The #LearningFirst conference was a fairly accurate insight into my classroom manner:
My presentation consisted of 5 points that I described as putting learning first in my classroom, and as part of the package of nerves I delivered, I want to share them here in installments too. So let's begin with the first...
Believe in Life After Levels!
This photo shows an early page from a notebook. I have a fresh notepad every year, and it's my life from September 1st, to the end of the school year. You'll notice that a mix of inexperience and pre-decided labels gave us the license to group our children from the moment we met them. Needless to say, within a year or so in my career, this changed quickly, even with levels still in effect.
This approach - grouping pupils by level - then led us to teach as such; for those pupils sitting at the roughly 1A table, we needed to start seeing evidence of 2C criteria across their books. Equally, those at the 3B table, needed to start showing 3A qualities.
The trouble with this system is that they'd need to be taught separate things. The idea being we couldn't teach the 'higher' stuff to the 'lower' pupils because they'd miss important stepping stones, and we couldn't stick with 'lower' kids because then we wouldn't be stretching the 'uppers.' Of course, we have ourselves and often a TA, but that would still leave 3 out of 5 tables unsupported.
So what would we do?
You teach your programme of study to such a high standard that there is little way your learners can get it wrong.
As you teach, you spot those who find it difficult and you focus on them, while you supply those excelling within your standards with a variety of problem solving activities in which to apply the learning. Change the question, flip the approach, apply a real-life context. Constant revision.
Under no circumstances do you move them on to the next set of criteria, as this risks losing understanding for the sake of pace, leaving them insecure for the next teacher. It also means you're taking yourself away from the ones who need you the most.
Don't refer to it as 'holding them back' - grow up.
Assessment - you're looking for evidence to tell you, "To what degree are my learners able to..." and then you use this information to plan ahead, to delve deeper into the concept - which will bring me nicely onto the second point next time.