Review: Making every lesson count by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby.

This short, succinct book is filled-to-the-brim with easy-to-introduce, practical classroom implications.  Here, I outline some key ideas that I found particularly pertinent in this brief review.

Challenge

“Individual starting points we cannot change, it is the destinations we need to scale up.” We must raise our expectations of what students can achieve within our classrooms.  The bar should be set high for all, with differing levels of support and time given to pupils in need in order for everyone able to achieve the set standard.

Explanation and Modelling

Teachers are experts, relative to the pupils that they teach.  We have built up a substantial ‘tower of knowledge.’  Our challenge is to knock the tower down again, and work out how to build it back up in the best way for our pupils to learn.

It is necessary to ask ourselves “what do we want pupils to remember?”  To quote Daniel Willingham, “Memory is the residue of thought.”  Once this has been agreed, explanations should be short, concise and “get straight to the point.”

Questioning

Create a culture in your classroom where “we always strive for a better answer.”  Teachers should use techniques like “Serve and Return questioning:” a technique where there is constant dialogue between pupils and teachers to improve their original answers.

Moreover, to unpick the inevitable “I don’t know” in the classroom, one of the best things to do is to unstick them by asking more questions to tease out the answers from within.

Feedback

One must not “just give them the answer, but give them a strategy.” Highlighting near silly mistakes can help students check their own work and identify their own improvements.

Create the culture of, “If it’s not excellent, it’s not finished.”

Deliberate Practice

Practice should focus on the “micro rather than the macro.”  Footballers don’t train for a match on the weekend by playing lots of matches during the week.  We should break learning down into its constituent parts before bringing it all back together.

Conclusion:

By consistently embedding these aspects into your lessons, you can, as the authors attest, make every lesson count.

Possible Practical Implications

1) Highlight near silly mistakes and turn the pupils into detectives.

2) Plan lessons thinking about what you want the students to think about, as that is what they will remember.

3) When pupils are stuck and say “I don’t know,” try and unstick them by asking more questions.

4) Never accept the first answer you are given, but return your first question with another to build up the quality of responses.

5) Practice the micro rather than the macro.  Break the learning down and practice the component parts before tackling the whole problem or question straight away.

6) When explaining, get straight to the point!

7) Model everything you are asking for: eloquent speaking, posture, language, quality of work.  Pupils are very good at copying behaviours.

8) Does feedback close the learning gap/move students forward?  If not, stop doing it.

9) Always strive for a better answer.

10) Share belief that through good teaching, challenge and pupil effort, every student can achieve.

One of the Teaching and Learning classics that every teacher should have a copy of.  Simply extraordinary.  Get your copy from the link below: