Since the start of the new year and knowing that I would be keeping my KS3 classes, I have started with the mindset of trying to make the pupils as independent as possible in the lead up to large scale projects and multiple fieldwork opportunities.
This week this has taken the form of extended writing, a silent lesson and the great Alfred Wegener.
It all started with a lesson on Pangaea ( a little puzzle making from the USGS website) and the denouement within the plenary that this was the first piece of evidence for a criminal case we were now involved in. I told the pupils to be aware that I would have to do everything in a secret manner in the next lesson…
When they arrived in the next lesson, each table group of four had an envelope stamped with ‘Confidential’. I put a statement on the board which told them to open the envelope and read the top sheet to the group ( this sheet is attached to the post). As well as the instruction sheet, there were 6 pieces of evidence to exonerate Alfred Wegener from the court case he was embroiled in. We had been hired as his lawyers as his previous ones had quit and we had to create his closing statement to convince the jury that Wegener was innocent. The quitting notion was to subtly emphasise that we are not quitters and we needed to help the man.
The group had to work out how each piece of evidence proved Alfred correct- but there was one red herring ( as detailed on the sheet), so it opened up several discussions about the validity of sources, evidence and explanation.
The top sheet also detailed that each pupil needed to have a closing speech/statement ready for next lesson. This was to allow weaker pupils longer to analyse the material and discuss it on their differentiated grouped tables. No success criteria other than we needed to keep Wegener out of prison were shared, this allowed pupils to develop their own arguments, creating their own voice and utilising the knowledge they have.
At this point ( 30 minutes in) I had still not uttered a word. Any pupils who asked questions were met with ” I can’t tell you, the prosecution may be listening”. This made the pupils smile and then work harder to figure out the answer to their own question. Pupils were allowed to ask pupils from outside their group ( something I may change for next time).
With 7 minutes of the lesson left, I banged the gavill that I had borrowed from English and through directed open questioning, elucidated from the pupils what they thought the main objectives of the lesson were. I selected six pupils ( 2 for each of all/most/some) and each suggestion was splendid, ‘improve group work attitude’, ‘help each other’, ‘evaluate evidence’, ‘use evidence in writing’, ‘practice being independent’ and ‘develop how to write for ourselves’. This was incredibly pleasing and the huge smiles from the pupils was good enough for me!
In the subsequent lesson, we peer assessed each speech to see whether Alfred would have been freed and why. It was clear that the understanding of the high level terms and knowledge were fully embedded. This knowledge was then carried onto looking at plate boundaries and having a plate boundary dance- always great before lunch!
I am hoping that this independence will continue into an assessed piece of tectonic event reporting over the next couple of weeks!
Apologies for the long post!