The Lazy Teachers’ Handbook

The deliberately misleading title hides the fact that this is a book for those teachers who wish to be the “guide on the side”, as opposed to the “sage on the stage”.  Well worth reading.

The Lazy Teacher's Handbook

You can find it on Amazon.  I don’t have an affiliate account and will not receive anything for this post.  I just liked the book 🙂


Working with the SAMR (Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition) Model

Ruben R. Puentedura’s blog offers an absolute wealth of information on teaching, pedgagogy and use of technology (more broadly, along with iPads in particular).

Today I started reading (it’s 64 pages long) his article (PDF) on the SAMR model for using technology:

Redefinition: Tech allows for the creation of new tasks, previously inconceivable

Modification: Tech allows for significant task redesign

Augmentation: Tech acts as a direct tool substitute, with functional improvement

Substitution: Tech acts as a direct tool substitute, with no functional change

The stages are hierarchical, with Substitution and Augmentation forming the Enhancing phase, whilst Modification and Redefinition are part of the Transformation phase.

Reading the article made me realise that, although the iClass has come a long way, there is still a long way to go before our use of the iPads is truly transformative.

We have used the iPads to complete maths questions which could be worked out mentally or on paper (Substitution, albeit with extremely high engagement).

In the first or second week we started to tailor maths apps to skills needs (Augmentation).

Later on, we have used multimedia to record our learning in ways we could not have done without the iPads (Augmentation), with the children working on tasks which could not have been planned for without our 1:1 scheme (Modification).

There you have it, a brief summary of (very few) of the ways we have employed our tablets. For me, the next step is to move more of the technological use to transformation, as I really think we have cracked Enhancement.  This is a very exciting time and the children are sure to agree 🙂

I envisage outlining for them the content and/or skills we need to cover and facilitating a protracted discussion of the many ways of demonstrating this with a range of apps, ideally in ways which were “previously inconceivable”, possibly by introducing apps separately in skill-building workshops.

It’s going to be a lot of fun!

How to get and hold attention: stop telling your students to “pay attention!”

Eric Jensen wrote an edifying post about this, which is well worth reading on his site.

In essence, he makes the point that there are much better ways of ensuring attention than asking for it.  Here I have re-produced his tips for making children want to pay attention.  As I mentioned, the original post is on Eric’s site and is an engaging read.

  • Use prediction. Ask students to make a prediction on something related to your content (the process, outcome, circumstance(s), etc.)  BTW…They care more about the outcome. Then help them get vested in their prediction by making the prediction public (“Raise your hand if you believe that …”) Next, increase the stakes of the prediction (“Those that predict correctly will get one free homework pass this month. Now, let’s find out who was right.”) Prediction forces the brain to care about the outcome because we get vested in being right.
  • Use the brief “pause” and chunk technique. Give students a stand up break of 30-90 seconds (the “pause”) to give them mental processing time for the content. It also adds a sense of anticipation or even importance to the content. Brief breaks just to stretch may help focus (Ariga,A. & Lleras,A., 2011). Be sure to also break your content into 5-12 min. chunks (depending on grade level).
  • Prime the learning with small hints, appetizers and teasers ahead of the content to create a pre-attentional bias to the content.
  • Start getting “buy-in” to the content. This is the “hook” that fosters attentional vigilance.  Then, add a strong goal-acquisition to the activity, keeping them vested in reaching the target goal.
  • Do a fast physical activity (like Simon Sez) first to activate executive function areas with the induced strength from the brain’s internal focus-inducing chemical, norepinephrine and working memory ally, dopamine.

Biker Baron

This half term sees some exciting work with the Bike Baron app.  In this lively game, children control a dirt bike which hurtles around a track, allowing them to perform simple stunts.  As a stimulus, it was fantastic.  The buzz in the room was palpable and many children said it was their best ever literacy lesson.

The original idea came from Mr. Andrews, a teacher who is much further along with iPads than I am.  Here is my comment from his website, which says it all, really:

My lower KS2 children had an absolute ball with this. Today we wrote instructions and they remembered EVERYTHING taught yesterday relating to PAT, so fired up by the subject matter were they. I appreciate the idea and will definitely be using the app to inspire writing for other genres, as you suggest. Thank you again!

If you are in a position to use Bike Baron to inspire writing do now or next week.  I plan to use it to inspire recount, narrative, newspaper, diary/blog, but not necessarily in that order!  I also recommend, in the most enthusiastic terms, visiting the Mr. Andrews blog.  It is well worth bookmarking for regular visits.

Whole Brain Teaching

This works.  It is efficient, it is effective, and the children love it.

We had a huge amount of fun today when we practised the “Class-Yes“.  Everyone ended up smiling and it has to be amongst the most positive of methods of bringing attention back to the teacher.  The children responded instinctively, with enthusiasm and – by the end of the day – as though they have been responding to “class” with “yes” since their first days in reception.

In brief, the teacher says “class” and the children say “yes”.  It sounds simple and it is.  But it is absolutely powerful in shifting their focus from work to the teacher.  There is none of the resentment that some children have when asked to finish their work – possibly out of perfectionism or initial lack of momentum.  They want to comply; in fact, it happens involuntarily after about three or four practice runs.

I can feel it becoming part of my teaching DNA and I cannot wait to demonstrate it to colleagues as part of a series of model lessons I am teaching this term.  It was impossible not to share the technique with others today and I envisage some of them using the idea in their own classrooms.  Also, I really cannot imagine a primary school situation where it would not work on some level.

Teach-OK” was slower to embed, but I can see how it will become a powerful part of my teaching toolkit, especially when allied to the concept of micro-lectures (30-60 seconds of precise, focused input, which the children then teach each other).  I am, it has to be said, impressed!