Since results day I’ve been quietly reflecting on what worked and what I will do next year. To give some context, my ITT year was my second year teaching. The year before I had a set 5 English class who achieved their TGs and did great. During my ITT year I expected to have Set 4 or 5 and I was given Set 1. At first I was sharing them and therefore didn’t mind too much, however in February when I came back from my second placement I was given them full time. I had said I didn’t feel comfortable and that I didn’t want the pressure yet but this didn’t change much. Their January mocks weren’t great and in March they improved a little bit but results wise, things weren’t looking promising.
Fast forward to results day: I was the only teacher in the department with a 100% pass rate, 31% of the class achieved between grades 7-9 in both Lit and Lang and there were enough 9s to surprise us all.
So what happened? between March and June I worked my butt off. There’s no two ways around saying that. I became mildly obsessed with Y11 and did not want to waste a single minute with them. Whilst I am happy with their results, there’s some where I think I could have done more. Ultimately, I see now that I did an awful lot right… I just did it too late. I think part of this came from not being the lead teacher and just shadowing for most of the year, and part of it was just pure fear. I didn’t want this group and I was so scared of failing them, and therefore myself.
So what am I embedding from September for my new Year 11?
I didn’t have my class doing any form of extended writing until March. That’s absolutely not good enough. It takes time to build stamina to write for 1 hr 45 minutes and how on earth could I know where they need help without making them write? My new Y11s are having their first long write on Tuesday and will do one fortnightly, outside of their assessments. Yes it’s early, but it’s necessary.
TIMED WRITING DRILLS
As a whole, our Literature results were better than our Language, except for my class. I think this is because of timed writing drills. They loved them and I did too. We were doing Language Paper timed writes every single week for those last few months. It takes a long time to know how to tackle Question 2 in 8 minutes but by the end the whole class could do it. I am absolutely using these this year/forever more.
Every week we would go over what was on each paper, how many marks and how many minutes as a starter and slowly I would start removing information from the slides so they could tell me. We did this week in, week out and I think by the end it was a muscle memory-style reflex. I had my final SCITT observation with this class and both observers were impressed with how the class in unison could repeat back this information. We did the same with quotes too and again, I think it just helped the class have confidence in their knowledge. I’ve been using the ‘guess the quote starters’ (which you can find on my website) so far with Y11 and the first couple of lessons they were weak but each lesson they’ve guessed the quote quicker. By November I’m hoping we will grow into shout back quotes/info.
If you’re only going to mark one set of books in a week, you should probably make it your KS4 ones. Last year I had a pick n mix question wall, and I’m doing it again. In the second half of this half term I will be encouraging my class to take a question and try it. I will mark them in full, every time, with helpful comments and guidance for the next one. It’s not much of a shock that the students who gave me 1-2 essays a week were the ones getting 7-9 grades and I would rather be drowning in Y11 essays than just trusting that they’re probably doing it in their spare time.
LOW STAKES TESTING
This is one of the most important things I have taken from edutwitter. Using knowledge organisers (which my new Y11 were astounded by), I am doing low stakes testing every other lesson. It’s small bits (like put the 5 events of Act 1 of Macbeth in order) but I wish I had done this long term with my last class. It’s so low stakes it’s almost fun but encourages revision and is quick to re-do 2 weeks later.
KNOW THE SPEC
I think some of the reason my class did great was because of my love of Twitter. SO many amazing teachers were clarifying bits of the spec I wasn’t sure on, meaning I was developing quickly. I think there is a lot of meat to take from the Examiner Reports this year and it’s already changing my focus on elements of certain questions. I want to keep knowing and understanding more and more what makes a great answer to each question on the paper.
This list isn’t an exhaustive one and I’m sure this list will develop over the year but these 6 things are my biggest regrets of not doing earlier last year. Let me know if you have any tips/found yourself in the same boat!