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Showing posts from April, 2017

How to increase the impact of your marking this exam prep season

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If you teach KS4 and KS5, you are probably in the midst of some pretty serious exam preparation. For many of you, that means practice papers. Lots of them. And if you happen to teach a subject like English, that means a lot of extended essay questions to mark. So, you know, prepare to spend your evenings and weekends marking. After all, you want your students to do well, don't you?

Well, yes, of course. But there's a tool that can help speed up the marking process and improve the consistency and usefulness of your feedback to students. I give you... the humble rubric. You can either print these out and use them as a pro-forma (good), or you can sign up for a free trial of SmartRubric and use an interactive rubric to mark to pesky mocks (better).

First, I'll explain what a rubric is, how to make them, and how to use them effectively. Then, I'll give you three really good reasons why you should be using them for all of your open-ended assessments (but especially practic…

Free Download: Printable KS3 Spoken Language Rubric Bundle and lesson prep

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It's exam prep season, which means that sadly, KS3 probably isn't getting much love at the moment.
To rectify this, I'm going to share a couple of really easy English Speaking and Listening lesson formats that take approximately zero planning and work from years 7-9, plus a couple of downloadable rubrics to make sure that you're evidencing progress.

If you're just here for the freebie rubrics, I've bundled together a discussion rubric and a presentation/speech rubric. You can download the bundle here. It's aligned with the current National Curriculum expectations for KS3 English, but you could easily adapt them up or down. 

As always, if you are a SmartRubric user, you can bypass the printable and use the interactive version of these rubrics. It means all of your rich formative assessment data will be automatically captured, and targets, levels and grades will be generated for all of your students. They're in the template library. If you aren't a us…

Student Presentations - the X-Factor format

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Here's the problem: Student presentations are boring. One student is talking, and twenty-nine students are bored out of their skulls. The problem compounds itself as time goes by, and you need a class full of orators to avoid a riot by minute 45. It goes without saying that you should limit the number of student presentations per lesson, but the X-Factor format helps too. Here's how you do it: 
Pull a long table or three desks into the center of the room, facing the front. This is where your judges sit. Everyone else is audience. In front of each judge seat, stick a copy of the presentation rubric. In fact, every student in your class should have one. Give the judges a stopwatch, and a whiteboard or a big bit of paper and a marker for scores. 
The judges should be rotated out every couple of presentations, and it's a great way to give That Kid a place to showboat a little bit in a productive way. The judges have strict rules for criticism. They must be constructive, they mus…

Lesson Idea: Parsing Feelings in English

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This was an emergency exam prep lesson and it ended up being one of my favourites ever. I used it with my middle ability KS4 English group because I had had enough of my students telling me that the [quote] had a 'positive feeling' or made the audience feel 'shocked'. They simply didn't have the vocabulary or confidence to talk about emotion or feelings in a sophisticated way, much less in connection to a text. Now, as I said, I used this for KS4, but it would absolutely work at KS3 -- in fact, the earlier that kids learn to talk about this the better. Having the vocabulary to talk about emotion helps people parse feelings and be mindful about them which is incredibly important for life. 
Here's how it works. Configure your room in such a way that kids can sit in groups of three or four. Put a big piece of paper in the middle of each group. On each paper, write down six major emotions mind-map node style:  Set a timer. For ten minutes, get students to brainstorm…

How to Feed Back to Students

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You've marked an entire set of books (or just one student) using SmartRubric, and now you would like to pass that feedback on to your students. Great! Here's how you do it. 

(If you would rather watch a one-minute video demonstration, you can do that here)
Option 1: I want to print (or save a PDF) a feedback sheet for a single student:When you have finished marking a piece of student work, you will see something like this: 
Click 'Go to detailed student report'. This brings you to the report for that student. Scan it over, make sure you like what it says, and then go ahead and click the print icon in the top right corner of the report:

Now, if you want to print it out right then and there, you can go ahead and do that. You might need to mess around with the layout (change from portrait to landscape or vice versa depending on your particular printer/browser configurations). If you print in colour, you'll get snazzy colour blocks to help students see what their progress …

The Maker-Mindset is a powerful catalyst for learning. Here's how to foster it in your students.

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Most teachers have probably come across occasional student who is a maker. There was a girl in my year 8 English class who made the most adorable jewellery out of tiny, perfect, sculpted baked goods and sweets ('Get thee to Etsy!' I may or may not have cried, 'get thee to Etsy!). There was a boy in my year 10 media class who saved up his pocket money for years to buy a video-capable DSLR camera and was teaching himself to make films. He has an incredible, artistic eye. A girl in year 7 wrote pitch-perfect sci-fi genre prose.

All of these makers have really important traits in common - they are highly motivated, resilient and independent learners (all things we desperately want students to be), but these traits are a product of something deeper and more powerful - the maker-mindset.

The maker-mindset is a way of looking at the world that includes an awareness that you have the capacity, the access to tools and learning and most importantly the right to manipulate your envi…