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NFER - Tests for Years 1-6
NFER - Tests for Years 1-6
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Teaching Looks Like we Just Write Lots of Next Steps and use Coloured Highlighters

The Fake Headteacher recounts an all-too-familiar conversation happening in classrooms across the country...

  • Teaching Looks Like we Just Write Lots of Next Steps and use Coloured Highlighters

Head: The progress your class is making in writing is very good. Well done. However, please make sure you write more feedback in their books. We have to play the game.

Teacher:: Thank you noticing the progress the class are making. They are responding well to my feedback.

Head: I just think you could make the advice you give them more obvious. If someone looks through your books, there isn’t enough teacher feedback evident.

Teacher:: I don’t understand. What do you mean? I give so much feedback and advice in every lesson.

Head: Our new non-negotiables list was discussed in the staff meeting. I expect you to follow it.

Teacher:: I do try, but if I’ve already given feedback to the child, I don’t write it down in their book. It’s not for the pupil, is it?

Head: I understand, but I do expect you to write down next steps every lesson and to use your green and pink highlighter to show the parts you liked and the parts that need improving.

Teacher:: But you said my class were making very good progress. Writing out one ‘next step’ per pupil, when I have given them 10 pieces of feedback already in the lesson, seems pointless. Is that what you mean by ‘playing the game?’

Head: Yes. It’s all about the books. We have to be seen to be improving the children’s work. If we double our efforts and write more feedback on their work, it will look really good.

Teacher:: But when you observed me the other day, you wrote, ‘You made good use of praise for quality sentences and modelled sentences orally and by writing them on the board. You challenged children by focusing on vocabulary and grammatical features and encouraged them to improve sentences in a variety of ways. You quickly picked up on common errors and addressed them in lesson and gave particular extension to more able writers. You stopped the class several times to remind them of the correct use of semicolons and noticed children who were struggling and intervened quickly. You made good use of your TA who was focusing particularly on handwriting and challenged and praised pupils throughout. You created a class toolkit of how to write really well and reviewed this throughout the lesson. You asked lots of open-ended questions.’

Head: But it’s all about the books.

Teacher:: After my lessons, I always flick though the books and make decisions about my next lesson. If I notice that lots of pupils have made similar errors, I might address this as a whole class. Often, I’ll ask my TA to work with a small group the next day (or the same day if appropriate) to address a particular weakness. There’s no need for me to write a ‘next step’ in their book when it’s the next lesson. I give so much feedback in class. If children have done everything I’ve asked of them (and more, in most cases), I will praise them for it. To write next steps all the time so we can prove our impact will only annoy pupils. They’ll think, ‘I do everything you ask but you still tell me it’s not quite right.’

Head: I understand all of that. But we have so many external visitors now who demand to look at books. It just looks really good if we write lots of next steps and use coloured highlighters and pens.

Teacher:: But should progress in books be the only thing they look at? So much hidden feedback occurs in every lesson. Why must only one piece of feedback be written down, rather than all of the feedback?

Head: Don’t be daft. That would take too long.

Teacher:: So, writing one next step is simply ‘playing the game’?

Head: Yes. I’ve already said that. Listen, it’s all about consistency. You are clearly a great teacher, but I have to ensure every member of staff is following my rules. It is what it is.

The Fake Headteacher has taught in five schools across a 20 year career. Find more at @fakeheadteacher and headteacher-newsletter.com.

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