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Real and Attainable Live Modelling

This term at Tapton we’ve been thinking a lot about creating the right conditions for great learning

Our Trust wide training day had over 260 staff from a range of settings discussing and reflecting on this very question.

As teachers how much should we be leading from the front, modelling and guiding our students and how much should we encourage them to work in an autonomous independent way? Too much of the former can lead to over dependence and passivity amongst students while too much of the latter could mean misconceptions are rife with students having an unclear idea of what success looks like.

Perhaps this is the most important thing we can do to help our students progress – give them a clear idea of what success looks like and how to get there. But this must seem attainable. As an English teacher I know I have spent hours crafting perfect model responses only to see my class gawp and turn pale as they realise they are so far away from this point. Our model examples therefore have to come from within the room – model work must be real. So right now I am busy collecting paragraphs where students have really got it to store away for future lessons and next year’s new cohort.

In the meantime we have been collaboratively constructing paragraphs as a class.

We always start with a clearly defined set of success criteria. We’ll look at the assessment objectives and mark scheme and we’ll make it our own in a language we understand. Our mission to close the vocabulary gap at Tapton is then tackled as we create a list of key words. Throughout the whole process I’ll refuse to accept idiomatic phrases – “Cocky is not appropriate for an academic essay! What word can we use instead of cocky?” And we’ll write them down as a list to refer to as we write.

My Y10s love our lessons when we ‘sit like we’re having a business meeting’. Using big paper and chunky pens they talk and I write, pausing and questioning their word choices, editing and improving as we go along. We take our time and read it back to each other to make sure we are using the correct register and are meeting each part of the success criteria. One student ticks or stars each one as we go along so we get a real sense of achievement that we are getting somewhere. When the final paragraph is finished they know that this work is their own. I have merely been a scribe. At least a scribe who probes them a bit…

Just like our maths department, this approach gives us a ‘worked example’ which we can return to next lesson and they can look back on when they revise. Only then do I challenge them to write their own paragraphs – we always have our 3 steps to success:

  • Success criteria devised as a class
  • Collaborative writing as an example 
  • Key academic language list

At the moment this is working very well. With my Y7s and Y10s it’s becoming an effective habit and is leading to success and a real feeling of achievement. With my Y10s we’ll need to work towards them memorising the success criteria and key words as we approach their mocks and this will undoubtedly be a challenge. But one thing I will be certain of is that they know what success looks like and they will feel like they can achieve it.