Teaching and Learning: Lesson observations and what I've learnt from them!
The most important part of my role is leading teaching and learning and a key part of this is observing all High Storrs teachers and sharing feedback. Last academic year I observed over 100 lessons and learned something from each and every one. I took ideas away that improved my own teaching and I also shared many of the strategies I saw with other teachers too. So when I started my observations this year I resolved to share and celebrate even more... a great strategy, technique or idea from every lesson I saw. With this in mind I created my Observation Blog that I write and email to all staff every week. Each blog contains up to 4 entries highlighting something from each observation. I thought it might be of interest to the wider community to read one or two snippets from my weekly blogs so here is a small sample of the 72 blog entries written about lessons to date since September 2019.
- Ensuring meaningful feedback is used by students to improve their knowledge, skills and understanding is hard to do. I regularly say to teachers I have observed ‘but are the students using your feedback?’. The checklist approach was used to great effect in this impressive Y9 English lesson. The little checklists detail all the elements that the teacher is looking for in an excellent piece of work. One is glued in at the bottom of a completed piece of work from time to time and columns are ticked to indicate if the students has shown this skill OR needs to target it in their next piece of work. In this lesson students used the checklist (and the targets that had been ticked from a previous piece of work) to ensure this next piece was even better.
- Some of our KS3 classes require some deft teaching and behaviour management. This lesson was a master class in how to engage, encourage and manage a lively Y7 group. Routines, great structure, clear timings, strong planning and good resources, praise and timely challenge of any poor behaviour all played a part. But there was another element too – the teacher was using the Behaviour strand and the Independent Learning strand of the KS3 A2L grids to further clarify expectations and encourage self-reflection. All students had a grid for a weekly record of their A2L with a clear aim to reach for a 3.
- This research informed approach to engaging a low set Y8 Maths group was fabulous. The teacher was using an interleaving approach not just to revision but to teaching. The lesson started with a number skills starter then moved to the topic that the class had started last lesson. They reviewed their learning then had a go at a further aspect of the same topic. But not for long! The focus then switched again to a Kahoot quiz on another aspect of Maths. This approach was inspired by Carey’s book ‘How we Learn’ and certainly kept this low ability group (with some high need students) engaged and working hard for the full hour.
- This academic and totally focused Y13 Geography lesson showcased the best of Y13 teaching. It was not any one strategy but a combination of high expectations (challenging late comers, questioning those that appeared inattentive, expecting exact answers), the clear learning objective and success criteria (that combined acquiring new knowledge from a variety of resources and improving exam skills), great pace (secured variety of activity, focused teacher talk, clear timings) and excellent subject knowledge. Brilliant!