New GCSE spec

It has been a long time since I have blogged…I have been away from education since January in order to have my son and care for him on maternity leave. He is now 5 months old and I am finding myself thinking about returning to work, how I will balance motherhood and teaching part-time and getting to grips with the new GCSE specification.

We are sticking with AQA and the first unit we will teach is Health and the People. There are some similarities with Medicine Through Time, so as a department we thought this the best place to begin. I have created a student-friendly mark scheme and felt the following points might help them.

Question 1 is similar to the previous utility question in the Germany paper. For top marks, challenging the source will be important. We must encourage students to challenge the sources they are given by examining reliability, bias and limitations. It will be interesting to see how I can support my students to do this with evidence and explanation as opposed to exaggerated opinion…

Question 2 seems fairly straightforward (am I being too optimistic?) and may be a good starting place for some of our lower attainers to get to grips with the paper. Students must fully explain the significance of an aspect of medicine and use their understanding in a wider historical context for top marks. Students will need to be able to make links to how certain aspects of medicine have changed and developed over time.

Question 3 invites students to compare similarities between aspects of medicine and here students will really need to consider the impact of for example, the government, on medicine, or the changes to attitudes or religion over time.

Question 4 seems fairly similar to the previous factors question, whereby students need to evaluate the relative merits of certain factors linked to an aspect of medicine. I term this question the BIG WHOPPER to try and get students to understand just how important it is to answer this question. 20 marks! A whopper. With 16 marks up for grabs and 4 marks for SPAG it might be worth students tackling this question first if they tire easily, struggle with SPAG or just want to get that extended piece of writing out of the way. Planning will be essential for this question in order to reach top marks with a well-sustained judgement and coherent piece of writing.

More to follow as I begin to plan for September…



Developing effective questioning

Many of the ideas that I have developed in my own teaching are well-known and certainly not rocket science.  I have recently been developing new techniques within my own teaching, having read Doug Lemov’s, Teach Like A Champion.  Lemov provides concrete, specific, actionable techniques that can be easily transferred and used in any classroom.

Targeted questioning – Level 3 type questions to level 3 type students, level 6 type questions to level 6 type students – write down questions before the lesson and the student(s) you are targeting so that you don’t get flustered.

Add, build, challenge – Can you add something to that answer?  Can you build on what you are saying?  Can you or anyone else challenge that answer?

Page 28 No opt out: Do not accept “I don’t know” – ask again, re-explain and ask again, change the question slightly, or ask someone else and then get the “I don’t know” student to repeat the answer.  Do not accept “I don’t know” as you’ll have half the class responding in that way.  Questions aren’t meant to be easy.

Page 35 Right is Right: Don’t accept wrong answers – If it’s wrong, the student needs to know – “that is not right.”  If we do not put too much pressure on getting an answer wrong, or overpraise right answers this can work brilliantly as students aren’t afraid of getting it wrong, but equally don’t put all their emphasis on getting it right all the time.  A right answer requires a small praise. E.g. “Yes, that’s correct.  Good.” Not, “that’s an amazing answer, the best thing I’ve heard…”praise this way only when it’s deserved.  I am looking for the “right” answer.  Right is right.  Can you give me the right answer?

Page 134 Wait Time – Give students time to think of an answer.  Typical teachers leave students about 1.5 seconds before taking an answer.  You must allow students time to think if you want the best responses.  Think/pair/share gives time and confidence to students to discuss their ideas first.  It also gives you the opportunity to speak to a few students and take their ideas to explore in whole class discussion.

No hands up – Do not get students to put their hands up as you will get the same students answering time and time again.  Target questioning at specific students to get the very best learning and progress from them.

Page 41 Simple to complex questions – Start off with simple questions and build to complex questions.  For example, a few fact based questions about a novel or historical period to lead on to evaluating and prioritising the information from the facts. E.g. What did we learn that most helped us to understand the main character?  This could lead to application of ideas such as, How would you compare or contrast the main character’s behaviour in this chapter to his behaviour at some other point in the novel? While the latter questions are more interesting, they will be of less value if you jump right to them without establishing a fact base and the logical building blocks from which students can conduct their deeper thinking.

Page 240 Verbatim – It is important to repeat a question as students may need to hear the question more than once.  However, in repeating the question, it’s important to ask the same question verbatim. If you don’t you could confuse the students who have got the question in their heads, and it will not help those who have just started to think about it.  For example changing, “Why do you think the author wrote this article” to, “What was the purpose of this article” could easily stump the class and leave them not wanting to respond at all.

Start with a question word – Begin a question with who, when, what, where, why or how.

Limit questions to two clauses – Limit questions so that students understand.  Rigorous and demanding, yes, ornate sentences, no.

Ask an actual question – Say, “Why doesn’t Stewart think so?” instead of “But Stewart doesn’t think so…” as this can leave students confused.

Assume the answer – “Who can tell me” rather than “Can anyone tell me?” The first assumes someone can answer, and a student will think, “I can”, whereas the latter expresses doubt that anyone can answer the question.