The Trousers of Teaching

With all credit (and apologies) to Terry Pratchett and his trousers of time.

When discussing my use of hinge point questions recently, I’ve started to refer to what happens next as ‘the trousers of the lesson’, to try and visualise how I make use of the information gleaned from the hinge activity.

So, from the beginning, when planning, I try to distil my thinking so that I am absolutely clear about the one key point of learning for the lesson, when that should occur, and from there, how learners will apply this new-found knowledge/understanding/competency.  This gives me my hinge point, the place in the lesson where pupils can either move on, or require further consolidation.  If you are particularly cunning, you can even differentiate the question itself for different groups of learners.  Here’s a differentiated example from the good & bad web design lesson of my web design unit:

Bronze – Name 3 features of a good website.

 Silver – Give your top 3 features of a good website and explain why you chose them.

 Gold – Give your top 3 features of a good website and explain what people would think of the site if it didn’t have them.

You can tailor your hinge question activity to suit the class, I particularly like Think Pair Share, but try to stick to the following:

  • 1 minute to ask the question.
  • 2 minutes for students to respond
  • 1 minute to analyse the results

Once you have established who ‘gets it’ and who doesn’t, then the trousers come in, those who can move down one leg to a task that requires more complex thinking and/or independence, whereas those who don’t go down the other leg for a consolidation exercise.  This could be a period of direct instruction, a more scaffolded task, an expert session with a G&T pupil and so on.  If you have a T.A. in your lesson, then they could take either the development or the consolidation session and you are showing that you can plan for effective deployment of other staff.

And there you have it, teaching with trousers, or a decision point in your lesson where you make effective use of AfL, differentiate on the fly, show how adaptable you are from your plan, and hopefully avoid that creeping feeling that we all get from time to time.  The one where you are holding at least half the class back by dwelling on questions from two or three students.

Yes, I could have called it the fork in the lesson, the decision point or many other things, but I’m a sucker for alliteration.  There are also no prizes for pointing out that a pair of trousers must also contain an a**e, but I’ve found it a simple technique that really improves the effectiveness of my AfL.