- What do I want them to learn?
- How do I know where they are?
- How do I maximise the learning in lesson?
- How do I know what they’ve actually learned?
- How do the kids know what they’ve learned?
- How does this affect the next lesson?
I reckon that as long as I can answer those questions, I’m doing OK. Increasingly, I’m becoming convinced that a lot can be covered by setting great objectives and success criteria, and then getting the kids to actually engage with them. For me, great objectives:
- Are accessible
- Are non judgmental
- Are in pupil speak whilst not shying away from subject language
- Give opportunities for multiple entry points to learning
This is where I’ve found techniques like SOLO invaluable. It has helped me to scale the difficulty in my lessons and provide a clear ladder for learners to see what they have to do to progress. I wasn’t getting that from level descriptors, and there isn’t really such a thing as a ‘C’ grade spreadsheet skill or even exam answer at GCSE. In the exam, if you bodge the ‘give’ or ‘state’ questions then you’re a bit stuffed as there aren’t a lot of opportunities to earn the marks back. I’ve adapted SOLO for both practical and theory lessons, but it’s gone best when I’ve given the kids input into the process and let them own the objectives. For example:
Dead simple. Learners write their names on a post it and stick it to the board next to the relevant SOLO symbol. Actual descriptors were displayed on the interactive board, so I’ve included them here. Some stickies fell off so they wrote their names up instead. Used my shiny new ipad to photograph the board at the start and end of lesson and reviewed it with class to show progress.
This meant that they actually had to think about where they were on the framework and get up out of their seat to commit to action. Better than switching off whilst sir reads from a PowerPoint.
Whilst this was great, it didn’t really provide multiple entry points to the learning.
Y10 GCSE – Gaming Topic
I did the same thing with in class objectives and learners self assessed in class, but for homework I split some practise questions by SOLO level. Learners had to attempt two ‘consolidation’ questions from the stage they were at and one ‘challenge’ question from the next stage up. This really helped to ‘call out’ those who just moved their post it to keep me off their back, and inspired others to push themselves and try more ‘challenge’ questions.
So, I suppose it’s not just about objectives. It’s about differentiation, accessibility, expectations, cunning planning, useful AfL relationships and all the other myriad things that make teaching such a varied and fascinating art. What I do know, however, is that planning and sharing really clear criteria with my learners in meaningful ways has seriously improved the sharp focus of my lessons.