Welcome to my Professional Learning blog.
My name is Matt Nicoll and I am a high school teacher in New Zealand, interested in improving the classroom experience for my students. I am open to trialing new approaches and hope to use this blog to reflect on my ideas and practices.

Friday, 5 July 2013

Flying SOLO

As eluded to in my last post, I have found SOLO as a wonderful tool for differentiating my lessons and for empowering students. Why do I unashamedly fly the SOLO flag?


There is some uniform language used to identify the base level of the task being set. There are posters available which can be put up in class to help make this explicit for students (and to help when setting tasks). The symbols are pretty funky too...and easy to draw for teachers and students.

I am only really an intermediate user of SOLO, but think it helps scaffold my lessons really well. The best place to check this out is to look at my Year 9 Science Blog.

This is my lesson for next Monday:

The homework task is also scaffolded using SOLO taxonomy (on Moodle):

The video is this one:


While a lot of the tasks often seem very difficult, the HOTMaps can give students the guidance and confidence to do something, even if it is just to create a plan.

We include the HOTMaps in our assessments and assignments to help students get started, and to help them  feel some sense of achievement; our Learning Support staff think this is critical in empowering all students.


Whether these are graphic and/or text-based, the rubrics help teachers mark efficiently and help students see what is required to access the "next level". Such explicit transparency is very powerful as it helps ensure marking consistency and encourages students.

I really like the graphic rubrics; if students see how close they are to the next level (rather than pass/fail, percentages, or A/M/E), they are often encouraged to strive to reach the next level next time.


Once students get used to the terminology, HOTMaps and rubrics, they get pretty good at self-assessment (predicting grades) and peer-assessment. In our Astronomy topic, the class feedback for the speeches was usually spot-on.


SOLO has been integral in my lesson planning, assessment writing and feedback/advice for over three years now. The improvement I see in my students' planning, writing, thinking, motivation and confidence has been obvious.

In my opinion, it is one of the best systems to use as it incorporates a user-friendly, successful combination of graphic organisers, common terminology and rubrics to empower students to unpack a task and to get a sense of achievement, regardless of their initial ability/knowledge.

While you could devise a similar programme based on other taxonomies, your own graphic organisers and your own rubrics, why would you? This has been done so well and by "signing up" you get support from Pam Hook (@arti_choke) and other users/advocates.

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