Last night I posed a question on twitter:
@informed_edu: Anyone care to share some good tips for keeping kids on task when they’re doing work from a textbook/worksheet? #ukedchat
I was absolutely blown away with the responses:
@datadiva: how about incorporating meta-reflection during the task. Set up a timer to go off at random intervals. When stds hear chime they can doc what they were doing at time. Off-task? On? If off – what were they doing? If on – what was process? #ukedchat. you can even work in behavior over time graphs (http://bit.ly/itVBBa) I often use them in conjunction w/ mata-cognition work
@paulshakesby: look up Fred Jones – limit setting, working the crowd, responsibility training. Simple and very effective behavior system
@springrose12: Information gap wrk:one group does one part of the sheet, the other works the rest of the part and share the work. #ukedchat
@Mr_D_Cheng: on a sliding scale when textbook revising with my yr 10’s
@tj007: what are their excuses 4 being off task? Is the bk/w.s failing to engage them? What was the lead up like – did it spark intrst are they off task because they don’t want to fail if they try? can they be made to feel confident b4 task? #ukedchat
@teachingofsci: don’t let them use twitter? 🙂 more seriously, interim deadlines, stopwatch on the board? kids can score themselves 1-3 for effort/focus and A-C for understanding (I add A+ for ‘I could teaching this’) #ukedchat
@cocoapony: how about wrking in teams with 1 role as ‘director’/chair 2 keep on track – revolv the role 4each w/sheet or Q2Q?
@javidmahdavi: have you ever considered converting worksheets to interactive ones in something like smartboard notebook?
@eduKatescom: countdown timer on smartboard gives sense of urgency! #ukedchat
@ArronFowler: I have been using time as a tool. Frequent deadlines from 30 sec to 5mins tasks. Kids respond well. The harder the better.
@jenmardunc: Letting them listen to music on headphones helps MANY kids stay focused!
Some amazing suggestions, and I went and looked up Fred Jones’ book (and ordered it on Amazon). One further suggestion sparked a really interesting debate:
@sevim77: #ukedchat don’t use textbooks! Unless essential they can be boring and switch students off!
@informed_edu: Agreed, textbooks are never perfect, but a reasonable compromise when you don’t have time to create resources from scratch?
@janshs: Big Q is how to make them interesting? Maybe use as part of a carousel of activities, or as source material #ukedchat
@sevim77: maybe used as sources to get students to create their own resources?
@janshs: ahhhh now we are talking #ukedchat … collaborative learning???
@sevim77: collaborative learning that also ticks boxes for differentiation, and AFL if students’ level
@informed_edu: Nice! How about taking Textbook questions and collaboratively deciding on the order of difficulty, with reasons.
Inspired by this conversation, I asked my year 9 GCSE Physics class to take a text book double-spread and turn the boringly low-level factual-recall questions in to high-level challenging questions. They came up with some brilliant ideas! For example:
“Given the choice of replacing your single-glazed windows with double-glazing, or changing the single pane of glass to double its U-value, which would you prefer, and why?”
“Put the following insulation choices in order of effectiveness, and explain your reasoning: Loft insulation, Cavity wall insulation, Aluminium foil radiator backing, Double-glazed windows.”
I’ve also been trying another idea I read on Twitter last year (still trying to find the reference) which is getting students to discuss questions or summarise the lesson in pairs or small groups and then asking students to describe what their partner/rest of the group said. It really does seem to focus them so much better.
I’m looking forward to trying some of the metacognition ideas – particularly @datadiva‘s idea about getting the students to reflect on what they’re doing and how well focussed they are. I’m also going to try and get students to reflect more on their work (following @teachingofsci‘s suggestion). I’ve tried doing this at A-level for students rating their own effort but I’m going to use it more widely.
Teaching is so much more fun when you have a stream of interesting ideas and a whole crowd of supportive people on tap. I’m endlessly impressed with the power of Twitter.