One of the many things I got wrong in my last school was resourcing. I spent hours making vibrant, colourful slides with plenty of images. I’d work on weekends and late into the evenings creating slides and making them visually appealing. Here’s just one example of the many slides I made that took longer for me to make than pupils actually spent on it in the lesson:
Teachers around the country are creating their own slides for their lessons, duplicating resourcing a thousand times over. Shared areas proliferate with more and more powerpoint presentations, worksheets, images and other assorted documents. Teachers save slightly different versions with differentiated additions. Lessons that start with 10 slides sprawl into 20 or 30 slides. Slides metastasise. They are the epitome of non-renewable resourcing.
Make Resourcing Renewable
One of the things I’m most passionate about at Michaela is renewable resourcing. The principle we try to live by is this: we don’t create resources that we don’t reuse. We also aim not to use any slides at all in any subject. Barry Smith leads the way in French by abjuring slides altogether.
It’s a big shift for those of us who have previously always used slides. It’s also refreshing! I love not having the hassle of creating and reformatting slides; I love not depending on the interactive whiteboard or projector or computer. It’s freed us from overdependence on technology in the classroom.
Here are four renewable resources that I’d focus on creating instead of resources that sprawl like slides, or ad-hoc resources (like cardsorts, storyboards or one-off worksheets) that are rarely, if ever, used again.
- Knowledge Organisers
Knowledge organisers are revision tools that specify precisely what pupils most need to remember from each unit. They can be used by every future year group and every teacher who ever teaches at the school. They can be reused by pupils in their homework and revision. They are brilliant for inducting new teachers into the department. We (re)use them for pupils to revise before exams, in cover lessons, and even in detention so that pupils are learning rather than just writing lines.
Quiz questions (and answers) can be used by every Year 7 to Year 11 pupil multiple times over 5 years as they complete GCSEs, so that they continually revisit core concepts and don’t forget them. Each question takes around one minute to make, and under one minute to take. But 120 Year 7 pupils can use them (say) 3 times a year, for every cohort – so over five years in the school each question would be used over 1,000 times. That’s a learning return of 1,000 minutes learning per minute resourced as opposed to the maximum 50 minutes pupils spend responding to every minute of written marking. Quiz questions can have ten times better learning return on time invested than written marking.
Abstract subject concepts are best taught by sharing lots of examples, non-examples, test examples and practice examples. For instance, when learning about the difference between nouns and verbs, or metaphors and similes, or irony and dramatic irony, teachers need lots of examples to demonstrate, to compare, to check for understanding – in order for pupils to practise and recognise and distinguish between these concepts. It’s very hard to think of enough examples off the top of your head. It’s best to resource these in advance, and not to duplicate this resourcing, but coordinate and share it across the department.
Time invested in creating and collating model examples of pupil outcomes is time well spent. This could include snapping photos of excellent pupil answers and collating them to share in class, as well as asking pupils to type up their own work, if exemplary. Students love typing up their essays to share their work with future year groups: I tell them they’re leaving a great legacy!
Schools could block out two CPD days a year to evaluate, re-resource and improve the units they have just taught, focusing on these four renewable resources: organisers, questions, examples, and models. These will be used by every teacher and every pupil who comes to the school in the coming years.
Teachers’ time is precious. The opportunity for school leaders to focus teachers on renewable resources is there for the taking.
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Thanks for this interesting blog post. I am interested to hear how your students have reacted to less focus on technology with the classroom. We all know students of today’s society have a major focus on the use of technology, there are major pushes from large organisations to use tech with classrooms, and I could easily argue that students expect a certain level of technology use within classrooms especially the higher up the learning path they go. For example, teaching at university I find our staff have a hidden competitive streak with regards to PowerPoint slides. They will compare slides to see how appealing they look and change them each year. However, your point of reuse is very clear even at this level of teaching. Slides from previous years are chopped and copied into new files that slightly look different yet the content almost remains the same. I feel by creating less specific (day, module code, course, tutor etc) material and implementing a general coding system (session numbers) would help facilitate the reuse of material. Some tutors spends hours on end just trailing through their slides changing module codes, years, date references, tutor names and the like. Feedback on how your students reacted would be great to hear.
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Yup. And renewable resources are just the tip of the iceberg. Efficiency (and how best to optimise it) is, farcically, one of least discussed aspects of many modern schools. Lot of short-term, August-results-bearing trees in the way of the wood wherein lies the long-term health and productivity of the school… I love a crap metaphor.
I have seen knowledge organisers for lots of humanity subjects, do you have any maths examples? I’ve been trying to make a shape one but am struggling with the layout.
Any advice would be much appreciated.
Renewable resources is an excellent concept that everyone in education should be advocating. However, I would have to pull you up a little over your criticism of slides. In my opinion and certainly the way in which I use them they are a renewable resource. In fact, they are the key element in my planning. Tasks, questions, lesson content plus the interleaving of that lesson content are all integrated into my slides. As a consequence my slides are incredibly useful in terms of supporting good flow and pace during my lessons. I therefore feel it is important to argue that although they key point you make is a valid one, unfortunately your comments about slides are weak. Slides, as I have outlined, are a key renewable resource that teachers should not be put off using.
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