June #Blogsync an example of a great classroom explanation http://blogsync.edutronic.net/

OK, several people have read my previous blog posts about the SOLO taxonomy.

So in the second half of the Autumn term (UK) 2012 and I needed to move my focus with classes at Key Stage 3 from literacy skills to making progress and developing an integral model that they are full participants in.

So the decision was made to trial SOLO as an approach across the Geography department at Key Stage 3. Staff training would link to ActivInspire (Promethean boards) flip charts ( in June 2013 this lesson was modified to be used with Year 7 ICT as well).

The second unit for each year group is the study of an area of the world. Year 7- the UK; Year 8 – Kenya and Year 9 – Japan. We study a range of themes across the countries including location of places at a range of scales.

OK a standard lesson to ground the idea of Solo.

A standard format differing only by the country studied. The introductory lesson starts with a plain A4 sheet to identify own prior knowledge with an emphasis on “secret squirrel” and not sharing answers with others. The classes in all cases focused well from the individuals who said – what shall I write if I don’t know anything? Reassured that a start of a unit that was perfectly ok. Others wrote a range of facts, even surprised when told that anything goes … Japanese cars for example. The sheet was then turned over, a resource to return to later.

Lesson details were now shared:

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An introduction to SOLO as an idea and simplified history including a reference to Pam Hook, New Zealand, Twitter and sharing about it at Teachmeet Essex on the 19/11/12. Then we moved onto watch the clear YouTube clip on explaining SOLO taxonomy using lego. by Emily Hughes.

An idea that was easy for all classes to relate and easy for me to add to anecdotally from a lego user and father’s perspective. The video was paused after each stage and some discussion took place and links were made to expectations for written answers in class from single words to lists to simple sentences to paragraphs. The extended abstract skills that several of most classes were capable of was praised – …” If only we could get you to use words as comfortably and creatively as you do with lego bricks!”. The plenary of the taxonomy within the video was used with some groups but not with others.

Then back to the 5 stages and how Sir would be using the terms but the symbols are what we will use in flipcharts and on their work.

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Now to return to our facts from our sheets, each pupil was issued with a tracking sheet. They were to enter the lesson’s date and identify which stage they felt their knowledge is at the moment. Some additional questions were asked on when they were crossing the unistructural / multi structural boundary – this provoked some good discussions across table groups and the classes. We have several pupils new to the school whose EAL needs vary, the following pictures include the original sheet and two translations in Thai and English / Romanian. I have moved away from putting translations onto the whole class flipchart and now provide a translated or side by side language comparison copy for TA’s and the child – currently I use Google Translate which may not always be accurate but which allows me to engage these pupils sooner (if thy can read their native tongue!).

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The concept of using the sheet to compare progress at the end of the unit is introduced and the classes sheets and initial thoughts sheet held by the teacher in their Planning/Assessment records. An additional form of evidence involved an informal survey and plotting of stages now.

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The graph’s outcomes are then compared with the classes projected levels for the year indirectly and a prediction is made where they are capable of reaching by the end of the seven week unit. A link is also made to the first report cycle – if they feel at the end of the unit they are still Pre- or Uni- structural then report comments will pick up on a lack of involvement and input in their learning (subject to professional judgement).

Plenary questions return to identifying the 5 stages and what they involved in the Lego clip and class written work expectations. In 9 lessons the amount and quality of pupil discussion and involvement was very encouraging.

This lesson has been shared with three departmental colleagues, two have had direct training about what SOLO involves in our interpretation so far. The idea has also been shared with a drama colleague to look at application to practical drama skill acquisition as well as written work developing detail at GCSE. As stated above the lesson and SOLO approach was used to introduce Year 7s final ICT unit, I led the first lesson with three departmental colleagues observing. Later in the day I modelled the lesson for the remaining member of the department.

This post is a modification of the post first published in November 2012. It has proved to be a clear starting point to progress measured through the Solo stages and moving away from the language of levels which was discussed on Th 27/6 for #ukedchat on Twitter. I am using it as my June 2013 Blogsync contribution ( http://blogsync.edutronic.net/ ).

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