Outstanding ICT Lessons

As the Olympics becomes a memory of an amazing summer in Great Britain one word has been brought to the fore, Legacy. You might be wondering how this relates to ICT, but a lot of what has been on display in the games is synonymous with outstanding achievement in many areas of life including your lessons. To be the best you are going to need more than a little Olympic value.

When you read the descriptor of an outstanding ICT lesson you may be forgiven for seeing it as unachievable, but if this is how our athletes thought then we would never have achieved Gold in any event. The wording is not very helpful and if you haven’t had it explained by an Ofsted inspector or someone ‘in the know’ you could interpret it in so many ways that you run the risk of playing outside the ‘unwritten’ rules.

The legacy of the Olympics is your stimulus for teaching an outstanding lesson, taking the same values that win medals. The start point is you need good knowledge and a passion for your subject, which I assume is why you are teaching others. The more ahead of the game the better, just like a gymnast or diver, judges give extra marks for new ideas which are executed well, so keep reading and looking into new techniques.

The start of your lesson is crucial, just like any of the sprint events you need to get out of the blocks quick. As the pupils step through the door the learning experience needs to begin, (I have lost the will to live when it comes to different lesson models with everything from three part to eight part or eight P’s to name but a few). My favorite term for this ‘pre-starter’ is a bell activity and you can have some real fun here. Simple is the best and if an activity can be completed in several different ways, with or without equipment even better. This is what the pupils are doing whilst they are logging on and is not the starter. One of my bell activities for a creative lesson is ‘Draw your favorite window – use your imagination – complete on paper or computer’. The results are amazing, from hand drawn window frames, no more than four squares, to down-loaded pictures of tropical beaches framed with drawn windows complete with curtains!

The starter activity is key to your success under the new criteria and it must set the scene for the rest of the lesson. Let the pupils decide their own success criteria for the task set, making the lesson pupil-led. There are numerous ways this can be achieved, but you must come up with guidelines, ‘rules of the event’ which will be based around levels and what is required to get them. A good starter involves everyone giving ideas or feeling their way into a topic at the level, which is appropriate for them. Once the theme is set for the lesson the main activity can begin.

To get back to the analogy of the Olympics there has to be pace, this can be created with timers and mini-goals throughout the lesson, one thing my classes hate is to be broken off just when they are getting somewhere. Many distance runners team up with someone they feel is at their pace, sometimes a pacemaker is required to drive the race on. The teacher is always acting as a pace maker and wants rapid progress, particularly when pupils opt to stay within their comfort zones. To achieve this you have to target individuals and groups throughout the activity, this means you don’t have to break off the whole class all at the same time. If you organise your class to optimise peer support as well, you won’t be the only help available in the room.

Any good athlete has to be strong right to the end of the race and your lesson must finish well. The plenary needs to reach a solid conclusion and pupils must have a sense of what they have achieved and why they have been doing this particular activity. I like to bring in as many ‘Real World’ examples as I can here as there is nothing worse than that feeling of ‘doing something for the sake of it’. If the class leaves with a sense of why they have done something they are more likely to remember it.

As with many of the more artistic Olympic sports you have to make things obvious to the judges, in our case the inspector in the room. Saying things out loud is important and having systems in place is no good if you haven’t a way of telling the inspector (most easily with an information sheet for that class). If you have peer support systems tell them, if you have a method behind your seating plan tell them.

There is nowhere to hide with the new system and regardless of how well your lesson goes on the day the key factor will be your consistency everyday. The harshest critics are those who see you every lesson and they will be questioned by the inspector. If they can’t talk the talk you are fighting a losing battle, so sadly you need to train them to know how to answer questions asked of them. Your data is important but if the pupils don’t understand it or know where they stand, you will fall short of what is expected. Here’s to legacy and aiming to be the best.

R Wilks,

August 2012.

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