We found that pupils actually enjoy completing extended pieces of writing if they have something to help guide them. The majority of our case study pupils wrote a lot more than they usually would and at a far higher level. Our post lesson discussions all highlighted the fact that the pupils felt more secure if they had a structure which they could clearly follow and one which took them through a step-by-step approach.
In what ways will this change your teaching in the future?
Consistency and practice are very much key to helping the pupils with their extended writing. We intend to use the structure we developed on a regular basis in order to allow students to become rehearsed in how to structure their essays and feel confident that they know how to plan a longer piece of writing.
In the first Lesson Study, we discovered that pupils liked being given an element of choice over which structure they wanted to use. Pupils also liked to challenge themselves. Although these are very positive things, pupils struggled in this lesson as the majority of the class selected the most complex structure to use this actually hindered the quantity and quality of their work. Had they chosen a structure which matched their ability level, their writing would have been of a better quality due to their being less confusion in implementing the structure.
In what ways will this inform your future practice?
For the other two research lessons, students were all given the same, basic structure, but tear-off slips were made available to help or challenge students. Students therefore began at the same level but could receive additional help if they needed it or an additional challenge if they found they could add more to the quality of their response.
The amount of information on a piece of paper should be limited as much as possible. During the third lesson study, when extra help was implemented into the structure, pupils completely ignored it because they wanted to begin writing immediately and did not take the time to see the helpful hints that had been provided for them. We also discovered that one of the most able case study pupils did not like to be too restricted by a writing structure and found it difficult to work within the boundaries of a frame.
How will this change your teaching in future?
Limit the amount of information which is initially given to the pupils. Information and instructions can be built in slowly over a series of lessons. Once pupils become confident using a stripped down structure, more complex concepts can be implemented. For example, with a Year 7 class, the evaluation part of the structure could be removed until the students are confident in their use of the Zig-Zag arrangement of their written work.
History, Geography and Religious Philosophy have already implemented the Zig-Zag structure into KS3 schemes of work. Geography is also trialling a more complex version of the Zig-Zag structure with their A-level students. All feedback has been very positive â€“ in one class, all students achieved two sub-levels above their usual working level when they had the structure in place. A feedback session was held for the Humanities Faculty and all resources created through the lesson study process have been distributed.
We intend to share the structure we developed with all colleagues in the school as we believe it could be implemented across a range of subjects. We are aware that the use of the Zig-Zag structure is being trialled in GCSE PE and in IT. One key thing we would like to share with our colleagues is how powerful it is to be able to watch one another teach in a non-judgemental, learning environment. By focusing purely on how the students learnt, it really diverted attention away from teacher and much more on how we can improve the overall outcome for the students. Common misconceptions were picked up on that would have been very hard to identify by the one classroom practitioner delivering the lesson. We would strongly recommend other colleagues become involved in the lesson study process.