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Revision activity ideas for a difficult year 10 group?

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by Georgia99, Jun 12, 2011.

  1. Georgia99

    Georgia99 New commenter

    I am a PGCE student and have a Year 10 class of all girls who are very challenging behaviour wise. They have their GCSE exam in a couple of weeks and my lessons with them have been around revising topics to enable them to be able to do well in their exam.
    I have used different activities including videos, group and individual worksheets and practicing the long exam questions. But it is difficult because they spend most of the lesson chatting, on their mobile phones etc.
    Can anyone give me advice on activities I can use to help motivate them or something a bit different that will help them develop the knowledge they need for the exam? They keep moaning about worksheets which I understand and the teachers in my department say they have no idea of other tactics to use?
    Any tips would be gratefully received :)
  2. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    Give them a mark scheme and ask them to reverse engineer the exam paper.
    Then give them the paper and see how they do on it.
  3. Random175

    Random175 New commenter

    Confiscate the mobile phones?
  4. Do not be tempted to try group work!
  5. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    Masses of research and anecdotal evidence clearly shows that effective and well managed group work enables
    and enhances learning and reduces disengagement and distraction. Therefore, do not be put off trying it.
    Those who throw their hands up in horror at it tend to be doing it wrong in the first place. Of course, those who do throw their hands up in horror will ask "what research?" when they have no intention of looking at it in the first place. As a PGCE student, you will have all the necessary references in your course books and handouts.

    Much will depend on your subject. Groups can effectively look at possibilities for responses to questions; on the assumption that 4 heads are better than 1, they can build up a revision bank of possibles.
    Think skills instead of content: does your subject entail a lot of reading? Can you engage them in group activities that use DARTS to chunk down reading material: skimming scanning, summarising?
    Lastly, I always knew pupils were definitely ready for an exam not when they could answer past papers (a largely fruitless exercise) but when they could make up their own exam papers. Groups can therefore make up question papers for other groups; if they set the questions, they must therefore provide an answer key too. This form of strategic learning gets them into the head of an examiner. The pupils I work with find it very empowering when, while reading a paper, they can predict most of the questions they will be asked.

  6. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    Good idea.
  7. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    Group work can make behaviour worse unless pupils have been well trained in how to work as a group. This means routines and expectations are established and pupils know that they cannot just leave all the work to one person in the group and do nothing themselves because if they try that you will both know and do something about it.
    In practice I find that with difficult groups making group work effective requires time, patience and good behaviour management. It is FAR more difficult to make successful which is one reason why many people don't like it.
    I believe that if it is done well it is a very effective way of teaching. It is very difficult to do well. Done badly it is invariably a disaster.
  8. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    It also means teaching them the meta-language of group work, the behaviours which are necessary to make their contribution to group work successful - and that is, of course, much more than "give everyone a turn" or "make eye contact with someone speaking to you."
    Time, patience and good behaviour management make good lessons: if anyone "doesn't like" doing that to achieve successful learning, then surely they are choosing not to teach as best they can?
    Done well, it is the best way of teaching. Done badly, it is indeed a disaster. However, I think professionals should strive to teach the best they can - the fact that something is difficult is no reason not to do it. Many posters on here, I'm sure, have opinions about pupils avoiding "difficult" things that are valuable to their learning - how ironic that they should then avoid doing difficult, valuable things themselves.

  9. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    I agree. My point is that it is more difficult to do this than it is to sit them in rows and have them work individually. It is also more difficult to spot when pupils are not doing the right thing when they are working in groups. This is particularly true when a member of staff is inexperienced. In my difficult classes I always have a back up activity that is individual so that pupils who cannot work in groups successfully can have their group work task removed and be given something that they have to do in silence on their own.
    Up to a point. There are limits to the time and patience of anyone. Not everyone is good at behaviour management. If something requires more time and patience and better behaviour management to be successful then some people will always take the path of least resistance (especially when exhausted, stressed etc) with difficult classes.
    I think that whether group work is the best way of teaching depends very much on what you are teaching. For example my main aim for my year 7 class (which is considered ludicrously optimistic by some) is to get them to be able to read a set of instructions, follow the instructions and work independently on a task for a prolonged period without teacher intervention using the maths skills they have acquired over the year. Over the year I have found the "independent learning" goal has often been impeded if the pupils are working in groups for obvious reasons.
    The fact that something is difficult doesn't mean it shouldn't be done but it might mean that someone might give up on it before they manage to make it work because there is an easier alternative that will almost certainly be more successful in the short term.
    My classes do a fair bit of group work where I think it is appropriate but I wouldn't tell someone who can't make groupwork successful in year 10 to do it at this stage because ultimately they have to do what will get their pupils the best results and I'm not convinced that training a difficult year 10 group in how to do group work, then probably having to do so again after the summer holidays will get better results than doing lessons in which it is easier to get them working, behaving and progressing.
    The group work training should start in year 7 so that by year 10 pupils can already work in groups well.
  10. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    Sensible flexibility - I agree. As for the inexperienced member of staff - well, the only way to get experience is to do it.
    I agree that there are some people who will take longer to acquire the time management, patience and behaviour management skills necessary to do the best group work. I also agree that they will take the "path of least resistance". But that is, ultimately, selling perhaps decades of pupils short, and they should be encouraged, supported and trained to overcome those weaknesses in their practice.
    Of course, I should have been clearer. Group work is the best way of learning when it is most appropriate. Of course, if it's used inappropriately, ergo it's not the best way of learning. I should have said the best group work is the best way of learning; done well and generally speaking, pupils achieve more working together than alone. I also accept that group work "impedes" independent learning goals - but group work is part of the scaffolding process that goes on in order to achieve independent learning goals.


  11. The students have two weeks until their examination and they are chatty. Are you seriously suggesting putting them in a situation that encourages chat?
    I'm more than prepared to look at it Raymond - can you name just one source for the enlightenment of the message board.
  12. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    Beckman, 1990; Chickering and Gamson, 1991; Collier, 1980; Cooper and Associates,
    1990; Goodsell, Maher, Tinto, and Associates, 1992; Johnson and Johnson, 1989;
    Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1991; Kohn, 1986; McKeachie, Pintrich, Lin, and
    Smith, 1986; Slavin, 1980, 1983; Whitman, 1988
    are largely about pupil satisfaction with their lessons rather than progress.
    has some good stuff.
    If I remember rightly Clare Lee has written some excellent stuff about the importance of group work and oracy in the learning of maths. Can't remember what the book is called off-hand though

  13. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    Group work is one strategy for teaching that can work very well in certain contexts. As with any strategy, it is a tool, and no tool has universal efficacy- but then, who would expect it to? Any students prefer individual work, or paired work, or home work, or any number of other strategies. Some love working in groups; some like the whole class approach.
    Some activities work best in groups- debates, role plays- and some do not- memorising, some types of research and reading, etc. Some classes take to group work, some need to be trained, some teachers like it, some do not. Some research supports the usefulness of group work, and some does not.
    It's a mistake to make claims that one learning strategy is the best one, as it oversimplifies the varieties and textures of learning. Rather than get tied in knots establishing if group work is useless or magically useful, it's a safer territory to occupy when we claim that it has its uses.
    Incidentally, a good revision task in my experience is simply to mind map the units and topics with them, get them to traffic light areas of weakness and strength, and base their home study on that basis.
    Alternatively get them to mark each other's papers, using a rubric, and then moderate it for them, explaining how you came to your judgements.
  14. I asked if someone could point me in the direction of one piece of research that clearly shows that 'effective and well managed group work enables and enhances learning and reduces disengagement and distraction.' This shouldn't be difficult at apparently there is masses of said research out there.
    I believe this is a list of references from the following online article:
    I obtained a copy of the first article mentioned - full citation below.
    Beckman, M. "Collaborative Learning: Preparation for the Workplace and Democracy" College Teaching, 1990, 38(4), 128-133.
    Not only is this article aimed at college teachers it contains no original research about the affect of group work on learning.

  15. PaulDG

    PaulDG Occasional commenter

    Yes, you should have been. Funny that people so often are not, eh?
    Ah yes. Now that's so much better because before it looked like you were suggesting it's always the best way and therefore anyone not teaching that way is an inferior teacher.
    Should you have said that? Is the best way to learn to write an essay really to work in a group? Is the best way to learn to solve simultaneous equations really to work in a group?
    Having a stronger student explain something to a weaker one seems to have benefits, but that's not really group working, is it..?
    So humour me for a minute or two as I'd like to strive to be a better teacher...
    Just how can "group work" be used in teaching the solution of simultaneous equations?
    And what evidence is there that this group method is actually better than the learners being shown how to do it by a teacher and then supported in practising the techniques?

  16. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    My goodness, what a drippingly sarcastic post.
    Group work can't teach the solution to simultaneous equations - but it can help teach an understanding of the process by which the solution is arrived at.
    Group work is an effective part of the scaffolding process by which pupils come to an understanding of process.
    I'm sure you know your Vygotsky , so I won't bore you by repeating all that. However, if we are "shown" something by a teacher, we tend to be able to recall perhaps around 20%; if we are involved in interactive activities, including teaching others, we are able to recall up to 90%. Simples.
    Ah - the old Maths teacher way of dismissing group work: "I show them, and then they sit for hours on end working through the textbook in silence; that's the way it's always been, and the way it always will be". It amazes me that some Maths teachers say that the way all human beings learn has no relevance to Maths. If Maths is so different, it makes me wonder why it's on the curriculum in the first place.
    I'm really glad you are striving to be a better teacher - good luck with that.

  17. I've heard this one a few time and am starting to wonder where the figures actually came from - care to enlighten us Raymond?
    Also can you provide a reference for just one paper from the 'massive' archive of research that proves group work can enhance learning, motivation and decrease disengagement?

  18. Actually forget it I've already checked myself and they come from the learning pyramid.
    Lalley, J. and R. Miller (2007). “The learning pyramid: Does it point teachers in the right direction?” Education and Information Technologies 128(1): 64-79.
    A summary of some key points:
    • No specific credible research was uncovered to support the pyramid.
    • Clear research on retention was discovered relating to the levels on the pyramid.
    • All methods described by the pyramid resulted in retention of facts but no methods were found to be consistently superior to the others and all were effective in certain contexts.
    This certainly supports Tom's earlier comments about context and methods. Shame on any training college that spouts nonsense about 'learning pyramids' and 90% retention of data.
  19. bigkid

    bigkid New commenter

    Not that it matters greatly, but that was not where I got the list from.I believe that I said in my post that the research on the list was about pupil satisfaction with and enjoyment of lessons (or similar).

  20. RaymondSoltysek

    RaymondSoltysek New commenter

    Mmmm... one article that purports to disprove the learning pyramid and thereby debunk active learning? Oh well, that settles it...
    And I'm quite happy with the notion that the likes of you disagrees with the teacher education curriculum. First, you are so out of date, you still think of TEIs as "colleges". Secondly, shame on those such as you who have a track record of bullying student teachers and dismissing their successes.


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