I have my year 9, mixed-but-mostly-low-ability class for one hour a week only, smack in the middle too, period 3 on Wednesday. I needed a lesson that would assess their extended writing skills before half-term, and would also require very little planning from me because I’m utterly knackered already.
This idea came to me after reading blogs on marking ideas by @learningspy, @lisajaneashes and @joe_kirby (no links here sorry but check them out on Twitter): I did a bit of backwards planning so that I could make my marking of this task quick, easy and effective. I wanted to be able to use the plus/minus/equals idea mentioned by Lisa (and used to great effect by a colleague of mine in the English department), incorporated into a ‘DIRT’ part of a future lesson (again, minimising my planning).
As I like to make each lesson title a question I decided to make the extended writing task a simple summary, or stock-take of what we had learned so far:
Pupils had to summarise each of the lessons we had done, in at least a paragraph, and aim to use the key words we had studied in their writing. Simple enough, so far. The work they needed was all in their books, which, as I had marked them all up to date, they could then highlight/annotate etc as required for this new task. The pupils were also given, on the reverse of their task sheet, a very simple, cobbled together in three minutes, level descriptor scheme*. I encouraged them to aim high, but to read the requirements for all three levels available so that they wouldn’t miss out on the basics:
Each level has three simple targets, based clearly on the content of the lessons they are summarising. If I’ve got this right, my marking next week will involve scanning their work for the ‘best fit’ of the levels and indicating on their mark scheme what they have achieved and what they need to do to improve. The early part of the following lesson can then be used by the pupils to make simple, clear improvements, with the green pen system we’ve been using regularly for corrections.
The writing part of the lesson itself today was great: every pupil on task and desperate to show/ask me if they’d achieved a high level after their first paragraph. Interestingly it was the very weakest pupils who were the most enthusiastic, though I can’t fully account for this just yet.
*I know, I know: levels are on the way out and rubbish anyway and all the rest. But as our department hasn’t yet fully decided what to replace them with, I stuck with them for this first task of the term. I toyed with using A, B, C or whatever. Further revision needed.