For what it’s worth, I am going to share my thought process around my yearly formal lesson observation which took place this last Wednesday.
Since last year our school now puts two observers in a teacher’s lesson, one at Head of Dept or senior management level (often from within the faculty) and one teacher from another curriculum area, the idea being that we can all learn from seeing teachers of other disciplines. The lesson is no longer graded with a number – which naturally used to be the main focus of the lesson post-mortem and was the cause of intense stress, not to mention leading to the the inevitable and pedagogically unproductive consequence of almost channelling teachers to deliver formulaic, safe lessons. Since last year, and much more productively, our observation process has featured a two-way post-observation discussion and reflection around the evidence seen during the lesson in 4 areas that we refined as a staff:
Student learning and progress
Assessment for learning
Independent and collaborative learning
Effective and active questioning
Essentially, this new system encourages teachers to take risks, perhaps even to focus on areas they might consider a weakness or just want to try out, and to have a genuinely developmental, rather than judgmental, experience.
My goal these days, in as many lessons as possible, and regardless of the presence of an observer, is to have students ‘do the work’ and, almost regardless of topic or level of conceptual challenge, to plan for that work to involve all three skills of independence, collaboration and reflection.
My role as the Head of Technology for Learning has basically come about through a passion for using tech to enhance and transform learning in the MFL departments I have led, and I try to share good practice throughout the year, but the pressure is undoubtedly raised when you have to demonstrate that you practise what you preach in this kind of scenario!
I chose to be observed with my Year 7 French class for the simple reason that these students were issued iPads as part of a Y6 and 7 mobile learning pilot so I have taken advantage in pretty much every lesson I have had with them this year to push the boundaries of how the device can support the three skills I mentioned.
In the spirit of delivering a ‘real’ lesson that genuinely led from the previous one and therefore could not be planned weeks in advance, I had to acknowledge the students’ own feedback to me that they were still feeling unsure in their understanding of the recently introduced and tricky Perfect tense. At the same time, I was feeling the pressure we all experience from seeing the scheme of work and thinking ‘I need to move on and get through the curriculum!!’
So, I had to come up with a plan to meet both objectives of moving on and recapping at the same time. This what I did:
A top set of 21 students (15 girls and 6 boys) – but still a relatively wide spread of ability as this is the first year they are streamed. 3 students with some near-native speaker background but with poor grammar.
Class setup: I always teach the kids in tables of 6 to facilitate pair and group work so no change needed there..
1. (5 minutes)
Students come in, scan QR code on board linking to lesson objectives, copy into ex. book (see my previous post as to why this is better than copying from the board) They also correct any work from their previous homework handed back today.
Meanwhile I set up the three near-native speakers on a separate project for the lesson (draft, peer-assess, record and post to our class edmodo page a conversation about shopping using the Perfect tense with the 4 verbs I plan to teach the other kids today)
2. Clear explanation of how rest of lesson will proceed..slide on IWB has this info and remains up throughout the lesson
3. 30 minutes (this is the period of observation)
The 3 tables of 6 students work through the following three 10-minute activities (I check in with the native speakers after every 10 minute slot)
1. use iPads to access edmodo link to a Quizlet set of flashcards involving text, images and audio with instant testing and game features to introduce the names and genders of 14 shop names.
2. read a printed worksheet that has instructions on what to do and a QR code linking straight to a 4-minute online video tutorial I made about the 4 ways to say ‘to the’ with different French shop names (using Explain Everything app). They use headphones to watch this on iPads and then have to work in pairs to come up with their own agreed definition of the rules and write into exercise books with their own examples.
3. These independent activities free me up to sit with each table in turn for 10 minutes and recap the shaky areas of the perfect tense face-to-face. This involves introducing new verbs of to look for, find, choose and buy. I use direct questioning and pairwork to reinforce these verbs and the formation of the Perfect tense ie we make up a sentence and mime to partner for them to work out, exaggerating the mouth shape and slowing down, also the Mastermind game where they get 4 guesses in French as to what their partner’s sentence is, only getting a ‘one, both or neither correct’ answer to their two-part guess of who and what ie
Person A writes ‘J’ai trouvé’
Partner guesses ‘Tu as trouvé?’
Person A says ‘one part correct’ but does NOT say which part…
Partner has 3 more tries
I have never used this game but it works really well.
5. Final 10/15 minutes:
Students work together in their table group as a ‘pub quiz’ team, without reference to any notes, to take this Socrative quiz (SOC-920005) assessing what they have learned today.
Meanwhile, I do final check of accuracy of the native speakers’ work and send them out to find a quiet place to record and post their conversation..reminding them to keep it slow and deliberate!
Quizzes are submitted, I download results from Socrative, will check and give prize to winning table next lesson!
This has taken quite a long time for me to process and write (as well as for you to read!), so I will update the blog with the feedback I have now had from my observers tomorrow. Tune in then!
This is the feedback I had from my two observers each category:
Learning and progress:
Huge strength, combination of consolidation and acquisition of new language. Students 100% on task, mature and independent, differentiation strong, teacher free to monitor informally
Assessment for Learning:
Strong, up to date marking and strengths and targets, evidence of peer assessment, teacher promoting talk for learning
Independent and collaborative learning:
Students working independently, self-reliant, responsible for their own learning.
Students encouraged to take risks, show resilience, mutually supportive
Effective and active questioning:
At individual and group level, warm, encouraging, very calm, time to question, no management to attend to
Overall what went well?
Climate, engagement, differentiation, student-led, accessible,curiosity, independence, enthusiasm, skills with iPad powerful. Great class that clearly enjoyed the lesson and variety of activities hugely
Even better if…
Could develop the role of the three near-native speakers to include more leadership and modelling
As you can imagine, I am pretty happy with this!! Wll keep on taking risks and sharing things that work well as well as things that don’t go to plan!!