The first controlled assessment for Year 10 is looming. We have been studying the text Of Mice and Men for nearly six weeks and, from my point of view, they should be ready. However, before making that assumption and setting them off, they were asked to review their current understanding. During the review stage of the previous lesson to the stuck board, I asked pupils to write a note letting me know if there was anything they were worried about or felt that they needed more work on.
Pupils responded with: I don’t get how you write about context; I can’t find any good quotes; I don’t know how you explain the effect of quotes; I need to learn more about the context because I was off that lesson; I don’t know how to organise my writing into paragraphs. I don’t only have four pupils in the lesson; the elements of writing this essay have been the focus of many of our lessons and this is reflected in the responses you see above. As many of the responses were similar, this really helped with the development of the stuck board.
You Said – I Did
On my whiteboard, I had placed several cardboard folders. Around the folders, I wrote out the responses from the books; not the responses about sitting next to their friends, but the responses that had indicated specific gaps in knowledge that would hinder pupils from achieving in their controlled assessment. Within the folders were differentiated tasks which would allow them to gain the multistructural knowledge that they were lacking or to perfect their reading response skills.
Not the prettiest job but effective
Responses that had nothing to do with the stuck board were not ignored. This class are still fairly new to me and this is great for building relationships. They can be confident that if I ask them to reflect, their response will be noted. During a simple “you said, I did” discussion, I made sure each pupils’ response had been heard. For example, one said they loved the fun games and wanted more while another said they loved the games but could get easily distracted during them so we discussed how everyone was different and a balance was needed. Their point wasn’t useful for this lesson but equally wasn’t ignored. Another person said, “i hate english (no capital letters).” I awarded them with a bonus merit for use of punctuation for specific effect and then told them I hoped I could change their mind. You can’t please them all but that mission has begun.
Search for Meaning
Pupils were given the rest of the lesson to ensure that their multistructural understanding had no gaps. They have been taught that they must cover themes, context, language etc… and they were given the choice of which areas they wanted to revisit. If I had taught each missing element, it may have taken at least another week of our precious time and so it was time for them to take control.
The element of choice was also given with how they worked and with what medium. Previous to this lesson, pupils have been experimenting with hexagons for gathering and relating ideas, thinking maps for planning and stems for creating their own questions. These tools were made available and pupils used what they felt most comfortable with. Pupils could get up and change their focus whenever they felt they needed to. It was their lesson to use as they saw fit.
The folders did not contain the right answers. That would be too easy. Instead, I spent time planning questions that would lead pupils to understand how they could discover the right answers. For example, in the “I can’t find any good quotes” wallet was a series of questions based upon page numbers in the book. The questions would first ask pupils to discover who was saying what, when and why and then gradually narrow them down to specific word types before asking them to organise the quotes into least to most effective based upon what they wanted to discover. Each wallet was carefully created to be accessible but to provide questions that were challenging.
Pupils took control. They worked in pairs, small groups and some as individuals on their own area of choice. As I circulated, pupils used me to bounce ideas off but I never once heard, “I’m stuck.” Nor did I see anyone give up. One group had chosen to challenge themselves with the language in the novel. Their debate about the title of the novel was a pleasure to listen to. They discussed how the words “mice” and “men” linked to the foreshadowing used by Steinbeck with Lennie’s progression from killing mice to a human being. The questions in the language wallet led them to this discussion but it was a discussion of their own making. There wasn’t a question written by me asking how the title links to foreshadowing but, by challenging themselves, this is where they ended up. This group had felt confident at the end of the previous lesson and, if I had chosen to re teach elements, they may not have been as challenged. Similarly, if I had chosen to plough ahead with the assessment, they would not have had the chance to stop, discuss and deepen their knowledge. This conversation led me to ask them where the title came from and off they went discovering new knowledge to relate to their thinking.
Developing this idea to create a differentiation system that will work in many other contexts, not just reviewing knowledge, is now my plan. This worked well as a response to feedback but I want it to work equally as well in other lessons by preempting the “I’m stuck” moments before they happen. This class were motivated by the relevant choices presented to them and board created challenge and differentiation which allowed them to independently succeed. Even the ‘hater’ was engaged throughout the lesson and made excellent progress.