Friday, 21 March 2014

The Day When Ofsted Inspected My Flipped Classroom

The Day Ofsted Visited Inspected My Flipped Classroom

"The Call Came" What would Ofsted think of my Flipped Year 3 classroom?

I've been poised to write this post since we were visited by Ofsted a couple of weeks back.  But I have had to wait for the final draft of the report to arrive back in school so I can actually talk publicly about our recent Ofsted visit, and how they reported on my flipped classroom.

First, a bit of Ofsted context.

We got the call on Tuesday afternoon, meaning the team would be with us in the morning for the two day inspection. I was actually at home in bed ill, not a day off all year and they choose to ring now - typical. Right, action stations.

We met the inspectors in the morning and they seemed an open, approachable team who wanted us to take risks in the classroom.

Taking Risks: The Flipped Approach

Over the previous few weeks I had been experimenting with the flipped classroom, with a particular focus on mathematics.  From the advice given in Flipped Classroom: Reach Every Student In Every Class, Every Day by Aaron Sams and Jonathan Bergmann, I chose to start with one subject this term - mathematics. I couldn't turn back now, the children had been using video in their mathematics sessions for a couple of weeks now.

This week I had planned to focus on written methods of division and then applying them to real life problems when the children felt they were ready to do so.  I emailed the children these two videos that I had found on YouTube from

Long Division:
Short Division: 

I had emailed the videos to the parents and the children on Saturday and asked them to watch the videos over the weekend, no pressure, but try to watch it, have a go and then bring any questions or misconceptions to school on Monday.  Now, I took ill on Monday, and didn't make it school on Tuesday, but crucially the videos had been sent out and more crucially, they had been watched by the children.

Learning Without Limits:

I highly recommend reading and investing plenty of time into Dame Alison Peakcock's research - Learning Without Limits  

The children in my class are offered three or four "challenges" around a topic of maths and they self differentiate their learning based on their success or failures from the previous lesson.  When marking I offer the children a question to answer in their books before allowing them to choose their own level of challenge in the next lesson.  

We do not group children by ability.  Our children flow from one challenge to another, pushing themselves forward without a capped limit. This way children always see learning as just a next step, something that anybody can try. You don't need to be on a certain table to try a certain challenge - anybody can try anything.

Taking Risks: The Observation.

Ten minutes into my mathematics session the lead inspector walked into my classroom, just as a group of children, who had chosen to practice the short method of division as their challenge for this session, started to work independently. 

I had a group of six or seven children who had chosen to stay with me briefly to explore their misconceptions with long division. 

Now, this is where the children really excelled.  The children knew which part of the calculation strategy they were challenged by. They could tell me, in detail, because they had watched the video before the session.  They had already had a go at home and now they needed their teacher to help them. 

They'd found their own personalised next steps because of the video clips.

Within minutes of starting the lesson, the children had identified their next steps, self differentiated the level of challenge and began their learning. Then the real magic happened - bring on the videos!

I put MacBooks and a few iPads on each table with the videos saved as bookmarks for the children to access throughout the lesson. Now, I had taught the children how to "watch a video," (I've blogged about it here - Pause, Rewind My Teacher) and the children demonstrated this right under the nose of the inspector.  When the inspector questioned the children about the videos, they modelled using the video and talked about how it was helping them learn.

Video in the lesson via iPads and MacBooks
Throughout the lesson the children were confidently using the video to drive their learning forward when they needed help.  This approach enabled me to spend more time questioning children's understanding and moving learning on.  I had saved valuable learning time. When I received feedback at the end of the day the lead inspector commented positively at how confidently the children used the technology to learn.  They didn't use it because it was there, they used it because they needed to improve their learning. 

Taking Risks: The Outcomes

What better way to endorse the use of a flipped classroom than a direct quote from our Ofsted report:

I've seen how powerful this approach can be over the past few weeks and I have used it again this last week when we were learning about fractions.  The children have been pre-learning, bringing questions and misconceptions to mathematics lessons and making quicker progress because of it.

This approach needs time to embed in your classroom and the children need to buy into the advantages that pre-learning can give them. Remember, it doesn't need to be a video, it could be a hand written model of a calculation or part of a text.  The point is that the children have experienced the learning before the session.

I'm looking forward to seeing where this approach will take my class and how far it can drive the learning on.

The Overall Inspection Experience.

The inspection team were very fair, human, and were willing to listen to the things I had achieved in the classroom.  My advice - be cheeky, ask them to meet you to share things you've achieved in the classroom.  Don't wait for them to see things around your school, just show them and make sure you can talk impact.  

Paste outstanding practice around your classroom. Make it so obvious that they walk into it, if not show them. 

Follow Me On Twitter:  @ChrisWaterworth

Saturday, 8 March 2014

The Future of Assessment in Primary Schools: Flipping Classroom Assessments

The Future of Assessment in Primary Schools: Flipping Classroom Assessments

Abandoning Levels: A Chance to Flip How We Assess Children?

It has been a hot topic for a while in schools up and down the country. September 2014 sees the abolishment of levels and the introduction of a new primary curriculum.  This should be a very exciting time for primary schools across the country, but teachers and head teachers seem to be worried. How can we track achievement? How can we hold teachers accountable? 

I honestly think we're missing the point here.  We have a glorious opportunity to rethink why we are assessing and reporting on progress in the first place. When it boils down to it, is telling a parent or child that they've made 3.4 points progress going to help them get to the next point in their learning?
Have I made enough points progress sir?

A Fixed Mindset to Assessment.
If we report a definitive level to parents, they become hooked on a number and a letter.  The comparisons begin on the playground. What does that really tell them? The only thing I can think of is if their child is on track or not? One use!

We put a lot of effort into getting to that one number or letter and completely miss the point of assessing children. We assess children's learning to find out what they need to do to improve. Their next steps.

Wouldn't it make sense to report this next step without the level attached to it?

A Growth Mindset to Assessment.
Let's flip the assessment process, let's imagine a world without levels.....hold on, it's not too far away.  We can continue to go down the same route of assessment, but with the ultimate aim of finding out what each child needs to learn next - that's it, stop there, don't think of points or levels, just the child's next steps.

Report these next steps to parents, senior leadership, and of course the children. We seem to forget that the children are the reasons we trawl through APP (Assessing Pupil Progress) grids and National Curriculum Level descriptors.  How many of us actually show the children or parents these grids? How powerful could that be? "See the gaps, that is what you need to learn."  It flips the parents views of assessment, no longer are they fixed on if their child is meeting national expected expectations, but seeing what they need to do to help them improve.

The Tapestry for Learning: Remove the Levels.

Imagine, if you will, the Assessing Pupil Progress grids all stuck together on top of each other with no levels separating each descriptor.
A Reading Tapestry - NO Levels!
This is a small part of the Assessing Pupil Progress Grid with ALL the levels removed from it.  It now becomes a continuing learning journey with the emphasis on next steps with no stopping point.

This is the start of the child's journey through reading at Primary School. This document can follow them through school being used by each teacher to track progress and ultimately used for planning purposes.

This is nothing new, using APP grids to assist planning, it's helped me find gaps in children's learning for years.  The difference could come if I used it to report to parents.  Not a number, but a next step to help their child.

Crucially this also serves to show the parents how far their child has progressed, coupled with books, it can also illustrate how much effort the child has gone into to get to where they are now.  Something that is often ignored when reporting just a number or a letter.  The focus is shifted to effort, achievement and next steps in learning.

The children need to be empowered to manage this way of working for each subject and as teachers we need to allow the children to be free to work on any aspect of the Tapestry, whether it is Art, Drama, History, English, Maths, Science or another subject that hasn't been invented yet! 

Monitoring Progress: Lovely Quantifiable Data.

From a tracking and monitoring point of view, where should each child reach at each age? When the new curriculum comes into place in September, in my opinion, children should be assessed at the end of EYFS, Year 2, Year 4 and Year 6 at Primary school.  That's enough, no more assessments every 3 months checking whether a child has made enough points progress to turn a box green.  Children learn at different paces. We've all had a child in our class who suddenly appears to move quickly then return back to normal, this is how children learn. They go back, forward, back, forward, quickly forward, and so on.  They never keep still, but they are making progress at different rates.

Do we need 3 monthly assessment weeks to know that a child needs pushing on or that they need an intervention?  We do that day in day out in our classrooms.

The Online World of Assessment for Learning: Flipping

Technology and flipping could potentially hold the key to how children learn in the future.  Imagine a world where this 'Tapestry' is held online for parents to access at anytime they wish to find out how their children are progressing in school and find out how they can help their child even more without waiting for parents' evening to come around.

The Khan Academy: Online Learning.
The Khan Academy is a non-profit educational website created in 2006 by educator Salmon Khan, a graduate of MIT and Harvard Business School.  The stated mission is to provide a "free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere. Wikipedia

Khan originally created videos to help his cousin Nadia in her mathematics classes.  He began uploading his videos to YouTube as it proved to be more practical.  Surprisingly, he soon found people from all over the world had begun using his videos to learn.  The Khan Academy was born.

If we take this idea of distance, online learning and apply it to our classrooms we could combine the assessment process too.  Go back to the APP grid with the levels removed and now imagine that each objective has a link to a video or website with information designed to help the children achieve that objective.  The children would log on to their own personalised learning area to find out what they needed to learn next, click on a hyperlink, make notes, watch and then bring those skills into the classroom ready to publish something or ask questions about misconceptions.

The beauty of these next steps being online is that they can be accessed at anytime and used anytime.  Aaron Sams and Jon Bergman (Flipped Learning Pioneers) describe a student in their class who had a very busy extra-curricular timetable and how they used Aaron and Jon's videos to 'get ahead' in their class. The student had then created time to complete their school work and leave time for extra practice for their extra-curriculum activities. The student is in charge of their learning, not the teacher.

Reporting to Parents: Flipping Reporting and School's of The Future.

Would you really need to report to parents at the end of each year?  We've been writing reports for parents since the Victorian Era, a system of reporting which is still statutory in 2014.  Would it be more beneficial to allow parents access to the online learning tapestry and then have a short meeting with their child's teacher whenever they feel need to.  Does this not lead to point of why do we organise our schools in this Victorian way?

A School of the future?
If children are in charge of the direction of their learning then why do we need to sit children in classrooms the way we do now?  Early years education have a wonderful approach to learning.

I imagine every child from the age of four to eleven working in a space similar to that of the Google offices.  They come to school, log on, find out what they need to learn that day.  They can work with children who have either mastered or are working on similar problems and are in charge of the pace of their learning. 

This topic is worthy of it's own blog. Something I will be looking into over the coming week. Stay tuned next week. 

In September we have a great opportunity to change the whole way we think about assessing pupil progress and reporting to all stakeholders.  Remember to think with a growth mind - find those next steps and recognise the effort and the new skills you've acquired to get to where you are now.  Levels, have we ever actually needed them?

Follow me on Twitter @chriswaterworth

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Desert Island Apps - Apps I Couldn't Live Without

Desert Island Apps - Apps I Couldn't Live Without 

Push come to shove, what Apps would you take with you?

I am blessed with the technology at my school and combine that with a head teacher who believes completely in the use of technology to enhance learning and I am in a privileged position. We are an Apple primary school, complete with MacBooks, iPads, Mac Minis and we're currently consulting with companies around 1:1 iPads in school.  

Not only Apple technology takes centre stage in our school, we have flip cameras, digital cameras, digital visulisers, interactive whiteboards, an online library system and so much more.

What would happen if I moved schools?  - I'm not thinking about it, just in case my head teacher is reading this.

The use of technology has become such an essential way of learning for me and the children in my class that I do worry what would happen if that technology was taken away from us.

If I ever did move schools, my teaching would adapt I'm sure and learning would eventually become as effective as it is now, but I wonder how long it would take?

So what do I rely on heavily at the moment, what could I not do without anymore in my classroom. I mean I didn't have these applications ten years ago.  Radio 4 have their Desert Island Discs, so I've created my Desert Island Apps.

This list is not designed to be a definitive list of apps that should be in every classroom, just the ones I have found to have the most impact on learning.  You may agree, disagree and be completely dumbfounded at the apps that I have missed out.

I'm hoping this list will change, in fact I know it will over the next few years, but for now ladies and gentlemen here are my Desert Island Apps.

GarageBand for iPad and MacBook
GarageBand has been part of my classroom for the last five years and I wouldn't be without it. The ease of recording voice and music, being able to quickly export the files is essential for creating podcasts, and sound files to embed in, social media, and iBooks.

There are hundreds of ways to record sound, but I haven't found one with such ease of use for young children to produce something of quality that come with every MacBook.
iMovie for iPad and MacBook

There are plenty of video creating applications out there, but if you are using an iPad or MacBook you probably won't find anything better for young children to create quality movies quickly. Import, transitions, titles, edit, export and you're done.

The way the application seamlessly interacts with your other apple applications is very impressive.  You want to add a still, your iPhoto library is there, add a sound or song, GarageBand and iTunes is there. Seamless.

Not a week goes by without me editing some sort of movie file using iMovie.

YouTube and Vimeo
YouTube and Vimeo
Two really simple, but incredibly effective video hosting services. The children use them and are used to the look and feel; controls are simple and you can upload videos with ease.

Keeping videos online allows you to access them anywhere you have an internet signal; it saves space on your Mac/PC and crucially it allows you to share with the world.

FaceBook Pages and Twitter
Facebook, Twitter and Social Media
I've used social media in my classroom for a while now and am beginning to see its full potential. Sharing work with the world is a great way for children to interact with a world that is craving learning.  Edmodo needs adding to this list, but I haven't used it enough yet to justify its place on this list.

Twitter in particular has taught me so much through people sharing stories, skills, and learning.  Receiving feedback on something your children have created is priceless - World Wide Peer Assessment.  Follow me @chriswaterworth

DropBox and Google Drive
Dropbox and GoogleDrive
Cloud storage is crucial for today's learners and teachers.  The need for work to be available anywhere has become essential in my classroom.

Videos, documents, images, SmartBoard files, and the ability to collaborate has changed how I organise my workload.  These two apps have revolutionised my classroom, everything is available at any time.

SkyDrive and Outlook
SkyDrive and Outlook
Email for the children in my class has become essential.  They receive their weekly news letter via it and can share learning, links and homework with me.  I like the way I can email their marking to the children after viewing their learning.

Using SkyDrive the children have been able to start work in school, and take it home to finish or vice versa.   They've collaborated on writing, created presentations and emailed them to each other from iPads and MacBooks.
Vittle - Screen Casting
Vittle is a great FREE app for the iPad to record your screen movements.  I have used it to create videos for my children and parents to watch at home - See a few here.  

Explain Everything is another great app for this, but push come to shove, the simplicity over this app helps keep things effective without overcomplicating things.

Scratch - Hacking Games
With the computer programming revolution that is happening in schools all over the country, Scratch has really taken hold in many schools. I LOVE it.  It's simple, intuitive and the children love using the blocks to write code.

We've been having a great deal of fun hacking the current Scratch Projects available online. Hacking Games in my ClassroomThe children hacked them, made them better, and then emailed the code to each other try out on their own version of Scratch.  Try it; its quite addictive when you get into it, especially Paper Minecraft!

Air Server - Hardware free Airplay
Air Server -
If you are using iOS devices in school you really need a way of sharing screens in your classroom via airplay.  Beaming something up on the big screen really helps when analysing a piece of work.

I prefer using AirServer over Apple TV as I don't need to switch inputs on the projector to throw something onto the projected screen.  A really solid piece of software that is a must in every classroom.

Evernote - Keep me Organised
If you haven't yet used Evernote; start using it.  It has saved me so much time over the last year.  Gone are my notebooks, word documents and iOS notes and have been replaced with automatically syncing notes, sound files, and images.

Being able to make notes, take pictures and record sound bites during a meeting and not worry about losing that bit of paper, post it note or handout.

I really like the way I can quickly email out my notes to colleagues, children and parents without any need to attach files.  The syncing is seamless and I love that my notes are on my iPhone, iPad and MacBook without me doing anything.  

Book Creator
Book Creator
I've saved this one till last, as I really think this little app has massive potential in the classroom.  Not a week goes by that my children haven't added something to their digital learning journals.  

You can write text, embed video, record sounds and add in images.  It really does bring text books to life.  It gives children an interactive way to record their learning and share with the world.

You really need to have this app in your classroom. Get it now.

I was supposed to stick to ten apps, but I couldn't do it; I really couldn't. If you have anymore apps to add to my list, please let me know via Twitter. 

Follow me on Twitter @chriswaterworth