Last week we had THE PHONE CALL. The Big O were descending on us at 8am the very next morning. It was a long afternoon and an even longer night. Rocking home at 10 O’Clock at night with my data files as some light bedtime reading was not my idea of fun. Neither was that wide awake feeling at 3am as my mind ran over lesson plans, learning objectives and the dreaded Literacy Co-ordinator interview.
We all arrived somewhat bleary eyed at an unearthly hour at school. Some of us had that ‘rabbit caught in the headlight’ look and some of us looked like ‘teacher zombies’, not at all ready to pull off an ‘outstanding lesson’ coup. One thing the Ofsted phone call doesn’t give you is a good night’s sleep. Teaching is so demanding at the best of times and trying to be your absolute best on 3 hours of sleep is a tall order to say the least. Still, there was an improbably undercurrent of serenity. We had been waiting for this for two years. The threat was worse than the actual arrival of the dreaded Ofsted. There was an air of ‘Bring It!’.
The two days passed in a blue, with another night of pitiful sleep in between. Here are some of the things I do remember that helped us to survive our Ofsted and to come out the other side of that two-day tunnel with a smile on our tired faces:
Don’t be tempted to plan ‘Ofsted’ lessons. Always go with the flow of what you have already been teaching, even if this means staying at school a lot later than normal to do so. The learning will be more meaningful to the children and you will be able to show how it builds on prior learning a lot easier.
Make sure each teacher plans their own lessons if you are in a two or three-form entry school. That way lessons are tailored specifically to classes and the groups and individual needs within that class. Also, it means the teacher has taken ownership of the lesson and internalised the structure and flow.
Make sure you are stretching the more able learners. They will check for this, even throughout your main teaching. Use careful questioning and THINK tasks to show you have differentiated your teaching, as well as the tasks, to meet the needs of the more able group.
Pace is essential. Make sure you stick to the 20:80 teacher:pupil talk ratio and break up your talking with activities that require all the learners to DO something and think for themselves.
Make your planning and assessment file available to provide a context for your teaching. I left these on a chair for the inspector with a note saying where the books could be found should they want to look through those.
Every teacher should have their class broken down into groups, with starting points and predicted end of year goals shown. A simple document showing this for reading, writing and maths wowed the inspection team and demonstrated that each teacher knew their class inside out.
Give examples of literacy and maths across the curriculum to the inspectors. Post-it note your books so it is easy to find.
Order your readers from bottom to highest in terms of level. The inspection team will need this information to select children to hear read. Do this in advance; it is no fun doing it at 8.40 when you still haven’t sorted out the sheets for your literacy lesson that starts at 9am!
If you are a middle leader, know your subject’s strengths and areas for development. Be able to say which year groups you need to focus on (in terms of progress and attainment) and which groups within those year groups. Make sure you know your FSM data inside out and can share what provision is in place for each child on the FSM register.
Above all, stay clam. Go for feedback for any lessons observed and build on that the next day. Talk to your Head about what the focus for the second day will be and tweak your lessons accordingly. Maintain perspective. It is two days of madness and mayhem and then it is all over. Don’t internalise judgements made about lessons. YOU are making and doing an amazing job, no matter what your lesson is judged as.
I’m downloading loads of research papers on how you can assess pupils reading attainment through looking at their writing. Looks like hours of reading but I was just wondering if anyone has any practical suggestions or activities related to this topic?
This year has seen the best writing results we’ve seen for a long time in Year 2. My first ever 3b; so proud. Anxious to reproduce the same excellent outcomes next year, I’ve been pondering just how we did it. What did we do differently to last year that made all the difference? Here’s what I’ve come up with:
1) Inheriting a class from Year 1 that had a good grasp of a basic sentence. That gave us firm foundations for making the jump to compound sentences using connectives and for adding detail to simple sentences using adjectives and adverbs.
2) Teaching grammar explicitly before embedding it in literacy lessons and reinforcing it through texts. We played a lot of games and used activities found on Pinterest in the Autumn Term, then our texts in the following terms (e.g. Leon and the Place Between, Beauty and the Beast, Helen Ward stories) served to illustrate these teaching points in real, inspiring texts once the children had a good command of what those terms mean.
3) Annotating texts using highlighters in pairs seemed to have a great effect on the children’s writing. Being able to see the way authors used noun phrases, verbs, and adverbs effectively in real texts seemed to inspire the children to do it for themselves. They were able to grasp how great sentences were put together and began to do this for themselves. A cohesive link between reading and writing was well-established. This seemed to give us greater success in vocabulary development than just role-play every had.
4) Writing every day seemed to help, despite making the marking somewhat heavy duty. Practising a skill is what makes it better and this certainly seems to have been the case here. We ensured there was plenty of time for the children to write in every lesson.
5) Visual success criteria has supported the writing process this year. Using a washing line to construct success criteria for writing in different text types has really worked. The children have become skilled in identifying the steps to success for themselves and have even added in their own steps independent of what the class decided.
6) Peer and self assessment has been really useful for the children to see where the gaps are in their learning for themselves. This, alongside ‘writing ladders’ in the front of their books and time to respond to our marking (which makes it seem much more worth while use spending the time on it!), has helped the children to ‘buy into’ their own learning and make the improvements needed to get to that next level of writing expertise.
7) Cultivating an environment that promotes and celebrates writing has also been key. Celebrating great achievements by writers in the class on our classroom celebration boards has helped to raise the profile of writing amongst the children.
8) Seeing the teachers as writers has also supported the writing process. Using model texts and allowing the children to annotate and deconstruct them as texts has been a great learning experience. They have been able to ‘ask the writer’ directly about their word choices and how sentences have been constructed.
I’m sure there are other factors that contributed to our successes this year but these are the ones that really spring to mind as I reflect upon the year. Now, to reproduce it next year!
Are You Right-Brained or Left-Brained?
They don’t break the rule. They are the exceptions to the rule.
“I before E, except after C,
and in words that say ‘ay’ as in neighbor and weigh,
but then buyer beware, is it their, there or they’re?
‘It’s neither or either,’ she sneered, which was weird.
…I could go on like this all day, but there are 923 more words to rhyme, and clearly, dear tumblrs, I don’t have the time.
Abandoned buildings, good story settings