Meeting new classes

This is a summary for all teachers of ideas for our priority in the classroom at this time of year; establishing a positive learning environment and building an ethos for learning with new classes. These ideas were shared at the first T&L meeting in mid-September last year, once teachers had begun to establish routines with their new classes.

We first considered some student definitions of motivation and shared purpose from our Teaching and Learning Framework.  Many of the student definitions are thought-provoking and point up the significance of relationships in the classroom.

Extracts from pupil definitions

The teachers need to find an interest in each pupil and help it along. This means the teachers need to know each pupil as individuals and take the time to learn what each person needs to succeed. Teachers can’t give motivation but can only teach pupils how to get it for themselves because each pupil needs be able to work independently.

Shared Purpose
Each pupil will have a different idea of what they are hoping to achieve; therefore “success” will be different for each pupil. Teachers need to recognise the focus each pupil has in order to achieve a shared purpose. If a pupil has no focus, they will have no motivation, and so in these cases teachers must encourage these pupils to find a purpose, and then work with it.

We discussed ways of getting to know the pupils in new classes
1  Small post-it notes – give one to each pupil, get them to write a couple of things down about what’s important to them, stick them on your lesson plan. Use to tailor the lessons and relate them to specific moments in the lesson, e.g. this example’s for you X, I know you are interested in football…..
2  Use your own hobbies, in context, ask who else does this and use it in future lessons.
3  Use real life situations, (for example relating to own children or something from the media / current affairs), as a shared theme.
4  Discuss the group with the HOY or AHOY first and make brief notes on individuals; this also helps for creating seating plans.
5  Repetition of names – on entry and exit from the lesson say their names; always say their name when speaking to them.
6 Make a particular effort to learn the names of any pupils that you are unsure of (after a few lessons) by actively trying to ask them questions, use their names.
7  Try photos of the students…Use CMIS photos (via eportal) to learn sets beforehand to greet them by name first time.
8 Random name selector (Dan Bunker’s) – put in all names and it picks out who should answer – you then don’t need to know who is who, they will identify themselves!

We then discussed ways to get groups to work as you want them to…
1 Be clear and consistent (e.g. set up routines that work smoothly for setting and collecting of homework).
2  With SEN (and other) pupils – use inclusive language e.g. ‘our lesson’, ‘working together’.
3 Have a simple rule – the teacher must enjoy the lesson, so any behaviour which stops this is not welcome.
4  To motivate students, keep track of positive contributions and phone home to a certain number per week who have done well that week (choose a select class or classes who will respond to this e.g. tricky Y10).
5 Use motivators such as postcards.
6 Code your seating plan e.g. their target grade next to names, so you know what to expect from each individual in terms of oral contributions and can extend their thinking/answers.
7 Get the groups to vote for who deserves a merit at the end of a lesson – ‘Scientist of the week’ or ‘Co-teacher’.
8 Choose who was the ‘strongest link’ in a lesson, maybe on whiteboards.
9  Use the coloured dots at the back of the diary for voting, or use the new Turning Point system.

The next area we discussed was how to get everyone involved
1  Keep a tally for who answers, give merits when they reach a certain level.
2  Put their name and a smiley face on the board for contributions (if you can, make the smiley look like them!).
3  Use mini whiteboards, so that everyone has to record an answer for each question (diaries have a whiteboard at the back).
4  Encourage asking of questions…. Try refusing to move on before you get asked a certain number of questions.
5  Encourage them to ask to benefit others e.g. ‘someone in the room won’t understand, could you ask the question’.
6  Make getting it wrong acceptable – so long as they take part they get some benefit.
7  Get pupils to record their contributions at the back of the diary and have a scale for merits – refine this by having categories of contribution and get pupils to analyse how they have contributed, e.g. just an answer, an opinion, an explanation, an analysis, a question etc. This may be helpful with sixth formers who may need to be able to categorise levels of thinking.
8  Feedback about lessons – get pupils to record a face by the title of a lesson to show understanding, or get a show of thumbs to show understanding.