Hi, to those who read my blog posts. In the last 9 months I seem to have developed a reputation about being involved with the use of Solo taxonomy in my lessons. Am I a revolutionary? Visionary? No I’m a teacher, who even in his 25th year at the job knows he doesn’t have all the answers and wouldn’t claim to. As my use of Twitter has expanded and I access more ideas out there in Education-land, some make an impression and look like they may help my pupils to learn more and retain that learning.
At this point please note this is a cathartic review and may not offer much that’s new at this point.
I am a keen advocate of the term lifelong learning, because it’s what I do everyday. I learn some absolute trivia, but in there are some nuggets that I put aside somewhere in my brain or favourites, or e-mail inbox to return to later.
Last year I read about Solo, I read blog posts, I watched David Didau’s TMClevedon video. I searched out members of the #soloarmy and read what they’d done and thought this might just work.
As those of you who’ve followed my solo work, I started with trying out individual standalone lessons taking random topics suggested by the pupils to see if we could learn together about a topic and measure it in a single lesson. Yes we learnt about flesh eating “zombies”, Nicky Minaj, … I learnt from pupils I least expected to have the confidence to lead. We played with hexagons, we took a step outside the normal curriculum but it had a structure that lots of pupils hooked into.
I started to try more ideas in the first half of the Autumn term. I knew I had to test this idea out more comprehensively. So last November I commited to developing all of my Key stage 3 ego graphs lessons around SOLO structures. From my great friend John Sayers I looked at progress across a unit and not just a lesson although this was investigated too.
How to reflect on this work ? I blogged about my lessons which has set off more links and discussion with others. John, I and others from around the world had an international geogsolo twitter chat one Saturday (remember this idea). My work had also brought me to the attention of Tom Sherringham (@Headguruteacher) at KEGS in Chelmsford, Essex. We became 2 of the three organisers of a very successful Teachmeet Essex in November where I had my Head of Department Phill Crossley, James Abela from Cambs and Vic Goddard (Educating Essex HT) stood in front of about 150 teachers holding hands ( you had to be there).
By Christmas the blogging struggled to keep up and a new term was faced. End of term in class surveys had shown that 67% of my pupils found the SOLO structure helpful in how to extend their work. They had used self assessment, peer assessment and more discussion and modelling of answers to work at a key factor in our school, of better extended writing answers. For some it remains the challenge of using full sentences consistently. At the other end of the spectrum it encouraged my top pupils to go away and use extra case studies of their own to apply ideas learnt in class.
So where to go in the next half term? I decided a longer term strategy where pupils developed solo stages that used the same depth of learning and thinking as the levels they were targeting. Many had and continued to tell me to not confuse levels and solo stages. I agree but I was trying to find a compromise in between so we developed a common language in my classroom that allowed us to quickly identify how an answer could become more detailed. I am in the process of marking the latest assessment evidence, so I do not have clear conclusions yet.
Have I found my version of SOLO that works best in my lessons? No, not yet. I have many tools to explore yet. I need to read further around how the idea has been used by others. Am I convinced it was a good investment of time? Yes.
– under my performance management targets for this year I asked to set up a action research based pedagogy group to evaluate new ideas from outside our school. To trial them in classrooms and to see which ideas might stand further use across the school. This starts in March.
– talking at Teachmeeets about my SOLO development – my emphasis shifts to my developing use with pupils and as Tom (TMEssex) requested examples of pupils work / responses. This starts on 1/3/13 and I have 3 or 4 presentations due to be made in March.
– discussion with other SOLO practitioners – an example of this was last night 21/2/13 after #ukedchat where a link was posted from @deadshelley about his thoughts. Soon a crowd gathered and we discussed SOLO late into the evening. This morning there were links to a session being led in London this morning and a sharing of last nights post with Alice Leung in Australia.
How could more solo discussions happen? The hashtag is used well on twitter. Several of us blog about our classroom experiences. Alice asked if this was a regular uksolochat – we had these previously, but I find people referred to me onTwitter from across the globe. So our idea – a #sologlobalchat to be set up. It is likely to need to be on aSaturday lunchtime in the UK, spas many time zones as possible can be involved. No dates have been set yet but watch this space or get involved – this is just ONE teaching tool but it has global interest, let’s explore its potential fully.