This takes a lesson to set up:
- Identify the key concepts in the unit.
- Make a card for each concept (one set for each student).
- Students are given 10 minutes to find out a little about each concept from their books, talking to peers or using their devices.
- Students make a sequence for learning the concepts. Stress that the sequence may be changed at any time.
- Students find others students with similar sequences.
- Students plan out the learning experiences they want to use to learn these concepts.
The ClassesI have tried this with three classes, to differing extents. As yet, none have had assessments, so I am not sure if it is preparing them well for formal assessment tasks or not yet...
YEAR 13 CHEMISTRY
This class are working on Organic Chemistry. I identified 21 key concepts for them. They were daunted by the prospect and scared of the process. Now, they are working well at their own respective ability levels and exploring things they are interested in in depth, while skimming over things they find boring. They are collaborating, learning and, best of all, I spend every lesson just wandering around talking with them about the work, rather than actually teaching them. I have taught a few concepts, but sometimes only to groups of one or two students. These "lessons" are filmed and put on a class blog. Every student is engaged and the collective confidence has been growing day by day. My only "at risk" student is blossoming being able to work a pace which better matches ability level.
YEAR 12 CHEMISTRY
This class are doing a very practical-based topic, on identifying unknown ions in solutions. There are really only six key skills or concepts to cover with this group, so the planning process was a lot quicker. What I learned from this class is that I do like the idea of breaking units up into smaller bites, and getting them to only plan parts of the unit; this adaptation of the plan may be tried out in future units. I taught most of this class some time in the last three years, and they were looking forward to having me because I "give good notes" and my lessons are so structured!!! Imagine their horror... However, this system has bought me time to work one-on-one with students who struggle with any aspect of the topic on any given day, or with those who have been away on sports exchanges. The class now agree that it is a good way of doing things. Again, engagement and self-motivation has been great, with the exception of a few whose parents needed to be contacted.
YEAR 11 SCIENCE
After the (unexpected) success with Year 12 Chemistry, I have tried this in a micro-managed way with my Year 11 Science class. They are given the week's Specific Learning Outcomes (usually only two or three). They then decide how to achieve them. So far, we have had a song written about the structure of DNA along with some other amazing work! Some chose to extract banana DNA, some decided they had better use the time learning some vocabulary. I must confess that this is quite an unusual Year 11 class: very driven and very able.
So, that is a wee update. Assessment results will really tell me if it has been a good idea or not, but my workload is down, engagement is up, and student enjoyment is through the roof. Those are big wins already.