‘Outstanding’ MFL lesson using technology and flipped learning.

9 Feb

On Monday I was observed by my Head of Faculty as part of my performance management. I have recently discovered flipped learning and have become convinced that this is an excellent way of imparting knowledge and improving pupils’ understanding of key concepts. I decided to test one of these flipped lessons out in an observation. I also decided to use the computer room for this lesson to see how I could use technology to speed up the learning process and engage my learners. I have heard a lot about the SAMR model and will refer to this in my post, although I’m not 100% confident at my ability to link the use of technology to this model yet.

The post is rather long so feel free to skip to the conclusion at the end!

The class was mixed ability year 11 group (grades ranging from A* to E) and we had had one previous lesson on the environment topic. The lesson actually started the week before when I set pupils their flipped learning homework.

Here is the lesson plan: 03 – 02 -14

And here is the instructions that I emailed to pupils: Instructions to pupils

Using the Explain Everything app on my iPad I set about explaining the imperative mood to pupils. On the SAMR model this is clearly a redefinition of a task. It would never have been possible for me teach a grammatical concept in this much detail before as a piece of homework  and without the technology to help me. I printed out a load of QR codes which linked to the video that I had uploaded to YouTube and also emailed the link to all pupils.

I set up a Google Form which formed the first part of my assessment of their learning. Without this piece of technology I would never have been able to assess their understanding before they entered the classroom so another example of using technology to redefine the task. I used Twitter (a class account) to remind pupils that had not completed the homework the day before that their piece of homework was still outstanding. This type of communication (direct to their mobile phones as a push notification) on a weekend would have been inconceivable even a few years ago. In total 2 pupils were absent when the homework was set and 3 did not complete the homework. They spent the first 15 minutes of the lesson completing the homework instead and were set extra homework to complete that would not been able to complete in class as a result.

The flipped aspect helped the lesson in two main ways. Firstly it cut down on the amount of teacher talk in the lesson. I did not have to stand at the front and spend 20 minutes explaining the grammar to pupils and therefore allowed them more time in lessons to gain understanding through exploration, collaboration and discovery. The flipped aspect also improved the feedback I gave to pupils which was noted on my feedback form. Having analysed the Google Form before the lesson began, the first 7 minutes of the lesson involved me sitting down individually with a couple of students and explaining in detail any misconceptions or errors that had occurred. The observer noted that this assessment of learning and the feedback given to these students helped significantly in her awarding of an outstanding grade in ‘assessment for learning’ and ‘feedback’ areas on the observation form.

During the lesson pupils used quizlet.com to learn 15 new verbs on the environment topic that they had not seen before. They spent 15 minutes learning the verbs and I believe that the technology was used to augment the learning that took place. Pupils were able to learn the vocabulary at their own pace, pausing and repeating as they pleased and were able to practise and test their knowledge quicker than in a traditional classroom if 15 new items of vocabulary were to be introduced. In keeping with the idea of discovery and collaboration, I asked pupils to think about vocabulary that would be associated with the environment topic and look up the Spanish using wordreference.com. They were then asked to write the English and Spanish on to a wall on padlet.com. After the lesson I checked the terms they had come up with, corrected any mistakes and printed it out for them to stick into their exercise books. They will then have a quick vocabulary test on these words next week but hopefully they will appreciate that this vocab test was set using words they had created and there will be a ‘that’s my word’ sense of satisfaction when they hear their words being read out. Of course I could have done this task using a dictionary and a piece of sugar paper so the technology was merely used a substitute for this activity.

Then came a series of comprehension activities and pupils could choose which one they wanted to complete. Two of the tasks came from the OCR GCSE textbook and were given rough GCSE grades. Pupils used their target grades to select which one they opted for. Two of the activities required no technology as one was a matching up activity using statements and pictures and the other was a print out of a section of a past paper on the environment topic which featured on the foundation/higher reading paper crossover. I did ask pupils completing the match up to take a photo using my iPad so that I could later assess their work.

photo (1)

The final task was a listening task, where pupils had to match what they heard to the statements. I uploaded the listening file to our VLE which pupils downloaded and listened to via headphones. I believe this is a redefinition of the task as it would be impossible for all learners to access one listening piece at either different times (not me pushing play on a cassette player and everyone listening at the same time) or at the same time (putting a cassette player in the corner and having one person use it at one time).

The final task was more of an extension if pupils had finished all the previous tasks and a few of my more able pupils got on to this task. The task was differentiated by outcome and used higher order thinking skills getting pupils to create a poster giving instructions using the imperative mood. I did something similar with another group and gave them to the choice to create a poster, a video campaign or a series of vines. However I found that they spent too much time deciding which one to do and too long focusing on how it would look and ended up with only one slogan in Spanish of 3-5 words. This would not represent outstanding progress and so this time I made it clear that pupils had to produce the Spanish before they started their posters.

Finally I used the online tool socrative.com to assess the learning that had taken place. This allowed all pupils to answer a series of questions that I had prepared in advance. It then sent me a report via email and I was quickly able to assess pupils’ understanding. Of course I could have printed the questions out and got pupils to write the answer in their books, however the report allowed me to quickly assess the learning that had taken place and I was able to use the information to form the basis of the starter for the next lesson. I therefore believe that the quick ability (5 mins after the lesson) to see all of the pupils answers to my questions is an augmentation on the traditional format highlighted above.

To conclude, here are the different criteria upon which I was assessed and how I believe the technology used helped to arrive at the judgements.

Feedback – outstanding. The Google Form allowed me to provide individual feedback at the very start of the lesson. The fact that there was almost no teacher talk meant that I could circulate the room for the whole lesson asking questions and giving feedback to pupils. The observer also checked exercise books and asked pupils about the amount and quality of feedback received to give a longer term overview.

Assessment for learning – outstanding. There were numerous opportunities for me to assess the learning that had taken place and technology was used to help me with this. Firstly the Google Form allowed me to assess pupils’ understanding of the video I had produced using Explain Everything. Taking pictures using the iPads allowed me to check whether pupils had understood the vocabulary and socrative allowed me to quickly assess pupils understanding of the whole lesson (and the flipped video).

Behaviour and engagement – outstanding. To be fair the vast majority of this work has taken place over the last year and half, by building relationships, setting and maintaining expectations etc. However I felt the technology helped engage pupils, the choice of activities gave a sense of ownership to the tasks and the flipped learning aspect reduced the amount of teacher talk significantly and therefore the chance for pupils to get ‘bored’. The sheer number of activities and the extension tasks also meant that pupils didn’t have any opportunity to have nothing to do which can lead to behaviour problems.

Differentiation – outstanding. I didn’t do a lot of work here. Some of the tasks were differentiated by outcome but making it explicitly clear to the pupils what was required for certain grades gave pupils something to work for and a clear success criteria. By providing a range of activities and grading the difficulty using GCSE grades, pupils had a clear understanding of what activity to choose and almost all selected the activity that suited their need. The independent style of the lesson (allowed through the flipped learning) meant that pupils could work at their own pace which was commented upon as being a contributing factor to the awarding of outstanding in this aspect.

Progress – good. This area was given a good as the feedback from socrative highlighted that a fair number of the least able pupils were not able to correctly put a sentence together using the imperative and we both felt that this was because they were too slow when working through exercises and there was no real pressure on them to complete tasks quickly (obviously in contrast to the idea of giving them time to move along at their own pace which helped on the differentiation part). Therefore they did not get enough time to really practice and embed their understanding. Setting time limits on activities may have given a greater sense of urgency and forced pupils to really focus rather than take a ‘back seat’.  We had a discussion as to whether the observer could award the lesson an overall rating of outstanding if they didn’t feel that progress was outstanding but we came to the conclusion that because all of the other criteria were outstanding and that a good proportion of pupils (but not ‘almost all’) had made outstanding progress they were able to do this.

I strongly believe that the flipped aspect and the technology used allowed this to be an outstanding lesson and it would be very difficult for this much knowledge to be imparted to the pupils and for them to complete so many activities without either the flipped aspect or the technologies.


Flipped MFL lessons

12 Jan

Having read quite a few tweets and blogs (and even this ebook) about flipped learning and having had a short training session on the concept by a colleague (@twentspin) at school I became convinced that this was a more effective way of teaching and set about creating my own flipped learning lessons. With every new thing that I try in the classroom I chose to use it with one class to start off with so that I didn’t become overwhelmed and I could make errors without it affecting too many pupils. The aim, of course, will be to roll this out to other classes when I’m more confident with the technology and how the lessons should be presented.

At a recent training course looking at using iPads in the classroom by @joedale I was told about the Explain Everything app by @njdixpin who assured me that it was well worth the £1.99 fee. He couldn’t have been more right. It is such a powerful tool and it does everything I want it to do. I’m not going to go into everything it does as there’s plenty of information out there in blogs and on YouTube about Explain Everything. Suffice to say, I would recommend it to anyone looking to implement the flipped model.

So with the technology ready I set about producing my first flipped video. In the previous lesson with my Year 10 GCSE class I had taken them to the computer room to type up a piece of work on the holiday topic they had been studying. Of course, rather than use all of the structures and vocabulary they had in their books, much to my annoyance, many of them went straight for Google Translate. When I caught them using it I told them they could only use wordreference.com as an online dictionary. So they logged on to wordreference.com and tried to type long sentences into the search bar! It was clear they had no idea how to use the site (and why should they if they’ve never been taught how to use it?). I decided a video on how to use wordreference.com would be a good start for my flipped lesson. I set about creating the video using Explain Everything. I uploaded the video to YouTube and also to our VLE as YouTube is blocked for pupils at school. The video was too long for one YouTube post so I cut it in half using iMovie. A tip for uploading to YouTube – don’t export to YouTube in the Explain Everything app as it takes an age and failed on me. It was a lot quicker for me to export to camera roll and then upload to YouTube from the camera roll.

For the first lesson, I decided to go against all the principles of flipped learning and get the pupils to watch the video in the lesson rather than for homework before the lesson. The main reasons for this were to check that the technology worked so that I didn’t have the ‘I couldn’t download the video’ excuse. Also, I wanted to see how pupils interacted with the video. I wanted to make sure they were actively taking notes as they went along rather than passively watching the video. Finally, I wanted to be there to answer any questions they had straight away so that next time, when they do it for homework they have no excuses and are all confident with what they are doing.

The pupils all engaged really well with the video. I asked them to reflect in their books what they thought about this way of learning and they were all very positive about it. Many commented that it allowed them to learn at their own pace. I was surprised at just how positive they were. The video was 26 minutes long (I can go on sometimes! A bit like this post I suppose), which on reflection was too long. By the time they paused the video to write notes and complete the Google form at the end it had taken the full hour long lesson. Future videos will have to be a lot shorter. I think 10 minutes is the optimum time, 15 minutes maximum.

I have created the next video even though they are not going to see it until the end of Jan (they are currently doing controlled assessments). They will watch the video for homework and in the lesson we will do lots of activities where pupils can practice their pronunciation and I can go around supporting and advising pupils. The 11 minute video will allow pupils to work for 11 minutes more in the lesson, reducing the amount of teacher talk in the lesson and allowing more time for pupils to be actively working on improving their skills.  I chose to have the front facing camera on for this video as it allows the pupil to see how our mouth moves, which is really important for learning the pronunciation of words. Although I am annoyed that the video is out of sync with the audio. This only happened once I had exported the video which is rather annoying. I’m not sure why it happened.

The technology has made flipped learning possible and I’m excited to continue to use Explain Everything to flip my lessons. All future videos will be available via my YouTube channel and I’ll tweet them as well.

Quiet! Shhh! Stop talking, Sir, we’ve got work to do!

19 Oct

At a recent meeting we decided that the next focus for our CPD training was going to be on teacher talk, or more importantly, how to reduce it. We all know it’s far too easy to get carried away standing at the front jabbering on about a point and before we know it, we have to squeeze an activity into the remaining 10 minutes of the lesson which we had planned for them to spend half an hour on. The reasons for the ‘chalk and talk’ are numerous. For some it’s about control, believing that by handing ownership of the task over to the pupils the class will descend into chaos and all the pupils will talk about is what they did at the weekend. For others it is because they haven’t planned or created the resources properly and they use talk as a way of introducing knowledge, ideas or concepts rather than getting the pupils to work things out themselves. And for a few it is because they genuinely believe that the best way pupils are going to understand a topic is if they stand in front of them and lecture them, imparting all of their wisdom to, what they believe, is a captive and attentive audience. I am guilty of all of the above but the truth is, there are more behaviour issues expecting pupils to be quiet for the whole lesson and listen to you drone on, there are quick and easy shortcuts to avoid the teacher talk and no matter how entertaining the speaker is, pupils will learn more from DOING.

With this in mind I decided to take the plunge and film my lesson Friday period 5 with a set 1 year 9 group. The lesson’s objective was to learn how to use the future tense to describe what you will be like in the future. I tried to make it as normal a lesson as possible and upon reflection I believe it was a very ‘typical’ lesson for me. I teach better lessons, I teach worse lessons, but I think that it is a fair reflection of the overall experience pupils have in my lessons. When I got home I watched the video and used a stopwatch to time how often I had stopped the class to talk to them, at which point they were passive learners. Yes, there was lots of questioning when I was standing at the front, most targeted, and some good nuggets of information were imparted as well as some tips and strategies but the fact remains that even through the targeted questioning, only 1 pupil out of 30 were ‘active’ at any one period of time whilst I was at the front. How long did I spend talking to the class in a one hour lesson? Five minutes? Ten? Twenty? To my horror it was 27:02! Towards the end of the lesson I set the plenary task and as I told the pupils they had 10 minutes to complete it, I looked up at the clock and there was only 5 minutes left! Had I talked too much? What if I had cut 10 minutes teacher talk? There could have been time for a decent amount of time to be spent on the plenary and some reflection afterwards on the lesson.

We talked in the meeting about RAP – Reflective Active Passive. We weren’t given exact figures on how much time should be spent on each but obviously the less time pupils are passive, the better. By my calculations pupils in this lesson were active learners for a maximum off 55%, passive learners for 45% of the lesson and were not reflective learners at all. So the next obvious question is; reflecting on the lesson, how could I have talked less to increase the active and reflective learning that took place?

I could have flipped the learning and got pupils to learn about the future tense before they even walked through the door. Then I could have done a quick assessment of understanding at the start and set ‘experts’ to teach those that were unsure and worked with a ‘focus group’ that were really struggling or hadn’t bothered to do their homework. This would have allowed more time in the lesson for pupils to be actively learning or applying their knowledge.

I could have made my instructions sharper and quicker, perhaps using more written instructions to set tasks rather than explaining them orally. After setting tasks I always get (and got in this lesson) the classic ‘so what have we got to do, Sir?’ So what is the point in explaining things orally? Why not write them clearly on a PPT and get pupils to read the the instructions?

I could have provided the answers to questions on a worksheet and asked pupils to self assess their work. Why had they got the answer wrong? What rule did they not understand? Do they understand why they got the answer wrong? If not, could they find out why by asking peers or writing questions in their books which I could answer when marking their books? That could have increased the reflective time from nothing to at least something!

Overall I found this a very useful task and one I would recommend. The results can be surprising and the amount of time we spend talking is often underestimated. Moving from passive to active to reflective is not easy to do but the more time we can squeeze out of lessons, the better.


6 Oct

I will talk anyone to death about how Twitter has transformed my teaching. Even I find it difficult to comprehend sometimes just how much I’ve gained from seeing the posts of some truly inspirational teachers. One thing that I stumbled across last year was @learningspy‘s use of DIRT for marking and feedback. I can honestly say it has transformed the way I mark and there has been a marked improvement in both the QUALITY and the FREQUENCY of the feedback I give to pupils. I am very grateful to David for sharing this and you can read more about DIRT here.

I have taken this one step further and produced a quick PowerPoint which looks at the ‘reflection’ part of DIRT. I ask a pupil to choose a number between 1-8 and they click on the mud splat that corresponds to that number. This takes them to a new slide which gives the whole class instructions to do and a question to answer. By having different numbers and getting pupils to choose the number it gives them a sense of ownership over the task and hopefully avoids that ‘oh great we have to do DIRT again’ boredom that could set in.

The great thing is that you can easily change the question if you want or tweak questions for certain classes. If you wanted to narrow it down to 4 questions for a particular class then you can just ask pupils to choose between four numbers.

Let me know if you use it or have any thoughts on how I could improve it.

Here is the PowerPoint: