Secondary Secondary English

Airbricks: Creating Space in lessons for Students to Respond to your Feedback.

When I moved to my current school last year, my Department Coach was extolling the virtues of ‘Airbricks’: special lessons in which students re-learn skills before making improvements to their assessments. This coincided with a school drive for ‘green pen work’ in lessons, where students respond to teacher marking in lessons. And so, we decided to try to meld the two together.

Over the past year, these Airbricks have evolved and adapted to become a version of ‘Green Pen lessons’ but not simply just that.  Rather than just simply being a blank lesson, in which students correct their spelling mistakes, these have become an opportunity for students to enter into a clear dialogue with their teacher about their learning and re-learn key skills that were holding them back.

We have a department policy of using practical targets for improvement (e.g. Now you need to change the circled words to more interesting synonyms), which has worked well as a way to focus students’ green pen work. However, the question I receive most often from students is ‘But HOW do I do this?‘ and when I have asked students for feedback about my marking, the most regular criticism is ‘I would like an example of what you want me to do‘. Therefore my Airbricks tend to take the format below. This formula also includes the run-up, as I have found how you prepare the students for the Airbrick, is crucial in getting the most out of these lessons.

  1. Complete the assessment.
  2. Students then complete a Self/Peer Assessment slip, in which they explain which grade/band/level they have achieved and why. A partner then completes the slip to say if they agree/disagree with the assessment and why. This helps students to engage with the mark-scheme in a concentrated way, prior to your marking, so that your marking become more meaningful.
  3. I mark the assessment, providing a practical ‘Now you need to…’ target for improvement. I also respond to the Self/Peer assessment slip.
  4. I plan my Airbrick lesson, using one or two examples from the students’ work to demonstrate the key skills that most commonly need to be improved.
  5. In the Airbrick lesson, we then deconstruct what is good and bad about the examples. This can be done in groups, so students have more targeted help, if there is a range of skills needing to be re-learned.
  6. Students then read my feedback and complete a slip to say what they are going to focus on improving.
  7. Students then have time to improve their work, using green pens. You need to ensure that you provide enough time for this, at least 20 minutes, so that students do not just rush their improvements but really attend to making their work better.
  8. At the end of the lesson, I ask students to write a sentence explaining how they have improved their work and what mark they deserve now.
  9. And last, but by no means least, I mark their improvements and their evaluation, commenting on the progress made by the students (e.g Well done! You have really improved your vocabulary choices and I agree with the mark you have awarded yourself).

 

It has taken a while to train my students to take part in the green pen work but a year after we began them, our students clearly know the expectations and can talk about the benefits.  As I have explained to my students, this is real differentiated learning, where I provide individual feedback to each student and they get the chance to move their own learning forward.

‘Airbricks’ are about providing space for students to absorb and develop their learning, rather than just moving on relentlessly from one thing to the next. But they also provide space for the teacher to reflect on how things are going. And who doesn’t need a bit of time to stop and breathe in this frenetic job?

 

Biography:

Naomi Hursthouse has been teaching in West Sussex for ten years. She has worked as an Advanced Skills Teacher, a Gifted and Talented Coordinator, AQA examiner and is currently the Head of English at Ormiston Six Villages Academy.

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