Category Archives: Marginal gains

Further Experiments With HOT Maps

This year, I have decided to make it my mission to try to embed SOLO into my day-to-day lessons. I have written several times about using hexagons, and to be honest, they are an easy way into SOLO – if rather a pain to cut out! However, my intention this term is to use a wider range of strategies in a more coherent way.

Wilfred Owen

The unit I have chosen is (OCR A661) Wilfred Owen’s poetry. I have taught the unit twice before, so feel I have a good grip on the requirements of the specification as well as the areas the students tend to struggle with.

Starting point

I started by looking at the skills needed to complete the comparative essay, as well as the top end of the mark scheme (obviously where I would like all my students to be). This resulted in a grid of 6 key elements:

  • Poetry terminology
  • Use of quotation
  • Explaining language
  • Writing PEE paragraphs
  • Comparing poems
  • Planning and writing an essay

which were then mapped against the SOLO levels as a rubric grid.

I planned to focus on these elements, in turn, over the course of several lessons to build up the skill level and confidence of the students – the idea being that each marginal gain would build up to a bigger overall impact. Each pupil had a copy of the grid in their book. As the lessons progressed, we focused on different sections of the grid – and the students marked their progress on a simple chart.

Student Self-assessment

For example, explaining that before they could write an effective PEE paragraph they needed to know some terminology, use quotations and explain the effect of the language.

HOT Maps

I have used two HOT maps as part of the lesson series:

The Compare Contrast HOT Map – I have used this twice, firstly to gather some of the more straightforward links between the poems and then later to pull together the more detailed comparative points in preparation for making their notes.

Compare Contrast HOT Map

I like the fact that using this type of HOT map, rather than a  Venn diagram, encourages the students to think carefully about why things are similar or different, prompted by the ‘Because…’

The Part-Whole Analysis HOT Map – I trialled this one last year and was very impressed with the results, so I thought it would fit in very well here, especially when trying to move student explanation from relational to extended abstract.

As this map can be a little tricky to get to grips with at first, we used Harry Potter as an example:

Whole – Harry Potter is a series of books which focuses on good versus evil and the growth of its main character.

The Parts – Themes, Characters, Key Events, Setting etc. I then focused in on the character of Hermione.

What would be the impact if the part were missing? – This is the bit that the students find tricky at first. I asked the group what the books would be like without Hermione, their answers ranged from not appealing to girls, to not having the ‘brains’ to solve the problems.

Therefore what is the purpose of this element? – By this point, the purpose of the element is generally clear. For our example: to appeal to a wide audience, to provide a range of skills needed within the quest part of each novel, and to provide scope for further character development as the novels progressed.

Part Whole Analysis HOT Map

With this map it is not really the written work, although it does provide a useful format for note taking, it is the quality of the discussions it prompts. I love the look of concentration on the students’ faces when they are trying to consider the impact if the part was missing. We stretched the final question by repeatedly asking ‘So what…?’ or So why…?’ I hope that in future lessons we will be able to phase out the paper copy of the map and to use it as a speaking framework.

These activities really helped develop the students’ understanding of the poems and hopefully made them more confident in analysing the texts. My next step is for them to evaluate their progress against the whole rubric – and to identify areas for final development. Then they will be ready for the final stage, where they need to make notes and write the assessment – I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

New School Year – More SOLO

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.

Starting Points

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:

Aim High SOLO Display

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.

Youtube

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.

Marginal Gains

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:

SOLO Skills Poetry

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.

Feedback

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:

  1. Did you enjoy the lessons?
  2. Do you think your confidence with poetry has increased?
  3. Do you think your skills of identifying techniques, selecting quotations and explaining the language used have improved?
  4. Even better if?
Yes OK / A bit No
1 73% 23% 4%
2 86% 9% 4%
3 82% 9% 9%

“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.