I have been covering a lesson on a fortnightly basis for around two months, to be honest I don't know the students that well. They have been working on a enquiry, based around the question "Are you what you eat?" The purpose of this is to teach the students the enquiry cycle we would like them to use in subsequent enquiries, and obviously develop the skills needed to learn independently. Since I don't know these students I have been finding it difficult to "pitch" the lesson correctly.
Today's task was to write a script for a range of characters who are giving their opinions on a basket of food. First, I explained the task and process to be done and set them away. The first five minutes were consumed by a string of students following me around the room saying "I'm stuck" "I don't know what to do!". The antithesis of where we want them to be. I didn't jump in with answers and spent alot of energy praising those who were stuck. A good first step, create a positive attitude to learning.
Next, since I was now getting odd looks and a general feeling of "He's not helping us!"( tudents need this feeling, which can only be created by stepping back for a short while, to truly feel independent and become motivated to do something about being stuck).it was then that I gathered them around a desk and started scribbling on a piece of flip chart paper. I love that stuff, it's so organic and encourages interactions. I started at the bottom with the word STUCK" and moved straight to the top and asked what is the end product of this activity. A student quickly responded with record a MP3 for your speeches. This is at the top.
So, I now asked what their choices were now that they were stuck, the students said get unstuck and suggested some generic ways of getting unstuck such as C3B4ME. "Or?" I asked and got "you could just sit there and get distracted" and a yelp of "STAY STUCK", I think this is when they could see I was now going to help them.
I asked what they would need to do to get unstuck and complete the job. Strangely (or perhaps not) they came up with write a script and practice it before they came up with the next step. These task go just before the completion of the task. This strategy is a more specific example of a moving on map developed by the teachers involved in the PEEL project. After a small re-explanation of the situation they found themselves in, they then thought reviewing what they already knew. So they did listen at the start! This then led to a planning strategy and student said " how do we generate ideas?"
I then gifted them the idea of thinking tools. After a painful couple of minutes I reminded them that they had used PMI, in a previous enquiry, which received recognising nods. So, then gave them an alternative of a Frame of Reference organiser, modelling how to use it. I must admit that I have never had such an enthusiastic take up of a thinking tool, may be because the generation of the characters opinions was the actual task they were finding difficulty, but I actually think it was because the tool had a context and a pedagogical purpose.
After a final discussion that enabled us to complete the stepping stones between where they were and where they wanted to be, I set them off. The atmosphere in the class was tangible, with the LSA I was working with recognising how much more they were on task.
Around ten minutes later, I asked the students to "place a dot on the map to tell me where you are, when you get a chance!" which they did. Three students where still stuck . So this was actually great feedback for me to start to target a few students with a bit more guidance and questioning.
I requested a cross on the map around fifteen minutes later, which was great as it clearly demonstrated that they were making progress and provided an opportunity to praise genuine improvement. Many of the students were up to generating the ideas to include in their speeches. One student was particularly methodical about this, so I gathered the students around so he could share what he was doing, I asked the class once he'd finished, are they doing this? two replied yes, then I asked who is going to do this? with a chorus of "great idea" the student raised his arms skywardin celebration !
One final check about fifteen minutes before the end, this time with squares, made it very easy for the students to plan what they need to do next lesson. The conversations I was now having had changed from, "I'm stuck what should I do" to "I'm going to draft the script at least twice because I'll add more detail".
I'm chuffed, and the reason, I did very little, the students took over as they were allowed to, as they had a structure that they had helped devise, they felt safe to take risks and the plan had obvious improvement chances and the activities had a clear and shared pedagogical purpose.