I love the start of the New Year! Children always come in more ready to learn and seemingly more aware of expectations and how the class works. I think this has something to do with what Guy Claxton would call “Distlilling” – effectively giving the brain a chance to digest information. I think this goes for behaviour and expectations as well as knowledge and I always feel that has most obvious impact on children after the Christmas break. I always feel like these three terms are the terms you can take most risks with the children and introduce new ideas because the children seem more settled, ready and open. Roll on the next few months!
In light of that, we taught the children how to reflect on and edit their writing this week. We had a range of new and exciting resources to help them do this. The children already have a basis of understanding that a) mistakes are good and opportunities to learn and b) it is good to seek out and improve your learning. On our Superpower Learners wall one child came up with, “Superpower learner say, ‘I wonder how I can make this even better.'” Which we referred to whilst teaching the children about editing.
We have taught the children to edit in two ways; both of which are different but effective skills in improving their learning. The first was to respond to feedback from the teacher. This will be a familiar skill in most classrooms and is a skill we have been “drip feeding” throughout the year. The second, was teaching the children how to peer mark and was the most exciting and effective part of the lesson, so is the one I will expand on in this blog.
To teach the children how (and very importantly, why) they might peer mark, we used on child’s writing as a model, showing the children how to spot really good things about their friend’s writing and things they might want to improve. In our school, we use green pens to notice good writing (green to be seen) and pink to improve mistakes (pink to think), so the children were told they would have their own green and pink pens to mark their friend’s learning. It is worth noting here, that the Learning Power emphasis was on “being a teaching” – that by marking their friend’s learning , they got to be a teacher and therefore reflect on their own and their friend’s learning. We discussed as a class how you might give feedback positively and sensitively (therefore developing social skills and empathy). To do that, I gave a bad example (“Haha! I can’t believe you made that mistake! That’s rubbish!”) and got the children to give me a more positive one (“Maddie, I don’t know if you noticed, but you forgot a full stop there” Finn) and talked about how that would make your partner feel. Before the children went off to mark their friend’s learning, we spent some time choosing our feedback partners. As we always do, we emphasised choosing a partner who wasn’t your close friend, but someone who you thought would give positive feedback; and the emphasis, as always, was on choosing someone new (and after three months of this, the children are getting very good at this). Apart from developing collaboration skills, the purpose of this is to give children ownership and the opportunity to think about what helps them learn best and because of having made this decision themselves, they were totally absorbed in the process of marking their friends’ learning.
Seeing the children mark each other’s learning was one of the most exciting lessons of the year for both myself and my TA – in fact we had a little moment in the middle of the lesson of shared excitement! The children organised themselves to take turns and carefully notice the positives and areas of improvement in each others’ writing. Some children were in threes and organised themselves by putting the “hot seater” in the middle, who read their writing, and a “noticer” with a green pen, noticing good writing on one side, and an “improver” with a pink pen on the other side, spotting mistakes. The children were totally on board and engaged. They noticed mistakes a tired teacher marking 30 books at the end of the day would never have spotted. For example, one girl got really fussy about how her partner wasn’t writing on the line well enough and gave him a next step to make sure he wrote on the line. We had just learnt how to spell “ed” words, so one child noticed their partner had spelt a few “ed” words incorrectly, so needed that as a next step. The child whose writing was being marked had a “Purple Polishing Pen” to improve their mistakes. Our School Secretary told us another school even went the extra mile and had polishing capes and glasses! (The idea, of course, is to raise the profile of learning from and improving your mistakes). All of the marking was quality and meaningful because it had come from a peer. I know this partly because, when given the chance to practise something they wanted to improve in their writing that afternoon, many children chose to practise the exact thing their friend had picked up on. What more could a teacher ask for?!
I am excited to continue the skill of choosing good editing partners and feeding back effectively and positively. Doing this well develops reflectiveness, feedback skills and the process of learning from your mistakes – triple learning power! I now need to develop the same depth of reflection and feedback in maths – any ideas welcome!