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Michaela Community School, Wembley
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Latest News

Edu Dyertribe – Our Mistakes in Science

10 May 2017, Posted by admin in Latest News

OUR MISTAKES IN SCIENCE

As is the case in every school, the Michaela Science department has made its fair share of mistakes. After a few years of experimentation, trial and error, we have learned many lessons about what to do – and what not to do – in the science laboratory. Like all teachers, we want to provide our pupils with the best possible experience, and enable them to learn as much about the subject as possible. We also want to instil a lifelong love of science, and support lots of our pupils to use science in their future careers.

Fundamentally, our belief is that the best way to support pupils’ curiosity in science is through knowledge. By giving them the building blocks of scientific knowledge, and by supporting them to remember it throughout their time in school not only ensures they will have secure understanding of the world around them, but will provide them with the foundation for greater creativity in science.

But whilst our fundamental philosophy hasn’t changed over the last three years, we have of course reshaped and adjusted where necessary.

Booklet Annotation

Rather than using traditional textbooks or piecemeal worksheets as we did early on, we print each pupil a copy of our co-planned department textbook. Textbooks contain recap questions, explanations, diagrams and questions, and pupils can annotate examples with any further clarification given to them by the teacher.

Standard Lesson Format

In the first year, with only one year group, I was the only science teacher in the school. This had lots of benefits: I was able to spend my time focusing on the pupils and getting the curriculum ready for future year groups. In terms of lessons, I relished the flexibility. I was able to spend longer on certain topics, often blending from one lesson into the next. But as new staff joined the department, I realised that wasn’t helping them. To support them better, I had to decide on what to cover in each lesson, and make that clear to them in the textbooks.

Regular Exam Practice

It doesn’t matter how well taught pupils are in the fundamentals; if they don’t practice exam technique frequently enough, they will struggle in assessments. I have dedicated more time to this over the years, and now all of our pupils answer a 25 mark exam paper every week.

Practicals

Untangling practical skills from ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ skills took a while. Now, before every practice, pupils are explicitly taught practical skills such as identifying variables, plotting graphs, choosing graph scales, completing risk assessments, writing conclusions and evaluations.

Drilling

We’ve switched from verbal to written drills over the last year, and I wouldn’t go back. This has really helped to increase the amount of practice each pupil gets, and gives me clear, instant feedback that I can focus on immediately as well as in subsequent lessons.

Quizzes

In the first year, we spent hours each week planning multiple choice quizzes. At one point, I was even differentiating these for each class, which was extremely time consuming, and didn’t seem to have much impact on learning. Now, we simply test content taught that week in a simple format. The quizzes increase in complexity each week, meaning that there is enough stretch built into the unit for the most able pupils.

We haven’t perfected it yet, but learning from our mistakes has helped to department to grow, supporting pupils and staff to achieve their very best.

Keen to learn more about Michaela? Read our book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Teachers, available here.

If you’re keen to learn more about how we resource our lessons, why not join us for a Summer Project this year? More information here.

Reading all the books – Powerpoint

27 Mar 2017, Posted by admin in Latest News

PowerPoint

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Before training as a teacher, I’m genuinely not even sure I was aware of the existence of PowerPoint. I’d certainly never used it, nor was it installed on my computer. I’d never encountered it as a pupil in school or a student in university (although I do recall images being used in lectures, which could easily have been delivered through a PowerPoint format).

It was in my second week of teacher training, in what is called a ‘Second School Experience,’ I first was made aware of the programme. Preparing to teach a lesson for the first time, I met with the class’s usual teacher whose opening words were, ‘here’s my log-in so you can make a PowerPoint. Obviously you’ll want to make a PowerPoint.’ It didn’t seem too obvious to me then. I spent an hour or so painfully working out how to use the programme, painstakingly copying and pasting images I found at random using clipart (I hadn’t yet understood how to get images from the internet onto a slide), and changing the fonts at random. During the lesson, which was obviously a disaster for far wider ranging reasons than the existence of PowerPoint, I remember finding the slides a hindrance rather than a help, as I awkwardly pointed to a slide from time to time, only really to justify the time that had been poured into making it.

Looking back on my first term of teaching, my early PowerPoints were four slide affairs. They had a title, a learning objective (it was 2010), and then a series of questions for kids to answer, split into different slides which vaguely corresponded to different parts of the text we were learning (normally, the heading was a page number, the bullet points questions).

But I learned fast. My PowerPoints soon exploded into twenty, even thirty slide affairs for a single 50 minute lesson, packed with animations, images and coloured backgrounds as standard. At peak-PowerPoint, I could knock one of these out in under ten minutes.

But I’ve since reneged, and I’ve come to believe the use of PowerPoint is misguided. Why?

  1. Life in a dark room

The first time I visited a school, after 6 interim years of work and study, my first thought was how dark it was. It was the end of the year, and so bright and beautiful outside, but in classroom after classroom it was beyond winter. It was hellishly dark, and with the blinds drawn the classrooms were sweltering. I wondered how the kids could even see what they were reading or writing. Much like modern family life, everyone seemed orientated towards the bright screen at the front. It’s depressing.

  1. Split focus

PowerPoint splits kids’ focus. You want them to focus on you, and your instruction – but instead, they are focused on the screen that bears the remnants of that instruction. You want them to focus on the text and what they are learning, but instead they have to keep looking up to find out what the question is before they write again.

  1. It stops teachers teaching

Even ten minutes to bosh out a PowerPoint is a waste of time. But more than that, it actively impedes my preparation. I’m thinking about slides instead of thinking about content. I might put twenty questions on a PowerPoint, but actually I need to be thinking about a hundred questions to ask pupils. At Michaela, we ask each of the 32 pupils in our classes at least three, and often more, questions in a single lesson. I need to spend my time planning those micro-questions as well, not just the few ‘big questions’ they might answer at length in discussion or writing.

  1. Technology fails you

If I haven’t persuaded you with the preceding arguments, perhaps I will have more luck here! Hands up who has ever had technology fail them in the classroom? That’ll be every teacher ever.

And it’s awful. You stand there at the front. You have nothing. You could write your questions on the tiny actual whiteboard that is awkwardly positioned so not all kids can even read it, but then you’d have your back to the children and we all know how that pans out. Plus, what if half your questions are about the gorgeous images you’ve meticulously selected? You’ve got nothing. You do a little dance. You pray you can contain them.

We teach a poem in year 7 by William Carlos Williams called ‘Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.’ It’s a poem about a painting by Pieter Brueghel, so obviously I felt I needed to show the kids the image in order for them to understand the significance of the poem. It was in my early days at Michaela, and I was already nervous as a visitor I knew vaguely from the world outside Michaela would be in my classroom. (I think we’re all desensitised to visitors now, as we have about five a day wander in.) I cued the image up ready. And then it transpired that my board was not connected to my computer. I absolutely panicked.

Back-up could not arrive in time, so I taught that lesson without my picture. I just explained the picture, and why it was important. The kids got it, wrote about the poem; happy days. It was fine. But by the afternoon my board was fixed. So, the second time I taught the lesson to the other year 7 class I taught, I had the image ready to go.

And it was a much weaker lesson. Because we had split attention. We had a request to pull the blinds down so they could ‘see it properly.’ They were confused by other aspects of the picture I didn’t want them to focus on. It was, all in all, a massive distraction.

  1. Work less, achieve more

Why have a resource and a PowerPoint? It’s the same argument I used to make against lesson plans – why do I need one when my PowerPoint shows my planning? Well now – why do I need a PowerPoint when my resource – poem, novel, play – shows my planning and thoughts about how I will teach these children?

At Michaela, all children have the same resource, and so does the teacher. The teacher’s is annotated with questions and key aspects to bring out in instruction. What more do we need?

A caveat

Ok – I actually do use PowerPoint. One slide, one lesson a week, for ten minutes. It is for our weekly quiz. We put the questions on a single PowerPoint slide, and the kids write their answers on paper. We then sort the papers using comparative judgement.

We’ve tried to come up with ways to avoid this, but so far everything considered has meant considerably more work for teachers than just sticking the questions up. We’re still brainstorming how to eradicate this last remaining slide. One PowerPoint slide one lesson a week. I look on that slide as a necessary evil.

Come Lunch With Us!

26 Mar 2015, Posted by admin in Latest News

Come Lunch With Us!

Family lunch at Michaela is one of the ways we ensure pupils really bond with one another. It’s all about instilling good manners, helping one another and taking on responsibility. It’s a time when every single pupil has a role. Each pupil either lays the table, or serves food, or clears away at the end. It really is something to behold. The pupils really work together as a team. It’s quite heart-warming.

Here are some comments, very typical in fact, made by a mother who recently visited us for family lunch:

“Your charming pupils could not have been more polite, helpful and informative. Their enthusiasm, knowledge and pride was immense.”

“I have never, ever, been in a school where, without exception, every single pupil behaves in such a courteous and confident manner. They truly are a credit to the school and their families.”

Again, I would urge all parents to take the opportunity to visit the school, to observe lessons, to stay for family lunch and to see for yourselves how much pupils enjoy both lessons and lunch and how much they learn every single day at Michaela. I guarantee you’ll be immensely proud of your sons and daughters and their enormous maturity.

I recently read a rather worrying report on the BBC, where, according to research, more than half of children in the UK don’t eat a single portion of vegetables a day.

As you doubtless know, the government recommends that everyone should have at least five portions of fruit and veg a day. But the BBC survey showed that 52 in every 100 kids don’t have any veg, and 44 in 100 don’t have any fruit, on a daily basis.

What we eat is a big issue at the moment because one in three children in the UK is obese or overweight. That figure has trebled in the last 25 years.

So once again I’d urge parents to come to lunch, to eat with the kids, to witness their manners and maturity and see how much they enjoy their time at Michaela. Please find below our daily menus for the half term ahead.

Remember too that we are always ready to discuss your child’s academic progress over the phone, or in person, at a mutually convenient time. Just contact info@mcsbrent.co.uk and we can arrange a time and date.

Half of kids don’t eat veg each day

25 Mar 2015, Posted by admin in Latest News

More than half of kids don’t eat a single portion of vegetables a day, according to Newsround’s food survey.

The government recommends that everyone should have at least five portions of fruit and veg a day.

But the survey shows 52 in every 100 kids don’t have any veg, and 44 in 100 have no fruit on a daily basis.

What we’re eating is a big issue at the moment because one in three kids in the UK is obese or overweight.

That figure has trebled in the last 25 years. Read more about it by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Welcome to Michaela’s First Newspaper

04 Feb 2015, Posted by admin in Latest News

Michaela Matters – Our first school newspaper is out!

Our pupils have worked extremely hard to publish our newspaper ‘Michaela Matters’. Have a look and find out what we have been doing during our first term. Our aim is to give the children at Michaela a voice and at the same time provide exciting articles of interest to everyone! There’s plenty for everyone to enjoy – download our free newspaper here.​

Visit us any time

21 Oct 2014, Posted by Becci Roach in Latest News

Missed our Open Events?

Visit us any time and discover why you should make Michaela your first choice for 2015!

Call us on 020 8795 3183 

 

High challenge, appropriate support and precision teaching

14 Jul 2014, Posted by website administrator in Latest News

Click on the image to read the article.

Michaela is staffed by highly motivated teachers, true experts in their field, passionate about their subjects and 100% committed to really challenging every single pupil. Too often labels limit pupils, give them an excuse to give up when the going gets tough. Not at Michaela. High challenge, appropriate support and precision teaching ensure that pupils are pushed not pandered to. In the words of Sir Michael Wilshaw, Head of Ofsted, ‘we give them love but it’s tough love.’ Ask yourself this, if a child can complete a task easily whilst half concentrating and absent-mindedly chatting to a friend, was the task worth doing at all? At Michaela pupils learn the power of focus, concentration and sustained effort every lesson. They learn that persevering and eventually succeeding feels amazing and is the foundation for all of life’s successes.

Click on this image to read the article.

This is yet another example of how online bullying can seriously impact upon our children. At Michaela we’re not anti-technology, but we are very much pro sitting around a table, talking at length to our children, teaching them the right values and protecting them from harmful outside influences.

So, as ever, our message remains: let’s talk more, read more, discuss current affairs more, let’s help our children develop empowering habits, let’s actively teach them to manage their time and avoid procrastination.

Michaela pupils have long school days. They work hard every day and in every lesson. When they come home from school they’ll be brimming with all of the knowledge they’ve encountered across the curriculum. That’s why we urge every parent to talk at length with their children about what they’re learning, how they’re feeling and, maybe, where they could do with some extra support and help from you, their family.

And please, never accept just a shrug or a one word answer. We’ll never accept that in lessons and we need families to support our high standards by insisting upon courtesy at all times, full sentence responses and correct grammar.

Remember, we are preparing your children to compete with the very best of their generation. We need you to model the courtesy, the full articulate responses and the attention to detail that we will be modeling every single day in school.