Over the summer, I decided that one of my new school year resolutions was to embed SOLO into my teaching across all three key stages. I dabbled last year (see my previous posts here) and was very pleasantly surprised with how effective it appeared to be. However, being a sceptic at the best of times, I decided that a more detailed and consistent trial was needed.
With each of my classes I have introduced the concept of SOLO taxonomy using the excellent Youtube Lego video. I also stuck a simple SOLO level explanation sheet in the back of their English books. This is reinforced by a display I created:
We are now three weeks into the new term and I have used SOLO the most with Year 10, although I have tried to embed it into the majority of lessons.
My two Year 10 classes are roughly parallel in ability and are studying Wilfred Owen for their first controlled assessment. In my lesson planning I have been trying to be as specific as possible in identifying the skills the class will be working on and have tried to use SOLO to highlight the progression within the lesson – marking the SOLO level next to the objectives. I also created a Youtube video analysing a poem and including SOLO levels, using Video Scribe.
Watching the ‘Road To Glory’ programme on about the fantastically successful Sky cycling team, and seeing part of a Twitter conversation between @HuntingEnglish, @fullonlearning and @Pekabelo, made me start thinking about how marginal gains could be applied to English. I decided to start by breaking down the skills needed for the unit using SOLO, to try to make each element as clear as possible to the students:
Each student has a copy of the sheet in their book and we have been using it in lessons to identify their current position and track their improvement over the course of several lessons. We started off focusing on the use of poetry terminology, use of quotations and explaining language and I set a group task using hexgons to reinforce the skills needed to create effective PEE paragraphs.
In a change from my previous trials, I decided to ask the groups explicitly for feedback on the lessons. Having outlined that I was looking for honest feedback, and that I would not mind if they didn’t respond positively, I asked 4 questions:
- Did you enjoy the lessons?
- Do you think your confidence with poetry has increased?
- Do you think your skills of identifying techniques, selecting quotations and explaining the language used have improved?
- Even better if?
|Yes||OK / A bit||No|
“I felt the hexagon lessons were very constructive and good for collaborating with other people in the class. The hexagons made us move from multistructural to relational ideas in Wilfred Owen’s poem.”
“I enjoyed the lessons even though I’m not very strong with poems or PEE.”
“I did enjoy the lessons. Yes, I feel a lot more confident about poems now. Yes, I feel I have improved a lot.”
“I know the poem a lot more now and have gained knowledge about what techniques are used in poetry and why they are used.”
Some of the suggestions for improvements were:
- More time
- Make instructions more detailed
- Allow us to choose our groups
So far, I have only asked one of the two groups, but their responses are certainly interesting.