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Hodder History Expert Blog

Give me five minutes
By Tony Fox
28 Nov
We had a visit from OFSTED this week.  I had very low expectations for the visit and sadly the behaviour of the inspectors failed to soar even to the heights of these low expectations. The inspectors were haughty and a little rude; I know they are not there to make friends, but a little professional courtesy, or even human decency would not go amiss.

By contrast I have the deepest respect for our SLT. Their reaction to the call was to inform all staff of the visit, and then leave us to do what was necessary. There was none of the panicky double checking that I have seen at other schools. For my part, I knew that inspectors require evidence that a lesson is planned, and there are numerous acceptable lesson-planning proformas. Having come to a new school recently I had already done much planning and paperwork for most lessons a few months back. To help me review I turned again to The 5 minute lesson plan.

I first came across The 5 minute lesson plan on Twitter, I think about eighteen months ago. It is produced by Ross McGill @TeacherToolkit, an Assistant Vice Principal in an inner-city North London School. It has been well received, especially on Twitter, but it has also received publicity from the TES . I have dabbled with it, on and off, for some time, but this was the first time I really attempted to use it seriously.

It really helped. I found that it did indeed do what it says in the title - it helped me to quickly and efficiently plan a lesson. I particularly like the 'sequence of the lesson' part of the plan, as it focused my planning on who was doing what - was the activity teacher led, or student led? This had been a concern of mine - that I talk too much, and do not allow students to get on with it. This is a weakness amplified when I am unfamiliar with a class.

As per Sod’s Law, I had the misfortune that not one of my nine carefully crafted lessons was looked at. In fact they failed to look at the History, Geography and RE departments at all. We await a verdict on a faculty to which the inspectors failed to speak or inspect.
Colour coding feedback styles
Meanwhile one positive thing did come out of this week however: for a Year 9 lesson on the Rise of Hitler (if only the inspector could have been in next week to see the lesson on how the Nazis created a climate of fear) I was reviewing the lesson plan and particularly the AfL box.
If you have read my previous posts you will know that I have been reviewing my feedback and assessment practice. I am not using NC levels (as stated in earlier posts) and after reading this 'Pragmatic Reform' blog post I feel even more confident in this decision. In my feedback I want to notify my students what skills and concepts they are developing, to help them develop them further, and reward them for making progress in this development, and I feel NC levels fail to do this. So instead I have been using a range of other strategies. See my previous post.

As part of this I now state (in the AfL box of the lesson planning sheet) what kind of feedback I would give - for example, Constructive, SPaG or Challenging. However this review highlighted the need for me to plan more clearly how I will feedback and how each piece of work will be marked (the style not just substance).
I now plan to indicate on each task instruction how the resulting work will be marked, with an icon for each style. I am designing icons to represent them. For example: a Purple Box with the capital letter P will represent Peer assessment, a red square with SPaG will be for Spelling and Grammar; red will be the traditional red pen, but also it could look like the Roman SPQR banner. (This owed much to a colleague who has devised a very effective us of such icons: she uses a different coloured shape for each different grouping her students will face in the lesson. If students walk into her classroom and see a red square on the board they immediately know they will be working in their pre-organised pairs, a yellow diamond represents pre-organised fours, etc.)
I came out of this week’s inspection with a positive frame of mind. It did not improve my opinion of Ofsted, but it did assure me that I am moving in a positive direction in terms of my own reflective planning. As I reflect on the aims of my schemes and lessons, we seem to be making progress.
Meanwhile at the Challenge Wall
Finally, on a totally separate issue, I mentioned the challenge wall in an earlier post . Well during the Children in Need event in school, I won the 'guess the number of sweets in the jar' contest, being just two away from the total! The jar now resides in my Challenge wall area, giving students a further incentive - if they can complete their work, they can have a sweet or two.
It is amazing what a little praise and small rewards can do to performance; it makes one wonder why Mr Wilshaw and Mr Gove employ methods in total contrast to this.
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