By guest blogger Tom Millichamp - some great analogies here.
You can’t wait. You’ve been looking forward to this for ages. You and your class pile off the bus into the wilderness and you set off, leading them. A stick in your hand and a song in your heart. The journey is magical. You point out birds, plants and clouds, calling back to your class as you climb closer to the summit. And it is everything you dreamed it would be. You finally stumble the last few steps to the summit, sucking in deep breaths. You’re so proud of yourself for giving your class this experience. You turn around for the first time and none of the class is with you. And you’ve got no idea where along the way you lost them. Okay, not ideal. Let’s try that again. You and your class pile off the bus into the wilderness and you set off, leading them. A stick in your hand and a song in your heart. The journey is magical. You point out birds, plants and clouds, calling back to your class as you climb closer to the summit. About half way through the journey, you stop and turn around to check on your little explorers. Some of them are still there, beaming back at you. Some of them aren’t though, they’ve wandered off. And you still have no idea whereabouts they got lost, but it’s somewhere between where are are now and the minibus. Better, probably. But let’s go one last time. You and your class pile off the bus into the wilderness and you set off. You lead the group without letting them drift away. You walk at the front, facing backwards. You stand at the back and urge them forwards. You get into the middle of the group so they know you’re with them. You’re directing students with your stick, cajoling occasionally, and herding everyone in the right direction. It’s slower, sure. But the journey is still magical. And no students are left alone, lost. You stop to point out birds, plants and clouds, taking time to make sure they’ve listened and understood. Sometimes a few students need you to hold their hands through streams or over rocky outcrops. At one point you stop for a longer break than you’d anticipated so that a few students can catch their breath properly. But some of the students spot some more of the birds they saw earlier whilst they’re waiting and feel pleased with themselves for knowing something new. And you get there. Eventually. Together.
To check for understanding regularly and, more importantly, to respond to it requires a lot of planning. Not in the sense of creating new resources, but in thinking deeply about what students incorrect answers would mean and how you’ll work to move them forwards. Practicalities of checking for understanding
I use mini whiteboards a lot. I also try to balance this with a mixture of choral response (where appropriate) and “plain questioning” where I Cold Call (but expect hands up so I can see students wanting to engage). All require routines, but I find MWB routines are the hardest.
My MWB routine involves:
4 MWB, 4 pens and 2 board rubbers in a pack at the end of each desk. I check this by walking up the middle aisle at the end of each lesson.
Each MWB has a black line diagonally across one side. This stops students writing on this side so it stays clean and doesn’t leave black stains on the table.
A Q pops up on the screen and students write their answer. When they’re done, they hold their board so the answer faces the table and the black line on the back faces upwards. This gives me an ultra clear sign that they’re done so I can Narrate The Positive.
3,2,1 Show Me is what I say each time.
Scan the answers of specific, key students.
If useful, grab a few of their answers to discuss.
Still working on:
Encouraging students to not rub out straight away so we can edit/develop their answers.
But also, encouraging students to rub out old answers if we’re doing a sequence of multiple MWB Qs.
Packing them away when not in use rather than leaving them out.
You can follow Tom Millichamp's blog here https://tomchillimamp.medium.com/