Catherine Black, from logonliteracy, presented a workshop at the recent Brisbane BETA (Beginning and Establishing Teachers’ Association) Conference, an annual event designed to provide practical strategies, ideas and support for early career teachers. Catherine’s workshop Hooking Students into Learning: …… in all curriculum areas based on Patricia Hipwell’s book of the same name, is designed to provide purposeful, practical strategies to get students learning from the moment they enter the classroom.
Catherine’s main message was, as time is so precious, students should begin work as soon as the lesson begins. All work should have a clear content and skill purpose and not be busy work. “In addition,” she said, “ensure that students are doing most of the ‘brain work’ and certainly more work than the teacher.”
Starting a lesson with an activity that is purposeful shows students that the teacher means business and the classroom is a place of serious learning. Students settle better and are more likely to stay focused for the remainder of the lesson.
Teachers were asked to predict how much time was wasted at the start of the lesson. From the predictions that teachers made, it was obvious that lost time is a recognised problem. A Finnish study of both primary and secondary students reported an average of 6 minutes per lesson. Researchers worked out that the total loss of instructional time for the whole school year was about five weeks of schooling. (Timo Saloviita, 2013)
Sample activities from Hooking Students into Learningfor developing student skills in pre-reading, listening, vocabulary development, writing sentences, editing and proofreading were used in this workshop and teachers were given opportunities to reflect upon how these activities might be used for, or adapted to, their contexts and the needs of their students.
Catherine shared a number of examples from different grade levels and subjects. She modelled how to choose an activity according to the content and skill purposes so that students develop the skill they need with content they need to know.
It’s a good idea to ask a colleague to observe a lesson and record time spent on various activities. Catherine has found from her work in schools and observations, teachers tend to underestimate the amount of time they spend talking and consequently the time students spend listening. Do this, if you get a chance.