TLAB13 second workshop: Neal Watkin

Neal begins by talking about the classroom rules for quality writing: practice makes perfect. Make it meaningful.

We then have a mystery: who is Noor Inayat Khan and why is she significant? How certain are we? Neal gives us some clues and we discuss what they mean. Really interesting trying to pick through the clues we are given: my curiosity is piqued.

An aside: Neal teaches a history unit looking at 1919 and whether victory in WW1 led to a better outcome than loss, looking at it from a variety of country’s perspectives. Love this idea.

We look at strategies for supporting writing. TOWER: Talk, Organise visually, Write, Edit, Reflect. We discuss whether a statue is a better memorial than a George Cross, and then discuss whether discussion is an important part of the process! Neal finds that Y9 do not like this stage but we generally agree that explaining the topic helps students to understand it better. Neal sometimes records what they say, then the clip is watched back and critiqued by the class on the quality of the debate. This helps to develop historical questioning skills.

Then Neal talks about explorative strategies: freeze frame on an interesting word, margin narrator, role play – read aloud as the narrator, cross-cutting – look at all the different voices in the text, fast-forward and rewind… Look at Neal’s blog to access these in more detail.

Students then write and analyse their work.
Hard on content, soft on people – critique the work, not the person.
Step up and comment, step back and let others comment.
Be kind, helpful and above all, specific.

Discuss what is good about a piece of writing and create a list of what features good writing has based on this feedback. Do the same for what to improve to create a list of pitfalls to avoid.

When marking, use different highlighters to show where students have achieved the different success criteria. Instead of a target, Neal asks them a question – because Qs require interaction from students whereas targets don’t.

He finishes by making it clear that it works because they have high expectations and promote them consistently from the start of the year. Consistency is coming up over and over again these days!

We have a discussion about what we like about it and how we might tweak it. There are no levels or nc criteria which Neal says is a deliberate, departmental decision – they don’t use levels at all, much to the chagrin of SLT, he says! Students could also critique the questions, and then adjust their essays to different questions. They could write just a cut down first draft instead of a full one. Classes could share their criteria lists to see if they match. Neal will set same Q for y8 and y12, for example, to promote discussion and show that the skills are basically the same.

ETA Sorry, Neal, for spelling your name wrong all the way through! Hopefully I have fixed them all now.

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One Response to TLAB13 second workshop: Neal Watkin

  1. Pingback: Boosting progress: a Teachmeet/TLAB mash up | High Dive Teaching

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