Let me start by setting the scene…
So half term comes up, then students’ attention turns to Halloween costumes, fireworks nights and the inevitable return of Christmas. On top of this everyone is going to school in the dark and coming home in the dark. Evenings seem short and cold and the initial whoosh of excitement of starting the new term has gone.
If your job is to navigate a boat full of students towards the grades that they need to move on to their next step, then these are difficult seas ahead.
#1 Your role as ship’s navigator
Your role is only as navigator on the boat, you cannot row and should not be rowing. In every lesson the students should be working hard and you should be guiding them towards the information. If you are leaving the classroom exhausted I am afraid that you are rowing and you need to stop.
#2 Keep the boat moving forwards
Every lesson should be a journey from point A to point B and student should be able to tell you at the end that they are at point B. Do not dwell too long at one port, keep the boat moving forwards and make sure there is plenty of pace to the lessons to challenge your A students. Your less able students may need to be set extra questions or reading to consolidate the learning, or a quick chat to make sure they are on the same page. Do not stop the boat, keep everyone moving forwards.
#3 Doldrums strategy
The doldrums is a defined as a “state or period of stagnation” and to continue the boat analogy is exactly what happens after half term. The wind dies down and the sails fall and the boat stops moving. Your role as navigator or captain of the boat is to motivate the sailors during this period of the doldrums. Now is the time to crack open a quiz, a Kahoot, a taboo game, set microteaches, group projects, business speaker of the year competition etc. Don’t leave all your best stuff until the last week of the Autumn term, get it out now and give your sailors a boost.
#4 Weather the storm
Now is the time of year to explain to students about good and bad learning days. They will have some days when it all comes together and they understand and it goes smoothly and they can do the practice questions and they are happy. Then there will be the CPA / Decision trees / Supply and Demand / PED days when they don’t get first time and need some extra help. They need to recognise that one bad day is not the end of the world. I like to imagine a bunch of flowers. One has rotted in the vase, I simply pull it out and continue to enjoy the bunch. I do not throw the whole bunch away. I know this is a mix of analogies, but I am sure you get the picture.
#5 Targets are your best tool
You have many teaching tools in your kit bag – the motivational talk, the quick test, the timed essay, the peer marking activity, but your best tool of all is your ability to set a target. Every week I set my students a written target on their homework feedback. It takes about 30 seconds each and they all know what their target is. The next piece of work I mark looks at that target and I can comment if they have achieved it or not. They may not have got an A but they did achieve the target to add a quote into the conclusion or to add a PESTLE factor to the conclusion. This motivates the students to row harder and keeps our boat moving forwards.
Have a restful half term – see you on the other side.