Sweating the Big Stuff

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There can be no doubt that sometimes we forget to look at the big picture in favour of the tick box mentality of assessment criteria, method, outcomes, grades etc. Wood and trees, in a word.

Three weeks into term, looking back over the work completed by my classes, I realised that many of my new students had habits that were holding them back –  no matter how well crafted a sentence here or there was. It was the big stuff – handwriting, punctuation throughout, completing tasks fully, taking risks with vocabulary, presentation and so on. This needed to be highlighted right from the start and given as ‘big’ targets for students be mindful of before beginning each task. They help to remind students that every time they write in lesson – it is for an external audience. Writing for someone else means presentation & handwriting always matters, as does punctuation, as does trying out new words to communicate new ideas.

The form I created is stuck in the front of book. It is headed by the statement ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got’ – a catchphrase used by a wonderful former colleague. I wanted students to be aware that making progress is not just about learning to do new things, it is also about, in some case, changing their ways of doing things and developing NEW habits. I collated the targets and gave practical advice on how to start making these changes.

I will review book work with students on these big targets on a termly basis. Meanwhile two very useful outcomes have arisen from the form. Firstly, students are accountable. They have a clear statement showing what they need to do to improve the quality of their work overall, which we can keep going back to. Second, time spent doing this means I also have a very clear overview of where we need to go and how each individual can develop as a writer, not just train for the exam.

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