From Little Acorns

Behaviour Management, Differentiation and Worksheetless Bottom Sets.

When it comes to teaching science I’m rather like an old and decrepit NQT!  Having taught A level Psychology for twenty years, last year was my first foray into the wonderful world of little people who refuse to stay in their seats, tap you when they want attention and speak all at once at a volume level that would fill a concert hall.

Of course, being an ‘experienced’ teacher there is very little support for those in my position and I have found myself having to learn by trial and error which ideas work and which ones flop with the sound of a semi-cooked pancake hitting one’s shoe after a disastrous toss.

Let’s start with behaviour.  I have consulted endless websites, books and other teachers on ways to manage behaviour but, in the end, one thing alone matters; that you follow through with what you say you will do.  Whatever method you use to control your little darlings, this is the most powerful tool going.  Sometimes it is hard to do but so very worth it.  I use a great tool to help with this called ‘ClassCharts’  and I highly recommend it to all.  It is a seating plan and behaviour management tool in one.  I have their icons and names up on the board in their seating plan onto which I can add positive or negative behaviour points.  When a bell rings or a buzzer sounds they look up to see who has been awarded what.  This is so powerful that once, mid flow, having awarded a child a negative point for chewing, said child got up without a word, put his gum in the bin and sat back down without me dropping a word or changing the pace of my address!  I stress that it was once, on a really good day. Nevertheless, it has potential.  I can also use this at the end of a lesson as AFL. Using the random pupil generator, I can ask a question, pick a pupil and award a point.  It is not quite cold calling but it is certainly ‘no hands’ and they love it.

Now, to worksheetless bottom sets.  Yr 7 made a poster to revise for a test next week.  I found some simple small revision pictures on muscles and bones and gave them those and a sheet of A3 paper.  They could cut up and stick the pictures in any order and in any way they wished so long as they wrote a little summary or some key words around/on/under their pictures.  I finished with random pupil AFL questions using ‘ClassCharts’.

Differentiation happened naturally as those who completed the poster  quickly were given some questions to try out using only their poster and then going back and adding anything they might need to do better, Great!

My Yr 8 bottom set class has more challenging behaviour and it is difficult to get pupils to listen to instructions or to engage with the work.  Following on from a lesson on selective breeding, I asked them to write a letter to the Kennel Club making recommendations to restrict breeding to protect pedigree dogs.  I provided them with my own late dog’s pedigree (rest his poor soul) and asked them to spot signs of selective breeding.  Some could, most could not and proceeded to make silly noises or bang on the desks so that ‘those that could’, could not either!  I then asked them to make their own hybrid animal out of plasticine, take a photo of it and write two sentences on why it was better, fitter, stronger than its parents.  This was a chance to be creative. I explained that different species could not mate but, just for this lesson, they could; their creativity could be let loose.  Again, some could do this but were hindered by those choosing to throw plasicine or make willies!  Such a shame that so much of my time was taken up following through on behaviour and warning, moving and negative pointing people, that I did not really get a chance to discuss any ideas with the ones who could have got so much out of the activity.

Next week then, I need to look at differentiation from the start and give something to the disrupters which is simple, straightforward and engaging enough to keep them focused so that I can stretch and challenge the others.  Again, perhaps this will have to be a word search to start and perhaps a fill the gap or sentence starter activity.  I’m still going to do it a la ‘pose a question’ and I’m determined to fit it into a normal working week. Wish me luck!

Normal working hours achieved this week plus I will do one Saturday afternoon. Stress levels reduced no end!

Jobs done this week:

  • All lessons taught
  • Three pieces of homework marked and close the gap activity done.
  • One NQT meeting held and first report written
  • One tutor meeting attended
  • Psychology club held (by some awesome yr 12 students with me doing very little)
  • Article for school website on Psychology Club written and submitted
  • Personal profile for school website written and submitted
  • Trip authorised

Pending for weekend:

  • Powerpoints to write for 3 health and social care and 5 psychology lessons

Jobs not done:

  • Seating plans not updated with individual student data (this is now embarrassing and must be made a priority)
  • Target stickers yet to be put into two sets of Yr 7 books and one set of Yr 8 books
  • Yr 8 test not fully marked and marks not put into ‘fancy tracker’ sheet
  • Trip letters not written
  • Intervention spreadsheet for yr 7 students identified as below target not written

As a footnote, I have realised in writing this blog that the list of jobs that never seem to get done are all admin ones.  Since it is very unlikely that teachers are going to be given the admin support they so desperately need, next week I am going to focus on trying to get some of these done in lessons so that I can cross them off my list whilst getting the students to take ownership of their progress.

until then, have a restful weekend.

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