Why is Coding Important for School Students to Learn?

richardjamesrogers.com is the official blog of Richard James Rogers: high school Science teacher and award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management: 45 Secrets That All High School Teachers Need to Know. 

This blog post has been beautifully illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

As a teacher or a parent, you’ll likely have an interest in the subjects that children are learning in school, especially newer subjects like computer literacy, robotics, coding, or even game development. And while some parents and teachers might be worried that children already spend too much time on tablets, mobile phones or laptop computers as it is, the good news is that all of these subjects are likely to enhance the learning of more traditional curriculum areas, such as mathematics and English.

Coding, in particular, is quickly becoming a key skill that school students must achieve basic competency in before they graduate. In August last year, for example, former President Uhuru Kenyatta presided over the nationwide rollout of Kenya’s first ever coding curriculum in primary and secondary schools. This made Kenya the first African nation to create an official coding syllabus to be delivered in schools.

Today, I’ve invited Kat Sarmiento (content writer at Katreena’s Content Studio) to share her thoughts on why coding is such an important subject for students to learn.

Kat Sarmiento

In this digital age, when technological advancement continues to transform our lives, learning coding is crucial, especially for school students. Because if you think about it, the apps and websites children use all run on code. Thus, it’s vital for them to learn and understand the basics of coding to make the most out of the apps and websites they visit and utilize.

Image source: Pexels

As you may be aware, in the current curriculum, students in classes 11 and 12 are taught fundamental programming languages, such as C, C++, Foxpro, and more, while sixth-grade students and up learn computer basics. And as online education came to light, more and more students eagerly took online tuition coding classes to test various programming languages.

Given this situation, education professionals must also understand that teaching coding is as important as teaching sustainability at school. It offers numerous benefits for your students – from academic excellence to better career opportunities. To explain it further, we’ve listed down the reasons why coding is essential for students. Let’s get started.

#1: Coding improves critical thinking skills 

One of the many reasons why learning coding is important is that it can help students improve their critical thinking skills. A 2014 study actually demonstrates that the five brain areas associated with language processing, working memory, and attention are activated when people work with source code. Because besides memorizing various programming languages, students will also need to understand how to use them correctly. But to do that, it will require them to think differently. 

Dealing with codes requires you to break down problems into smaller and more manageable pieces to understand what happens next. This strategic problem-solving technique is called computational thinking. Coders must examine the data, assess the situation, and decide which course of action will help them achieve their objectives.

In light of this, students who learn how to code can improve their problem-solving/critical-thinking skills by figuring out the best solution to a problem at hand.

#2: Coding boosts creativity

Aside from honing problem-solving skills, coding also fosters the creativity of students. It gives them the opportunity to express themselves, experiment, and be creative. They can design websites, apps, or games in a fun and exciting way.

“But how does coding help with creativity?“, you may ask.

Well, while you learn various programming languages and techniques to create various programs, you always need to start building from scratch. For instance, when students are tasked to make an animated object, they have to think about what it should look like and how it can be presented on the screen. This is when they need to use their creativity and problem-solving skills to achieve what they picture.

#3: Coding teaches patience and persistence

Learning how to code is similar to how we learn a language. The only difference is we use programming languages to communicate with the computer. So, typically, we start by memorizing the alphabet, some words, and phrases before we begin creating sentences for use in conversations. And, of course, we will inevitably make mistakes along the way. It’s the same scenario in coding.

As you might already know, coding is complex and can be frustrating. But it teaches us patience and perseverance. Because to be successful, one must be able to experience failure and bounce back from it. It will take some testing and troubleshooting before the codes work effectively.

Students can use this process of trial and error to their advantage as they go through life, helping them to understand that perseverance is often necessary to find solutions to many difficulties.

#4: Coding improves communication and teamwork

Coding also teaches two of the best things students can use when they enter the real world: communication and teamwork. Most of the time, teachers assign students to work in groups when developing projects. That requires them to communicate with one another and make collaborative efforts for a successful program. But, even if they’re working on individual projects, they can still seek feedback from their classmates. Thus, by teaching coding to students, they’ll develop their communication skills and learn the importance of teamwork.

#5: Coding creates career opportunities

Finally, learning to code opens up many career opportunities. Considering how technology continuously advances as time passes by, coding is an extremely useful skill to possess. Computer programmers, web developers, and other IT jobs are now in demand because of the increasing number of businesses relying on code. And it’s not just those in the technology sector, but also those in finance, retail, health, and other industries.

If people learn to code at a young age, they’ll have the advantage of having better career opportunities in the future. Not to mention that the salary can be at a high level for those qualified, talented, and experienced IT people. 

The bottom line

There are many reasons why coding is important for school students to learn. Besides learning how to build websites and apps, they also learn valuable skills and lessons they can use in the real world. Not to mention that you’re also bringing them numerous career opportunities in this ever-growing digital world. And if they grow interested in developing more advanced and amazing software, they also contribute to our future.

Kat Sarmiento

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community. Like our Facebook page, follow us on Instagram and check out our Twitter feed for the latest news, blog posts and commentary.

Tina’s Top Tips for Effective Classroom Management

Accompanying podcast episode:

The best definition I have found for what Classroom Management’ actually means comes from Carol Weinstein and Nancy Schafer at Oxford Bibliographies:

Classroom management can be defined as the actions teachers take to establish and sustain an environment that fosters students’ academic achievement as well as their social, emotional, and moral growth. In other words, the goal of classroom management is not order for order’s sake, but order for the sake of learning.

When order breaks down in the classroom, student learning is affected and teachers’ stress levels, burnout and anxiety rise – which sometimes leads to teachers making the decision to leave the profession (McCarthy et. al., 2022). It is therefore in every teacher’s best interest to master the fundamental techniques of effective classroom management.

Today, I have invited Tina Hennessy, Head Trainer at Destination TEFL‘s Siem Reap centre in Cambodia, to share her top tips for teachers who want to improve their classroom management skills.

I’m not sure if what they say about classroom presence is true or not – either you’ve got it or you don’t! If you do, it’s likely that you won’t have too many problems with classroom management, because more than half the battle is won just by your presence in the classroom. Students look up to you, and you have complete control over the class because you demand high standards from them.

If you need help, here are five tips that may assist with classroom management. As with most ailments: prevention is better than cure. Once you’ve lost their attention, it’s harder to rein them back in. 

Here’s how you could prevent problems from cropping up: 

  1. Be prepared: Being prepared for your lesson shows in your body language and this reflects in your delivery of lessons, conversely being under-prepared shows too! A good plan, a complete set of resources (from working whiteboard markers and flashcards, to crib notes) – anything you need should be organised and ready for use, without you having to worry about them. As you segue from one stage to the next, your students shouldn’t have time for distractions. If, however, your transitions lead to dead time (time with your back to the class), you’re likely to have bored students who will find something else to do.
  2. Use students’ names: calling out their names ensures they’ll do what they need to do, to not be “called out” for negative reasons. Rather than pointing and saying, “You at the back, please be seated”. (‘YOU’ will probably turn his/her head and pretend to look at another student and pretend they’re not at fault.) Using their names will leave no room for doubt. Learning their names also shows that you care, and knowing that their teacher cares, will give them more reason to stay engaged.
  3. Limit distractions: This could mean anything from distractions on a student’s desk, to visuals in a classroom, to views outside the classroom, to sounds. Try to limit whatever is within your control. Establish classroom routines where students start the class with cleared desks – or have only what is required on their desks – no extra books, stationary, or even water bottles. If your students have phones, request them to turn OFF vibrate mode, or put their phones inside their bags, rather than in their pockets.
  4. Use non-verbal hand signals: Avoid students calling out aloud to request permission to use the toilet, for example, by having a hand signal for the same. Design similar signals for other circumstances too. When the student gets your attention by doing the signal, a simple nod of your head will grant permission. Rather than him asking you a question and having you answer it – thereby distracting the entire class and possibly diverting your train of thought. 
  5. Call and response: We know all too well that even at the best of times, you’re going to have situations when you’ve lost their attention, the class is loud and they’re bouncing off the walls and you do actually need to try and rein them in! Here are my favourites: 
    • T (teacher): “Yo! Yo! Yo!” Ss (students): “Yo! What’s up!” (Great for middle-schoolers.)
    • T: “1-2-3” Ss: “Eyes on me” T: “1,2” Ss: “Eyes on you

Start the chant and continue till the whole class is responding. The first few times you do this, maybe some students won’t join in. Carry on – even if it means you’ve said it 8-10 times, and the rest of the students will egg on the “stragglers”. 

And, finally, when all else fails, and your voice won’t work – stand still and silent with your right hand raised over your head. As you make eye contact with the students they must raise their right hand, stop doing whatever they’re doing and stop speaking. They make eye contact with the others who must in turn do the same. Think of this as the opposite of a flash mob. Once the entire gathering is quiet, you have their undivided attention.

Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for daily updates.

A Teacher’s Christmas Holiday

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

Follow me on Instagram

Originally posted December 2017. Updated December 2022.

The Christmas vacation is finally here. Many of us in the teaching profession can now look forward to a good couple of weeks of much-needed rest and recuperation. 

Our students deserve a break too.

jenga

I agree that time spent with family and friends is an absolute essential right now, but I’m also mindful of the workload and duties that will hit me like a tornado when I return to school in January.

When it comes to school holidays, I always see them as time to ‘go at my own pace’. The way I see it, I have two choices:

  1. Do nothing for the whole holiday and totally chill out, returning to the normal barrage of work that hits every teacher at the start of Term 2
  2. Still have a holiday and some rest but do some little things to get a head-start on things before I return to school

I’ve always found that trying to do option 2 is the best, even if I don’t get through all of the ‘head-start’ work that I plan to do.

Is this an admission of failure before I even begin? Maybe, but here are my plans made as realistic as possible: meaning that I can have a rest and do around 50% (minimum) of these things too:

  • Requisitions and orders: I’m a Science Teacher, so I need to order chemicals and equipment for my lessons each week. This Christmas my first priority will be to get all of my requisitions done for each week of Term 2, ahead of time. This will save me many a long night when I get back to school, and will help me to plan ahead and reinforce my long-term curriculum mapping.
  • Termly review: Every Christmas I make it a priority to evaluate where I am at now, and where I want to be with my classes by the end of the term. This kind of self-analysis allows me to see where I’m behind and where I’m ahead and how to address those issues. This is really important for final-level exam classes as they must have covered the whole syllabus and have revised by the time the terminal exams come along. 
  • Getting back to gym: I’ve been slacking off lately (I said this back in 2017 too!). No excuses this time. I’ve got every day free for a few weeks so I’ll be up early and out for a jog before hitting the weights later in the day.
  • Responding to student e-mails: Some students in my exam classes will be e-mailing me with questions about past-papers, coursework and subject-specific stuff. If I can help, then I will help. However, if not urgent, then I will deal with these queries when I am back at school.
  • Clothes: I’m running out of a few things (such as shirts that actually fit me!). Time for a wardrobe mini-makeover so that I continue to look half-decent at work.
  • Writing my next book: My first book was quite well-received, as was my second (The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback) so I’ve decided to have a go at writing another.  Ten Techniques Every Teacher Needs to Know will explore the themes of classroom management and assessment to inform learning in even greater depth and breadth than my first book, and will build upon the fundamentals covered in one of my most popular blog posts. I see this as ‘downtime’ for me because I really love writing. Can I count this as ‘relaxation’?
  • Going back to karate: Another thing I’ve been putting off. Time to get a regular schedule set up.
  • Contacting people I should have contacted ages ago. Chasing up old leads and projects that I’ve allowed to slip.

on the bike

Of course, as well as all of this I plan to enjoy my freedom in Thailand as much as possible. A trip to Pak Chong (where The Big Boss was filmed), along with my long-awaited visit to the Death Railway in Kanchanaburi (still haven’t done that yet – it needs to go on the list!).

How will you use your free-time this Christmas? Is it all one-big holiday or can you think of some small ways to make your life easier when you get back to school?

Happy New Year from richardjamesrogers.com

richard-rogers-online

Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for daily updates.

Latest hybrid

The Truth About Teacher Talking Time (TTT)

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

An unfortunate stigma has been attached to Teacher Talking Time (TTT) in recent years. A common misconception is that the more a teacher talks, the less effective their lesson will be. This is simply not true. Teachers MUST talk to their students during lessons – for many and varied reasons. In today’s blog post I will describe the best ways to make use of Teacher Talking Time within the classroom. 

Accompanying Podcast Episode:

The official consensus

Unfortunately, the official advice published by much of world’s most respected educationalists is misleading at best, and downright inaccurate at worst. Just take a look at these examples:

  • TTT often means that the teacher is giving the students information that they could be finding out for themselves, such as grammar rules, the meanings of vocabulary items and corrections. Teacher explanations alone are often tedious, full of terminology and difficult to follow. There may be no indication of whether the students have understood.” – British Council
  • “Some EFL/ESL researchers say that students should speak for 70% of the lesson. Teachers should speak for 30% of the time. Of course, some lessons may require longer explanations on the part of the teacher. Or other lessons may only require a minimal amount of explanation, and 90% or more may be devoted to conversational activities. But this 70/30 figure works well as a goal in most classroom situations.”Kostadinovska-Stojchevska et. al, International Journal of Applied Language and Cultural Studies

The majority of the research on TTT has been carried out in English teaching/EFL/EAL settings – yet the conclusions derived are overwhelmingly extrapolated to other subject areas. This, in my opinion, presents everyday teachers with a double-edged sword: bad conclusions to begin with, applied to subject areas beyond the scope of the available research.

Teachers MUST talk to students

Let’s address the British Council’s statement on TTT first – that TTT replaces student-led inquiry all too often, and that teacher-explanations can be tedious, and that there may be no indication of whether the students have understood the content.

This simply isn’t true for most teachers. We are not robots that deliver monotonic talks from lecterns. We use voice inflections, quick-fire questioning, repetition of key words, movement and mannerisms and we are vigilant in checking that students have understood content along the way by providing directed tasks, such as worksheets, learning games and live quizzes.

Let’s also address the student-led research point the British Council makes. Project work, group explorations and directed investigations that encourage students to discover content for themselves work well for low stakes classes that have moderate, or simple content to get through in a large amount of time. Problems arise, however, when teachers try to do these exploration/student-led discovery tasks on a regular basis with advanced-level students who have massive amounts of content to get through in a limited amount of time. Such teachers often find that they fall behind schedule, because such tasks take up large amounts of time, and that students pick up big misconceptions and incomplete knowledge along the way. This time could be better spent on teacher-directed tasks, such as slide presentations, focussed explanations using the smartboard and past-exam papers, that offer clarity in a timely manner.

The 70/30 rule proposed by Kostadinovska-Stojchevska et. al. is also impractical in most subject areas, most of the time. Just think about all of the reasons why teachers may need to talk within a lesson:

  • To welcome students into class and begin starter activities, or to provide initial instructions – e.g. “Good morning, Year 10. Please take your seats and please log on to Google Classroom”
  • To offer verbal feedback in real-time via the live-marking process
  • To praise and encourage students
  • To provide instructions for project work, such as experiments, practical work, model building, group creation tasks, homework, etc.
  • To prompt students in real-time as we’re walking around the room – e.g. “Joshua, don’t forget to underline the title”, “Marisa, please highlight the key equation”, etc.
  • To explain things – e.g. by writing out worked solutions on the whiteboard/smartboard and describing the rationale for each step of the process
  • To sanction students and have those necessary one-to-one conversations, and to use effective behaviour management techniques (such as building rapport and using questioning to bring students back on task)
  • To direct and manage spatial learning tasks
  • To teach! (I know, what a shock!). We need to talk when describing, explaining, comparing and evaluating the content that the students need to learn for their tests and assessments (especially for advanced-level students).

As we can see from this list (and I’m sure there are more examples that you can think of), teachers need to talk A LOT during every lesson they deliver. In fact, one could really push some buttons within educational circles by stating an obvious truth – that effective lessons actually involve lots of TTT, as opposed just to the small amount we have been led to believe.

Conclusion

A shift in focus needs to happen within the teaching profession – from TTT to variety of tasks delivered in lessons. All too often, lesson observers cite excessive TTT as a weakness when, in actuality, lack of variety may have been a factor in lowering the effectiveness of a lesson.

TTT in-and-of itself is not detrimental to learning: it’s the ways in which we use our TTT that matter.

We welcome you to join the Richard James Rogers online community! Join us on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates, giveaways of Richard’s books, special offers, upcoming events and news.

How to Teach Sustainability to School Students

Teenagers and young people really can be the agents of change the world needs when it comes to sustainability. Fortune Magazine, for example, recently told the story of how global giant UPS was started by two teenagers and a bike back in 1907, and how the company went back to being eco-friendly with its e-bike delivery service in Hamburg back in 2012 (a service which has now expanded to many more cities). Today, I’ve invited Claire Maguire from online student magazine, The Day, to describe some great ways in which teachers can teach sustainability to their students.

Accompanying podcast episode:

How do we teach sustainability to school students?

World news is dominated by reports of extreme flooding, droughts, forest fires and severe storms. It can seem overwhelming for young people; the generation who will increasingly shoulder responsibility for tackling climate change. 

What can educators do to empower young people to take positive action?

With more global sustainability events happening around the world every day, it’s the perfect time to bring students into the conversation

Whether it’s discussing world events such as COP27 or confidently tackling conversations around climate disasters such as floods and fires, there’s no rulebook on how to teach sustainability to school students. But there are a number of approaches that can be effective to really engage young people to take positive action.

The complexities and political implications of sustainability can make it a challenging topic to teach. By following this guide, we hope sustainability can be accessible for your classroom, and you can confidently learn how to teach sustainability to school students in a way that inspires and empowers your class to really engage with these critical issues.

Fortunately, there are so many resources out there to help you tackle these topics. 

Online newspaper for schools, The Day, has a team of journalists covering the big issues behind the headlines in climate change in a child-friendly way that aids healthy debate and discussion in the classroom. For example, The Day’s free Build the Change resource, developed in collaboration with the LEGO Group, focuses on a sustainability news topic every week and challenges pupils to come up with creative solutions to environmental issues.

Keep it relevant

Students are much more likely to pay attention if something affects them directly, or it’s something they’ve heard about already. By using the news as a guide, it can transform conversations that might take place at the dinner table or on the bus into a learning experience. From discussions about veganism to debates on electric cars, by honing in on current issues, students are more likely to engage with topics that affect their everyday lives. As sustainability is so broad and intricate, by focusing on specific issues, it can be easier to teach and to digest as a student. 

By using the news as a starting point, real-world events become an opportunity for learning. It might be learning that the eighth billionth person will be born and thinking about if the world can cope with the volume of people that really gets your class thinking. Or it might be discovering Sir David Attenborough receiving a knighthood for his sustainability efforts that engages a child who is particularly fond of the English broadcaster and biologist. 

Let them have an opinion

Young people are going to be the most affected by the impact of sustainability issues. Encouraging them to form their own point of view on different issues is the best way to really ignite a passion for sustainability.

With the “you decide” feature of the Build the Change resources, students are posed with a thought-provoking question and an option to agree or disagree with the statement.

As sustainability issues are highly debated anyway, it offers the chance for students to work out where they stand on key issues affecting our planet.

Is climate change history repeating itself? Can children save the world? Can the planet cope with 8 billion people? Presenting students with questions like these is a great way to teach sustainability to school students as it allows them to think beyond the news and really analyse the facts, evidence and information in front of them.

You can set up a whole class debate or put students into groups to challenge each other’s way of thinking, and see if they can form a judgement on the topic.

Slot sustainability into the school day

83.1% of educators wish sustainability issues were more broadly implemented across the curriculum*. Time is a luxury most teachers don’t have, and with a jam-packed curriculum having to take priority, sustainability education tends to have to take a backseat.

Yet 45.4% of educators believe sustainability education is very important, and if we want to help students become agents of change, we need to give them the tools to make a difference.

When sustainability lends itself naturally to different subjects across the curriculum, it can be threaded through different lessons over the course of the day. For example, you might learn about passive houses in a science lesson, or rising sea levels might be a conversation topic in a geography class.

The Build the Change weekly resources cover sustainability from a range of angles and allow you to pick and choose activities. This means it can be incorporated into lessons or the school day whenever makes the most sense. You might decide to weave this Build the Change resource on how smart computers can save forests into a technology lesson, or get your science class fascinated by the idea of lab-grown hamburgers. Yet it can also fit nicely into short pockets of the day, with short bursts of activity suited to form time or after lunch.

Source ready-to-go resources

We know lesson planning can be the bane of educators’ lives. Sustainability is a huge topic that young people have lots of questions on, so planning lessons can be time-consuming. But there are a whole host of engaging sustainability resources out there that you can simply get up on the interactive whiteboard or print off and use with your class.

The Build the Change Tuesday worksheets are free, no-prep, no-fuss resources written by journalists and educators that can be used instantly to bring children up to speed on sustainability issues and enable them to voice their opinions. Members of The Day can also receive other climate resources as part of their subscription, from whether economic growth is preventing us from meeting climate targets to whether the world has done enough to prevent climate change. 

Think practical and simple

Inspiring the next generation of changemakers starts by getting them to think about how they would tackle these issues. That doesn’t mean students need to solve global warming, but they can begin to explore solutions and ways of living that cause less harm to the planet, such as creating a habitat for endangered animals to survive.

The aim is to engage young people in the issues and inspire them to feel they can make a difference. By giving them practical design, problem-solving or creative challenges to address sustainability issues, they can begin to feel empowered.

Every Build the Change Tuesday article features a hands-on Build the Change challenge related to the news story. For example, an article about rising sea levels inspires students to think about how humans might one day live underwater and challenges them to build an underwater habitat using craft materials or LEGO® bricks. These ideas can be shown to real-life sustainability figures by entering the LEGO competition, where a photograph of students’ ideas just needs to be submitted to the gallery. You can download this pack to find out more. 

Empowering your students

When you’re thinking about how to teach sustainability to school students, the most important thing to remember is that you’re preparing them to make a real difference. 

Igniting a passion for sustainability where they understand the impact of human actions and genuinely want to make a difference is the best way to give students the tools to become agents of change. How does what they read in the news affect their local community, their home life, or their school?

Put learning into practice

When you’re thinking about how to teach sustainability to school students, think about your school. How sustainable is it? How can you make it more eco-friendly?

Giving students projects that can enable a change right away is a fantastic way to put their passion for sustainability into practice.

Could they create a rooftop nature garden on the school grounds? Or think of ways their school building could be more eco-friendly? 

You can use students’ ideas to put real-life projects to improve your school’s sustainability by entering The Day’s competition with the LEGO Group. Winning entries can win £2,000 for their school to put towards these projects and take the next step in sustainability. 

We welcome you to join the Richard Rogers online community. Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for daily updates.

How Can Flipped Learning Be Used in the High School Classroom?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

The phrase ‘Flipped Learning’ means exactly what it implies: things are flipped.

For instance:

  • Homework is done prior to a topic introduction, rather than after it. Children are assigned some reading or research to do prior to a lesson and they then bring questions to class which can be used in follow-up activities.
  • Pace of learning is more student-controlled, rather than teacher-controlled

Flipped Learning was first conceived as a pedagogical technique in 2007 by Jonathan Bergman and Aaron Sams who set out to answer a big question: What is the best way to use face-to-face class time? The answer they came up with, in essence, was that students should be involved in some well-designed discovery tasks at home/outside the lesson prior to deeper exploration (in which the content they’ve learned is reinforced, related and extended) in the classroom.

One reason why Flipped Learning has gained extra traction in the past five years especially is that it has been demonstrated to enhance metacognition, if used periodically.

Putting theory into practice

Most teachers have a good understanding of what Flipped Learning is as a theoretical concept, but difficulties arise when the time comes to apply the theory to a real lesson.

Is it really just as simple as getting the kids to read-ahead?

In today’s blog post I aim to aim to answer that question (the short answer is no, by the way). I will also describe some practical, actionable ways in which Flipped Learning can be utilized across subject areas.

One little warning I’d like to make about Flipped Learning before I start is that I do not believe that it should be used every single lesson – that would overload the students with too much independent study (especially if they are in lower secondary school or below). However, regular Flipped Learning (e.g. on a bi-weekly basis) can be a great way to facilitate deep learning in your subject (as opposed to just surface learning).

The 6 Steps of Flipped Learning

I cannot take the credit for creating or even describing the six steps you’re about to read – that goes to this excellent web page by Michigan State University. What I will do, however, is give my own spin on the steps as you read them. Enjoy!

  1. Plan your lesson – an obvious first step, but make sure you’ve thought about learning outcomes and the resources you will use. See this separate blog post of mine about the planning process.
  2. Record or supply a video – videos seem to be a kind of cornerstone of the Flipped Classroom/Learning model. In my opinion, it’s not always necessary to to actually make a video yourself – you may be able to find something perfect that’s been made already on sites like Vimeo and YouTube.
  3. Share the video with your students. Make it clear that the video will be discussed and utilized in class, so it might be a good idea to make a few notes on it.
  4. Change: Leave the video behind. We’re not watching that again. Now the students have to use what they’ve learned from the video in some kind of deep learning activity.
  5. Group the students and do some kind of activity that allows greater exploration. Ideas are given below.
  6. Regroup – get the students to present their individual group work to the whole class in some way. This could be a Google Slides presentation, a drama/acting session, an infographic, etc.

Once all of these steps are complete, reinforce the content with review tasks, revision and repetition.

Collaboration Activities suitable for the Flipped Classroom

Put the students into groups (before the pre-reading, videos, simulations or other prep work, if possible) and when the students come back to class get them to create something from the information they’ve already researched. This creative process will naturally involve further exploration. Consider these activities (and let the students choose what they would like to do, if possible):

  • Podcasting/recording an audio clip: Once the sound file has been created, the students can then send that to the teacher in any way that seems appropriate – via e-mail, Google Classroom, uploading to YouTube (which requires another process that the students will have to learn), etc. This blog post describes some steps students should take to create the audio file.

  • Groups create a short lesson that contains some kind of practical element: Interestingly, some research shows that one of the best ways to learn something is to teach the topic that you have to learn. So, quite simply, ask your groups of students to prepare a lesson which they must teach to the whole class. To spice things up, the students could build a model, demonstrate an experiment, pass objects around the class or do anything that stimulates touch, smell, and, maybe, taste.
  • Groups create a quiz: Quizzes can be a really fun way to test student knowledge, and when done via a group-creation project they can be much less stressful for students than traditional testing. Furthermore, there are a number of great, free multiple choice and graphic quiz creation tools available on the web, such as Kahoot!, Quizlet, Blooket, Quizizz and Wordwall. Perhaps each group could be given a different quiz app to use, or perhaps each group could choose two or more platforms to create several quizzes for the class to complete.
  • Groups create models from everyday materials: Get your students to build things. Materials like plastic bottles, bottlecaps, cardboard, coloured paper, plasticine/modelling clay, straws, shoeboxes, egg cartons and even old rope/string can all be used creatively by students to make models of the concepts they are studying. I’ve used this technique across my teaching in Science to get students to create everything from atomic models to figurines of predators and prey in Biology. Furthermore, this is a great way to reinforce ideas about sustainability, reducing single-use plastic and recycling.

These are just some ideas you may wish to consider (and they happen to be some of my favourite ones!). For a more comprehensive list of group activities you can use, with detailed descriptions, please see this blog post I wrote on the subject.

Other Activities Suitable for the Flipped Classroom

  • Class debate – this is perfect when there are polar opposites to discuss (e.g. ‘For’ and ‘Against’) or two different ways of solving a problem (e.g. factorisation or the quadratic formula in maths). Just make sure that every team member has a role to play in the debate. Get as many students talking as possible (this is so crucial in these post-pandemic years).
  • Peer instruction – Get groups to teach each other, especially when each group has explored something slightly different.
  • Get your students to implement some spatial learning activities, such as the ones listed here. These are great for getting your students moving and grooving!

Recommended further reading

Ojjeh, D. (2020) ‘How to implement flipped learning in 2021’, Royal Society of Chemistry. Available at https://edu.rsc.org/ideas/how-to-implement-flipped-learning-in-2021/4012120.article

Michigan State University. ‘What, Why and How to Implement a Flipped Classroom Model’. Available at https://omerad.msu.edu/teaching/teaching-skills-strategies/27-teaching/162-what-why-and-how-to-implement-a-flipped-classroom-model

We welcome you to join the Richard Rogers online community. Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for daily updates.

The A.C.E. Method of Post-Pandemic Teaching

Written by Richard James Rogers (Award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Accompanying podcast episode:

How many of us are fully aware of the damage caused to learning by lockdowns and school closures?

For me personally, I was surprised to learn that K–12 student learning was significantly impacted by online teaching, with students being on-average five months behind in mathematics and four months behind in reading by the end of the 2020/21 academic year (according to McKinsey Insights).

When we think about this in real-terms, for instance, many of our students experienced their last ‘normal’ academic year in 2018/2019. Many schools have seen their teaching disrupted for at least three academic years. This has hit some students harder than others – many Year 13 cohorts in British schools this year, for example, have never had an external examination during the whole of their high school education to-date. This is truly unprecedented.

Now that our students are, for the most part, back in school and should be learning on-site for the foreseeable future, it is important that we somehow ‘plug the holes’ in our learners’ incomplete knowledge and understanding. This extends to skills such as problem-solving, critical-thinking, metacognition and manual dexterity expressed through subjects like Design Technology, Science, Textiles, Electronics and Home Economics.

This brings me on to a pioneering strategy for facilitating the transition from online to hybrid to on-site learning which I believe should be aptly named the ‘ACE Method’: Action, Collaboration and Exploration.

Part One: Action

Our students have been stuck in front of computer screens for so long. Now it’s time to get them moving!

There a number of spatial learning strategies we can use to engage multiple areas of the brain. Activities such as the Human Graph and True or False Walls (please see the illustration below) are just two examples of simple things we can do in the classroom to turn everyday content into fun, interactive games that involve the students using their bodies in creative ways.

I wrote a separate blog post about spatial learning activities here. All of the activities described in that blog post can be applied to any subject area and require little-to-no resources and/or planning time.

In addition to spatial learning activities, think about interactive games which are not screen-based that you can implement. Such games are the tried-and-tested traditional teaching activities that have been around for decades. My personal favourite is ‘splat’, which is outlined in the illustration below:

You can watch a quick video of me playing splat with my students below:

There are many learning games we can play with our students that simply break the lesson down into fun, engaging ‘chunks’. These games combat boredom and act to improve knowledge retention.

I’ve written a separate blog post with descriptions of my top ten favorite games to play with students here. As with the spatial learning activities described earlier, these games can be applied to any subject area and require few-to-no resources and very little planning time (i.e. they’re awesome!).

One final thing to consider is ways to get your students gathering data and investigating things. Every subject can include some investigative work, even if it’s just carrying out surveys and interviews with other students. Such activities really do help to facilitate deep learning.

As a Science Teacher, I am used to guiding my students in the investigative design and data collection processes. Investigations in Science are basically a way to ‘test’ if the theory in the textbook is true, or false. Think of ways in which you can get your students to test the subject content you are teaching – you’ll often find that this is a very fun process. Better still – ask your students to come-up with ways in which they could test the central dogmas of your course.

Part 2: Collaboration

Whilst online systems like Google Meets did attempt to solve the student isolation problem during lockdown (e.g. via Breakout Rooms), no computerized system can fully replicate the experience of being physically in the classroom, working with your peers in a small group.

It’s important that we now start including even more groupwork activities in our lessons. Tons of research papers and top universities sing the praises of collaboration in the classroom, including the Eberly Center at Carnegie Mellon University, who state that:

Properly structured, group projects can reinforce skills that are relevant to both group and individual work, including the ability to: 

  • Break complex tasks into parts and steps
  • Plan and manage time
  • Refine understanding through discussion and explanation
  • Give and receive feedback on performance
  • Challenge assumptions
  • Develop stronger communication skills.
Eberly Center, Carnegie Mellon University, 2022, ‘What are the benefits of group work?’.

In fact, when students work together on a task/project that is well-planned and carefully executed, a large number of incredible things can happen:

It is very important to stress again, however, that group tasks must be very well-planned, otherwise they can “frustrate students and instructors and feel like a waste of time” [University of Waterloo].

I’ve written a separate blog post containing ten groupwork activities that can be applied to any subject area here. These activities have creativity at their core, and have all been field tested by me many times over (so I know that they work). However, as well as planning our group tasks/activities carefully, we must also consider a number of additional problems that may arise:

  • Most classes of students contain ‘cliques’/friendship groups, and it’s not uncommon to find that some children have few, if any, ‘friends’ within the classroom. This is one reason why I almost always choose the groups for the students – usually by lining the students up and numbering them in random ways in order to group them together, This removes the natural stress that comes when students are asked to create their own groups.
  • If you know your students really well, then you can group them by ability. If they need to present some slides at the end of their project, for example, then make sure that there is at least one good orator in the group. A tech-savvy student placed strategically in a group of students with weak IT skills may also be appropriate, for example.
  • Think about the classroom space and simple things like how your tables are arranged. You might need to push tables together to encourage students within groups to actually face each other and talk, for example. It might be appropriate to allow groups to work in different areas of the school (make sure you have permission!) if what they’re doing is very active/loud, for example.

Part 3: Exploration

One key message I want to get across in this article is that it’s not always necessary to know everything about your subject, especially if you’re new to teaching it. When I first came to Thailand in 2008, for example, I was much less knowledgeable about Chemistry than I am now (I was a Biology Teacher in the UK). The strategy I adopted back then was this – I will learn with the students

And that’s another key point that needs to be raised – it was difficult to encourage deep exploration when students were learning online – not least because the task outputs would often be handed in late, not handed in at all, be of varying quality and we could never be sure what kind of conditions the students were doing this work under at home.

So, get some fundamentals under your belt and think of ways to get your students to explore the topics they are learning. Get your students to use source material to:

  • Create Google Slides presentations (these are great, by the way, as multiple students can work on the slides in real-time)
  • Create a class quiz (e.g. a Kahoot!)
  • Create infographics (don’t go with ‘posters’ – they’ve been done to death)
  • Create a website or blog (Google Sites is brilliant for this, and is yet another reason why schools should take on Google Suite)
  • Create models of the concepts (simple materials are all that’s needed – bottle caps, plastic bags, cardboard boxes, etc)
  • Create a table display (e.g. for a Science Fair)

Try the I.E.S. Method for Exploration

Introduce the topic to the students via some kind of engaging starter activity (see my blog post on starter activities for some ideas to get you started). Use the three As (Assign, Analyse and Ask) where possible.

Give the students a ‘menu’ of different ways in which they can choose to explore the topic in a creative way (e.g. by creating a collaborative Google Slides presentation, making a Kahoot! quiz for the class to complete, designing an infographic, etc.)

Showcase the work to the class (or allow students to showcase their own work) so as to provide acknowledgement, a sense of accomplishment and a useful opportunity for class reflection. Do this important step the next lesson if time runs out, Do not skip this vital step. 

Conclusion

It’s vital that we do our best to make-up for the physical time at school that our students have missed so much of. Of course, we’re not miracle workers, but if we can keep just three little words in our minds when we are planning and delivering our lessons then we’re going to make a big difference in our students lives: action, collaboration and exploration.

Effective Feedback: The Catalyst of Student Progress

Written by Richard James Rogers (Award-winning author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati.

Updated: May 2021

Updated again: Nov 2022

It was a mid-spring morning in 1996. I was 13 years old enjoying Science class with one of my favourite teachers up on the top-floor lab at North Wales’ prestigious St. Richard Gwyn R.C. High School

I loved Science. The feel of the lab, decorated with preserved samples in jars and colorful posters and periodic tables and famous Scientists on the walls, along with the cool gas taps and Bunsen burners that rested on each desk. This was my favorite part of the school.

Today’s lesson was special though, and I remember it for a very unexpected reason.

We were receiving back our Forces and Motion tests today. I loved getting my tests back, not least because I always revised really hard and was used to getting at least 75% on each one.

Q & A

I always used to do two things whenever I got my tests back:

  1. Check that the teacher had added up the scores correctly
  2. Check how to improve my answers

On this particular day I had lost marks on a question that was phrased something like this: ‘If a rocket is travelling through space, what will happen to the rocket if all of the forces on it become balanced?’

In my answer I had written: ‘The rocket will either continue travelling at a constant speed or will not move at all.’ 

Now, how do I remember this seemingly obscure moment in a sea of moments from high school, most of which I cannot recall? Well, that’s simple: My teacher came over and took the time and effort to verbally explain where I’d gone wrong.

I should have just written that the rocket will continue at a constant speed, not “or will not move at all”.

Giving feedback
A one-to-one conversation that I’ll remember forever

This moment of personal, verbal feedback from my teacher was powerful and precious. Not only did it serve to maintain my momentum in Science learning, but it left me with visual impressions of the memory itself: My friends in the Science lab, the posters on the wall and even the sunlight shining over the glistening Dee Estuary which was visible from the Science lab windows. 

This little story shows us the power of verbal feedback, and therefore the caution we should place on what we say to our students. Young girls and boys grow up to become men and women, and their teachers leave a number of impressions on them, some of which are permanent.

The trick is to ensure that the permanent impressions are useful, positive and productive: As was the case with my conversation with my teacher that day. 

And not all impressions need to be verbal. Written feedback can be just as memorable.

Explaining
Do you empower your students with the feedback you give?

Let’s now explore the fundamentals of effective student feedback that are easy to implement, and useful.

Peer Assess Properly – The Traditional Method

I first learnt the power of peer assessment back in 2008, when I had just moved to Thailand. 

As a keen young teacher with two years of UK teaching experience, I found myself teaching students who were all very keen to do their best. Homework assignments and classwork seem to come my way on a real-time, live-stream basis, and I soon found myself inundated with work to mark. 

At first, I tried the traditional methods of using a green or red pen to write lengthy comments on each piece of work. I had learned from my training in Assessment for Learning in the UK, that written comments that help the student to improve were much better than a letter grade or a score followed by a ‘Well Done’. I’d learnt about the ‘two stars and wish rule’ where I’d write two positive things about the work and then one item or target for improvement.

These ideas were great in theory, but I found that my weekends became shorter and shorter as I tried to write effective comments on every piece of work that came in. I was spending less and less time doing the hobbies I enjoyed, and I became quite the old grouch.

I finally expressed my concerns in the staff room one day and a colleague of mine said “You should do more peer assessment”. She was right.

I instantly started getting my students to mark their own work, and reflect upon it, and the results were astounding: My weekends became ‘me time’ again, and students seemed to learn better than they would from receiving my comments.

teaching with laptop
When students reflect on their work they develop a ‘growth mindset’

As I continued to develop my skills in assigning proper peer-assessment, I discovered that I was sometimes making some catastrophic errors. I refined my strategy over the years, and came up with this six-step system:

Step 1: Make sure that the work you set has an official mark scheme or set of model answers associated with it. There’s nothing worse than trying to ‘guess’ the best answers along the way as you’re trying to get the kids to assess the work. Make your own mark scheme if necessary, but make sure the answers are clear.

Step 2: When it comes time for the kids to assess the work, ask them to swap their work with someone else in the class. Alternatively, if this doesn’t work for your particular class, then collect the work in and redistribute it.

Marking work
Peer assessment saves you time and energy, and is effective

Step 3: Ask each student to get a colored pen ready to mark with. Red and green are good. You may wish to have a set of special ‘marking pens’ somewhere in class that the kids can use whenever they mark each others’ work.

Step 4: Print the official mark scheme and give a copy to each student. This has the advantage of providing a permanent copy for each student to keep, and allows you time to help students as they mark. Projecting the answers onto a screen canalso work, but you may find that students cannot see and that you may have to scroll through at a pace that’s not suitable for every student. Printing a copy, or sharing it on the schools VLE so that students can access it via a tablet or laptop, is best.

Step 5: Make it very clear that students should tick the answer if it’s correct, and make full corrections if it is wrong. The mere act of writing out the model answer onto the work being marked will reinforce the concepts into the subconscious mind of the student.

Step 6: Let the students give the work back. Collect it in at the end of the lesson so that you can glance through and check that everyone has peer assessed properly. If anyone hasn’t, then make them do it again.

discussing-homework

Once work has been peer-assessed, you can sit down with individual students and have ‘progress conversations’ designed to pin point areas of weakness and highlight areas of strength

You have to be quite organised with this method (e.g. making sure you print the mark schemes on time). However, this will save you loads of time and will definitely help the kids to learn properly.

Experiment with automated assessment

I wrote a blog post about the effective use of ICT in lessons some weeks back, and I mentioned the first time I came across MyiMaths. 

It was back in 2013, and it totally transformed my work life. 

Why? That’s simple. Students would go into the ICT lab, or use their laptops or tablets in class, and literally be taught mathematics by the computer! The program would even assess the work immediately, and differentiation wasn’t a problem because students could work through the tasks at their own individual pace. The benefits were enormous:

  1. All of the students were focused and engaged
  2. All of the students were challenged
  3. The teacher had more time to spend with individuals working on specific problems
  4. The content was relevant and stimulating
  5. No behavior management issues as the students were all quietly working
  6. No time was needed by the teacher for marking and assessment. The program did all that for you. All you had to do was collate the data.

it integrated
Instructional software can provide quick and comprehensive feedback to students, with little involvement from the teacher

There are numerous instructional software programs on the market today that save the teacher lots of marking time, and provide the students with engaging material to learn from, Whilst I wouldn’t advocate using instructional software every lesson, it certainly can become a big and effective part of your teaching arsenal. 

Give verbal feedback the right way

Verbal feedback is a great way to have a personal one-to-one conversation with a student. It can help you to address systemic, widespread issues (e.g. not writing down all of the steps in calculations) and it can be a great way to motivate each student.

However, many teachers are only going so far with verbal feedback and are not using it as the powerful tool it is.

Take this piece of KS3 Geography work for example:

Geography not marked
Geography work from an 11 year old, shown to me on 21st June 2016

I received this work from a parent at dinner, who knew I was an educational author, on 21st June 2016.

You’ll undoubtedly have noticed the dates on the work: 1st December and 8th December 2015. I’m sure you’ll have shuddered upon the realization that this work hadn’t been marked in seven months! No peer-assessment, no self-assessment and no comments from the teacher. There aren’t even any ticks! Add this to the fact that this boy’s entire notebook was completely unmarked, just like this, and you can begin to understand why I nearly had palpitations in front of several avid noodle and rice connoisseurs!

When I asked the boy about why it wasn’t marked, he said that this teacher never marked worked, he just gave the occasional verbal feedback. My next obvious question was to ask what verbal feedback he’d received about this work. He said he

With teacher workloads increasing globally, this kind of approach is, unfortunately, not uncommon, However, verbal feedback need not be time-consuming and can be executed in a much better way than is seen here in this Geography work. Here are my tips:

  1. 1. Set your students a task to do and call each student one-by-one to have a chat about their work. Be strict with your timings – if you have a 40 minute lesson and 20 students in the class then keep each conversation to two minutes.
  2. Mention the points for improvement and use sincere praise to address the good points about the work. Ask the student to reflect on the work too.
  3. Once the conversation is over, write ‘VF’ on the work, and ask the student to make improvements to it. Agree on a time to collect it in again so that you can glance over the improvements.

As you can see, this simple three step approach to verbal feedback generates a much more productive use of time than simply having a chat with the student. Action has to be taken after the discussion, and this places the responsibility of learning solely in the hands of the student, which is where it should be.

Be specific in your comments

Sometimes it is appropriate to collect student work and scribble your comments on it with a colored pen. When you do this, make sure your comments are specific and positive, Take a look at these examples, which all serve to empower the student:

Slide2
A piece of IBDP Biology homework. Comments are designed to empower and motivate the student, and address areas of weakness

Slide1
An end of semester test. Comments refer to specific progress made, and areas that require further attention.

Krishi Classnotes 1 electricity marked
This piece of work was sent as a photograph via Skype. The teacher has added word-processed comments and an encouraging smiley. 

Peer Assess Properly – The Technological Method

A growing trend that is proving popular with teachers is to use Google forms in the peer assessment process. I wrote about this in my book, and I’ve included the extracts here:

Slide1.JPG

Slide2.JPG

Slide3.JPG

Slide4.JPG

Google Doc 3.jpg

Google Doc 2.jpg

A good form for students will look something like this:

Using Google forms in education-page-0

Using Google forms in education-page-1

Using Google forms in education-page-2

There are many alternatives to using Google forms. For example, you may wish to create a form via your school’s VLE, or even get the students to send each other their work through e-mail or a chat application (although this will remove anonymity). Either way, peer assessment with technology will save you time and provide your students with quick, detailed feedback.

Make sure students improve their work

A common theme you may have spotted in this week’s blog post is that of improvement. Students should always improve the work that’s been marked or assessed. This serves two purposes:

  1. The student will get into the habit of giving their best effort each time. After all, a great first attempt means less effort needed in the improvement phase
  2. The process of improving a piece of work serves to firmly cement concepts in the subconscious mind of the student, aiding memory and retention

Don’t forget to use rubrics, mark schemes and comments – students can’t possibly improve their work without these. 

img_5938

richard-rogers-online

We welcome you to join the Richard Rogers online community. Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for daily updates.

Latest hybrid

Advertisements

Occasionally, some of your visitors may see an advertisement here

Simple Marketing Strategies You Should Be Using to Make Your Education Business Grow

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

This blog post has been beautifully illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

This article is your guide to implementing straightforward, tried-and-tested marketing strategies that are guaranteed to grow your education business. We will discuss both strategies that you can use personally to self-reflect and thus increase business growth, and more practical, digital-oriented approaches you can take.

Utilise Fast Resources

In business there will be short-term and long-term investments you will want to make in terms of marketing. Long-term will generally be bigger projects, perhaps a grand unveiling of a product. Short-term will more likely be simple strategies that you can do easily that don’t take a great deal of time. For the short-term, it is highly recommended that you utilise the fast online resources that are at your disposal. For example, a Facebook ad template already gives you the attractive basis for your advertisement – all you need to do is fill in the blanks. This is an affordable way to keep your business moving. 

Consider How You Are Learning

This isn’t so much a practical strategy, as a mental refresher course. Perhaps you feel you need to strip back down to the basics. You should really aim to properly soak in the information you are gathering for, for example, your market research. Surface level learning is where you should start on your journey, but to be able to be properly invested, engaged, and reflective with your business and its plan, you must dig a little deeper in order to forward think. Deep learning will have you constantly reviewing your business, in terms of what is going well and what can be improved.

Email Marketing

Because email marketing has been around for years, people may start to believe that it is not as relevant as it once was, and we should think forward to more modern ways of marketing. However, this is not the case. One reason for this is because of email automation tools. Email marketing, after the initial setup, is constantly generated and therefore constantly keeping the interaction with customers to a high level through newsletters, information on new products, etc. Email marketing also specifically reaches your target audience, meaning that your business is actually being promoted to those who are interested. Thus, the people who are more likely to purchase. 

Remain Focused

If you are feeling here, there, and everywhere, this hectic mindset can reflect on the way that you advertise your business. Have a clear-cut objective when you set out to market something; a simple approach with a touch of creativity is better than something that results in a chaotic, discernible mess. Maintaining a level of focus in your own mind means that you can concentrate solely on creating something for your business that speaks to you and the brand.

Search Engine Optimisation

Having knowledge of search engine optimisation (SEO) is the top rated strategy in order to increase website traffic. Through strategically chosen keywords and phrases, your website can rank higher on a search engine results page. This means the customers who are interested in the goods that you sell will find your online business due to their internet search matching up with what you are offering.

We welcome you to join the Richard Rogers online community. Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for daily updates.

Homework: A Headache We Can All Easily Cure

An article by Richard James Rogers (Award-Winning Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management and The Power of Praise: Empowering Students Through Positive Feedback).

This blog post has been beautifully illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

Updated: October 2022 (Originally posted May 2017)

I received a message from a very stressed out Newly Qualified Teacher a few weeks ago. It pertains to a problem that many educators face: dealing with homework. When I told her that I was planning to write an article about this very issue, she agreed to share her message with all my readers:

Dear Richard. I’m about to finish my first year in teaching and I’m really ashamed to admit that I haven’t been able to mark my students’ homework on time each week. In fact, I’ve set so much homework that it has just piled up and piled up over the course of this year, to the point where I now have a literal mountain to deal with! I’m kind of hoping that most of my students will forget that I have their work, and this seems to be happening as some of it is months old. I’m so stressed out! How can I make sure that this never, ever happens again?! – G 

work overload
A letter from a stressed-out NQT. Are you facing similar challenges?

Being overwhelmed with marking, particularly that caused by homework, is a common problem for new and experienced teachers alike. In this article, I’ll examine the best ways to design and organise homework, as well as ways to avoid being bogged down and ‘up to your eyeballs’ in paperwork. If you would like an audio version of my strategies, then please listen to this excellent UKEdChat podcast (highly recommended for anyone who wants to get better at assigning and organizing homework) here.

with-ukedchat
An AMAZING book! A must read for all teachers!

Consideration #1: Homework is not pointless

It’s really important to make this point from the outset. A number of articles have come out in recent years causing us to question the merits of setting homework. At one point, this mindset became so mainstream that I remember sitting-in on a departmental meeting in which a number of teachers suggested that we shouldn’t set homework at all, as it is totally pointless!

This might be a nice excuse to use to avoid some paperwork and marking, but unfortunately it’s not true at all.

In my experience, homework is only pointless if the kids never ever receive feedback, or if the homework doesn’t relate to anything on the curriculum. Then, of course, their time has been wasted.

Marking work

I’ll always remember one school I worked at where all of the teachers had set summer homework for their students. Piles and piles of homework were set, including big, thick booklets full of past-papers. Guess what happened when those students returned to school the next academic year; many of the teachers had changed, and the work was piled up in an empty classroom and never marked. What a tragedy!

We’ll explore some ways in which we can give feedback in a timely manner today, as well as ways in which we can design our homework properly. 

Consideration #2: Think carefully about the purpose of each piece of homework you set

This is crucial. Ideally, all homework should fall into one of four categories:

  1. To review concepts covered in class
  2. To prepare students for new content they will cover in class
  3. To prepare students for examinations (e.g. with exam-style questions, revision tasks and past-papers)
  4. A combination of two or three of the above

If the homework you are setting does not fall into these categories then you are wasting both your time and the students’ time by setting it.

Consideration #3: Think carefully about how much time the students will need to complete each piece of homework 

Explaining
Homework affects whole families, not just the kids you teach

This is an important consideration. Put yourself in the students’ shoes. Is this homework too demanding, or too easy for them? Will they actually have enough time to complete it? Is your deadline reasonable? 

Consideration #4: How much self-study or research will your students have to do to complete your work? Where will they get their information from?

If the piece of work you are setting involves preparation for content or skills soon to be covered in class, then your students might have to do some research. Is the level of self-study you are asking of your students reasonable? Are they old enough, and mature enough to be able to find this information on their own? If not, then you may need to give some tips on which websites, textbooks or other material to look at.

Too much homework

Consideration #5: Can you mark this work?

This is such an important consideration, but can be overlooked by so many teachers who are in a rush. 

self-assessment

Think carefully: if you’re setting a booklet of past-paper questions for ‘AS’ – Level students, then how is it going to be marked? Crucially, how will the students receive feedback on this work? And remember: homework really is pointless if students don’t get any feedback.

Be honest with yourself. If you honestly don’t have enough time to mark such large pieces of work, then it’s much better to set smaller, manageable assignments. At least that way your students will get some feedback, which will be useful to them. 

Peer assessment

Also, don’t try and do everything yourself when it comes to marking. Use peer-assessment, self-assessment and even automated assessment (such as that found on instructional software) on a regular basis. Be careful though –  make sure you at least collect in your peer-assessed and self-assessed assignments afterwards just to be sure that all students have done it, and so that you can glance over for any mistakes. Students can be sneaky when they know that the teacher is trusting them with self-assessment each week by simply providing the answers to the work. 

Automated assessment.jpg

Another good tip is to spend some time on the weekend planning your homework for the week ahead. What exactly will you set, and when, to allow you enough time to mark everything? How can you set decent homework that’s not too big to mark? An hour spent planning this on a Saturday is much better than four hours cramming in a marking marathon on a Sunday because you didn’t think ahead. 

Consideration #6: Are you organised enough?

Not to sound patronizing, but are you, really? 

If you’re a primary school teacher then you’ll be collecting in assignments relating to different subject areas each week. If you’re working in the high school, then you’ll you’ll be collecting in work from potentially more than a hundred students on a regular basis.

You need to have some kind of filing system in place for all of this work. Maybe a set of draws? Folders? Trays? Electronic folders?

Teacher-led assessment.jpg

One strategy that absolutely works for me is that I get all of my students to complete their homework on loose sheets of paper, not their notebooks. Why? Because if they do it in their notebooks, and I haven’t had time to mark their work by the very next lesson, then it’s a nightmare having to give back notebooks again and collect them in continuously.

With loose paper its easy. I collect it in, and put each group’s assignments in a set of trays. I have one set of trays for work collected in, and one set for work that is marked. It stops me from losing students’ work and losing my sanity at the same time! The students then glue the work into their notebooks afterwards.

In addition to organizing my paperwork, I also organise my time. I use every Saturday morning for marking, which really saves me lots of headaches during the week. Do you set aside a fixed slot each week to do your marking? 

Summary

  1. Think carefully about the purpose of each piece of work you set
  2. Don’t set work that will take the students too long, or too little time, to complete
  3. Think carefully about the demands of any research that students will have to do. Maybe you need to point them in the right direction?
  4. Use a variety of assessment strategies to mark student work. Don’t make assignments so big that you just don’t have time to make them.
  5. Make sure you have some kind of filing system in place, so that you don’t lose work.
img_5938
richard-rogers-online

We welcome you to join the Richard Rogers online community. Like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for daily updates.

Latest hybrid