Good Stuff in 2012

I think I changed more as a teacher in 2012 than at any time in eight years on the job. This change for the better is, in no small part, due to the extraordinary influences of great people I have met through Twitter. Tweachers are a mighty and unstoppable force and I have greatly enjoyed sharing ideas and resources with so many. The highlight of the teaching year was undoubtedly the Pedagoo Christmas Party. Here I got to meet so many of the heroes of the interweb. It was fabulously inspiring at the end of a long and tiring term. If any new readers out there want one piece of advice for the New Year…get on Twitter and get on Pedagoo. The two changed my teaching life and I’ll never look back.
So…here is some good stuff from 2012 that I wanted to share before I made a start on 2013!

1. Super Socrative

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What is Socrative?

http://www.socrative.com/

Socrative is a student response system that allows you to design quzzes which your pupils can access from any internet enabled device. That’s ANY device. Their smart phone, iPod, Tablet…anything. Dead easy. The quizzes can be marked by Socrative and results exported instantly to Excel to be displayed and used as you choose. Here’s how I used it.

When I was first introduced to Socrative (by @aknill at TMEssex) I was blown away by it’s capabilities; especially the function to export all student responses to Excel in an instant. At the very least this gives you instant mark book fodder but also immediately allows the class to see where their individual and group strengths and weaknesses lie. Talk about instant target setting and clear AFL! Nevertheless, I was also a bit disappointed. I couldn’t immediately see a good use for Socrative in a subject like English where there are very rarely right and wrong / true or false answers. I temporarily dismissed Socrative as something I might use as a bit of fun with KS3 when it came round to learning and revision key vocabulary like poetic terms or to use for the odd spelling starter with letters to descramble etc. But then I had a revelation. A Geography colleague had also been at TMEssex and had used Socrative the next day as part of an end of unit test. He sent me an email to say it had gone brilliantly and to say he’d discovered that there was no limit to the amount of text you could put in a question and suggested that if I didn’t want Socrative to mark a quiz for me why not try it with open ended questioning. So I did…and couldn’t believe the results. Here’s how it went.

Y10 were a few lessons away from their Controlled Assessment on ‘An Inspector Calls’ – an analytical essay exploring the presentation of community and social prejudice in the play. They had just written their last essay on the text before moving on to their new Controlled Assessment title and I wanted them to reflect on their work using the GCSE assessment objectives to help them. I also wanted to tackle key areas of misunderstanding.

When they arrived in the classroom there was a simple set of instructions written on the board telling them to take out any internet enabled device they had with them (I also provided ipads for each table of 4) and instructing them how to log on to my socrative room. Once they got over the initial excitement of a teacher asking them to play with their phone / ipod etc. they were away and totally engrossed for the duration. The quiz started with simple right / wrong questions such as:

Which word describes Preiestley’s political views?

A. Capitalist

B. Socialist

C. Communist

Lots of them were muddling up these words in their essays and discussion around them room allowed them to iron out the definitions and lead on to them comparing these beliefs to the beliefs presented through different characters in the play and thinking about the context of the time the play was written. All without me saying anything; it was magical! Without knowing it they were developing their ability to synthesise ideas and reach new levels of attainment on the mark scheme. The quiz then moved into broader territory. Pupils had AQA Controlled Assessment mark schemes on their desks and I had typed up example points / paragraphs from their essays into the quiz and asked questions like ‘which assessment objectives does this paragraph fulfil?’ They had to assess the work and discuss it in depth and it was the first time I had really seen this group grapple meaningfully with the language of the assessment criteria. There were even a few ‘OH! I see what I haven’t been doing know’s and ‘So THAT’S what I was missing’s which was thrilling after weeks of writing the same thing on their essays over and over again. As ever, being actively involved in the assessment progress meant that the pupils were enabled to improve. The last questions in the quiz asked them to write better versions of some paragraphs and points using what they’d learned and discussed. Once the results were exported to excel and quick cut and paste of a couple of these allowed for a brilliant plenary in which the class (as part of some quite heated and excitable discussion) identified strengths of each answer and amalgamated them into a new model answer on mini whiteboards. Without exception everyone had improved. Fingers crossed this improvement will also be seen in their Controlled Assessment essays which they began just one or two lessons after this.

All of this would have been possible via old school methods. I could have stood at the front and read the questions, flashing up the example paragraphs on a powerpoint or even providing them on a worksheet but the beauty of Socrative (aside from the novelty value of using your phone in class, which shouldn’t be dismissed) was that students progressed at their own pace through the questions. They could have as much or as little discussion or debate as they needed and didn’t feel pressured. The ease and speed with which you can manipulate their responses into other forms and work with them allows for much more effective sharing than moving around desks or passing bits of paper and, above all, it was all independent work! I spend fifteen minutes (tops) making a quiz and 50 minutes watching them learn and improve without too much intervention on my part. I facilitated it, they did it.

In future use I would like to explore sharing their answers on a GoogleDoc and then allow them to work collaboratively to improve them and also getting students to set quizzes based on assessing each others’ work. Onwards and upwards!

2. Shakespeare and SOLO

I have now used SOLO in a few ways and enjoy the independence it bring to the students and the surety that progress will be made by everyone in the course of the lesson. It would take far too long to explain everything I did but you would be well advised to read these blog posts by the extraordinary @learningspy and have a think about how you can use SOLO in your classroom.

What is SOLO? http://learningspy.co.uk/solo-taxonomy/

SOLO – An Introduction to Shakespeare http://learningspy.co.uk/2012/05/26/shakespeare-solo-taxonomy-and-taking-risks/ and http://learningspy.co.uk/2012/06/02/shakespeare-solo-taxonomy-and-taking-risks-part-2/

I adapted this lesson to allow a Y10 class (not my own) to explore a whole play theme for the first time. The Prezi I used can be found here and the resources all used the same principle but the initial stage had quotes and references from the play and the additional information at the multistructural stage was on context – attitudes towards fate and the supernatural in Renaissance England.

It is hard to write a recipe for a solo lesson or explain how I used it exactly as the lesson changes depending on the students and their existing knowledge. Just read a lot and adapt it for your needs. I thoroughly recommend it.

So, Happy New Year everyone. Here’s to more brilliant ideas shared in 2013. 

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One thought on “Good Stuff in 2012

  1. Hi Laura,
    Have you ever been part of a 1:1 initiative? Socrative sounds interesting. We use google apps quite often, as well as Edmodo, which offers some similar features. Have you used either of these? Notice anything that Socrative has that these don’t? Thanks! I’m interested in trying some new things.

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