On 22 April, I spoke at an RGS-IBG TeachMeet aimed at supporting new teachers. My talk was entitled “Elaborate, elaborate, elaborate” and was focused on how my department support students in extending their written responses and help them to avoid putting a full stop too early.
Whilst I don’t want to rehash a lot of what I’ve written about in ‘Coded marking – feedback of the visual kind’ and ‘Elaboration, elaboration, elaboration…’ (both of which can be found on personal blog, linked below), I thought it would be useful to share further insights and how the approach has developed; in true teacher style, I will do this in the forms of WWWs and EBIs!
The elaboration display
The support cards
Why do this in the first place?
Students’ writing often falls down when it does not go into enough detail – points are not developed, elaborated on, etc... This means students are not really “showing off” all their knowledge and understanding, which is a shame because you’ve definitely taught it to them and you both deserve for it to be on display for all to see!
Ultimately, this will also affect marks in examinations: examiners love a good chain of reasoning and thus pupils are restricted (especially in banded questions) in terms of the marks they are awarded if they do not develop their answers. Below you can see the annotations AQA examiners are expected to use when marking summer exams – it’s clear which ones you’d want to see on your pupil’s script if ever recalled them.
You will find the resources for the display on the slides linked below but the main bits to take away are:
The display only works when regularly referred to in lesson – you need to encourage pupils to use it!
Pupils like it when we model – they want to be great geographers like us. Therefore, you could – for example – model using the phrases verbally (make a real point of this – actually turn to look at the display and make it clear to students you’re bothering to use it and therefore they should too!), or you could be doing a paragraph with students “live” under the visualiser and ask some students to turn and borrow a phrase to help you out.
Regularly referring to it and encouraging its use has worked – I will sometimes catch a student turning around, wonder what on earth they’re doing and then – to my delight – realise they’re just borrowing a phrase to include in classwork!
It’s at the back of my room, which makes turning to it awkward for pupils – in my new classroom I plan to have it on the side or nearer to the front.
The cards are the ‘mini’ version of the display – but what is new is that there are a lot more modelled sentences. This means students can regularly refer to them in lesson and it allows them to seek help and support without directly asking for it; although we all try to foster a classroom environment where no-one is afraid to ask for help, we all know of pupils who prefer to operate in a more introverted manner (for more on this, see Jamie Thom's 'A Quiet Education').
Some things to note:
Like with the display, this only works well when regularly referred to in lesson – you need to encourage pupils to use them!
This needs a clear routine/structure to it – even right down to where they are stored (mine are in the boxes on every desk which house glues and scissors!) and how/when they are to be used. I can see pupils perhaps using them as a distraction, so be wary of this…
During the TeachMeet, the main questions I got around PEDaL (Point, Evidence, Develop and Link) was around how it – and I guess more widely, most acronyms us geographers use when trying to help children remember the key elements of a good answer – could constrict pupil’s responses as they religiously stick to PEDaL no matter what.
Firstly, it is important to state that acronyms do have their place when teaching about exam technique, at least in my opinion. But, as alluded to earlier, we seem to as a community of geographers come up with a heck of a lot of them and this may confuse pupils at times. Remember, it’s meant to make it easier for them – so if they’re struggling to remember the 15 acronyms you gave them, that’s counter-productive!
Secondly, it is about how you treat acronyms like PEDaL. Especially when they pertain to longer answers (and less so for ones like TEA, etc…), it is absolutely paramount to explain to pupils that:
This is not the ‘perfect’ way to do write an answer – there actually isn’t one!
No-one is forcing them to use it.
You won’t be “marked down” for not using it.
You don’t need to necessarily use it in every paragraph.
Not all questions fit the PEDaL structure (in fact, you may perform worse if you do use it in a question which didn’t call for it).
A staple of writing a good answer is a clear, logical order. PEDaL helps students to structure paragraphs.
The ‘D’ forces development – this makes responses stronger.
I made it much clearer to high-ability pupils that this needn’t constrict their flair when writing, especially 9 markers at GCSE.
I made it clearer to low and medium-ability students how PEDaL doesn’t apply to every question.
I made it clearer to all pupils how best to use it, through clearer modelling which happens more often.
Some pupils have turned around to me and said it was not for them, others swear by it. Just try it out in your context and see how it goes!
Last but not least is coded marking: This works best when students are in the full swing of using the phrases in the display and on the cards. For more on go here.
Below I am only discussing the code which relates to phrases students are using to develop their response, if you read the blog you’ll know I use many more:
Pupils can get into the routine super quickly – I usually get them to circle the phrases and as they’re now used to this, some are already circling in green pen before I’ve even put the task on the board!
As pupils know the green pen check will follow, they pre-empt this by including the phrases in their writing. That’s kind of the whole point of coded marking – to improve the pupil, not the work: I want my students taking on the marking codes almost as tips to use in future work.
The display/cards don’t cover EVERY SINGLE phrase or word one can use to develop their answer – nor do I want it to, that’d be too onerous a task! However, this means sometimes pupils are sure where their ‘counts’, e.g they used “as…” or “because of this…”. To counter this, encourage pupils to share with you and the class and create a culture whereby everyone wants to add to everyone’s collection of phrases/words!
If you have any questions about this then please feel free to contact me via Twitter!
Abdurrahman Pérez (@mr_perez5)
Head of Geography at Ark Academy in Putney.
Link to the slides from the TeachMeet