Week Two

Tuesday

After the debacle of failing to set DIRT tasks at the end of last week, I’m struggling to catch up, as the task that they’ve done (complete a storyboard of the Tempest) doesn’t lend itself to RAG marking at all. This makes lesson starting a little bit less polished, but fortunately Tuesday’s lesson gets us back on track in the end, mostly with some judicious use of rewards.

I circulate and hand out stickers to people who’ve done exceptional work – met success criteria in full, answered in effective detail etc – and then these stickers turn into sweets. It’s a clumsy bit of rewarding, not subtle in any way, but it’s incredible how enthused my Year 8 class can get over a single Fruitella.

At the end of the lesson I have a complete pile of Exit tickets, lots of which are green or at the very least on their way there, and only two languishing on red. I’ve not cracked them yet, but they know that they are very visible and they can’t stand that visibility – especially for something negative. Should I find this kind of public negativity troubling? Perhaps, but I’ve given them every chance and incentive to succeed, and we can’t (and shouldn’t) take peer pressure out of equation. I’m more worried about the people coasting through on half-hearted, only-just-adequate yellows, and that’s something that RAG has both for and against it; it’s a blunt tool, to be sure.

Marking takes me seven minutes, with another three to set DIRT tasks.

Wednesday

Much more like it. After an initial starter, the RAG spreadsheet goes up on the board at the start. The students on red complain, the students who have turned to green celebrate (a victory in itself, this) and I make sure to praise people who’ve been doing consistently well. I reiterate the point of DIRT marking – to make progress where we didn’t make progress yesterday, something that was lost before with my once-weekly marking – and then they’re off.

One major benefit of this is that it’s made DIRT marking actually work. Before, I would write 20 comments on 20 books, and they’d be subtly different and all in my handwriting, and so lots of people would be able to do nothing by pleading that they couldn’t read what I’d written and it would take me half an hour to get to them. Now, they have one of three tasks, and if they genuinely can’t do it there are a whole class of people actually doing the same task who can help, or they can pick another. I genuinely can’t believe I’ve never done it this way before, and I’d never go back.

A definite pride being taken in work here, a definite desire to push for green – I have more ‘green’ dots on Exit tickets today than ever before, and kids actually excited about the prospect of getting their work back. It’s the most positive I’ve seen my class in some time, and considering this lesson was just after lunch and normally a nightmare, that’s a real surprise.

Marking takes me six minutes.

Thursday

Thursday is World Book Day, and I see 8X3 last period. I decide to cut my losses and schedule our fortnightly lesson of SPAG and Silent Reading into the timetable instead. Perhaps this is admitting defeat; then again, I am only human.

Friday

End of the week, and the students seem confident with what they’re doing now. I’ve identified three students as concerns because of the RAG spreadsheet and their attitude in lessons. They continue on their trajectory, but at least I can target them directly and I’ve got a good idea of what their issues are so I can show that I’m doing my best to intervene. Even they are responding to the praise and rewards, too; they want to succeed, both for a reward and so that they’re not in the minority.

As a class, the work they’ve produced today is their best so far – thoughtful, detailed and precise. Most startling is the change in the atmosphere, though; it’s gone from a place where underachievement is admirable to somewhere students are competing to be the best they can be. I don’t know if that will be sustained, but it’s certainly had a beneficial impact on the ‘floating voters’ who were hovering somewhere between good and evil.

Summary of this week:

STRENGTHS:

  • DIRT marking is happening in a time-efficient and helpful way; students are benefiting from a short feedback loop and are able to improve their work
  • There is already a changed atmosphere in the classroom – students are competing to be better than one another and striving to succeed in their work
  • I am clearly aware of who is struggling and where, and also where my lessons need to be adjusted in order to help these students

ISSUES:

  • My photocopying bill is skyrocketing. Doing DO NOWs and Exit Tickets the Lemov way is extremely paper heavy
  • The two students who are hitting reds fairly consistently run the risk of becoming resentful or entrenched in their behaviour
  • There is a danger of becoming over-reliant on rewards, which is why I’ve always avoided them. I feel like I’m bribing them, and I’m not sure I want that to be a consistent feature of my class, even if by doing that they push for excellence. Is that right or wrong?
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Week Two

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