Should I make, or use, that worksheet?
One of the many strengths of the teaching profession is sharing resources, generously. After the weekend, most of us will be back to the classroom with our attention turned to all our examination groups: GCSE AND A-Level. For a reform subject such as English, the stake is high; everyone is determined to do it right. Being the first year of the new close-text examinations, part of the pressure comes from the demand on memory, for many students and teachers alike, memory of quotations in particular. To help students to achieve that end, and indeed, to tackle new focus on “summary” and “structure” many teachers are constructing resources that hopefully will meet the Assessment Objectives set out in the Mark Schemes for the four papers of English Language and English Literature.
Inevitably and understandably, there has been a plethora of resources shared on Twitter. These resources range from worksheets to feedback forms; knowledge organisers to revision booklets. All of them are carefully and thoughtfully constructed and professionally presented. One cannot praise the generosity of these teachers enough.
Then, there’s the publication of an eight-point Reducing Teacher Workload poster by the teaching unions on Twitter, retweeted frequently to remind us all to work more smartly: be sensible, be reasonable and be kind to ourselves.
But our challenge is not just about striking a balance between work and our other commitments in life. As regard the creation of resources, before I decide to create any learning resources, I ask myself these questions. Maybe you should, too, particularly if you are a middle or a senior leader:
– How many lessons do I (or your colleagues) teach in total?
– How many exam groups do I (or your colleagues) teach?
– What are my (their) pastoral duties and how many meeting and parents’ evening are there?
– If there’s a need to mark a worksheet, then, I ask myself what is being marked? Formative? Or summative? Do I need to mark basic literacy and SPaG, too, not to mention (mis)understanding of the content? Marking can easily get out of control if we don’t take a disciplined approach.
– Do I (they) need to provide feedback on the work completed on worksheets? How? Will highlighters or pens of multiple colours be involved?
– To keep sheets safe, sticking them into exercise books is a popular solution. Then there are logistic considerations, too: are there enough glue sticks (do they work), can the students use them sensibly particularly when they have to share one between two or more (where are the lids?). Do I need scissors (some students prefer to trim the sheets to fit onto the pages in their exercise books), are there enough ones for the left-handed pupils? Do I give gold star stickers? Or smiley face ones? A well-meaning feedback lesson can easily descend into a bad-tempered shouting match or scrap.
– But I (they) don’t just teach the examination groups. Even so, in addition to worksheets, are there other types of work that need to be marked for these students, essays, practised ‘perfect’ paragraphs or homework? Indeed is there any KS3 marking, too? Are there other forms, such as feedback or tracking sheets to be completed?
– If one or two “conscientious” student respond favourably to any resources, find out ‘exactly’ in what way. More importantly, find out the reactions of the others (majority). Are they apathetical, seeing it as just another sheet? Without truly understand how the material is supposed to help, how can they benefit from it? The likelihood is the exercise will produce only superficial outcome: the boxes are filled, scores recorded, but has any of the learning been internalised and ready to be expressed in structured, continuous prose in response to a given question in the examination?
– Does the outcome justify all this paper work and the marking? Do I really need to mark this particular piece of work? Creating resources is time- and energy-consuming, not to mention other associated costs such as photocopying, etc.
Then there are questions about the possible further bureaucratic procedures generated by the initial worksheet or even tests.
– Recording (on mark book or on departmental data)
– Analysing (do I/they need to report? How?)
– Monitoring and tracking progress (Do I have time to analyse the data?)
= Is further teaching needed, group or individual? How?
= Is clarification of misconceptions required, group or individual? How?
= Do I need to trigger any interventions, when? How is it going to take place? When? Break time? Lunch time? Or after school? Should I (they) contact parents?
When I return to my examination groups after half term, I will try to ask myself these question whenever there’s an urge to produce resources of any nature.
Look after ourselves and each other.