My interest in the idea of sharing pedagogical purposes comes directly with the contact I have had with the Project for Enhancing Effective Learning at Monash University in Australia. Now each of these teachers were very active in establishing learning agendas with their classes. The impact they were having was inspiring. Each classroom tool can have a purpose beyond delivering content, and this needs to be shared.
I suppose the purpose of this website is collate, crystalise and open dialogues about how to increase this within classrooms. As the quote from Carl Bereiter illustrates this classroom methodology can empower our students.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Stepping stone activity- a consequence of student to teacher feedback

This strategy, which I will call stepping stones, is a transferable technique that may help turn an abstract idea into a more concrete one. it may also be a fun way of sequencing a lot of similar (but purposefully different content). I'm sure this idea is described in Paul Ginnis - Teachers toolkit.

The reason I'm recording this strategy is actually more to do with how my class arrived here. They have had a lesson on this topic and the evidence I collected lead me to reflect that they had not understood several of the ideas I was trying to help them learn. To find out exactly what they did I designed a quick, mid-module test that pin pointed the precise concepts they could not do. I quickly asked them at the end of this test to raise your hand up if you found question 1one the most difficult, and so on. They overwhelmingly identified this concept, that this stepping stone activity is based around. On marking the test, I agreed with them! I must trust them more on making decisions about what they do and do not.

With a designed test and a clear reflection activity, they give me all the information I needed to plan the next step in their learning. I have made the reason for doing this activity clear to my students by referring to their input. I really want to reinforce the idea that they influence what I plan for them to, education is done with them and not to them.

My current year 8 have struggled conceptually with word equations. They need to know the following

1. what reactants and products are
2. metals and air
3. metals and water
4. metals and acid

I'm only describing this to highlight that many ideas can be developed at once . The students need to be distinguishing between the ideas at times and combining ideas at others.

The session runs something like this:

Students are given an overview sheet with all the words available.

They are asked to plot as many reactions as possible through this grid, trying to explain as they go. Allowing access to books and each other. This planning time gives time for micro teaching and will allow students to participate in the actual event, they simply couldn't without this time.

Then gather them around an open space with the words arranged in the same order as they were on sheet on the floor. One by one get them to step across verbalising what they are doing. eg" I'm starting on sodium its a metal, then I'm moving to....." This makes it a great kinesthetic activity and this helps turns the abstract notion of a word equation into something tangible.

Train the audience to give subtle feedback for example as "gasp" when the "stepping stoner" is wrong, and a quiet "chapeau" when correct. A little bit of peer assessment, which just happens to be very revealing to the teacher. Who is confident enough to say "you're wrong" or "you're right". By making them subtle signals it makes it more fun and requires less conviction, increasing speculative assessments, which grow with reinforcement.

Anyone who is struggling or needs pushing simply ask for another more complex equation. To up the ante for everyone try it twice with the first attempt with the sheet and then again without.

The students seemed more confident about this, although everything is fresh in their mind, I suppose they will only reveal their true understanding in the end of topic test. Am i really looking forward to marking exam papers?