die.
You are doing what you think is best. Period 6, Saturday lessons, pulling them out of lessons, stressing at them for their complacency. You are pressuring them so that they understand. You are making sure that you have covered all bases so you can cover your back when results come in…Stop for a minute… is this the right way forward for their (or your) sanity?
Less Stress Revision
Year 11 have been taught everything they need to know to pass this upcoming exam. They’ve been in my class for two years and I have worked hard to ensure that, despite the lack of time and pressure to cram in controlled assessment after controlled assessment, they know what they need to know. Now it’s time to support them with revision. With study leave a thing of the past, they are with me right up until and even after their exams are over. However, next year, they will be expected to be far more independent as they take up sixth form and college places. For this reason, I am avoiding repetitive spoon feeding (it just upsets me when they zone out anyway).
An easy way to support their independent revision is to provide revision of choice. Pupils have key areas to cover, poetry, Of Mice and Men, An Inspector Calls and essay writing skills. I divide the room into topic areas: Tables are set up with topic such as key poems, Of Mice and Men characters, An Inspector Calls characters and (in case you thought I was putting my feet up) a table for direct teaching of exam skills. The tables have tiered questions to support pupils at different levels so that I can concentrate on teaching the pupils that want to be taught. I use the SOLO levels to devise the questions which may look something like this:
MULTI STRUCTURAL TASKS – GATHERING INFORMATION
Name the characters in An Inspector Calls.
What are the main issues in An Inspector Calls?
List language specific to each character.
List structural devices used by Priestley.
RELATIONAL TASKS – USING THE INFORMATION THEY’VE GATHERED TO CREATE LINKS
How is Sheila represented through her language?
How has Priestley structured the play to highlight key issues?
How do Priestley’s characters highlight his message?
EXTENDED ABSTRACT TASKS – USING THEIR KNOWLEDGE OF PRIESTLEY AND HIS METHODS TO BE CREATIVE
Give Eva Smith a voice. Imagine Priestley wrote the scene in the bar with Gerald. How can you structure this scene to mirror Priestley’s message?
Pupils are individuals and as such are confident in different topics. Some pupils have excellent knowledge but struggle to write an answer. Some pupils are great at answering but need to spend time revising key knowledge. This lesson allows pupils space to find a focus for themselves. They are given independence and choice over their revision with just enough input from me to keep them on the right tracks. Pupils who choose to be taught by me are attentive and get lots out of this time; pupils who choose to be independent take ownership over their tasks as they have chosen to focus on that topic. At the end of the lesson, pupils can take away the questions for each area to spend more time exploring at home. Pupils are shown how to revise and given the breathing space to do it.
If You Can’t Let Them Breathe, It’s Time to Ask Why?
Most (not all) GCSE students have been taught in the same establishment during KS3 and KS4. The potential to properly prepare them for their future has existed for five years. If two weeks before their GCSEs begin, they need more information crammed into their minds via period 6 and Saturday schools in order to pass, how has the time been organised? If you don’t know the answer to this one, you need MAnglish.
Most (not all) GCSEs are taught by the same teacher for two years. Chances are you have already taught them what they need to know. Nine or ten stressed subject teachers bartering for their free time and barking at them when they appear lethargic is not going to create a positive learning climate for success. Let them breathe.