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education

FREE maths resources to help prepare for Y6 SATs

This blogpost is to share the great free maths resources that I use to help children prepare for the SATs that you may not be aware of.

PDF booklets split into each maths topic and by content domain (which appears at the top of the file). It also comes with answers that explain the methods needed to solve!

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Mr S has created an editable arithmetic test that is up-to-date with the 2018 format. When you download it, it has the 2018 questions but you can change them very easily like any other word document.

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This one is brand new – made by @filtered_k on Twitter.  It is broken down by topic and year group and each has a hyperlink to a question from the SATs to answer.

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Great for quick practice here and there. Can be done each day and comes with answers too!

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  • Old SATs questions TES – Search ‘Govinder TES’ on Google

In three separate downloads, you can download all the old maths questions from the old curriculum. They are grouped into topic and always useful to show alongside more current examples.

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Gary has broken each year group down into curriculum objectives. When you click on one, it takes you to a page full of maths resources linked to that objective.

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  • White Rose – old and new – google ‘White Rose resources’ and search for them on TES

The holy grail. Very popular around the country. The older files are still useful, however, the new ones come with a more detailed commentary as well as answers. Broken down into fluency, reasoning and problem solving questions to ensure children are challenged across all areas.

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These are superb to send home so that children can practise and revise over Easter. They are differentiated 3 ways and also come with answers. The idea being that child do them for 10 minutes every day for 10 days.

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  • SATs one page mark schemes – search ‘supersophiee’ on TES (@_MissieBee)

These make marking SATs papers from previous years infinitely quicker, as all the answers have been put onto one sheet. At the time of posting, Sophie has made them for all of the previous papers, from the 2016 Sample paper up to last year’s.

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Another great resource from @_MissieBee, this document puts all the key information needed for the 2 reasoning papers into one handy document. A fantastic revision resource for children to take home with them and use in class!

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@LittleMiss_Reed has made a knowledge organiser just on the knowledge needed around the arithmetic paper and has kindly shared it for free in the link above. It includes a second page that touches on written calculation methods too.

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I created my own arithmetic paper that I completed myself, purposefully getting some questions right and some wrong. This is handy as a revision session, where children work their way through the paper and find the errors and discuss the use of fluency. It comes with a children’s copy, a teacher’s copy and guidance on which answers are correct, incorrect, fluent, not fluent etc. Great for class discussion!

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Resource queen Sarah Farrell has shared these simple and clear concept guides for children to refer to during their maths work. For more information on them, read her blog on this topic here – https://mrsfclassroom.wordpress.com/2019/06/18/maths-vocabulary-and-steps-to-success/

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Find me on Twitter – @MorgsEd

Categories
education

CARTs – Comprehension Activities Related to Texts

UntitledInitially, I made this to share what I do in class with our school’s umbrella trust and I thought I may as well share it with everybody on Twitter too. Comprehension in classrooms has traditionally been about reading a text and then answering questions on that text. But, how often do we have reading sessions that include an activity that links directly to a specific skill, like inference, retrieval or prediction? I’m not advocating my approach below as a replacement for comprehension questions, but as something to do alongside it, that will hopefully improve children’s understanding of different question types and comprehension skills.

@LiteracyShed have some fantastic comprehension schemes for a vast selection of books thanks to the work of @redgierob and @MrBoothY6. I cannot recommend Literacy Shed Plus enough and it is very affordable for only £20 single user access or even the whole school access at £15 a class. The questions are broken down into VIPERS (Vocabulary, Inference, Prediction, Explain, Retrieval and Summarise), splitting questions into the different content domain references that children will need to know for their SATs test at the end of Year 6. Below, I have created a list of activities that will support each of these content domain references, broken down into the VIPERS areas for ease of understanding.

I have decided to call these CARTs (comprehension activities related to texts, as opposed to comprehension activities simply on a text like questions). These can be used as whole literacy lessons or simply as short activities to do during whole class reading – I’ve tried to think of non-traditional tasks as best I can, rather than simply suggest common ones used regularly in lessons, like writing a diary entry as a form of inference about a character’s emotions. Most are applicable to fiction, but there are some suggestions for non-fiction too. I realise there may be a lot of crossover between tasks split into the infer and explain sections but they are inextricably linked!

I have uploaded these CARTs to TES for free – find them here: https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/carts-comprehension-activities-related-to-texts-12059015

If you think of any more that can be added, please do contact me @_mrmorgs as I’m struggling for ideas!

 

Vocabulary:

  • Draw a picture of the setting/character based on the description you’ve read in the text (or even draw a map if the setting is big enough – (would have been interesting to see children do that for the 2016 drawing of monument question – “It was a column of marble, weathered and mossy with age. A delicate crown sat at the top, and an inscription was carved into a flat slab at the base.” Or the whale from 2017 – Carefully, Michael leaned over to look: on one side of the boat lay the whale’s tapering tail; on the other side, the head with its scarred lines lay like a piece of huge, dark wreckage – would they have answered that question more successfully if they pictured it?)
  • Using a thesaurus, find synonyms to help you write a description of the setting/character
  • Showing children sentences on the board with a correct and incorrect context and discussing if it makes sense (call my bluff definitions)
  • Picking out vocabulary that has set up the mood of the text – can children write their own example doing the same thing? Using similar vocabulary (synonyms – chance for thesaurus work)?
  • Morphemic analysis – can they define by giving other words that have the same prefix/suffix/root word
  • Contextual analysis – reading the sentence to identify the meaning, but also, are they aware of its position in the sentence with regards to other word classes? g. There was an acrid stench coming from the machine – it is an adjective placed before a noun to describe the noun. How might you describe a stench? Stench itself alludes to being unpleasant. So acrid must be a negative description.
  • Go through vocabulary of a text before reading it – chn find the definitions of words on the board and write them down. They then have to use them in a sentence. Builds dictionary use, spelling and vocabulary all in one go. More likely to remember the meaning of the word having found it themselves and reading it again in the text in context, rather than just being told the definition. Chn keep these class definitions in a book or as a class you can keep them on a PowerPoint
  • Display a sentence on the board from the text you are reading that includes a word you think children will not know – remove the word and ask children to think of alternatives
  • Children draw two or more characters and contrast/compare their appearances

Infer:

  • Children stick in book cover into their book where they infer what the book may be about from the title and images – they can also predict what might happen in the story if the front cover permits or use the blurb to do so. Show them different front covers from the same book – show them the film trailer or a scene from the film. When showing book covers, start with the one that allows least inferences then progress upwards.
  • Using a specific part of the text, get the children to explain the character’s emotions/thoughts based on their actions – chn to focus on the direct between action and emotion. I.e. each character behaves in a certain way because they are responding to events in their own individual way. This can be done by giving the entire extract and they infer for themselves or you could give them character actions and emotions as a match up activity
  • Annotating/labelling their inferences – start off by modelling how to do it and only giving children small sentences or very short paragraphs. Eventually, give children a chunk of the text that they label/annotate with as many inferences as they can, doing it independently.
  • Rewrite the text from another character’s perspective in a first person account (e.g. diary) to infer the feelings of other characters
  • Get children to write speech that characters might say and then explain what they really mean by it
  • Give children a sheet with speech that has been said by characters in the text and ask them to explain what it is they think the character means – how does what they say convey their emotion?
  • Get children to draw/write a character web where each character is linked by their thoughts about each other
  • Ask children to think about the writer’s intention and find evidence to support their idea
  • Children can write an interview with a character, where they choose what questions to ask and write how they think the character would respond
  • Children can write about an experience in their life (or make one up) that links to an experience a character goes through
  • Children draw different faces with different emotions for different parts of the story
  • Looking at one event, explain how each character has responded to it using evidence to support
  • Children piece together a story simply through pictures – works well with picture books
  • Drama activities – hot seating, conscience alley, freeze frames etc
  • Song lyrics – give children a verse/chorus from a song and ask them to annotate it (works best with songs children are currently interested in but make sure they have the clean version of the lyrics!)

Predict:

  • Get children to write the next part of the story using evidence from the text to support their predictions
  • Get children to write a prediction of what happened before the story started based off what they have read
  • What will happen to the setting? Will it improve/worsen? Will the setting change completely? Draw a picture of what the new setting may look like
  • Give children your predictions for the story. Have some founded in fact and others completely irrelevant. Can children find evidence to prove/disprove your predictions?
  • If this story were to have a flashback in the next chapter, what would happen in that flashback? If a character were to have a dream, what would happen in that dream?
  • Think of texts that start in a similar way, how do they end? What is their purpose?
  • Write a conversation/event that may occur between two characters
  • Genie from a lamp – at where you at in the story right now, a genie emerges and can grant each character a wish. What would the wish be?
  • Give children the key events of the part of a text just read – what is going to happen next based off of these events only? Children then order their predictions based on the likelihood of occurring
  • Before, during and after questions – children write their own VIPERS questions based on the text before (using titles, pictures and subheadings), during (as they read) and after (once they’ve finished reading the entire text)
  • Children predict the future for a character after the text finishes

Explain:

  • Discussing themes – get children to support the theme of a text by finding evidence to support it (e.g. a theme of Harry Potter is friendship, find evidence in this passage to support that)
  • Children write a paragraph/label the text to explain how a chapter/event/character/part of a text contributes to the meaning as a whole
  • Children find evidence in the text to support how the mood changes
  • Discuss the effect the author is having on the audience – children write their own example trying to achieve the same effect
  • Children write a short explanation of how different paragraphs or chapters are linked
  • Write an analysis of how the character felt/acted at the start and how they act now/at the end. What is similar and what is different?
  • Children do a cross-examination of two characters using a Venn diagram – what is similar/different about their appearance/demeanour?
  • Children can write a how-to guide/manual of how to take care of, how to approach, how to look after etc of an object/character/setting
  • Feelings graph – give children an empty graph with events from the story – chn add an emotion to the graph to show the emotional journey of a character. Underneath, they write a point and evidence sentence to explain their answer.
  • Teacher reads while children act out the text – are they doing it correctly? Could also be done as freeze frames – discussion about how character emotion is shown through their actions
  • Children choose a character to rate. Identify the qualities of the character or just general character qualities (kind, happy, funny, mean). Rate their qualities on a scale from low to high – e.g. not at all, slightly, some, mostly, all the time. Do this regularly to see how the character develops over the course of a text.

 

Retrieve:

  • Get children to write their own questions for somebody else to answer
  • Skimming and scanning work – Where’s Wally?, other picture books, wordsearches
  • Use the description of a character to draw a wanted poster of them
  • If the book covers enough time, children can draw the characters at different stages
  • Provide children with a paragraph that has the majority of words blanked out. Leave only a few words with some potential keywords. Can they guess what the text is about?
  • Can children skim and scan for lexical similarities/synonyms? If a question asks what happened when the character was younger, do they skim and scan for young, child, childhood, year old, age, boy, girl etc.
  • Skimming and scanning activity – provide children with a page full of random words. Ask them to circle the word you are defining. I use this when it is raining – umbrella. Helps to build speed and technique
  • Teach children the difference between paraphrasing and quoting
  • Children write true and false statements for the rest of the class to prove/disprove based on the text

 

Summarise:

  • Children bullet point all the ideas of the paragraph and find the common idea among them – what is the main point of the paragraph? (e.g. in a paragraph about stretching before you warm up, it may have different stretches you can do but the main point is to stretch to prevent injury)
  • Give children a limited word count in which they have to summarise what happens in part of a text or why a part of the text is there
  • Children order events in the story chronologically and then also by order of importance – they justify their order of importance with evidence suggesting its link to the rest of the text
  • Children summarise the text they have read today in one sentence – this can help them to realise what the main point/idea/theme of a text is. Challenge – can they summarise it in one word?
  • Give children several one-sentence summaries of a paragraph/chapter/part of a text and ask them to identify which one goes with which – match up activity
  • Summarise the text in 5/10/15/etc keywords
  • Instead of the numbers given to chapters, give them a name instead. If they already have one, give them an alternative one. For non-fiction texts, give them a different subheading. Provide children with 4 potential subheadings, do they all work? Which one works best? Why?
  • Fiction – write your own blurb for this story Non-fiction – write your own introduction to this text
  • Imagine you are turning this book into a film, which parts/events could you cut out of the final script? Which parts would definitely have to be in the film? Why?
  • Explain the importance of the current chapter – how does it link to what we previously read? How does it potentially affect what will happen next? What is its significance to the text as a whole? (a chance to look back at certain chapters after the text has been read completely)
  • Children break a text extract into key parts and label them – or give children a paragraph and they have to come up with a suitable heading for it – could also give them the titles and they attach it to the right section
  • Segmenting – give children entire extract as a block of text, they split it into paragraphs based on ideas and then give each one a title
  • Children draw a picture to summarise a text, whether it be a chapter, sentence, event, paragraph, ending etc
  • Who can summarise a part/whole of the text in the least amount of words?
  • Children rank events/parts of the text from least important to most important in a group – they must justify their choices

 

Follow @MorgsEd for more free resources and blogs.

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The Myth of Differentiation

What’s wrong with differentiation?

My problem with differentiation does not lie with the theory, but instead with how it is employed in the classroom. I view the traditional 3-way task differentiation as a myth. I’ve always thought to myself; what really is the point of it? What is the justification for differentiating 3 ways every lesson? Does it really meet the needs of the learners in your class? Or is it just another tick-box exercise to keep senior leadership and OFSTED happy?

Let me say from the outset, I understand and wholeheartedly support the need for challenging all pupils and stretching them – I am not abandoning this by abandoning 3-way task differentiation. In my opinion, if you constantly set a child ‘lower’ work, then you will only get them producing a ‘lower’ outcome. It is paramount that you have high expectations in every aspect of a child’s educational life, whether it is with behaviour, uniform, presentation, effort and especially in the tasks you set them. Our job as a teacher is to ensure that every child in our class has made progress by the time they leave us at the end of the school year. We do this best through high expectations and considering the importance of the long-term goal over the short-term outcome.

After my first year in year 6, I started to ask myself (mostly because of workload): do I need to differentiate? All the children in my class were sitting the same tests with ultimately the same expectations – to reach the expected standard. What benefit was there to differentiating? And most importantly, the question that inspires everything I do in teaching and leadership: does it benefit the children? Because if it doesn’t, then I simply don’t do it.

 

What did I change?

So, in my 2nd year in Year 6, I started to adapt my differentiation – it was only ever differentiated one or two ways. The working towards children were doing the same work as the expected children, but it was produced in a way that made it more accessible. This could mean me spending slightly longer with them explaining the task, completing a part of it together, giving them a written breakdown of instructions within their task or even giving them the task with more friendly language. The greater depth children would work completely independently on a similar or identical task, but would not have any scaffolding and would be expected to provide clear and concise justifications for their answers using vocabulary they had been taught. The push for the greater depth children was always to show their depth of understanding, because, after all, that is what differentiates them from the other children in the class. Whenever I differentiated two ways, the work for the greater depth children would always be based around them exploring their ideas, justifying their thoughts and embracing a metacognitive stance by getting them to reflect on how they know what they know.

Challenge became my focus. Only thinking about challenge in 3-way tasks was abandoned and I started to design every input to challenge all children through discussion and shared ideas. Challenge wasn’t an afterthought; it was the starting point of every lesson. I would plan my lessons based on the challenge I wanted my greater depth children to have and then make it accessible for everyone from the top downwards. Differentiation was still evident, but instead through level of support, use of pace and how I assessed their understanding. 3-way task differentiation disappeared from my classroom.

 

What impact did it have?

  • Misconceptions became much easier to anticipate and therefore much easier to discuss and rectify – because they all had the same task, all children could now regularly engage in whole-class discussions about misconceptions and mistakes throughout the lesson, not just during the input.
  • Children were able to share ideas with each other more regularly – this allowed me to guide discussion with the use of vocabulary and stretching children with increasingly challenging questioning.
  • Mini plenaries and plenaries became more accessible for everyone – I could go over answers to the work they had done, I could push them further with non-routine and unfamiliar questions linked to the learning and I could challenge them to define vocabulary we had learnt and use it in context.
  • I was able to spend more time planning the lessons, which in turn led to increased progress. I had more time to build in more challenge into my inputs, more time to make the task itself more challenging and more time to make the tasks accessible and scaffolded enough for all children. I found I had more time to do everything, as my workload was reduced significantly.
  • The sequence of learning became more clearly established – therefore, children accessed prior learning more frequently and on an increasingly independent basis. This was mostly apparent in lessons that I only taught once a week, such as history, geography and science. I would merely mention the learning objective and all hands would go up able to provide comment on their previous learning. Suddenly, children felt like knowledge was shared and built together, which was particularly encouraging for the children who were less confident than others. This was an important step in cementing a knowledge-based curriculum in our classroom.
  • The challenge and difficulty in my questioning increased – not just in class, but in my marking. All children were now receiving more detailed and specific questioning that stretched their understanding. The greater depth children would often receive a question that required a level of inference, prediction, understanding of causality or a link between concepts. Now, I was able to include these questions in the books of all the children. If they ever got stuck or struggled to answer them, it became another class discussion where ideas could be shared and critiqued.
  • Confidence skyrocketed. Children no longer had to worry why the orange group was doing that work and the red group was doing this work. They looked forward to discussing it and seeing each other’s ideas.
  • On a more personal level, workload was reduced significantly. Marking became far quicker and easier. I was enjoying planning a lot more because my first thought was always this: how I can make this lesson more challenging?

 

Roll on July. The SATs results were in. Interestingly, this is where the impact was most evident. Progress among all children was quite good, but it was especially significant in the working towards children. Our percentages were all significantly above national average. Our average scores in all the tests were all above national average. As to be expected, a couple children did not make expected progress in some tests, but some made such significant progress that as a class altogether they did phenomenally well. Naturally, SATs are not the be-all-end-all of education, I have just included this to demonstrate the success I believe can be attributed to adapting differentiation. This year, I’ve dropped down to almost exclusively one task differentiation in all subjects.

By now, I imagine you have wondered how I was allowed to pursue this approach. I am very fortunate to have a supportive SLT, who give me a lot of autonomy to explore my own teaching style and try out new things. Try to keep an open dialogue with your SLT about how you can go about improving teaching in your school and what new ideas you can implement. This is why I joined Edutwitter and am writing this blogpost.

 

As usual, any questions or comments then please do tweet me @_mrmorgs – I would love to hear any thoughts you may have with this approach and engage in a discussion about it!

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How I achieved 100% in Writing

UPDATE: This blog has been updated to include links to moderated greater depth examples from this class. They are all free and accessible through my TES profile (morganell). The GD examples can be found below in the context part of the blog.

Two years ago, the lead moderator for my borough told me that the children’s writing in my class was not independent enough. She also was quite unclear in defining what she classed as independent writing. So, last year, I changed the way I taught writing to give children full control over what text type they wanted to write and how they planned it, mostly through class discussion that was student-led. Once children had selected a text type, we would discuss the features of that text type and what we would commonly expect to see. If any of the exemplification materials were of the same text type, we would pick those apart first and use as modelled examples (e.g. short story – opening the fridge). Once children had finished their writing, they would edit it in green pen. They would look to edit and improve upon their punctuation (making sure it was used correctly and a range of KS2 punctuation), spelling (focusing specifically on Year 5 and 6 spelling rules that we had learnt this year) and verb choice (when necessary for the text type). The editing process was mostly done through self-assessment, as the majority of writing pieces were produced later in the year, once they were more confident with grammar, spelling and composition. Occasionally, children would peer-assess and work would be shown on the board to discuss strengths and weaknesses as a class.

I’m now going to talk briefly about the different things I did to achieve 100%.

No extended writing pieces until Christmas – Instead of doing an extended piece every 1 or 2 weeks, I didn’t do any. I chose to spend more time on teaching grammar and sentence structure, how to ‘uplevel’ writing, how to find spelling errors, how to check if punctuation had been used appropriately etc. Alongside this, the children were still doing writing pieces, but they would only ever be half a page or around 10 lines. These pieces would be dedicated to checking their understanding of the grammar they had been taught, and afterwards, how to edit and improve them.

Using videos and experiences as writing stimuli – My class had quite disproportionate reading abilities, as well as hugely disproportionate levels of interest in reading generally. Naturally, we still read a lot together and did some pieces using books as the inspiration, but these were proving to be pieces that lacked engagement or appeared weaker generally. I changed focus and started to use videos as the stimuli for their writing. Our first writing piece (at Christmas) was based on the Sainsburys’ Christmas advert from a few years ago, which can be found here – https://www.literacyshed.com/the-christmas-truce.html

Children loved the independence of it. They chose to write a letter as one of the soldiers received one in the video and because we discussed how important letters were to soldiers at war. They then chose which soldier they wanted to write as. Because there is barely any speech in the video, children could explore all different avenues of what they imagined each soldier was thinking and feeling.

Similarly, the children really enjoyed writing a short story based on the short film ‘Rubato’ – (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1D7D3_HFB3o&vl=en). Again, this video had no speech so children could explore their imagination. Children decided to make it a short story, they decided whether to write as either of the main characters and they thought of speech that could have been used.

We also wrote a persuasive piece where they would have to perform to their classmates, based on the idea of Room 101 in George Orwell’s ‘1984’. I showed them a few clips from the BBC TV show and asked them over the weekend to think of 2 things they would like to banish. The independence of this task was what made it so interesting to them. They all chose different ideas, ranging from plastic surgery to KFC (the news story about KFC running out of chicken was very recent).

Another strong piece came from an experience they had – science week. We had a science assembly with loads of different experiments ran by a scientist, the scientist came in and performed an experiment in our class, I did an experiment with them and the children also did some research on Stephen Hawking (who had sadly passed away days before). Therefore, this piece didn’t follow any conventional text type. It was a mesh of a recount, a chronological report and a biography – the moderator loved the fluidity and uniqueness of this.

Whole class feedback – this was the quickest and most efficient method of feeding back to the children. I did not mark a single piece of writing last year. Yes, you read that right. This allowed every piece to remain wholly independent and also meant we could redraft any piece we like close to the time we were being moderated (that saved me a lot of time). I would browse through their writing and jot down my comments on a post it note or scrap piece of paper. I would write down common spelling errors, what they were using too much of or not enough of etc. Here’s a more in-depth blog about this by @primarypercival – http://primarypercival.weebly.com/blog/no-written-marking-job-done

I would scan in a strong piece of writing and a piece of writing that could be improved. This allowed children to see the editing process repeatedly and they became more successful in their own editing approach.

Typing 2nd draft – I always followed the teaching structure of a 1st draft, feedback, 2nd draft, feedback then 3rd draft written in neat for their portfolio book. After a while, writing can become very strenuous for both the teacher and the class – this is especially true when writing daily in the lead up to moderation. So, even if it were to be a handwritten piece, I would let children type their 2nd draft. Naturally, all the spellchecker and grammar checking tools were switched off. This made the writing process phenomenally quicker. Children also found it much easier to edit and improve their writing when it was typed and a lot easier to copy it up into neat when it was all printed onto one page – rather than written across 2 or 3 pages in their book. The moderator had no issues with this, as long as the grammar checking tools were all switched off.

Greater Depth children – it wasn’t always easy to find time to work with these children as a group or individually, due to the writing levels of the other children in the class. So, I dedicated a lot of time to them over the space of a couple of weeks to discuss and demonstrate what a greater depth child’s writing looked like and then encouraged them to take complete control of their writing, by showing evidence of each of the greater depth standards. Whenever they finished a piece of writing, I would get them to outline three things for me: they had to underline any use of cohesive devices; circle any spellings they thought were a year 5 and 6 word; and highlight any use of formality or informality in pink highlighter. This was useful for two reasons – it really challenged their knowledge of what they had been taught, and for me, it made it much easier for me to help them in a shorter space of time because any issues would be apparent from a quick glance at their writing. I was expecting 6 children to achieve the GD standard, but the moderator pushed this up to 8 after seeing all the evidence the children had shown in their writing.

Moderation – this was a very positive experience, mostly because I made sure I was prepared and ready for any question or challenge the moderator might have for me. Firstly, I prepared a ticked checklist for 6 pieces of writing for every child. Inside each of those pieces of writing in their books, the moderator would find a post-it note that had all the pieces of punctuation and all the year 5/6 spellings I thought they had used – this meant that all she had to look at was the language and content, which is what truly showed their writing ability. Next, I provided her with a sheet explaining the context of every writing piece we did, so that she knew why this piece was very informal or why that piece was in 1st person etc. On this sheet, I had all the children’s names next to the grade I thought they were at. I knew in my mind who to show if asked to show a ‘strong expected’ or ‘weak GD’, which made it a lot easier when she asked to see 2 children who were working towards, 2 at expected and 2 GD. Here is the context for the Christmas advert piece mentioned above:

‘Christmas letter – At Christmas, we watched a Sainsbury’s advert from a couple years ago about soldiers celebrating Christmas during WW1. Children decided they wanted to write a letter as one of the soldiers in the video – either portraying the British or German soldier. Their audience was someone of their choice – a mother, grandfather, a girl in the advert in a photograph etc. We discussed how most soldiers were working class men who weren’t well-read, so language may appear very simple and informal in this piece, even for greater depth children. Children decided it should be very informal as they knew their audience and they were retelling events of Christmas eve/day. The only exemplification material applicable was a formal letter – this wasn’t entirely relatable so it wasn’t used.’

I also had the exemplification materials printed and ready to use, if she challenged something a child had used or not used. By the end of the year, I believed I only had 2 children at a working towards level. Because I had the working towards exemplifications with me, I was actually able to argue that they were both better than the exemplifications and they were then pushed up to an expected grade.

Exemplification materials – using these is an airtight way of demonstrating the level of writing for each individual child. If your writing in class is modelled on the exemplification materials, then there are no arguments about what language is used, or why it has been written in a certain way. As long as there was a piece that was relevant, I would use the exemplification materials to demonstrate to the children what their writing should include or look like. Taken from my context sheet again, here is an example of how I used the exemplification materials in moderation:

‘Short story – We read the short story – ‘opening the fridge’  – from the GD exemplification materials. We discussed how we didn’t know what was going on initially and the class decided their story was also going to start like this, although this wasn’t compulsory. They tried to keep their writing intentionally vague, so there may be an absence of description despite it being a narrative. The class felt too much description would give it away to the reader, and that some of them did not want to reveal anything until the very end. The atmosphere from the piece arrives from this ambiguity and through use of short sentences, similes and building tension.’

It allowed me to justify very clearly why the children had written the way they had.

Writing across all subjects – Lastly, I made sure we did writing across a variety of subjects (literacy, history, RE and science). I brought all of these books into the moderation with me, but the moderator did not look at them once. In fact, she did not look at the post-it notes I prepared, the sheet with the context of each piece of writing and only briefly browsed the ticksheets. However, by having them there, it was clear to her I knew what I was talking about and my judgements of the children were sound.

Feel free to contact me on Twitter – @_mrmorgs

 

I’ve attached the context sheet for the writing pieces below, should you wish to read them:

Science Week – Children had an entire week dedicated to science week in school, where an assembly was held by a scientist, they did multiple experiments and researched about Stephen Hawking. The children decided that their audience would be other children and that they wanted it to follow an informal report style but also to be informative. So, this text type may feel like a blend of a recount and an information report/instructional text as you read it. We looked at the exemplification materials on ballet shoes and analysed it, although it didn’t fully match how the children wanted to write so it may appear very different. Children decided that an informal style was appropriate as their audience was other children and that a formal shift would come through use of technical language (sodium polyacrylate etc).

Free GD examples – https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/greater-depth-examples-science-week-recount-12065166

 

Christmas letter – At Christmas, we watched a Sainsbury’s advert from a couple years ago about soldiers celebrating Christmas during WW1. Children decided they wanted to write a letter as one of the soldiers in the video – either portraying the British or German soldier. Their audience was someone of their choice – a mother, grandfather, a girl in the advert in a photograph etc. We discussed how most soldiers were working class men who weren’t well-read, so language may appear very simple in this piece, even for greater depth children. Children decided it should be very informal as they know their audience and they were retelling events of Christmas eve/day. The only exemplification material applicable was a formal letter – this wasn’t entirely relatable so it wasn’t used.

Free GD examples – https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/greater-depth-examples-informal-letter-12065882

 

Short story – We read the short story – ‘opening the fridge’  – from the GD exemplification materials. We discussed how we didn’t know what was going on initially and the class decided their story was also going to start like this, although this wasn’t compulsory. They tried to keep their writing intentionally vague, so there may be an absence of description despite it being a narrative. The class felt too much description would give it away to the reader, and that some of them did not want to reveal anything until the very end. The atmosphere from the piece arrives from this ambiguity and through use of short sentences, similes and building tension.

Free GD examples – https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/greater-depth-examples-short-suspenseful-story-12108885

 

Room 101 – Children watched 3 different celebrities banishing their pet peeves to Room 101. I also explained where the initial concept came from (Orwell’s ‘1984’) and how it was designed to house your worst fear or something you didn’t really like. The class decided they wanted to vote on their proposals; just like they did on the TV show. They wanted their audience to be each other as we like to read work aloud in class. Therefore, they decided to write a sort of speech that they could perform to the class – please keep this in mind for intonation as it may not be apparent when reading through them initially. There was no exemplification material relevant so children decided what features they thought their ‘speech’ should include. They knew it was persuasive so intended to use a conversational style to win over their peers, including a lot of over-exaggeration and powerful language to try to portray their pet peeves as very negative.

Free GD examples – https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/greater-depth-examples-room-101-speech-12108879

 

Newspaper report – We had recently read about Jesus’ Easter story of the Last Supper, arrest and trial, crucifixion and resurrection. Children decided that because there were a lot of events that they wanted to write it as a newspaper report, informing residents of the local town about what has happened in case they missed it. We looked at ‘Pig Palaver’ – the exemplification material from last year to use as a modelled example. Children used speech as a chance for informality to contrast with the more formal style of the newspaper. They decided that cohesion would almost exclusively be through time connectives or fronted adverbials of a time nature, as it was a series of events that needed to be ordered for the reader.

Free GD examples – https://www.tes.com/teaching-resource/greater-depth-examples-newspaper-report-12067339

 

Rubato – Children watched a short animation film that had no dialogue. They decided to rewrite it as a short story from either the perspective of the dog or the musician. No exemplification material was relevant so children were using their own knowledge to rewrite the story. The class decided to keep it from a first person perspective as they wanted to be one of the characters. This meant that some children chose to switch between past and present tense when retelling the story.

Leaflet – After studying the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, we discussed how the catastrophe could have maybe been avoided. Children said that someone could have performed a speech at the local amphitheatre to inform people, send a leaflet around town or write graffiti on the wall (as this was a common way of sending messages in Pompeii). In the end, children chose the leaflet as the most effective and decided to write one. It was meant to have an informative tone, but at times be informal as they wanted the reader to understand and be persuaded to read on. This was the first extended piece children wrote this year.

Complaint letter – We read through examples of these from my previous class. Children decided who or what they wanted to complain about for homework. We discussed whether the letter should be formal or informal and the children decided it should mostly be formal but that an angry customer may be informal at times when showing they were angry. Children also decided that they wanted to inform the company of their shortcomings as well as making suggestions about how they can improve for the future. They also discussed asking for refunds or some sort of recompense so this may also be present in their work.

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How I reduced workload in Year 6

In my first year in Year 6, I found that the workload got on top of me because I allowed it to – constantly procrastinating with most tasks (especially marking). This was terrible for my mental health and led to increasing levels of anxiety and stress. It reached boiling point one weekend, when I had to take all my books (yes x30 for each subject) home and mark them all weekend. It was all I did every minute of the day from Friday after school until late Sunday night. I decided that this needed to change for my 2nd year.

There were five things I changed, which were instrumental in reducing my workload and improving my mental state:

  • Worksheets (Grammar and Spelling) – the activities for these lessons became worksheets that would be thrown in the bin at the end of the lesson. Children still learnt what they needed to learn, but keeping and marking evidence of it wasn’t necessary, so I cut it out. Their extended writing was evidence of my grammar and spelling teaching, as well as test scores that I kept on an excel spreadsheet. I also kept their tests in a pile by my desk all year in case anybody needed evidence.
  • Writing – I didn’t mark a single piece of writing all year. This was in part due to the ridiculous amount of time it took to mark 30 pieces of extended writing on a regular basis, but also due to the fact that the lead moderator for our borough insisted most forms of marking affected the independency of children’s writing. In place of marking, I adopted a verbal feedback approach with the entire class, with examples on the board that we edited and improved together. When I found out I was being moderated, I was happy – children could redraft pieces from any point throughout the year because none of them had any form of scaffolded marking from me whatsoever.
  • Homework – as a school, we decided to allow teachers to decide the frequency of homework they sent out. I decided upon none. It was pointless to me. You know how it goes; the children you need to do the homework never do. Research (EEF, 2018) suggests that homework has very little impact at a primary level, although there is actually little evidence to support or oppose the impact of homework. I encouraged children to read and practise their times tables daily, but I never imposed any reading logs or sheets to check upon this. Near SATs, I set homework almost daily. I told children they could bring it in and I would look at it but I would not mark it. This homework was optional.
  • Marking – the biggest obstacle to this will be your school’s marking policy, which I am constantly trying to amend to reduce workload. Any tests we did, the children would mark themselves, as I went through the answers on the board. In maths, children would mark their own work as I read out the answers. I would tell them the first 3 or 5 answers and then encourage any children who got 1 or 2 wrong to put their hand up. I would then go to these children for immediate intervention and this would reduce any workload or need for interventions in the future. I also started to give my TA an answer sheet so that they could mark as they moved around the classroom too.
  • I never once took a book home to mark all year. If I was marking anything, it stayed in school and I would stay until 6pm throughout the majority of the Autumn term. This meant that when I went home, I switched off from school completely and didn’t think about it until the next morning.

By doing this, I freed up more time to concentrate on improving my subject knowledge and improving my lessons. This was beneficial for both the children and me and helped to improve SATs results from the previous year. I also noticed a marked improvement in my mental health – I no longer felt bogged down by work at all. Ever.

Another thing I would recommend – don’t make your own resource when someone else has already created one for you. Do not reinvent the wheel.

If you have any questions, you can reach me on Twitter – @_mrmorgs

References:

Education Endowment Foundation (April, 2018)  -https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/evidence-summaries/teaching-learning-toolkit/homework-primary/