Time is of the essence. Never has that adage been more true than in the current educational climate: we are working harder and harder, and expectations for student progress are increasing year on year. I want ALL of my students to make outstanding progress, but that means that they all need to be working their hardest in every lesson, not leaving it until year 11 to catch up.
So, how can we make sure that every student has to work their best at all times?
Well, here are five simple tips and tricks to help your students work their hardest:
1. Target your support. We have a set of Red/Amber/Green cards for every student, and when students start a task they all need to display the appropriate card on their desk. This means that you can quickly and simply select students for urgent intervention within the lesson. It also stops students from getting 10 minutes into a task, having done nothing because they ‘don’t get it’, without you knowing.
2. Get close to your students. Obviously not too close (I certainly don’t want to instigate any safe-guarding issues) but when patrolling the room, get close enough to read what students are writing. This scrutiny adds an extra element of pressure for students- in a good way!
3. Comment on students’ work. When ‘on patrol’, I don’t just read students’ work but give them comments. A brief remark on their writing, e.g. ‘Go back and add in a quotation as evidence’, is, I feel, the best example of differentiation. What can be better than personally adapting your feedback to each student’s individual needs?
4. Carry a pen at all times and use it. When giving those comments to students, make sure you capture it by writing it in their books. It will make certain that they remember what it is you want them to do, and it will help to reduce your marking. Now, that is definitely a win-win!
5. Value silence. A lot of schools are now ‘Taking 10’. This is 10 minutes of completely silent time in lessons for students to work independently and demonstrate what they have (or haven’t) learned. I think this is crucial for several reasons: it sets your high expectations for behaviour; it allows the students work without distractions; and it give you the opportunity to find out what each student can really do by themselves.
If you follow these five simple tips, then you will make sure that your students are making the most of every minute in your classroom. And best of all, none of them involve you doing any extra preparation. Now, that has to be a good result!