My problem, at the moment, is that there are usually several things competing in my head for the available space, which is the lot of the freelance. For that reason, I have lists and post-its to try to keep track of the different strands. Even then, something can be missed, especially if something grabs the attention and takes over the time available. Occasionally, it’s a product of reading something on or through Twitter. These items can be tangential, but sometimes then coalesce within a variety of experiences. This time it was Nancy Gedge's article in the TES on working memory.
Life requires us to remember things. Orientating ourselves, organising our personal spaces to be able to sort, find and return items, ensuring that those necessary things are done. Many of these are held as memories, such as how to get from the house to somewhere else, while others might need a list, especially when specific items are needed from shopping. There’s little worse than getting home and finding something really important has been overlooked. Yes there is. It’s when the shopping is for someone else, especially when preparing for a special event!
As much of my working life is visiting schools to supervise trainee teachers, I have to have an ordered diary, ensure that the trainees and schools are aware of my visit and then make sure I read my diary to be in the right place at the right time. Constant rejigging of times to suit unexpected situations can put pressure on even the most organised of systems, but adaptability is essential, in life and in work.
Watching and discussing with trainee teachers is a privilege. With this being the whole of their development year, to see them move from insecure to very able is more than encouraging. From time to time they forget to do something that is written on their plan. This can be a conscious decision, based on their understanding of the learners’ needs, but it can also be an oversight. A simple piece of advice to highlight those bits of their plan that they must not forget to do or say can often be enough. Some carry a post-it in the palm of their hand. Others will develop a series of PowerPoint slides with key questions to open up like a book.
Overt modelling, where diagrams are developed from manipulatives, that then are available throughout the lesson as memory reference points can be key to supporting children with memory issues.
Success criteria for that specific activity, based on the idea of “What a Good One Looks Like”, or WAGOLL, can become a scaffold for self-checking; have you done these things? This is a task level set of expectations that provides the context for personal needs.
The need of the teacher and the children to hold onto their development needs, in Primary across a range of subjects, can be challenging. Thirty children and ten plus subjects can mean several hundred development needs or “targets”. It’s the same for Secondary. It was to support this need, to enable teacher and learners to be prompted to a specific focus, that the “exercise books as personal organisers” approach was developed in my school. Essentially these are flaps to note the continuing need. Opened out when working, the supporting adults can interact with individuals to a fine-focus need, which they might otherwise ignore in the broader need. Neither the teacher, nor the child has to hold the information in their heads.
If all Primary writing is done in a single book, a clear writing focus is maintained throughout. The process can be supported by note making, lists, recipes, etc, which can become the basis for a first draft piece of writing. Exploring the process of writing holistically enables thought processes to be developed.
For reading, an “advisory bookmark” can be created, to remind the children and any adult engaging with their reading of areas to consider while or after reading.
Providing prompts is an important part of development. Intervention in-lesson to ensure a child remains on track can enable a quality benchmark to be achieved, against which future outcomes can be compared.
Showing progress can be challenging. “Progressive benchmarking” can be a very simple means of doing this. As a class teacher, pre-NC, I would ask children, every couple of weeks to look back to their previous work and to seek to do “better” in some specific way. The NC level descriptors, appended to the edge of their books and working within the National Writing Project approaches, meant that “progressive marking” through conversation allowed me to agree that they had demonstrated an area and to append their next development goal. It showed tracking of development, the advice given and the progress made.
Personally, I’d far rather develop schema that support memory, short and longer term, than to continually feel harassed that I had forgotten something.
Teachers are under considerable pressure to show that their children are achieving at the highest possible level. Looking at the underpinning schema can be the route to stripping out unnecessary elements.
Organisation is in school and teacher hands.
I wonder how you try to keep track of these needs.
Linked blogs (click to read)
Nancy Gedge TES article
Exercise books as personal organisers
Primary writing in a single book
National Writing Project
1) Planning for learning over time
2) School organisation of time