You can download an mp3 of the podcast here.
Alex Quigley’s tips:
- Ask students to make a pre-topic mind map (02:55)
- Focus on developing keystone vocabulary (17:58)
- Try using a collage collection to stimulate ideas (32:24)
- Play “Just a minute!” (44:32)
- Support your students using sentence expanding (1:00:30)
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View all of Alex Quigley’s tips:
Craig Barton 0:01
Hello, my name is Craig Barton and welcome to the tips for teachers podcast. The show that helps you supercharge your teaching one idea at a time. This episode I had the absolute pleasure of speaking to former English teacher, and best selling author, Alex quickly. And this is one of my favourite conversations, there’s so much power within just a really quick plug for me. My book tips for teachers is out now. It contains over 400 practical tips on all aspects of teaching that you can use the very next time you step into a classroom. The ideas come from the guests on this podcast, and also the hundreds of teachers I’ve been lucky enough to work with over the last few years. Basically, anytime I saw them doing something brilliant, I made a note of it, experimented with it and wrote it up in the book. The tips for teachers both is not just for maths teachers. It’s not just for secondary school teachers. It’s not just for teachers in the UK, is designed to help any teacher improve their teaching one idea at a time. There’s a link to the introduction to the book in the show notes or you can just Google tips for teachers book and you should find Okay, back to the show. Let’s get learning with today’s guest the wonderful Alex quickly. Spoiler alert, here are Alex’s five tips. Tip number one, ask students to make a pre topic mind tip to focus on developing Keystone vocabulary. Tip three, try a collage collection to stimulate ideas. Tip number four, my favourite play just a minute. Um, Tip Five, support your students using sentence at span. All the tips are timestamps so you can get straight to the one you want them to first. And videos of Alex’s tips are available on the tips for teachers website, if you wish to share that with your enjoying the show.
Well, it gives me great pleasure to welcome Alex Quigley to the tips for teachers podcast. Hello, Alex. How are you? Hi,
Alex Quigley 2:09
Craig. Yeah, good. Thank you.
Craig Barton 2:12
Great. And for the benefit of listeners. Alex, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Ideally in a
Alex Quigley 2:17
sentence? Yeah, former teacher for 15 years now I work writing for teachers, training teachers, and I work for the education Endowment Foundation supporting teachers to access evidence.
Craig Barton 2:29
Fantastic, right. Let’s dive straight in. Alex, what is tip number one.
Alex Quigley 2:33
So my tip number, all my tips are orientated around translating the academic school curriculum. I think some people call that literacy for actually, if you call it literacy, then people sometimes bring baggage to that term. So just to say my five tips are orientated around making the language of our school curriculum accessible and translating it. So Tip one is pretty topic mind maps. Now, I could have given this a whole host of names. And really good teaching strategies often do come in various guises. I could have called it a retrieval map, I could have called it you know, some some other terminology. But for me, ultimately, there’s a principle why. So before you teach a topic, however complex, however advanced however many weeks you to teach that topic. So often, we have that variability in prior knowledge of our students. And we have some assumptions and misconceptions sometimes about what they know, and what they don’t know, and what funds of knowledge they bring to the classroom what misconceptions and insights they bring that you didn’t quite ever imagine. So a pre topic mindmap really simple is about actually getting them to elaborate, okay, and the format can be whatever you like, really, it could be digital, but actually, I prefer a blank piece of paper. So you’re activating that retrieval of what they know you’re activating their prior knowledge, and how they form the map. And what information they put on is your diagnostic assessment. It is the information that triggers where you go next. So I often do this in my English teaching background for famous plays, it could be Romeo and Juliet. It could be you know, certain types of poetry, because I know they’re bringing certain assumptions and some insight and some language. And I need to make sure that I’m not just, you know, taking that, you know, my kind of scheme of learning off the shelf, I’m really speaking to what they know and hooking in to their pre existing insights. So for me that pre topic mindmap is just a diagnostic assessment that gets them thinking hard. And then I use that to then build off and initiate my high quality, I hope, explanations and just on the variation point, depending on what you want to glean from it. It can be an individual activity done in two minutes it can be elaborated upon and give them are a bit more time and that often gives you a bit more insight, it can be something that you can then have them work in pairs. And then even if you have to structure it and feel it was beneficial, you could mobilise that into smaller groups. Because then if the point is effectively to just activate their prior knowledge, then three or four brains on the same topic is more helpful. But if you want that precise diagnostic, maybe you want to concentrate on the individual in that first instance, so that the discussion doesn’t happen. And then you don’t quite know what individuals know what so 100 variations like most good teaching strategies, and quite a few my tip, so variations of a strategy, but for me pre topic mindmaps is my tip number one.
Craig Barton 5:44
Love it right, let’s dive into this. So this This is music to my ears this because I’m in need of spicing up my kind of prerequisite knowledge check. Because I’ve all I’ve gone up my sleeve Alex’s diagnostic questions.
Alex Quigley 5:55
Yeah, you do like those?
Craig Barton 5:56
I do, like I do. I do like that. So I’m right. I’m into this, but I need to dig a bit deeper into it. So first question is what kind of guidance would you give the kids about what to write down? Do you give them like some examples or anything like that? Yeah.
Alex Quigley 6:10
So again, it’s a bit of a, you know, that kind of classically trance, but it depends. So depending on their kind of background knowledge, so if I’m speaking to an A level group, and they’re doing English literature, and I’m asking them about Shakespeare play for the first might be more for the first time, then I’m expecting some significant background knowledge. And to the point where I want that I don’t want to shake too much of their responses, because I almost want to see the difference. I almost want to allow for misconceptions to foster even and for assumptions to play out. But depending on what I want from that diagnostic, I might give more structure. So often, I’ll focus on just words, because I want them to just keep it simple. In the first instance, at the very least, what words do you associate with this topic? So it could be biomes? It could be photosynthesis, it could be MacBeth, what words do you associate and I just want you to map out the words. And the only elaboration on that might be other you might have some arrows between words that connect and you might branch off into particular subcategories if that if that reveals itself. So again, it can depend if I, I might multiple, you know, a pre existing word map, I might model this topic mind map. But that also, again, it depends on what I want out of it. Because sometimes I want to keep it really simple. I want to scaffold it. So I’m getting that vocabulary, knowledge is elicited, or sometimes I want misconceptions, I want a bit of struggle, even I want that kind of deliberate difficulty with the task. I don’t want them all to be floundering and struggling and not know what I mean. But I might keep the boundaries of how they represent that information. I might keep that a bit open. So again, it kind of depends on the purpose of the diagnostic, the how much knowledge I think they’re going to have individually and collectively.
Craig Barton 8:08
Got it. Okay, next question on this, Alex. So one of the reasons I like a diagnostic question for prerequisite knowledge is I get the information super quick. Yeah. within a second. Yeah. All the kids have voted a lot. Yeah. I’m imagining with this, it’s quite difficult to well, how do you collecting the information? How would you How’d you figure out what kids have got? Yeah.
Alex Quigley 8:27
So I think that’s where what you would follow it with could very well be a specific set of questions, because actually, for me, I think my usual core purpose of the PRI topic mindmap is not to give me again, precision of diagnostic, it’s to activate their prior knowledge. And literally, I would walk around the room and identify, you know, the kind of the number of connections, so it would be a an impressionistic diagnostic, and then I would be just identifying some patterns, I would normally then scaffold it into a per discussion, and perhaps a small group discussion, which would allow me further time just to check those, check those visual maps. And then I go back into the discussion for me, it would be inadequate or any any kind of singular question is limited, any map is limited. But what I would do is then have those next steps. So for the I would identify knowledge that they all need to know by the end of the topic. So that’s where I might be more precise with my diagnostic questions where I might be more precise with my debating points and my expectation and what they write about etc. So for me, it’s that walk around the room, get those impressions and initiate that dialogue. And probably, I’d also know the topic well enough to have an assumption about what they might share. So take another English example that I can remember vividly. You’re teaching romantic poetry. I know By mindmap romantic poetry, I will get notions of Valentine’s Day and romance. That is a misconception. That’s not the type of romance we’re talking about here. So even though I would be able to navigate the room and get some precise insight on the language they’re using and what they’re not using, I’d also be quite predictive of those misconceptions. And later on, you know, at the end of lesson one, potentially, we might just have that multiple choice around that, you know, that student running definition of romance. And so for me, it’s that kind of, it’s an impression, it’s a movement around the room, I might zoom in on some details, and I might ask, elicit some questioning verbally in the class. But I’d certainly build on that diagnosis, and ask different different approaches beyond that initial mapping.
Craig Barton 10:48
Lovely this, Alex, few more questions on this, I really like this. And do you like grab a kid’s mind map and show it to the rest of the class? Would that be something you do and what what’s under what circumstance?
Alex Quigley 11:00
So it depends. And this is where, you know, in lots of classrooms, they have, you know, mini whiteboards, and if that was my habit, you know, kind of in science, I have the habit of eliciting some definitions or language using the minimise whiteboard. And they were used to that, and they were trained in that sort of feedback model. I might do that. I think for me, and again, this is where most most kind of teaching practices have 100 variations, don’t they? For me, normally, I would have the visuals around the room. And I would talk to and we create together a mapping that kind of collated some of those insights, and then we do some questioning, and just build upon that. So I wouldn’t necessarily show them a premade. But I would then we’d work together elaborating in my classroom, particularly in in our department, one things we did is create multiple whiteboards in the room. So we would have, instead of you know, your normal displays at the back, we’d have another whiteboard. So what we could do is create this initial mapping together collaboratively based on their discussion, we can leave that I could do my explicit teaching, we could do you know, the next the next piece of work, and then that mapping something to come back to another variation of our mapping. And I’d often do this as a bit of a post topic assessment, actually. So they have this elaborated map that’s much more well connected. And they see us a distinctive progress from this initial, this initial exercise. Another variation, I’d have a wall display, if we had a topic that I thought was complex, it might be a topic like a text like Animal Farm, we’d have a wall despite place, which is a working wall, this initial mapping that they did individually, we translate some of that onto that working word wall. And then we elaborate upon it lesson by lesson and it will be a retrieval resource. And then you can, depending on that initial map, you can keep that you can take it away, and you can use it as a retrieval exercise. So a colleague, law and Randall, I remember, he would use in his teaching, he used these maps, and then he’d actually place a piece of paper over, and they could just see the lines on the mapping and they try and retrieve it. So again, countless variations on that. And it depends what purposes you want, but activating prior knowledge that some FFR retrieval and some elaboration discussion or for me the active ingredients to gather the evidence warrant for why this is an approach that seems to have some traction.
Craig Barton 13:40
Love it final final question I promise on this first tip, Alex the one you know is coming here. I can see this working like a charm in England yeah, see working like a charm in history. Geography. Yeah. Anything for us maths guys. Alex, can you this been a useful so have you seen it working?
Alex Quigley 13:57
So good point in mathematics I can see. So without kind of revealing my next tip, I can I can see how that would be elaborated neatly in mathematics. And I’ve seen it in math lessons. It’s a more vocabulary oriented toward I think for me, this works when the topic has some worldly knowledge and understanding, often misconceptions and then it’s also got some connected moving parts in terms of different insights, etc. Now in mathematics, and this is my my making assumptions that you can just Korea through and crashed in a moment. But you we’ve got topics that you know, there might have been taught multiple times and fractions and in primary, and we might, it’s not a word task, but we might get them to think about past methods they’ve used or kind of everything they know about fractions kind of exploding it but also I can see how they’re specific topics that might just overload them. It might bring up to the surface, you know, some poor kind of strategies. So, in truth, I’ve not seen it across the board. I’ve seen it mainly in my own teaching. And I think the ingredients for me, and it’s kind of activating prior knowledge. That is what the teachers need to graft upon their own subject domain and their own phase and, and the capacity and knowledge of their pupils.
Craig Barton 15:26
Yeah, I really like it. I said, last question. This is just a comment. I like to feel free just just kind of either nod or yeah, this is nonsense. One thing I’m a bit obsessed with at the moment is learning generated examples. I’ve been too much focused in the past on asking the kids questions that I’ve set and the kids give an answer, yes. Whereas the more I get the kids to generate their own examples, the more I think I get a better check of their actual understanding. And one framework I really like for this is called Give an example of in, let’s say, fractions or something, and you want to see what kids know about equivalent fractions, you say, split your whiteboard into four piece paper into the top left, give an example of a fraction equivalent to four fifths, top right, give another example of a fraction equivalent to four fifths, bottom left, give an interesting example of a fraction equivalent to four fifths and bottom right, give an example of a fraction that somebody might think is equivalent to four fifths, but it isn’t. And it feels to me this is the what I like about that. And why I think this ties to the mindmap is it’s it’s kind of like the blank canvas, just with some constraints in there. It’s away from the kid’s head before you kind of get involved. Yeah, that makes sense. So yeah, I like
Alex Quigley 16:40
no, I think that’s really helpful. And I think you’re right, that they both take the same active ingredients, which is the blank canvas, the activating what they know, often revealing some benefits, you know, some things they do know that we can build upon some things that we need to challenge and misconceptions. And that point around, I think you asked it earlier, I assume you’re getting at work, depending there needs to be more structure to it. I think ultimately, we’re talking here about some retrieval, some background knowledge activation, graphic organisers. So a mind map can be a very simple and you know, depending on the domain, not as effective. So a concept map and that hierarchical structure, or the, or the Foursquare you’ve just described, I think I like that effortful thinking about exactly how do we scaffold and break it down. So for me, because my you know, the nature of that knowledge was sometimes a bit sprawling and interconnected, then the mind map is fine as a architecture, and how much I needed to scaffold that is a choice I’d have to make per topic per pupil. And that’s where the variation comes in. So I think your idea does share the same ingredients and sounds really powerful.
Craig Barton 17:57
Love it, Alex. Love it. All right, what is tip number two?
Alex Quigley 18:00
So tip number two, is the explicit teaching of Keystone vocabulary. So I talked a little bit about literacy is is in effect, translating the academic curriculum of school. And I think for a number of years, we’ve talked about this in the past, vocabulary teaching has become, I think, more popular, more recognition of the necessity of that. And both that I think that’s been a big positive, you know, things like Isabel Beckham McKee owns tiers of vocabulary, how we might explicitly teach vocabulary, graphic organisers, like the Frayer model different, these different approaches have emerged and proven, you know, really positive and being adaptive. And I’m seeing only yesterday, I read a test article about a colleague who I know who taken like a bookmark vocabulary strategy, and mobilised it into something really distinctive and interesting. So I’ve chosen the explicit teaching of Keystone vocabulary, because it isn’t new, but actually, it might tackle some of the issues that people face when thinking about vocabulary. Is that word Keystone vocabulary? What do I mean by that? By that? Well, I mean, actually, in a keystone, and infrastructure is a steep singular central stone. And actually, so often with vocabulary, the problem for teachers is well, do I teach all the words you know, where do I start? Where do I stop? And actually, the key aspect is deciding upon which are the key conceptual words, and that those key stones and actually, that then becomes a smaller number of words per concept per topic. So you know, we can elaborate so, you know, take the Great Fire of London in year two really common history topic. Well, one of my Keystone vocabulary might have five or six and no more. One of my terms might be capital, and why capitals so I need to know that when it comes to the Great Fire of London, they understand the place See, that is London as a modern capital, but but London in its historical context. And capital is a word that carries lots of helpful meanings to embed that understanding. So the root cap meaning head of. So it’s where the head of state lives the queen, the king, that the President, also, you know, they know what cat means capital letter, they know capital city, so that links to the geography aspect of the school curriculum. So I’m picking words that have high value, they don’t explain everything about the Great Fire book, they offer deep conceptual understanding, and they help build that structure of insight. But you could call it schema, but they build that connected knowledge about a topic. And, you know, recently, I’ve been looking at different parts of the curriculum. So I’ve been looking at respiration and photosynthesis in science for something I’m writing about. And we know that some of those words come with misconceptions. Some of them come with blurred boundaries, some of them come with a common sense understanding of the word and then a slightly different meaning. And then, you know, we also recognise what chlorophyll comes with, they need to know that they need to understand as part of the process, and the need to be able to spell the finger as well, that’d be helpful and define it. So when you come to photosynthesis and respiration, there is a cluster of words that that raise themselves up as the kind of key conceptual terms. So for me, it’s about identifying that small number, teaching them explicitly, deliberately, often, like the capital example, breaking them down. And it offers us to be more deliberate about translating the language of school. And if I think about mathematics, so it’s a vivid example, with knowing my little boy was last year, year six, his notion of being good at mathematics is being fast. So like, Fast and Furious eight is his homework, he’s trying to get through that. And we know that, you know, for number bonds for multiplication facts, being fast, and fluid is really powerful foundational book, also, he’s reading word problems with air about area and perimeter. And actually, he’s he’s trying to be so fast, not just because Tom work because of his notion of fluency, that he’s missing those terms. And actually, I’m not saying just a bit more attention to those terms are the be all and end all area and perimeter, but we might, with the word perimeter broke back down, we might give examples, non examples, we might be really clear about when you know, an area question, often has these these factors, a perimeter question will indicate these diagrammatic representations, etc. So Keystone vocabulary makes us really zoom in on translating the absolute core tenants of our curriculum.
Craig Barton 22:50
Right, love this, Alex. So I’ve got a quick fire question. And then we’re gonna go to town on the kind of follow up question. So a quick fire question. You alluded to this, but just as a rough number, if you’re teaching a topic, and on the schema workers say two weeks, yeah, would you say good number of kinds of Keystone vocabulary is about five or six? Would that? Would that be fair? Yeah. Number it would,
Alex Quigley 23:10
and I do get asked a lot about well, you know, for this topic in religion, you are a we need 16, we need to know 16. Okay, well, I understand there’s a lot of terms to know. But with, let’s think within that 16 What words feel like they bind quite a few of those ideas and insights together. So it’s like always trying to reduce it down. And that’s not trying to simplify the curriculum, and it’s not trying to dumb things down. It’s trying to think harder about the words that open up knowledge and the connections to the whole 16 To all the words we don’t even think to put on, you know, our planning documents, because, you know, people’s raise words and ideas that we didn’t quite anticipate, and, and textbooks and worksheets use terms that surprise pupils and their meanings. So, yeah, five or six. And I think that’s reducible by thinking hard about the value of those words and where they might, if you’ve taught that one explicitly, it might mean that four or five related terms can be very quickly understood by reading a textbook page without that depth of expressiveness. I think this is another practical element, I have to get feedback about vocabulary, you know, we can’t do all this extra work here. You know, we’ve got to get through the curriculum, or I wouldn’t deem it as extra work I deem it as we need to translate that our subject domain, and it’s just weaving this through what we do, and not not assuming knowledge of terms. And actually, there is you know, we know it lots of examples of just mere familiarity with words that brings with it you know, they might be able to do a diagnostic question, but then they can’t apply that knowledge when they’re given an unfamiliar problem. So I think it helps as well. Just to think not just about the five or six, but to think about the other words, it gets us kind of surveying our kind of topics and what we think they know about it. So for me, it five or six, I can add one point. So I’ll often see them then be put on a knowledge organiser, lovely graphics, whatever else. And then the idea is, well, the people has that knowledge organiser, they’re 15. They can Quizlet once a week. And actually, I think the reality if these are conceptual, complex words that have multiple meanings, then they need explicit teaching. They need retrieval as well. But you can’t outsource your teaching to a knowledge organiser. That’s not how it works. So I think just being deliberate that we might get a shortlist. But that doesn’t mean we just hand it over to our pupils. I’m talking about Keystone vocabulary, high quality, explicit teaching, and I think done well. And I’ve seen it where it means that the rest of the topic, then the next complex step in the process becomes easier and quicker to graft onto that key knowledge. So for me, it should, over time, be a curriculum time saver, not this extra burden. And I don’t want everyone kind of poring over dictionaries and you know, kind of doing arbitrary tasks that don’t relate to being a mathematician or a scientist, or a geographer.
Craig Barton 26:25
Love Ali’s right? Well, here’s my big kind of follow up question for this. So we spoke years ago on my Mr. Amash podcast, I think when you first met, maybe your first book or your second book was out. And you, you introduced me to this. It sounds crazy now. But you introduced me to the notion of etymology of words as being a sensible thing, particularly as a maths teacher to do. And I know that as a result of that conversation, I went etymology crazy, and I was chatting about it, and every talk I was given, and so on, and so forth. But I think I’ve kind of missed a bit of a trick, right, because as you’ve said, you kind of see a bit of a lethal mutation, certainly massive of kind of this, this this insistence, or kind of focus on vocab. And what you get, I don’t know, if you get this in English as well, is all of a sudden kind of key words are appearing on the slide of a PowerPoint or whatever. Maybe the teacher is kind of spending kind of five minutes or so diving into the etymology of the words, you know, it’s quite a lot of fun activity. But as you’ve alluded to, for a start, if there’s, if there’s no kind of high quality, explicit kind of looking at that word, you’re in trouble for a stop, but also like anything, unless you revisit that meaning of that word, also in quite a deep way, like anything else, you’re going to forget it. And what I see there’s there’s quite a common thing happened in math now, where, as part of the kind of four question do now, one of the, one of the questions will be what does this word mean, and it will be kind of calling upon some vocab from a prior topic. But from what I’ve seen, that’s the kind of question that gets the least attention. It’s just an in a super fast way. You hear one kind of vague definition. Yeah, that’s right. And then you kind of crack on. And my fear there is that any hard work, a teacher puts in into explicitly real high quality delving into the etymology of the word, it’s on Dawn, if it isn’t followed up time and time again, by, again, revisiting that word at that deep level? I don’t if any of that kind of makes sense, or you’ve had similar
Alex Quigley 28:20
Yeah, I think that speaks to the knowledge organise example. So I don’t think knowledge organisers are intrinsically a bad thing at all, I think they can be really useful curriculum tools, and I’ve seen them use really well. It’s just thinking really carefully about the purpose is and the insights we’re looking to glean from our, our students. And I think there is a little bit, the capillary is sometimes potentially seen as easy, you know, you’ve got a list, you know, you can quiz that quite regularly. But that knowing doing gap then arises where, you know, you’ve taught that word, but they’re not able to define it, they’re not able to use it in writing, they’re not able to then tackle problems that relate to back in in a more complex composite challenge. So I think, I think, but I also think that over since the last time we talked, actually, I think there’s like this trajectory of kind of adoption, where people take on the strategies. Most people then intelligently adapt and recognise that that didn’t stick that wasn’t translating to better problem solving that wasn’t translating to better athletes in history. And then they make those adaptations and they make sure it’s woven through in a more meaningful way. And in some cases, because, you know, staff change, people leave things go, we almost just forget that loss and that history and and I think that adoption needs to sustain that recognition that this is complex, it needs some deeper teaching. It’s not just a word list, and you can stick it on your PowerPoint, you know, and it can have a nice colour code or whatever else but if it’s not leading to meaningful application, then it’s not worth much more. And, and I think, you know, play out that for wall displays, you know, a big example of, yeah, we really think about vocabulary in our school because we’ve got displays that no one uses, and that don’t feature in explicit teaching and learning. So, you know, we can, it can look good, it can look easy, but it needs to be meaningful and embedded into the work. And that takes time. And it takes intelligent adaptation and some working out what doesn’t work.
Craig Barton 30:32
And last follow up question on this. Alex, I could speak to you about this all day. But what would let’s assume that somebody is taught explicitly taught some key vocab? Keystone vocabulary really, really well? Yeah. What would effective retrieval of that Keystone vocabulary look like for you? So the kids remembered it that deeply?
Alex Quigley 30:49
Yeah, so that’s a really good example, where it might look differently for different domains and different purposes in terms of the use of that language. So for me, you know, take Aryan perimeter, really solid understanding might then be represented in they can, you know, kind of take in parallel problems, they know the difference, take similar problems, they can, you know, recognise the difference. So, for that, actually, it’s not been able to define perimeter, but they’re able to discriminate between different questions and recognise. But in another subject, it might be in our array, I want them in 12, Mark, written response about the great religions, I want them to use this word in an argument in a in a high quality, cogent sentence. So I think effectively, it might depend on the use, they might, we might need for them to be able to explain it. And if they can explain it, we know that they can apply it in a variation of ways. But it might be something that doesn’t look like the quiz answer. It might be applied in a set of problems, it might be applied in an extended piece of writing, it might be something that just conceptually gets them thinking differently about about the world even, you know, so I think that’s a that’s another nuanced one, what I would say is, they might be able to get multiple choice on a Friday with it, but not use that word. And so there’s layers of word knowledge that we’re looking to be precise about.
Craig Barton 32:24
Brilliant. Okay, Alex, what is tip number three, please.
Alex Quigley 32:29
So I, my next one, I think it links back to the first topic, which is the pre topic, mind maps, because it’s about activating prior knowledge. It’s about elaboration, it’s about teasing out misconceptions. And it’s, it’s got elements of retrieval. So it’s about the use of images, but it’s not geocoding kind of that went before. It’s about collage collections. So it’s thinking about, again, a concept or topic, and, and for the teacher to decide. And you can see how immediately in different subjects, you have to think about variations right away. And some you say, No, that doesn’t work for us. But you’re thinking about the different images, and what knowledge that might activate and how many connections that might activate. And actually, you can, you can embed in those images for misconceptions as well. So you can kind of you can create a collage and get them thinking about that topic. And for me, I would use that to generate discussion and to elicit activate their knowledge, that would be my core purpose. And it would be to probe what might some of my assumptions about what I think they know about this topic. One I use quite a lot, I use it in my in my training is I use it for art. So I take a set of paintings in art, and actually, without going to the paintings from Vincent van Gogh and Mark Rothko. And effectively, there are paintings that are expressionist painting. And they’re all pretty much abstract. So for me, the collage collection, in this instance, is about picking seven or eight paintings. And actually, I want people’s talking potentially writing about what they know already about those paintings. And for me, I know that can be a really basic knowledge or depending on the group, it can be really elaborate. So you know, I could with five year olds, take those self same paintings, and we could initiate talk about that collage. What feelings does these paintings seem to reveal to us what what colours what, what techniques? So you could go really simple or fast forward 15 years you’re working with a level art students and you’re getting them to both activate what they know, they almost always know Starry Night, but you know by Vincent van Gogh, but they don’t know some of the others. And what we’re doing is we’re just doing a bit of a diagnostic again But what activating what techniques can identify? Do they know anything about that art movement. So it’s pretty much another example of that activating prior knowledge, getting them to elaborate us testing out what we think they know, and getting and teasing out misconceptions in some instances, but about using images. And why I use images is because for a lot of people’s the abstraction, and the curriculum we need to translate is closed in language. And that straight away can shut people’s down and shut their thinking down. So you ask, you know, you give them a word list, or you give them kind of, you know, a knowledge organiser even. And straightaway, they feel like they can’t access that, you know, they don’t know what that word means. They don’t perhaps use Etymology and morphology and break the word down, straightaway, they just shut off, I don’t know this, you’re the teacher, it’s your job to teach me all this stuff, our city a rather passively thanks. And I might make some notes as you go. So for me, the collage collection often just opens things up. And I can see how you know, for certain topics, that openness is helpful. And then for others, it’s not so helpful. And like your example earlier, we want to be more structured and tighter and more focused, and then build up more carefully so that we don’t create new misconceptions. So I can see how it doesn’t work in all cases, but in some it does. So you know that that that for me? Why collage collections, it’s got a nice, again, beginning of topic, sometimes beginning of lesson, but kind of an introductory feel about it. And the evidence base kind of it links to there’s no specific evidence base that shows that this works in x and y classrooms. But for me, it’s about the activating prior knowledge, elaboration, and some of those principles of getting them to retrieve what they know. And we teach accordingly.
Craig Barton 36:51
Like Alex, I’ve never heard of this. So this is good there. So just a couple of follow up questions. Yeah, just practically, how does this work? Is this like on a PowerPoint? And you just go for it? Yeah, the images? Yes, or any number of any number of images, but other than any other number?
Alex Quigley 37:05
So I found for this, you just need enough images to generate connections? So I think realistically, no, you could begin at two. But that’s not much of a collage. So I think the likes of four onwards, start to be where I’ve both seen it used and find it generates more of that kinnikinnick connections thinking collaboration. So in the likes of us another one for for younger children about different endangered species. So rather than you know, today, we’re going to teach endangered species, you know, actually, we just have a collection of images. Some of those species are really familiar to them, you know, parrots etc. Pandas. But then some of them are really unique. And, and why, for that, there’s about eight of those different species. And why particularly like that is, again, it activates not just their prior knowledge that they activate to curiosity, a bit like new with pre testing. And even if they get it wrong with pre testing, it almost generates a want to know, and that can go wrong as well, if they don’t know anything, and they feel like a failure, that that’s not so helpful. But actually at the start, if they want to know, well, I know those one or two species, but what are they that one strange, and there are under some funky names and amazing species. So in that instance, I’m walking in to endangered species. With this, you’ve got some prior knowledge here, but we want to build upon it. I’m signalling that to you, you know, and also, I want to provoke your curiosity to want to know more. And we will, we’ll explore some really challenging scientific concepts, geographical concepts, but we’re starting with images, some of which are familiar, some of which had been the zoo and seen. So that’s, that’s my kind of focus on. It’s not necessarily the number of images. It’s the purposefulness and the relevance to whatever you’re trying to generate connections for.
Craig Barton 39:03
I like it. I like it. I can certainly see how this will be a kind of good hook in I certainly like the fact it’s kind of moving away from words. It provokes a curiosity. I like that to follow up questions which are asked at the same time so that they’re quite similar to each other. The first is, I’d love an example from English just so listeners can get as many different kinds of ways to conceptualise Yes, and with that example, would you be able to tell us what prompt or instructions you give the kids when these kind of the images come on? Yeah, what you ask him to do.
Alex Quigley 39:33
So one of the areas I mentioned earlier about romantic poetry. So romantic poetry, you know, an initial conception could be love hearts and Valentine’s and love and love is featured in in my kind of collage. So you could have a love heart, but also for romantic poetry. You’d have a picture of a daffodil. Wordsworth’s daffodils, it’s sort of really central to what we be teaching and learning about we’d also have images of the factory, and how important the onset of industrialization is to romantic poetry. And also we’d have this lovely countryside image. And there’s a classic painting is it Friedrich the painter where there’s a guy standing on right at the edge of a mountainous cliff. And he’s this romantic individual kind of in this, you know, Mother Nature, it’s a bit threatening, it’s a bit dangerous. I’d include about eight images, and they’re all corners of the conceptual inside. And then they need for romantic poetry. The heart love heart is a bit of the misconception, the industrialization image and the lovely pastoral countryside image that key concepts in terms of why you’re writing about daffodils, the daffodils is a very specific poem. And the guy standing on the cliff, this is the sublime power of Mother Nature and a bit of the danger about it. So for me, again, it depends. So I’ve been doing this with the seven pupils who I know would have very little knowledge of Wordsworth, but would recognise a daffodil, whether that’s just, you know, the, you know, around around their house, you know, in April time or down the supermarket. So I know I’m giving them access points. Again, this is where the infinite intelligent variation comes in. Depending, I might have them discuss it for two minutes. Or I might do this individually. For me, in my English classroom, I’m always getting them to make a record that allows me to write ideas down. And I can do that in different ways. And I am less bothered about whether they record that as a set of bullet points or, or a map or a spider diagram. It’s about they, they commit to a record of ideas. For me, one of the things a bit like the moment, for example, earlier, I’m after the big idea, and those connections, so I might have a spider diagram, what’s the big idea in the middle? And then what are the different ideas related to it, but I might keep it open. And, and again, I’d work that on the basis of my class, their prior knowledge, their confidence, and what routines we we’d already practised and work through. But the main thing for me is the activation of prior knowledge, the discussion and the eliciting interest and walking into a complex topic. I’m not necessarily about applying those key words or those images in a kind of really very deliberate, specific way. So lots of opportunities to vary it. And I think that’s what good teachers do that with instinctive intent.
Craig Barton 42:27
It’s interest in the source. I keep thinking of no more followers, but then you say some of that interest in and I’ve got to got to ask you one more thing. So promises the last one on this, if we take the Romantic poets example, I think that’s a really good one this are you saying to the kids, these are a collection of images about romantic poets? What does this bring to mind getting down? Yeah? Or is it almost kind of a bit of a mystery that here are a load of images? Write down what you think? And then it’s almost like the big reveal that we’re going to this is the kind of topic we’re doing? Well, yeah. So because I can see pros and cons. Yeah,
Alex Quigley 42:59
yeah. And again, if I’m wanting to, if I’ve got your seven claps here, like full of eagerness, and I feel like I want to just shrink them along a bit, I can do the reveal. And I’ve done that variation of it. Sometimes I want a bit more structure. Again, there is a there is that choice between how much we want to have this as a structured, we’re going to do romantic poetry in the next four weeks. And I want I know, you know a lot about this already, even if you don’t quite think you know, here’s a set, I’m going to ask you to write a set of images, just write down what you already know, and any ideas that you connect with them. So I can do that very deliberately introduce from answer poetry, or I can hold back on that, and do a bit of a reveal, depending on my confidence with the group about, again, prior knowledge about their motivation, whether I think they like to be told something and then kind of that’s the kind of magic of an individual class, you know, anticipating how they’ll behave, how they’ll respond. Effectively. My key question every time for me is, how am I going to get them to think hard and be motivated to tackle these quite lengthy, some lengthy, really tricky, dense, archaic poems that they don’t quite understand? So both both variations that I think I’ve taught it both ways, depending on my group, normally, I keep a bit more mystery, and do the unveil just for the motivational factor.
Craig Barton 44:29
Of course. Fantastic. Right, Alex? Tip number four, please.
Alex Quigley 44:34
Yeah, tip number four. So again, orientated around, translating the academic curriculum, and you could call it literacy if you like. It’s just a minute. So just a minute. People might be familiar with the radio show just a minute. Actually, it’s an adaptation of that original kind of decades old radio show, and it’s really really simple. It is in effect at can you talk for just a minute about a particular concept about a particular word about a particular topic about something we’ve talked for any period of time. So let me again, unpick what kind of ingredients of that. And then the structural thing of how you do it, and why you might do it, and how you might vary it. So I think for me, just a minute is about self explanation. It’s challenging people’s to explain and connect up their ideas and communicate that verbally. And the challenge of that. It’s also about that elaboration. Again, you know, when you’re asked to speak for something for a minute, it’s actually quite a challenging amount of time. It’s not for you, all right, because we’re on podcasts all the time. So we practice this for a living. But for our pupils in class, they don’t normally speak for any more than a period of seconds. So a minute is a real challenge to elaborate upon that. And actually, to speak for a minute about any term could be romantic poetry, it could be area and perimeter is a real challenge. And actually, you can’t just enter into this randomly, you’re thinking really hard about what we’re talking for just a minute about examples coming up. And then for me, I think it’s also potentially retrieval. Because if you’re talking for just a minute, you’re often recalling what you’ve been getting taught for a period of days or weeks. And there’s an element of reasoning there as well. And sometimes you want to scaffold that just a minute and give them prompts and give them a bit of a structure if you want some specific reasoning to emerge out of that. So when it comes to those ingredients, self, you know, self explanation, retrieval, reasoning elaboration, you can see how this is drawing upon quite a lot of rich theme of learning for me. But it’s a challenge. So just to give it real specifics about it, so we do just a minute, I rarely do it for every pupil in the class, because if you think about the reality of that it takes about half an hour to do that well. So that’ll be a rare occurrence, although I have done that before. But only it’s a rare occurrence. And I’d use that as a, effectively a bit more of a speaking listening assessment and a confidence builder. And, but typically, I’d use just a minute at the openings of lessons or at the end of lessons, in truth anywhere in between, but mainly the opening at the end. And I’d select two or three pupils to do this. And we train as a class, so we’d know what just a minute was. So I wouldn’t have to kind of elaborate every time. But effectively, we begin the lesson, it might be the word metaphor, we’ve been teaching to a best foreign English, it might be the industrial revolution in history, it might be what what caused the Great Fire of London, in in year two, and we give them the structure, okay, we’re gonna use a timer for the minute. And some, some teachers and some of us like to use going digital that’s on the screen, there’s a bomb at the end. But actually, I like to keep it really low phi, and just check it on my phone or watch or wherever else. And actually, the point is, we’re given the minute structure, and you can add in specific kind of parameters. So typically, I don’t want you to repeat anything, I don’t want you to use fillers. And if you stop, then it’s game over. So I would use it as a three strikes, you’re out basis. Now. Can you do with fillers? Yes, you can with some people’s need that? Yes, they would. So there’s a set of variations here that you need to intelligently use. But once you train people that they get the idea, effectively, they can’t cheat by repeating themselves, they can’t use that, you know, the same kind of definition, slightly variation of wording, effectively, you’re asking you to explain something themselves, and introducing reveal their knowledge. And also pupils are listening. And so there’s a bit of consolidation, although I would say, pupils are mainly listening for errors and listening for stops. And, and one of the things for me why it’s a useful diagnostic, if I’ve picked three pupils, at the end of a lesson or at the start, actually, I’d think who those three pupils are. And I think about kind of where I’d expect their knowledge to be, you know, then classic. And I’m not saying top, middle and bottom, but I’m also not saying that wouldn’t be so random, either I’m thinking about right. If if Ray has got it, I’m hoping she can speak for a good 40 seconds about this and make some good connections. So I use it as a diagnostic, but I’d be a bit representative of the group. But I’d also use it as a consolidation opportunity, because they’re hearing, you know, things we’ve talked about. And hopefully, there’s a bit of retrieval there and, and done really well. There’s sometimes even a better explanation than than what we had the first time. So for me, it’s a bit of diagnostic, also baked into it is the fact that some people’s only speak for 20 seconds. And and that’s the thing where this can be done in three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, or it can be done in 20 minutes. And I’m always really conscious of making sure tasks and tips are adaptable for time parameters that we’ve got. But if we’re just using three or four minutes and just two pupils, we might not go for the whole causes repetitions it might just really be about a way to get them to elaborate and explain and give an answer. But within a structure that they’re familiar with and happy with, I think for me that just a minute. For some pupils speaking for 15 seconds, is an achievement is a big success. So I’m often really sensitive to that, and would know when that’s happening, and you know, kind of manage it accordingly. Some people’s without preparation time would panic at the panic at this. So unconscious of individual pupils, I work with a primary school in Nottingham way called Jubilee Academy. And we work with some young children who some children EAL and have just come from Hong Kong and Ukraine, where their language is still developing rapidly, but developing, and some pupils who don’t have that ability to speak in that kind of elaborated way in the classroom. Just a minute, we don’t do it in that kind of, we expect a minute and we kind of we game a fight in front of everyone. Instead, we just use it as a positive framework. And they might do it with a pair, they might just try just a minute about a topic. And I’ve been in the same school in a year five class, just a minute was used to recall what happened in the previous chapter of the story the day before. And two people or three, it was three people’s two girls and a boy, they gave these responses. And the teacher adopted in a couple of words and ideas to give them a prompt that they wanted them to use. So again, intelligent adaptation, think about your peoples, but the core principles of people’s need to reason, explain, have the confidence to connect ideas. And to say that out loud, that’s a life skill. It’s revealing as a diagnostic, it can be powerful. And I think it’s got lots of intelligent variation baked into it.
Craig Barton 51:54
I love this, Alex, because I have never done this. And I goes fast. I’ve never dreamed of doing this. So this is good this. So I’ve got a few questions you’ve covered. So we’ll do a couple of quickies first. So you mentioned kind of be more introverted, quieter students, you just have to be careful of their needs. I’m assuming this is all about knowing your kids and knowing what stage they’re confident enough to, to do this. So that’s perfect. Again, just just to add to that, sorry, just
Alex Quigley 52:22
quickly to add to that, so depending on the topic, depending on the people, we might just bake in some practice as well. So again, it’s just another it’s a format that offers a familiarity for high quality structured talk. So your pupils can do this in pairs. That was one of the things in that year five plus it just mentioned, they did a quick practice where they each had a minute to do it to one another first, and then a few people were selected. So again, if you’ve got that, you know, knowledge of your pupils, you’ll also think about the preparatory work, the practice the confidence building. I think for me, some of the most powerful memories for me teaching are when pupils who you wouldn’t expect, who’d never had the confidence at the start of the year to sit there or stand up and talk. We’re able to talk really cogently and intelligently about a topic, but three weeks later, they didn’t know very much about and so I think we should also not set limits on our pupils, we should scaffold them to reach to the highest heights in our classroom.
Craig Barton 53:22
Yeah, I completely agree. That’s brilliant, that just on the kind of think time and preparation time, would it ever be the case that you wouldn’t give any that you just say to a child speak for a minute on metaphors? And well, they’re all Israel’s case, or a kind of kind of a floor that you never go below in terms of prep time? Yeah, I
Alex Quigley 53:40
think there’s always a lead in I think there’s always a leader. I don’t I can’t recall, a lack of prep. And where I’ve worked with schools recently, there’s always been some preparatory steps, particularly with young children, not exclusively, I think if you can, with a mature confident group who you know, been teaching a topic, you can open up a lesson in an afternoon with some just a minute, but even then, that looks like there’s no preparatory work. But ultimately, it’s because you’ve done just a minute before. And they know the structure and they know the content, that there’s there’s a hidden tacit preparation that’s coming to the task. I think, of course, the less preparation, the less elaborate the response is often. So sometimes it is important not to kind of over practice, because you do want almost you want that reality that they don’t know a lot. They’re not able to speak for a minute. So that’s giving them some motivation to listen hard and to and to try and learn for the next 40 minutes so that they can do that.
Craig Barton 54:42
Interesting and notes Alex, would they be allowed notes with them whilst they’re doing the minute
Alex Quigley 54:46
so that’s another example of it depends. So for me, when you’re doing it for the first few times, you do a lot of peer work you do note making, they can have one flashcard you know, so I think And then that’s where your variation comes in, I would say, I, what am I, what I commonly do is allow a flashcard or not. And there was almost a bit of prestige around not using the flashcard. But you give you give some pupils the support factor of using that flashcards and enough of them do that to not feel isolated by doing so. But I would, I would work up the confidence and the capacity from our peoples, for them to be able by, you know, whatever point in the school year to be able to do it without preparation without support, because ultimately, you know, we don’t want to be capturing them out. But you know, in the real world, we want them to have that confidence to, in a variation context, be able to speak about topics and talk about it and connect up their ideas. And sometimes you need to, you know, you have those pressured situations, if you can do it in the classroom, you can do it anywhere.
Craig Barton 55:56
Absolutely, absolutely. Two follow up questions for this, Alex. I hope anyway. And the first is having never done this, obviously. Yeah. So God knows why I’m even coming from here. I would imagine that if three kids have been picked, and I was the third child, you end up repeating quite a lot of what to say, do you find that? Or is that not a problem.
Alex Quigley 56:18
So again, this is where innovation and adaptation, you can think a little bit carefully about that. So again, you can imagine how the third person is has got some extra support practice, because they’ve listened for an extra two minutes, they’re going to crib some ideas. So I might, in thinking about who my three are, think carefully about that sequence. And I’d often put a pupil in third who I thought might find it a bit harder than the person going first buy, factor that in to their responses. So again, this is about that fine filter of kind of diagnosing what they know what they copying. And actually, if that third person did elaborate and borrow the best ideas, great. I mean, that’s not bad. But I might do some probing with them to check they’re not just parroting as well. So that’s where you can follow up with some questions. It’s a really good question. Because I think, what we’re not treating that, what minute as is an ideal diagnosis of all in Origins. So but I think it’s a meaningful kind of attempt at trying to connect up, you know, their knowledge and be able to elaborate upon it. Got it.
Craig Barton 57:29
And final question on this. Alex, what do you do with the kids response afterwards? Do you then kind of analyse it for the whole class? Or like bringing another child? No, what did you like about what Ben said? Or how does that play?
Alex Quigley 57:40
Yeah. So I mean, what you’re doing, helpfully, Craig is colouring in all the potential adaptations and additions for it. So if I was, if I was doing at the start of the lesson to kind of initiate some retrieval kind of, you know, kind of bring some things back back into our thinking, and to get them looking back at their book, that might be one of the support factors. Okay, you’ve got two minutes to look back through your notes. And then we’re going to do just a minute on x, then it might be okay. Really, you know, you did 40 seconds, you know, I might say, what was what was missing from that? What? What could have James added to reach a minute and beyond the minute and, and that’s where, again, it’s a bit about responsive teaching, isn’t it about kind of what what you’re looking to glean from it? Normally, you know, it wouldn’t just be a kind of shot on the dark, three, have you gone, and then we all go home, it would be three of you. Okay. From those from that pattern of a trio everyone, what we thinking are the key concepts we want to remove being remembering. And if you’re going to do just a minute on Friday about this, what type of thing do you think need to retain by Friday to be able to speak about so that always be I think that wrap around and kind of trying to glean what context is emerge from those from those examples. You know, the best example, you know, or an ideal example is you get three really rich full minutes. And they give slightly different angles on the same topic. They cover off all the misconceptions. They give rich examples. And we all leave knowingly, kind of I’ve done a great job, they’re all knowledgeable, and we all will walk off happy. seldom does that happen. So actually, it’s about being responsive to well, if three of them kind of fell down at half a minute, and actually, clearly they didn’t have enough exemplification or they weren’t able to define one or two of these things that would have allowed them to speak more than actually, I’m being responsive to that. So I think again, infinite opportunities to respond and adapt depending on what you want to pupils to learn and remember, it can my final little warning sign. I do think they can leave you A classroom potentially, with who’s got the longest speaking like 54 seconds, and who got 12 seconds rather than thinking really hard about the topic that we talked about. So there is a danger of gamifying it too far, and engagements remembered rather than the actual knowledge you want them to to
Craig Barton 1:00:20
be interested. Wow, this is something I’m gonna need to think hard about this. Alex, I definitely want to give it a go. I’m definitely nervous. But yeah, I can see this working. Well. That’s brilliant. All right, Alex. Tip number five, please. Last one.
Alex Quigley 1:00:32
So to return to the translating the curriculum, that last tip was about talk, academic talk and trying to elaborate and build upon ideas. We looked at vocabulary knowing that the capillary potentially using that, and we tried to activate prior knowledge with those mind maps and with the collage collections. My final piece is a tip around writing. And it’s sentence expanding. And we might think, Okay, well, if we look at the expanse of the curriculum, in some subjects like Mathematics, we might need to write more than a sentence, it might be a definition of area. And that’s fine appropriate in some subjects, like history, while a sentence feels pretty inadequate for the actual demands of translating the curriculum. In more languages, a sentence is probably the unit of learning that we’re often working with. But we do want to get beyond that. But sentence expanding Why think that’s important, is it’s about explicit high quality teaching, of how pupils need to translate this language of our curriculum domains into writing, and sentences, the unit of sense that pupils can grapple with that novices can take on. And to be honest, I keep on top of my infinite variation, intelligent adaptation, sentence expanding, is that kind of riding with the training wheels on but very quickly, you can motor and you can do all sorts of developments and teaching with it. And if I think about what is the underpinning, again, knowledge, understanding kind of evidence sources for that. So we know a lot that explicit teaching of writing, both improves writing, but also, it can improve thinking and your understanding. So when we write about what we read, we often have a better memory. And we also kind of elaborate upon it. And we build that knowledge, schema, whatever, whatever terms you want to like you want to use. So explicit writing instruction, helps crystallise our knowledge, understanding and helps begin to use that often as well, particularly in those subjects where writing essays and exam questions is the modus operandi kind of our aims.
There’s also with sentence expanding, there’s a bit of elaboration in there as well, we’re trying to stretch their ideas, we’re trying to build their knowledge. And I want to give examples of that. So we’re, we’re using the unit of sentence to build the knowledge and to elaborate and to get them thinking of ideas and connections, but in a very structured, focused way that every novice can can handle. And then there’s that aspect of reasoning as well. So if often, and not always, but can you cogently express this in the written word. It’s not all again, not always necessary. If you’re doing problem solving, then, then you’re writing up how you solve the problem might feel a bit extraneous and just not necessary. But in a lot of cases across the school curriculum, being able to write a sentence summarising something, being able to write a short paragraph or writing an extended essay is the end game. And that reasoning, in written words is pretty typical with a skill we want all of our pupils to have far beyond the school gates in whatever kind of worldly context. So let me give some examples about what are you specifically by sentence expanding. So the evidence on writing instruction does this quite a lot of it, perhaps less so than reading, but there’s quite a lot of good evidence to show that starting with sentences is really valuable, particularly for novice developing writers. But a developing writer can be five years old or 15 years old. And often we make too many assumptions of the teenager. So we we have something called sentence combining, which is you take simple sentences, you add them together into one complex sentence. That’s about grammar, that’s about writing, how you might think developing an English but sentence expanding is about taking the kernel of a sentence. It might be the initial clause, and we’ll give some examples, but then adding to it, it’s expanding the sentence. And that on one on one aspect can be a stylistic thing and English thing, getting better at writing and writing accurate sentences. But often in our school curriculum, it’s about knowledge building. So in history, if we’re writing about the significant figure, William Wilberforce actually expand, expanding the sentence is about using evidence to better characterise William Wilberforce, so you might have a sentence or William Wilberforce because, you know, in kind of in our history writing, we’ll, we’ll have these little strategies and we’ll just go straight to the surname Wilberforce famously helped end slavery, dot dot dot. Now, that first kernel of the sentence, that simple, very simple sentence, William Wilberforce help end slavery within itself is a, there’s a lot of knowledge packed in, there’s a lot of insight. And it’s a historical claim that we want to talk about write about and have historical sources. But of course, if a people was to write in an exam response, or an essay response, that simple sentence, he ended slavery, well, actually, we would recognise it’s a very limited representation of historical knowledge. So we want them to expand on that, and how I often do it, and I model this in when I’m doing some writing work with different teachers is okay, now I want to take that candle, and we’re just going to pop a comma. At the end of it. It’s no longer a full stop. William Wilberforce famously helped end slavery, comma, with, and then we might we give that little connection? And then what’s the evidence? What’s one piece of evidence that show he contributed to the end of slavery, and it might be about his formulation of a certain group, it might be his signing of a proclamation, and how you can expand that sentence, sometimes infinitely, but that but typically, with one addition, or two additions, you do the William Wilberforce ended slavery, Colonel, comma, and then one piece of evidence, you have to model this, you have to scaffold it like most steps in a problem, like most pieces of high quality writing, but what’s that one first piece of evidence, so they give you an extra clause giving that historical fact. So you know, about his him initiating a group that was very significant, then, okay, we talked about that, we might look at that I might model with them, and kind of glean a really good example. And then, okay, we’re going to translate this full stop into another comma. And I might need to give them the little connective word. But what we’re doing is we’re expanding it again, this time, I want two pieces of evidence, you’ve got your Give me your first one, he ended slavery because he set up this proclamation society. And then secondly, what’s another piece of evidence we know for how he contributed to the end of slavery, suddenly, we get to the end of that task, highly scaffolded, well structured, we’ve effectively got a detailed sentence nigh on a paragraph for most of our pupils, often scaffolds are beyond the point, they naturally go to themselves independently. And we’ve got a sentence that is elaborate, but extended, and that feels like historical historians, you know, tackle that piece of response. And if I quickly give some other examples, so please, in design technology, in secondary school, or you’re making in primary school, so my little boy was making a boat, and it was related to Scott of the Antarctic, etc. And you can very easily making a product or making a cushion in you know, in in year, seven, all those variations, you can very, very much just focus on the doing, but actually what we need in those creative design, you know, kind of projects, is some evaluation, some reflection on what I did, and why did it? So, no, I designed a robust bass, you know, we might give them a point. Okay, what did you do with developing this boat to make it successful. And then with Noah, okay, one of the things he created this bass, so I designed a robust bass, then to help no one and the rest of the class expand on that sentence, we’re going to use that. So that clause, so I built this robust base, so that and then he has to elaborate and explain on it. And then you use two or three. So that sentence is suddenly you’ve got people with a really lovely paragraph reflecting evaluating upon their product design, that you know, the thing that they’ve done, and you can see how this can translate to art, you can see how this can translate to creative subjects, but also some reflection, potentially, in terms of different problems and projects and tasks and case studies across the curriculum. But fundamentally, it’s about that scaffolding. And, and one another variation is sometimes let go back to the example for area and perimeter. Sometimes we know that people’s confused sometimes it actually, we want to commit that in their books to writing. So we might have a sentence starter area is different to perimeter in that dot, dot, dot. And again, we’re just every time it’s about expanding the sentence, getting them to elaborate, think a bit harder about why these things are happening. And by writing it down, yes, you might have a bit of challenge about their writing skills and spelling and all those other things, but invariably, people’s need to be able to translate that thinking into the written format. Now, there are boundaries to that. And we shouldn’t extend it to every corner of every subject domain. But invariably, writing that sentence level is something we want to craft, we want to perfect. And the more pupils can do that, then actually, you know, you take William Wilberforce, if you can write that, that brilliant historical sentence, that that claim with evidence, then what is an essay, except Except a kind of an elaboration of that connection of those claims with evidence with counterclaims with sources, etc. So that sentence is that is the kernel and the point that you build upon, and sometimes you just need the sentence, but sometimes that that sentence expansion is the start of a more extended process of extended writing. Or
Craig Barton 1:10:47
I love this Alex, right. Okay, so I’ve one question. And then I’ve got something I’ve been looking forward to asking somebody for about two years. So you’re my man for this site? So I’ll give you that. I’ll give you the question. First a
Alex Quigley 1:10:57
bit nervous about that last one?
Craig Barton 1:11:00
So you mentioned kind of so that an in that is kind of good kind of connectors? Yeah, help expand the center’s and imagine things like because some books would Yeah, are there any other any got any other kind of kind of good ones? That? Yeah.
Alex Quigley 1:11:15
So because, um, but so people might be familiar with the writing revolution, which is an American originated book, but very popular, I think, a lot of history teachers have used etc. So because but so is perhaps their famous kind of sentence structure. And because but so you can see how that’s getting to elaborate. I think, I think that’s super useful, really helpful, and particularly for younger children, a really good framework and scaffold, I think when you get to older students, because and but and so that’s quite a simplistic notion of history, isn’t it? If you think no, this, because that’s so so there’s a, that’s almost a scaffold that for most students is a great starting point. But then you need to make some claims and make connections that are a bit richer, but But how would you get a novice there without those kind of training structures? So for me, because both are really helpful. Ultimately, what we’re talking about is these different terms, but discourse markers are pretty much the kind of the term that’s, I think, the most accurate and useful discourse, meaning language markers, meaning those little markers that signal, kind of the glue of the sentence, the turning points that the key information that’s going to come so things like but however, they are, if you’re making argument writing, however, but whereas that’s when we can structure counterclaims, and contrasts often say in English, we’re looking for more than one point. So we might have firstly, secondly, furthermore, moreover, so there are these patterns. And I think there’s a book I think that might be I say, we say, but in in the US, they’ve created the entire books, which offer these scaffolds and sentence structures. And I think, again, I think there’s intelligent adaptation there, the saw in the middle, where we want to use those structures as training wheels, some phrases for me, so that is just so versatile. But then we also need to remember that the sentence is a unit of sense for definitions for remembering key knowledge, but it doesn’t, we need to go further than that. And at the point where we’re ready to go further, once we’ve perfected sense of expansion, then we might need to drop some of the more artificial kind of discourse markers and get a bit more sophisticated. So I think, yeah, there’s a whole variation of those out there. And it doesn’t take long to find them. I think the key thing there is not, you know, you can have a knowledge organiser with every discourse marker under the sun, or, you know, I’ve got a PowerPoint slide, but lots of them. It’s about using the right ones for the right purpose, and remembering when you use that scaffold for the sentences and the expansion to take it away. Otherwise, you have people’s using this endless parroting formula, which, again, over time stops being the kind of the appropriate academic complexity that’s needed in the school curriculum.
Craig Barton 1:14:17
Perfect. All right, Alex, here’s the question I wanted to ask you, right. So what you tend to see a lot in math classrooms, and I’ve done this for many years is let’s say I asked you, what’s the area of a triangle? And you just say that to me, base multiply by height divided by two and I say brilliant. I say to you watch Pythagoras theorem. You say c squared equals a squared plus base one. Yeah, fantastic. What I’ve started to do now is insist the kids say the full sentence back so I’d say what’s the Arabic triangle? And I’d want you to say back the area of a triangle is a based on Pythagoras theorem is c squared equals a squared plus b. Now I have two bits of logic for this one, I’m quite happy with the second is Dubya. So I need you to comment on the dubious one. Right? Okay, so the the obvious one thing I’m fairly happy with is if another child in the class hasn’t been listening, and they just tune into your answer and you say c squared equals a squared plus b squared, they’ve no idea what you’re talking about. Whereas if they hear you say Pythagoras theorem is C squared equals Yeah, they’ve got that Kinect, so I’m quite happy with that feels like a sensible reason. But the other thing, and I’ve been claiming this, Alex, I’m open it’s true, is whenever kids sit GCSE papers in maths and they’re asked to do like a discourse question or describe or explain. Kids are really bad at it. The marks are terrible, because students struggle writing and communicating in mathematically in written form, they’re not used to it. So my logic has been, the more I get kids to respond verbally in sentences, that’ll ease the transition to writing in sentences. But I have zero evidence to back that up. Yeah. Would you be happy with that? So it’s not the definite yes, I was looking for.
Alex Quigley 1:16:07
So take the first point, I think that point you made about that kind of full recognition of that utterance. And it’s important that it’s important enough to write a sentence about it. So it’s important enough to repeat it with accuracy. So I really liked that. And the Pythagoras example, really helpful. Because people’s do tune into fragments don’t they kind of tune out. I wrote recently about mind wandering, where my mind wander for 30 40% of a lesson, entirely natural. So zooming in, to those full utterances I think is super helpful. I think the second point, I think there’s a partial helpful near truth. But I think what I would say is I don’t think there’s any evidence that you can say you can write it, but there’s, but I’d say it’s a necessary condition, but insufficient to lead to the complete writing that we’re after. So I think broadly, I don’t think there’s there’s I couldn’t cite to you strong evidence to say that is a thing. That’s pretty much kind of solid and replicable. But I would say what you’re what you’re claiming, there feels to me entirely common sense and low effort. And actually, there’s no bad things that can come from that. But it might give me the illusion that it will translate easily to the right thing. And then the reality is, the act of writing a sentence is really complex. It’s kind of this this miniature challenge, which includes handwriting, so motor skills include spelling, it includes word choice, includes grammar. So by writing it, your working memory is just overloaded that little bit more than saying it. So I think I think what you’re doing is a good strategy, I encourage it, I wouldn’t be confident about the evidence claim that works. But I think it’s broadly very sensible. And I think it’s a necessary, beneficial thing to do. But it’d be insufficient to lead to the quality writing that you want. Because that quality writing, just like the sentence expansion requires lots of explicit instruction. And ultimately, you know, all of the tips I’ve shared here are about being super explicit about the vocabulary and the conceptual understanding of those words, about being really explicit about what pupils know, and what we’re about to teach them. And what we activate being really explicit about a singular sentence. So I think what you’re doing is right for me that you’re being really deliberate about the language we’re using in talk, and we’re having a high standard of academic talk. And we want to see that replication in writing, I think, the highest standard of our talk, good things happen. But we need to go that extra mile, but last mile, often to explicitly teach how to write a good definition in maths as well.
Craig Barton 1:18:51
Yeah, that makes perfect. Yeah, I’ll take that, Alex, because it certainly feels like it might not be the case that if they can say it, they can write it, but it certainly feels if they can’t say it, they’re going to struggle. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I’ll tell you, I’ll bail you on that. Yeah.
Alex Quigley 1:19:06
And if they, if they can’t say it in a clear, cogent way, that could be an indication, they’re just, you know, in math, they might conceptually have the number bonds to do it, but they can’t quite explain it. So that, you know, there’s nuances to that. But broadly, I think that’s why just a minute, I think so valuable when you want them to be able to say it, and then they can normally explain it, reason it and do it. And it’s one of those kinds of inadequate proxies. We’ve got if they can say it, we think they can write if they can write it and say we think they can do it. But we’ve got to make sure there’s not been knowing doing gap and we’ve got to help them do it as well.
Craig Barton 1:19:40
Brilliant. Perfect. Well, Alex, they’re five amazing tips. So let me hand over to you. Is there anything you would like listeners and viewers to check out of yours?
Alex Quigley 1:19:49
So I write a lot about literacy. So I’ve written a series of books called closing the gap. I’m not achieved obsessive, actually that about closing the book. Have you ever gap closing the reading gap and closing the writing gap? I felt like I spent years as a teacher, cobbling together some ideas. And it was my attempt to try and distil this thing called literacy and how to read, write and be explicit about these things for high quality teaching. I’ve got a blog of the confident teacher, it was based on a book, I’m not claiming I’m the confident teacher, actually, it’s about developing as a confident teacher, and some cases not being overconfident, and kind of testing our knowledge. And then I also have a fortnightly newsletter. So I’ve got substack as well. I’ve got all of all, I could go on Kragle. All day long. With the kind of references you can find me. Lastly, you can find me on Twitter. Far too many hours of the week. Alex J. Quickly.
Craig Barton 1:20:49
That’s fair. There’ll be links to all your books, your blog, your Twitter handle in the show notes. Well, Alex, I’ve been wanting to get you back on the show for ages. So this this has been brilliant five, what I love about them, five tips. Quite a few of them are out of my comfort zone. Just a minute. I’ve never dreamed of doing that sentence and expansion I need to get better at so this is good. It’s given me lots to think about and I’m sure the same is for our listeners. So Alex quickly thank you so much for your time. Thank you