Teaching and Learning Strategies

Over the course of my placement I have both observed and carried out different strategies in the classroom. I observed ways in which different years are taught using certain resources, and how a teacher can check progress simply and quickly, without necessarily using assessments.

water glassGet the students to draw a cup/glass in their book at the beginning of the lesson, and tell them to draw a line (water) at a certain point in the cup to represent what they know about the topic before the lesson. Then, at the end of the lesson, pupils can draw another line to represent what their knowledge at the end of the lesson. This is a quick technique to use to both show pupil progress, and to reflect on the lesson you have taught. It could also be an idea to ask pupils to write down a question they still may have about what they have been taught, so that if you notice the same questions coming up, you can tweak your lesson slightly, or spend more time on a particular area.

I discovered that a good way to test understanding, particularly in KS3 is going through information, either using a video, PowerPoint, handouts etc. and then asking the class to complete a gap-fill exercise. This also provides an opportunity to assess and correct their own work when going through the answers as a class. The only thing I had to ensure was that different pupils were volunteering answers and not just the same few pupils.

For a lesson I taught about the resurrection with Year 7, I decided to try and make the lesson as interesting as possible, while still covering the lesson outcomes. The aim of the lesson was for the pupils to be able to analyse the resurrection story, and explore alternative explanations that could be used to disprove it. I gave any relevant information that would be needed for the lesson using a short video clip and some bullet points. The rest of the lesson was themed as a ‘Mythbusters’ activity. I prepared slides of information to give out, which looked at alternative explanations (each row had a different alternative), and used Bible extracts about the resurrection. The pupils then worked in pairs to discuss any similarities and differences in the extracts, alternative explanation they were given and told to decide whether they believe the resurrection really occurred or not. I gave out a piece of paper to each pupil, with the word ‘BUSTED’ on one side and ‘VERIFIED’on the other as a way for them to tell me what they thought. There was then a little discussion, which gave more opportunity for pupils to explain their choice, and listen to other opinions.

My Curriculum Mentor felt that this lesson went really well, and said that the class were engaged throughout the lesson, and appeared to understand what was being asked of them.

RE In the Classroom

During my placement, I have found that there are many ways in which RE can be taught, depending on both the topic and the class.

Most lessons I have observed and taught have been aided by a PowerPoint presentation and hand outs. I have found that this is the most effective way of teaching in most cases, as it keeps pupils either focused on the teacher at the front of the class, or on the work they have on their desk in front of them. As well as using a PowerPoint presentation, videos appear to be a very useful resource for teaching. For example, when teaching Year 7 about the crucifixion of Jesus, I showed the class a quick video that summarised the events of Good Friday, allowing them to retain some basic information before going straight into the full detail of the lesson.

Starter activities are also an extremely important part of an RE lesson, as they allow pupils to think about the topic in a different way before the lesson. When I planned and taught a Year 7 lesson about the resurrection, I began the lesson with a question written on the whiteboard asking the class ‘is seeing believing?’. This gave them something to focus on as soon as they sat down. It also allowed me to introduce the learning outcomes of the lesson, one of which was to look at alternative explanations for the resurrection and why people may not believe that Jesus had resurrected because they had not seen him.

In the school I am in, RE classes are mixed ability, so this has been a really good opportunity for me to utilise what I have learnt in university and in meetings about differentiation, its methods and its importance within the classroom. One way in which I have utilised the information I have gained on differentiation in my lessons, is having certain pupils sat in a particular area of the classroom. This was done with the help of my Curriculum Mentor who knows the classes well, and knows which pupils would be better being kept away from each other during lesson time.

All in all, throughout my placement I have picked up lots of useful information about what works when teaching RE and what maybe is not the best idea. While I cannot generalise and say that everything I have learnt and observed can be applied to all schools, my first placement has definitely built a strong foundation for my future teaching and learning.

Visitors from Rwanda!

This week, I had the amazing opportunity to be in a Year 8 class who were being visited by a Bishop and Archdeacon from Rwanda. They were here to talk to the pupils about the horrific genocide that took place in 1994, and how the Shyira Trust is raising money to help the country back to its feet. Having previously looked into the Rwandan genocide when I was in school, I was really excited to be meeting and talking to people who lived through it, and are now helping others to return to normality after the atrocities.

After explaining what the genocide was, and how many people were affected by it (around 1,000,000 people died in just 100 days), they then went on to explain how, with the help of faith, people have managed to put the past behind them. For a lot of the pupils, the simply couldn’t understand how the people of Rwanda have been able to not only forgive, but live alongside the people who played a part in the genocide. The Bishop and Archdeacon explained that for them and many others, forgiveness was a central part of the Christian faith, and this helped them find it within themselves to forgive. Bible quotations such as “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you” are a perfect example to show why the people of Rwanda (where Christianity is the major religion) feel that is important to forgive their persecutors and live peaceably together.

The Bishop and Archdeacon answered any questions as thoroughly as possible, and made sure that the pupils understood before moving on to talk about the work of the Shyira Trust and its achievements since its establishment. They have helped child-headed households, funded 300 students through secondary school, and are currently raising money to rebuild the maternity hospital. All of the pupils seemed really interested in what the Bishop and Archdeacon were saying, and definitely all took something away from the session.

Meeting people from Rwanda was a brilliant opportunity for the pupils to talk about what religion is like in countries other than the UK, and see how modern day religion can be a huge help in getting people, and countries, back to some sense of normality after tragedy.

Placement: week 2

Week two of my placement has focused on observation, much like my first week. This is to ensure I have a good understanding of how the school is run, how behaviour is managed, and just to feel comfortable before taking on a different role in the classroom.

The second week of observation has allowed me to see different classes and teachers, and observe any similarities and differences in the way classes are managed and how behaviour can differ between classes and subjects. I feel I can use this information when I begin taking on a more active role in lessons.

Towards the middle of the week I was given some Year 7 work to try marking. Cleverly, there were stickers with comments about what went well, and stickers with targets for improvements, so I just had to pick the ones that best related to the piece of work. This was done because pupils tended to need to make similar improvements. Using the printed stickers reduces marking time, while still being fully informative for the pupils. While allowing me to see the different levels of work, it also showed me how important it is to get work marked and ensure every pupil is encouraged and helped to do the best work they can.

For a couple of lessons, I took on more of a TA role, as there was a supply teacher taking the lesson. I thought it would be a good opportunity to stay with the supply for the lessons, as having observed the lessons previously, I would be able to help any pupils that were struggling with the work. The lesson was more of a consolidation lesson, so the pupils only needed help when they forgot the definition of a keyword, which made my role easier!

Having reached the end of my final week of observation, I feel a lot more prepared in moving forward in my placement, and I know that I will receive all the help I need from my Curriculum Mentor and any other teachers I work alongside.

Placement: week 1

Even though my first week of placement was observation, I managed to take a lot in , and get used to the overall structure of the school day. The pupils in the school seem really enthusiastic, which puts me at ease quite a bit, knowing that I won’t be faced with complete silence when asking for participation!

The observation side of this placement has allowed me to read over my Teaching Standards and observe the different ways in which they can be met in lessons. For example, high expectations were made clear from the beginning of all lessons, covering Teaching Standard 7, while spider diagram activities in class allowed pupils to explore their own ideas, adhering to Teaching Standard 4. This has helped show me how the standards can be met in lessons for all different years.

I have also seen differentiation in classes. Students working at a certain level will complete a task that meets the requirements of their pathway. The question they answer or piece of work they do on the lesson will depend on the pathway they are on.

Overall, my first week of placement has gone really well. I feel settled in the school, and am ready for the responsibilities of being a trainee teacher, and am excited to see what happens in the upcoming weeks.

Visiting Rowan Park

Our Year 1 group recently had the amazing opportunity to visit a school that specialises in teaching pupils with learning difficulties, with the age range from three to nineteen. Having already done some volunteer work in this school while studying for my A Levels, I was really excited to return and receive more information about the running of the school.

The deputy head of the school took us on a tour of the school, pointing out differences between the rooms we went into, explaining why certain rooms were decorated differently to others. For example, some rooms were quite bare so that the pupils could concentrate on what they needed to do without the distraction of bright colours and posters etc. Others were very colourful, and the posters aided both the teaching and the learning.

What I found most interesting about Rowan Park was how the behaviour management strategy differed to one you would find in a mainstream school. Because of the needs of the pupils, behaviour is managed through showing positive outcomes of good behaviour as opposed to simply punishing poor behaviour. This is due to the fact that staff understand that a lot of the behaviour shown by the pupils is a form of communicating if there is maybe something bothering them. Teachers will solve the behaviour problem by explaining to the pupil that they will be rewarded if they decide to behave, but will always say to them that they have the choice to behave or carry on with their behaviour. This is so that the pupil does not feel pressured into behaving a certain way, which can sometimes just lead to more trouble.

The school is also a brilliant example of how differentiation in teaching is really important. Obviously, being a school that specialises in SEN, the differentiation is a lot more complex and varied, but it still shows the importance of knowing individual pupils’ needs and how to adhere to them.

Rowan Park is an amazing place to visit to spend time with the staff and the lovely pupils, and I would definitely take any opportunity to return!

Being a TA for the day!

I recently had the exciting opportunity to accompany some of the Year 2 RE students on a teaching day. I was assigned a student teacher, and helped her with whatever needed doing around the classes.

Throughout the day, the Year 8s were being taught about different parts of the Jewish faith. This included: teaching about the Torah; holy days Jews observe; looking at what a Synagogue is like; explaining the meaning of Kosher, and how this impacts what Jewish people eat; and also looking at the Holocaust.

Obviously, the majority of the teaching was done by the Year 2 trainee, but I presented a starter activity and a plenary in a couple of lessons through the day. My main role was to ensure that the class was paying attention to the teacher, and handle any naughty behaviour I may observe while the teacher was busy.

It was a really interesting day, and have my my first insight into the difficulty of trying to manage the behaviour of an entire class. It was also the first time I had spent all day in a school, giving me the opportunity to see how teachers work, and all they have to do in the school day.