Saturday, 28 June 2014

Pupil Version of Exciting Sentences App by Alan Peat

I was honoured to be asked by Alan to contribute to a pupil version of his Exciting Sentences App. I'd had an idea about grouping his sentence types into writing genres as I thought this would be useful for teachers' planning. As teachers we often plan our literacy in terms of a specific writing genre. Therefore having a resource which indicated which sentence types would be appropriate to that genre seems like a good idea. Thankfully, Alan agreed.

The end result is a section on he new app (Due for release in July) that allows pupils and/or teachers to identify which sentence types they need for different writing genres. The narrative genres are sub-divided e.g. myths, fairytales, adventure stories. There are also sentence types suggestions for all non-fiction writing genres. A word of warning, though. This resource is not intended to be used as a checklist as this could interrupt the flow of the writing. Alan is very clear that this is not how he wants his sentence types to be used. Instead, I envisage that my grouping of sentence types will be used as more of a menu, where children select those sentence types that will have the greatest effect.

Hopefully teachers and pupils will find this useful. Having trialled this idea in the school where I teach, it was met with a very positive response and the children found the examples very useful. Reluctant writers have found the 'menu' idea especially helpful as it helps them get over the 'I don't know what to write' hurdle.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Progress v Attainment

There has been much debate recently about how to judge whether a school is 'good' or 'outstanding'. Some of the evidence presented in this debate referred to the percentage pass rate of GCSE Grades A-C or in other words, the attainment of the school. The question was asked about how a school with a pass rate of 54% could be judged outstanding.

In my opinion, attainment is a false measure of the effectiveness of a school. The key measure of effectiveness should be progress. If you imagine two window cleaners working on a very tall building. One of them starts at the ground floor and the other starts at the 60th floor. By the end of their shift they have both reached the 80th floor. If we are measuring effectiveness by attainment then they both have done an equally good job. However, the cleaner that started at the ground floor has clearly worked harder and made more progress. He is therefore more effective.

Similarly, imagine there are two schools which both attained 50% of children achieving Level 5 in writing at the end of KS2. If in one of the schools, the children left KS1 at Level 2c and in the other they left at level 3, which school is the most effective? Clearly, the first one is more effective as the teaching in that school has had more impact on the children as they have made more progress.

If we measure schools by the progress the children make then it is a level playing field. Particularly if we build in some contextual information. Measuring schools by attainment is not fair to those schools that operate in more challenging circumstances and allows schools in privileged areas to be complacent.