Seniors – AifL

The persuasive writing unit is going well in 4th year.  Doing a trial run with the class certainly seems to be working.  There have been the expected grumps and groans about writing two (two??!!  Surely not!) essays rather than just the one.  On the whole, however, I think the class are getting a lot out of this unit.  The vast majority of the class appear to have grasped the idea of one paragraph, one line of thought/argument.  Others haven’t.  Noticeably the dyslexic pupils.

We’re taking a break from the writing tomorrow as I thought it might be a good idea to create a display board for parents’ night.  Going to hand the project over to the pupils tomorrow and see what they do with it…

My first year boys pleasantly surprised me this week.  They aren’t a group who generally gel in class.  However, as the class were giving presentations on a topic they had researched themselves I split the class into girls and boys.  This usually helps alleviate some of the nerves.  The powerpoints were all ready but before we started we had spoke about how to listen to/comment on a presentation and agreed on a basic structure of general questions, comments on what the speaker did well and some advice for next time.  The boys listened to each others talks and commented on them so maturely it almost brought a tear to my eye!  Surprisingly, the girls were not quite as insightful in their comments or sensitive in their criticisms.  I don’t remember being taught these skills when I was at school.  I wonder where I learnt them… 

Peer assessment is an area I intend to explore more fully over the next few months.  Especially with my Higher class.  A nearby school, Charleston Academy, has asked our department to get involved in a joint AifL project.  This will involve me trialing self/peer assessment techniques with my senior class and writing a report at the end of term.  I have been using self assessment techniques with them since the start of term.  When teaching essay writing I focused on building up skills gradually.  With each essay I taught and added another target: staying on task; using topic sentences; using the PEA formula; including critical language.  The pupils were sometimes given a checklist to tick off what they felt they had done.  Other times I asked them to colour code their essays, e.g. red for Point, blue for evidence, green for analysis.  They compared their results with a model essay, written by myself and identified targets for themselves.

Close reading, of course, lends itself to self/peer assessment very easily.  Tomorrow, for example, the class will be using the mark scheme to mark a volunteer’s answers.  We have been focusing on Understanding questions recently and I am hoping a joint marking session will lead to a discussion on the merits of what they have been taught!  When I looked at the classes work myself I was delighted to see the pupils who had followed my teaching precisely were doing vastly better than those who had ignored the advice.  Hopefully they’ll notice this tomorrow too.  Actually, I’m going to tell them.

The two question types tackled came were Understanding questions

1.)  Explain/In Your Own Words  

Locate (UNDERLINE) then translate – Good exercises in Higher Close Reading book plus on our blog – The underlining is key here.

2.)  Meaning from context

Define word (state what it means) then identify evidence.  To be sure of full points find more than one piece of evidence and comment on the quotations.

 I’m blethering now but something I told my class this week which cheered them up no end (they are pooping themselves about the close reading element of the exam) is that the only advantages I would have over them in the close reading exam are the fact that I read more than them therefore are more familiar with the types of text used; and that I know how to answer the questions.  I’ve told them to start reading quality newspapers/magazines.  I’ll teach them how to do the latter!  Well, I’ll try at least!

Next post I want to talk about teacher observations.  And peer assessment using the blog.  And being a reflective practitioner.  Right now I’m off to experiment in the kitchen.  Had an amazing parsley and garlic tagliatelle at the weekend.  Can I imitate it?

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