This week’s wins #5

1. Wider reading with Y10
I mentioned in wins #4 that I was intending to use extracts from the Prairie Traveler with my year 10s; this happened over a week ago now, turned out to be very successful. I was concerned they would find the old-fashioned language a barrier, and so when I gave out the extracts I warned them it was difficult. Nobody missed a beat: even the weaker students were able to access the material and I was left feeling a little foolish. They pulled out some wonderful bits and pieces of advice, ranging from what to take on the journey to when to beat your oxen.
Unfortunately, feeding it back was a slow and frustrating process and I lost a lot of their focus during this section of the lesson. I let them up to the board to write themselves but, while they can write little bits legibly, they weren’t so good at selecting the most important bits of information and thus were writing whole sentences up.

Next time, I think this feedback would work better by setting up some sort of speed dating exercise, where they have to share their information with another person in 30 seconds or less. Then I could do voice recordings of their favourite bits of advice for the Moodle. I intend to use this as a revision lesson with year 11, and possibly revisit the exercise as a last-lesson-pre-Christmas with year 10.

2. Wider reading with mixed ability year 9
I’ve been slogging through Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres since the summer. (It has taken a while, because I realised it was about to become tragic and set it aside for nearly 2 months; a common pattern for me.) Last week I read through the sections where Karatavuk remembers the trenches at Gallipoli. This was very enlightening for me; never having studied WW1 in any depth, my knowledge is very heavily biased towards the western European experience. It also made me wince with horror, so I decided to share it with my very mixed ability year 9s, ahead of their assessment.

Part of their assessment involves them describing the horrors of trench warfare, for which they can achieve a level 5, if they do it well enough. We would normally expect year 9s to move up the levels later in the assessment; but with this particular group I expected a fair number would be relying on their trench description to achieve their 5. So, I took the book in and read to them.

I don’t think I’ve read a storybook to a class in many years. I couldn’t give them extracts to read because of the language (for those who’ve read it: Fikret and his, “I’m from Pera…” motto is enough on its own) but they were entranced and asked for more the following lesson. Then: assessment. I decided I had done the right thing when one of the boys put his hand up to ask how to spell cordite. I’d only mentioned it during the reading.

Assessments will be marked tomorrow and I am crossing my fingers for the best set of descriptions yet!

It’s a struggle to maintain creativity this close to the holiday, and awash with assessment leassons. This week, however, I am hoping to use the EeePCs with my year 11s to do some presentations on the protest movements of the 19th century; and I’m looking forward to getting some creative homework projects. As a result of attending Geology lessons, I have started to add, “Present it in a creative way” to my research homeworks when I set them, which is how I ended up this week with a model trench in a shoe box covered in information about Harry Patch, and this:

Yep, John Cabot Lemon Drizzle Cake. My students know me so well. “It’s nearly half term: placate her with cake!”
I’m quite looking forward to seeing what turns up this week.

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