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Embracing the noisy classroom
As a trainee teacher I was surprised by how quickly my preconceptions of a perfect classroom had been changed by my teaching experience. At first, it felt as though a perfect classroom was a silent one, with each individual student bent to their own task. Over time I realised that although pin drop silence has its benefits, a noisy classroom can be perfect in its own way. A noisy classroom signals working through understanding, exploring concepts, sharing links and helping students enhance their ability to articulate their own ideas.
The concept of oracy fast became a key focus point for me. Within geography, concepts are so vast they often require varied approaches to assist students in digesting and contextualisingthem. This can be particularly useful for expanding viewpoints and ideas and allowing students to construct knowledge for themselves. When it comes to students whose horizons may be limited due to circumstance or situation, promoting the shared experience of exploring themes or unpacking them together has huge potential to enhance your own pedagogical practice whilst ensuring progress for all.
During the last few years I have seen how a lack of real-life experience faced by many students can affect their ability to grasp content and contextualise learning within the classroom. Barriers can include, but are not limited to, a poor grasp of language and inability to articulate oneself. Research has suggested that spoken language, or oracy, can play a critical role in cognitive development and the construction and development of knowledge through social interactions within the classroom. Moreover, promotion of oracy can provide the opportunity to clarify certain concepts or misconceptions whilst promoting confidence.
Oracy education appears more prevalent in primary school contexts or subject specific classrooms. However, the range of activities allowing students to talk and listen or explore and present can work wonders on written output. Encouraging articulation of ideas orally can enable students to dissect their ideas, weigh up judgements, assess opinions and formulate explanations - ultimately enabling access to the curriculum whilst stimulating self-esteem.
Through careful planning implementation of oracy strategies, or the skills attached to speaking and listening, students can articulate and justify answers, communicate arguments and opinions. By inserting these skills into curriculum planning earlier I was able to directly respond to recent changes to the geography curriculum, enabling students to access the‘knowledge rich’ content. These new skills can lead to improvements in literacy as well as strengthening students’ ability to express themselves with clarity and technical vocabulary, leading to increased educational attainment. Incorporating strategies into regular practise over a longer period of time also has the potential to show clear progress in increasing student confidence in articulating in a subject appropriate manner.
Some initial strategies that have seen success in my own classroom include:
• Keyword taboo
• Talking essay talk targets
• Shared progress heads
• Mini-plenaries – Just a minute, opinion lines, balloon debate and tramlines
So don’t be scared of that noisy classroom! Give time to establish clear routines for constructive talk and trust your students to lead the way.
Feel free to get in touch to discuss further - Twitter: @fabidi88
Fatemah Abidi, More Able Coordinator & Teacher of Geography
Fatemah’s top 5- Teacher equiptment
- aka Things I Don’t Think I Can Teach Without
1. Casio Watch – Essentially the source of any teaching superpower, can be used to make a point, time an independent task, direct a Think-Pair-Share (“Actually this is still thinking time”) and execute perfectly planned activities.
2. PowerPoint Clicker – Don’t let your students get complacent, control the PowerPoint from any corner you wish, allowing you to circulate and keep them on their toes. Bonus in that you can take it to any classroom.
3. Chisel Tip Board Marker –Controversial, and definitely something that is up to the user, but personally suits my writing style as well as adding true clarity to whiteboard teaching. Strong suggestion to have at least two colours at hand (avoid brown).
4. Large Sticky Notepad – What is she writing down? Is it my name? Did she see me distracting my neighbour? Did she hear the answer I just gave? Am I getting a positive postcard/phone call today? Or did she think of a great question to ask to consolidate learning after the next activity. They don’t know, but you do. Much calmer than names on the board, excellent organisation tool and great for keeping track of those thousand and one ideas you get mid-teach.
5. Electronic Back-Up Activity Bank – Especially in a world of teaching in several classrooms, when old-faithful plenary boards are not portable, crucial for filling thoseunexpected extra moments. Have you seen the ECG Network’s Sept 2020 Plenary Wheel? Absolute game changer!