Monday, 10 July 2017

Seating plans and maximising impact

Why do we create setting plans? My reasons include:

  • Improve Behaviour management, 
  • Improve the teaching and learning in the classroom. 
  • Motivate students

Before we get to where we want students to sit and why, we need to have a look at the seating Layout in the classroom.

It's your choice how you want to layout your classroom and each layout has advantages and disadvantages. Some classrooms have more choice than others and often as teacher we just have to work with what we have.  
Various research has shown that the most common layouts are: 

Single lines of desks
Advantages of this layout:
Encourages individual work
Minimises disruption
Great for presentations and teacher led lessons

Not very good for group work uneven levels of interaction, front rows will interact more and students in the back can easily lose focus.

U-shape or horse shoe 
Great for interacting with entire class
Good for presentations and demonstrations

Not very good for small group work
Can be difficult to control behaviour
Must have good control over class when engaging in discussion

Clusters of desks:
Great for small group activities
Gives students a small safe environment to work in
Promotes team work
Flexibility to move student groups around

There are many other formations of desks that we use in the classroom but what we need to remember is that the lesson should where possible design what layout is best to use.  Rearranging desks can often help get better control of the class but also help create a productive learning environment.

There is various pieces of research that shows altering seating arrangements  can have a positive effect on behaviour and student learning including (Dune 2001), Bonus and Riordan (19198) and (Weinstein and Evertson 2006).

Having a seating plan not only ensures there is no discussion as to where students sit but it also a good tool to help remember student names quickly, rather than the students changing seats every lesson and sitting where they want.  It also helps the students learn and focus on the lesson rather than creating conversations with friends.  We can also have an impact on the less popular students to ensure they are included in group work.

Research has also shown using more able to sit next to lower ability has been shown to have a positive impact on the lower ability student and has had no diverse effects on the more able.  They often act as mentors to the less able and help move them forward much quicker than they would have if for example; they were sitting next to a student who was of equal ability to them.

The students who get more eye contact from you are the students who are front and centre; therefore it is best to put a student who you want to keep an eye on here.  The edges are the best place to put disruptive students as then they have fewer students to disrupt and fewer students will actually see the disruptive behaviour as they will not focus on them as much as they would if they were seated in the middle of the classroom.   

At the start of the school year when we have new classes we often do not know who is friends with who or who is the most disruptive. The best way to find this out is often to let them sit where they want for the first few lessons and makes notes of the issues and then you could use these notes to plan your seating for the rest of the term.  Using prior data and SEN information with these notes from observing can give you a head start to controlling the behaviour and ensuring you have a productive learning environment.

The type of lesson we are teaching will no doubt also affect your seating plan and changing the seating plan every term will also keep the students alert and ensure they don't fall into bad habits.

A lot of thought goes into seating plans we create! Some things we need to remember:

  • Always stick to the plan - don't start letting them choose where to sit
  • Separate behaviour issues - don't have them all together, separate corners is often good
  • Disruptive students are best next to the teacher
  • Change the seating plans for different styles of lessons - group work, presentations, etc.
  • Update your seating plan regularly.

Many staff including myself have often struggled with planning seating arrangements in the past and where to start with seating plans; I would love to hear your ideas or trusted approaches you have used.

Ideas and comments always welcome!

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Solo in an ICT lesson to create a financial model

Solo with a Year 9 class using spreadsheets to create a financial model.
I started the lesson by introducing Solo using a presentation from Otonga school in New Zealand.  We used the stick men to gain an understanding of solo by using "What do you know about tennis" as an exmaple.  I asked the students "What do you understand about Solo from your first lesson?" and the majority seem to have got to grips with it quite quickly.  I didn't spend a lot of time talking about SOlO as I wanted to move straight on to the actual lesson.

The lesson was to create a financial model and use goal seek to make predictions.  Most of the class started as prestructural and did not understand what inputs, outputs, rules and variables were in a financial model spreadsheet.  After a short discussion the majority of the class  moved to Unistructural and could define what an Input, Output, Rule or Variable was. (This had been covered in earlier years and the class just needed a reminder to get to grasps with this).  To show their understanding all students completed a worksheet to identify the costs, revenue and formulae to create the model with information gained from an email they received.  The solo outcome was:

Unistructural - I can identify and label inputs/outputs, variables or rules. - Task - To read email and complete the worksheet.
The email and the work sheet is shown below.



To move to the multistructural level the outcome is shown below:

Multistructural - I can COMBINE inputs/outputs, variables and rules needed to create a financial model and understand the relationship between them all. Task - Add information from a second email and explain why you need the extra information.
The extra information was the total amount of tickets sold for each month.  I decided this was multistructural based on the fact that they would have to make a relationship between the inputs and outputs inorder to understand why we needed the extra information.  (This was the level I was most unsure about)
After this was complete the students were ready to move to the Relational level which was:
Relational - I can APPLY the knowledge I have and ORGANISE the data to create a financial model with inputs/outputs, variables and rules.  Task - Create a financial model using your information in a spreadsheet.
At the end I asked the students to update where they were on the Solo posters.
Most of the class were ready to move to the Relational level and were confident in creating a financial model from information you they had gained from the email and the rest of the class were Relational and had nearlly complete creating the financial model.
 I continued the lesson the next day where they all had a chance to access the final level, extended abstract.  I did debate about whether to create a whole new set of SOLO outcomes for the second lesson but decided this was unnecessary and would in reality be a waste of time.


Extended Abstract - I can INTEROGATE a model and PREDICT outcomes using Goal seek.  Task - watch video resource skills demo 5a and predict what the standard adult ticket price will need to be in order for the park to break even. Then make 2 furhter predictions of your own using goal seek.
All students finished the lesson at the Extended abstract level and were confident in using goal seek to interrogate a model and make recommndations based on these predictions.
The solo outcomes I displayed in the lesson are shown below:
At the end of the lesson I asked the class to comment on a blog to share their thoughts on using Solo.  Some of the responces were:

"I think solo is a great tool to use in all lessons. It's good because everyone can work at their own pace and start where they think they are comfortable. It also makes learning easier, I went from Pre-Structural to Relational in less than a lesson and I understood everything." MP.

"From my understanding of solo so far i think it is a very good way of helping students advance through the stages of different topics. It worked for me because it explained to me how i can improve my work and extend my knowledge of the subject furthermore using the guidance this has given me ." LB

"In my opinion i think solo is a really good classroom tool to work with.
It helps you understand where you are and it tells the teacher where you are working at or if you need any help or support. Also solo is very simple to use and it does not confuse you at all." KB

"Solo is a great way to show what stage of learning we are at this helps the teacher to see if students are struggling and need any extra help." JG

"SOLO is a great way of tracking a students progress and can help teacher and student work out the best way to move a pupil ahead. I really enjoy SOLO and think it can help a lot of students by letting teachers know who needs the help most." DS

This my take so far on using SOLO in an ICT lesson but would really like to hear other peoples thought on this, or any recommendations of where this can ibe improved.

Monday, 23 September 2013

SOLO Learning model and my first inset delivery!

Well there are two "firsts" going on here at the moment - my first blog post and my first inset to staff on SOLO taxonomy. (So be gentle with me if I am doing anything wrong but this is a great learning journey for me also).

I became interested in Solo through twitter and reading posts by some great teachers or should I say tweachers! My inspiration and motivation came from reading blogs by David Fawcett, Stephen Tierney, Darren Mead, Daniel Edwards and few others as well as the main lady herself Pam Hook. So thank you to all of you.  Reading these posts made me really think about my lessons and what was missing or how I could improve the learning in my classroom,  also reinvigorating me into thinking about how we could improve teaching and learning.

So here goes my first Inset to staff on the first day of term in September, with help, support, motivation and pressure :) from Stephen Hammond, the head teacher of our school. I must say at this point I did use snippets from nearly everyone else's presentations that I had looked at to produce one for myself to use.

On the day we were running a series of small workshops which meant there was only about 12 staff in each.  I had placed on the tables an A3 sheet with the solo levels and asked staff to complete these at the beginning of the session to see what they understood about SOLO, this is shown below.

Most staff were all prestructural or unistructural (which was great for me in case I said something wrong!).

St. Aidan's Solo Taxonomy   - view on slideshare
I then went on to discuss the presentation with staff and tried to explain SOLO in the most easiest form.  To involve the audience I used David Didau's idea from the Clevedon Teachmeet where I had the audience standing up with the various posters representing the graphical images used in Solo and then went on to explain what each level represented using volcanos.

Prestructural – not sure, it’s where we start off (e.g. what is a volcano?)

Unistructural – it’s where we have one idea about something (e.g. lava comes out of volcanos,It’s a bit like a mountain, the lava that comes out is molten rock)

Their knowledge (the three things or more) becomes multi structural.

Multi structural – there are several strands of things that they know. We now know that lava comes out of volcanos, it’s a bit like a mountain, the lava that comes out is molten rock. Building up that multi structural base is vital, you can’t go much further without it. A lot of what we do in the classroom is about extending that multi structural knowledge. But it only stays on the surface unless we try and link those ideas together.

Relational We then move on to the relational stage where we begin to relate these ideas together. The volcano is a bit like a mountain because the lava comes out of it and because it’s molten rock it cools and forms that mountain shape. He can usefully link those ideas together. It’s much more likely that that knowledge will stick because he understands the relationship between them.

Extended abstract – we can hypothesize, we can start to think about ‘what would happen if there was water inside instead of lava? We know it wouldn’t make a mountain shape – what would happen?
The key words used for each stage in SOLO are shown below and although these are not the only words that can be used, they do allow teachers and students to categorise learning outcomes easily.
With SOLO a learning task can sit at one level of complexity while the learning outcomes can be assessed across five different levels of complexity.

When I finished I was really surprised and pleased that everyone seemed enthusiastic to try using SOLO in their lessons. I asked the staff to fill in the A3 sheets what SOLO stage they were on at the end of the session and everyone said they were either Multistructural or Relational and ready to try it in their own lessons. RESULT!

I offered staff a list of blogs and websites they could follow for background reading and some staff have already made the plunge and started to use SOLO in their lessons.

The head Stephen Hammond would like SOLO to go whole school so I now have to present two more staff INSET's to the rest of the staff - wish me good luck.  As I said earlier this is a learning journey for me and I would appreciate any comments or advice if I am doing something wrong or could improve in any way.

Well that is my first post complete but more will follow to update on the future staff Inset and I will post about how I use SOLO in ICT lessons.