Lesson Observation Number One - Collaborative Learning with the Mr Men
23 June 2013 23:13
In the afternoon at Shireland Collegiate Academy, I joined the leading teacher for the Living Schools Lab Project, Mr Moore and his year nine students for the Literacy for Life lesson. As part of their themed work on the 1960’s and 1970’s, the students were learning about the author Roger Hargreaves who wrote the Mr Men series of books.
One of the key points to emphasise is the expectation that the students had undertaken the pre-session preparation prior to the lesson at home (an example of “flipped learning”). The students had been given a weblink and asked to read one of the Mr Men books prior to the lesson. The teachers all begin their lesson with a whole class session called the class forum which allows the teacher to ask some questions and acts as a formative guide for the starting point of the face to face contact time.
Throughout the school the “WALT” – What are we learning today and the “WILF” – What I’m looking for are clearly displayed. In this lesson, the students have to identify key facts about the Mr Men author/creator; explain how the author became inspired to write the material and apply their ideas to a short piece of writing.
The one hour lesson was clearly timed down to the very last minute and the students were familiar with knowing the amount of time available for each section of the lesson.
The students were sat in fours at circular tables and there were at least two netbooks available for each table. (This created a completely different dynamic within the room, and it would be interesting to see how such a layout encouraged collaboration.)
An interactive whiteboard displayed the content of the lesson and the teacher invited several students to read out various tasks throughout the lesson.
In one corner of the classroom, a large touch screen displayed a timer and this was operated by one of the students at various intervals throughout the lesson. In all of the classrooms throughout school there are touch screens in each corner which generally display some materials to support the lesson or to allow students to interact with them to check their knowledge. (“Stuck Powerpoints”…to help the students when they are “Stuck”) This is a really good idea as it encourages the students to be independent and check information. The teacher can also monitor to see who is using the materials and check if they need further support.
Mr Moore has differentiated the task and gives different groups of students one of three levels of challenge via the questions on the cards.
The students have just twelve minutes to answer the questions on the card and the students quickly realise that they need to divide them up and work as a team in order to complete the task. The students have access to netbooks and suggested websites are highlighted in the class space on the school Learning Gateway. This is the school’s virtual learning environment. Each student is able to log on to their year group, and the class section. The student can also access their own individual portfolio too. This is the infrastructure that underpins much of the learning across this school. The teachers and students depend on the Learning Gateway as not just the repository for information, but the hub of learning.
At the end of this first task, the teacher checks their progress and for the next task the idea is that one student is able to leave the group and visit all the other groups to gather answers to some of the questions using an information gathering sheet. The groups then have several minutes to work together to complete the sheet, and it becomes clear that all of the smaller tasks are gradually enabling the students to build their knowledge independently, but with scaffolding around their learning. The use of technology is interwoven into the materials, and the students know when they need to use it, but equally make use of other resources throughout the lesson. This lesson a constant pace and the students connect with the clear instructions and seamlessly use the technology as they work. This demonstrates that the students are clearly familiar with the regular use of the equipment and the teacher has embedded the use of technology in his classroom. There is a real buzz as the students know that they can collaborate with others not only on their table, but around the classroom too.
The teacher also asks the students to complete an individual task and this is to answer some questions on class sites. The final part of the lesson causes great excitement as the teacher places a box on each table and asks the students not to open it straight away. Their final task is displayed on the interactive whiteboard is to take the mystery objects from the box and begin to discuss with their peers how they could include them in their very own Mr Men Story. (Just think how times have changed…the students could probably devote a whole new series to the use of technology: Mr Mobile Phone, Mr Tablet, Mr Internet and even Little Miss Technology! I’ve no doubt these students will be able to publish their own versions too, with just a little help from Mr Moore…watch this space!)