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Idea of the Month Archive

A Taste of PEEL archive

These samples taken from PEEL resources illustrate how PEEL teachers have worked in their classrooms.

Our first post in 2017 provided a summary of how teachers can promote Good Learning Behaviours in their classrooms. This article was written as part of a series which address the question, how can our resources be used to meet the needs of a wide range of teachers?  Our final three posts in 2016 also concerned Good Learning Behaviours.  All of these articles written by classroom teachers, are examples of how these teachers in different ways, promoted these behaviours in their students.

Using Good Learning behaviours (Journey 1) by Ian Mitchell) (Posted 15/01/2017)

This involves introducing students to specific GLBs (Good Learning behaviours) that you want to promote (such as linking school ideas to personal life) and the more general notion that there are good learning behaviours. The goal is that students will display more GLBs as appropriate to a particular situation. There is no sacred list of GLBs,  A list is: 

1.                  Checks personal comprehension of instructions or other materials.  Requests further information if needed.  Tells the teacher what they don t understand.

2.                  Seeks reasons for aspects of the work at hand.

3.                  Plans a general strategy before starting.

4.                  Anticipates and predicts possible outcomes.

5.                  Checks teacher s work for errors; offers corrections.

6.                  Offers or seeks links between:

               different activities and ideas

               different topics or subjects

               schoolwork and personal life

7.                  Searches for weaknesses in their own understandings; checks the consistency of their explanations across different situations.

8.                  Suggests new activities and alternative procedures.

9.                  Challenges the text or an answer the teacher sanctions as correct.

10.              Offers ideas, new insights and alternative explanations.

11.              Justifies opinions.

12.              Reacts and refers to comments of other students.


What follows are some ideas about how to build these into your classroom.

1.1  Promote specific GLBs and highlight them, either as they occur, or in a debrief, or both (PEEL principle 11)

PEEL procedures are designed to promote particular aspects of quality learning and many of these are likely to result in specific GLBs that can be highlighted. For example a Predict Observe explain is likely to stimulate any or all of GLBs 10,11 and 12.

 

1.2  Capitalise on unexpected GLBs

 

GLBs often occur unexpectedly - student may use and build on the idea of another student for example, teachers who have thought about the learning behaviours they are looking for are better placed to be able to recognise, highlight and praise what has happened.

 

1.3   GLBs change what you are attending to as important

 

This agenda moves teachers from just looking for on-task behaviour and evidence of understanding to how students are learning. It changes what they are conveying to students as important.

 

1.4   GLBs provide teachers with new ways of praising students (PEEL principle 4)

A comment such as I would like to thank Sally for saying that she did not understand; she was smart enough to recognise this and was willing to share this with the class. It turned out that I had not explained it well and no-one else understood it either. Without sally we would not have got it sorted out. Reframes GLB 1 as a sign of good learning, not stupidity and raises Sally s intellectual self-esteem.

 

1.5  Try and maximise the use that you make of GLBs - build students' perceptions of why you value them

If, for example, a student makes an unexpected and perhaps offbeat link to their personal life, either by a comment or a question, think about whether and how you can actually weave this into the lesson - it is surprising how often this is possible. An explicit comment about why this was useful to the lesson also helps.

1.6   You might build up as a classroom artefact a list of GLBs

Primary PEEL teachers, who have their own room, have regularly done this. Rather than put up a whole list at once, it is better to build it up more gradually, perhaps one new one a week so that richer meanings can be built for each one.

1.7  Several GLBs are perceived as risky by many students, so build a safe environment (PEEL principle 7) 

The Sally comment above is an example of this, making regular use of GLBs and establishing a no put downs   rule is also important. 

1.8  Use wait time to give students a chance to display a GLB, this can mean BOTH teacher wait time and student wait time

GLBs reflect deeper thinking and students often need a little time for this thinking, a few seconds pause can have a significant impact. The phrase wait time can be introduced as part of the language for learning. 

1.9   Have a rotating student monitor counting GLBs

See PEEL procedure C12. Several teachers have used this where each lesson a (different) student records GLBs, the list they are using needs to be fairly short (say 6 or less) 

1.10          Regular display of GLBs will change the classroom discourse (PEEL principle 5)

A glance down the list shows how this will occur. Data from non-PEEL classes showed that, for those lessons, GLBs were displayed between 3-4 time per 50 minute lesson, data from some PEEL classes had frequencies of over 50, this makes dramatic changes to the tenor of classroom discourse, often in the direction of language that is more tentative, hypothetical and exploratory. 

1.11          Many GLBs require a sense of shared intellectual control (PEEL principle 1)

This connection works in both directions. GLBs 8, 9 and 10 (just to pick three) are clearly more likely if students feel that their ideas, contributions, and comments are valued and are likely to be used. Points 1.2, 1.4 and 1.5 are all examples of building a sense of shared intellectual control by promoting GLBs


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In this article by Damien Toussiant, he describes how he used an incident in class to reinforce a particular Good Learning Behaviour with his students. (Posted 12/12/2016) all three articles posted here come from PEEL in Practice the PEEL database.

Teachers often say to their students "You need to take more responsibility for your learning" or it s  the kind of comment you see on a mid year or end of year report. I know I ve said it in the past to some of my students but I don t think I really helped the student to understand how they could take more responsibility for their learning in a meaningful way.

 

What does that actually mean? What can  taking responsibility for your learning really look like for a Year 7 student? How do teachers help their students to develop metacognitive knowledge and independently exercise control as learners?

 

I noticed the confused look on Casey s  face during our interpretive discussion, especially each time the word  metaphor was used  by another student or by me. My Year 7 students and I were discussing Jack Davis s poem  Integration our learning focus was to understand some features of poetry and this poem was the starting point as well as to give them an opportunity to share their prior knowledge.

 

Casey raised her hand.

I don t get it

Which part don t you get Casey?  I asked. All eyes turned to Casey and I felt their weight press down on her.

The metaphor bit, I don t get what a metaphor is . she said.

 

I did my best to explain Davis s door metaphor, an image central to the poem. Katrina and Kisal also attempted to explain. Casey was still confused, shaking her head as each student attempted to help make sense of the metaphor and assist her.

 

It s OK that you don t understand Casey  I said.  We ll come back to the metaphor another day.

I paused for a while to emphasise the importance of the moment. I pulled up our list of Good Learning Behaviours (GLBs) on the Interactive Whiteboard and highlighted  Good learners tell the teacher what they don t understand .

 

Firstly, well done to Kisal and Katrina for trying to help Casey to understand what a metaphor is. And well done to some of you other guys for thoughtful questions during our discussion. You showed that you have some knowledge about poetic devices .

 

But what I d  like to celebrate today is Casey s question. Casey knew that she didn t understand what a metaphor was but she didn t  just sit there in confusion. She did a really gutsy thing she put her hand up and admitted that she didn t know.

 

Casey smiled as I asked the class to applaud her courage. I said some more about her demonstration of a GLB. I reminded my students of the very first question I asked them in our very first class What do good learners do?

 

For my students to develop knowledge of a range of Good Learning Behaviours (GLBs), and then show metacognitive control by demonstrating that behaviour it is crucial that I select the right times to acknowledge those GLBs when I notice them. Importantly, when a student takes responsibility for their learning when they publically admit that they don t  understand, teachers need to make these moments memorable and celebrate them. They can become a memorable and poignant learning moment for the student as well as in the collective memory of the class. Unpacking, emphasising and celebrating these moments - an aspect of my long term learning agenda - enables our students to understand how they can change as learners, as well as see our role as teachers in a different light. 

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In the following article Sarah Foley  describes how she went about promoting good learning behaviours with a new class (8 Yellow). She had success with another class the previous year but now had to start again. (Posted 5/12/2016)

This year my goal was to continue on with the work I had been doing with my TLC (Thinking, Learning and Communication) class - now 9 Blue - and the last year that I would teach them.  At the end of last year we were at the point where I felt they were working at a high level of independence.  Their cooperative tribe work was excellent and they showed a high level of ability to:

  1. understand the pedagogical purpose of a variety of learning procedures
  2. select appropriate learning procedures when given the opportunity to choose
  3. cooperate in group situations and get themselves unstuck by using a variety of strategies including ask 3 before me , rereading etc
  4. follow task criteria

My second goal was to get my new  class, 8 Yellow, to the stage where they operate in a similar manner.  The Yellows did not have the same background in terms of a Thinking Curriculum that my own class did.  They had looked briefly at the concept of learning in Year 7 but they were very much at the beginning of their journey.  The curriculum that they would be working through with their teacher (Jodie) had a big focus on looking at the different Good Learning Behaviours.  (See Lara Secondary College: Good Learning Behaviours; below). I had hoped that with the way I planned to complement the  program with the way I was going to structure their  sessions and build in conversations about learning procedures and GLBs (Good Learning behaviours), that I could get 8 Yellow to the point where they would show a similar level of independence to 9 Blue.

Off to a Slow Start

Things in this area did not get off to the start that I had hoped.  After taking the time to get to know my new class, and giving them the time to get to know me, I probably missed some valuable opportunities early in the term to immerse them in some valuable learning opportunities and discussions about having an agenda for learning in the classroom.

Each session I would make a point of highlighting a GLB as a focus for the session.

I know you have started looking at some different Good Learning Behaviours in TLC.  What have you talked about so far? I asked.  I was greeted with blank faces.
"Oh we have done a bit".  Mollie said unenthusiastically.  I pointed to the wall in the classroom where Jodie had displayed a variety of GLB posters.
"I see on the back wall you have a list of some of the GLBs.  You will look at each of these closely in TLC throughout the year".  I went on.  "Today we will have a focus on one of the GLBs - Good Learners Cooperate.  What does this one mean do you think?"
In response to this question they put forward a number of behaviour related ideas. 

"Dont just yell out without putting your hand up", Druin yelled out without putting his hand up. 
"Yeah", I replied "That could be part of it.  What else?"
"Don t annoy others", said Rob.
"Don t steal each others pens and stuff", offered Joey.
"Don t walk off on your group", yelled Trent.
"Don"t yell across the room to friends in other tribes", said Ainsley.
"Yes", I said, "These are all good ideas to help us cooperate but what about when everyone is behaving well.  What other things can you do to be working cooperatively with your tribe members?"
"Help each other", offered Megan warily.
"Great!" I said, "But how can you help each other?  What does that mean?  What does it look like?"
"Um" ...  she said, "Make sure everyone understands what the activity needs us to do.  And no one gets left behind".
"Excellent!" I exclaimed.
"Help if someone asks you a question", offered Jaymee.
"Great Jaymee, thanks", I replied.  "But what happens sometimes when people ask a question and the tribe doesnt help them?  What do people do sometimes?" I implored.
"Sometimes people just ignore the question or say I dunno," said Ainsley.
"Yes that happens sometimes, but why?" I asked.
"Sometimes people can t be bothered trying", said Reece.  He continued, "Sometimes people might not be up to that bit yet, or they have already done it so they are not interested".
"Thats right Reece", I said.
Then Megan jumped back in, "But if you work through each activity together like I said before then that shouldnt happen".
"Fantastic Megan youre dead right!" I replied.  "So our goals as a group today are this - to work through each activity together ensuring that everyone understands and is on track, and to make a genuine attempt to help your tribe members if you are asked a question".  I wrote these goals up on the board so everyone could see.  Then I questioned, "What if no one in the tribe knows the answer"?

"Ask three before me"! they chimed.
"O.K we are off", I thought to myself.

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The article below by Faye Smith  who was also working on GLBs (Good Learning Behaviours )  describes an approach she used to improve the learning of her students. (Posted 21/11/2016)

(Both articles are taken from PEEL in Practice)

I was very interested in taking this opportunity to work with a junior class to very explicitly develop the students Good Learning Behaviours (see above).

Students each had a copy of these behaviours in their workbook and we had explicitly discussed them on several occasions. We had began discussing which of the good learning behaviours students would need to focus on before each learning activity was undertaken to ensure that they would maximise their learning in that activity. These would be recorded by the students before the activity was begun and then they would then reflect at the end of the activity on how well they had performed in these behaviours. I had also followed Sarah s lead in providing clear task criteria for the students so that they could proceed through a learning activity as independently from me as possible. This was developing very well for some students, and they were fairly accurate in their reflections. However, some students seemed to think that they had demonstrated more positive learning behaviours than what I had observed, and I was taking a more active role in steering students through the activities than I had hoped for.

I decided to take a risk by setting them a group task and NOT intervening at all through the activity, but rather to observe and record exactly what was happening during the task. I chose a task that I believed they could manage independently. We were studying a unit based on how mathematics is used in many and varied ways to model real situations. In this phase we were looking at how movement can be modelled with graphs, namely distance time graphs. Students were to work in their tribes (groups that they worked in often) to complete a graphical interpretation activity. I provided each group with a graph and explained that each tribe would be assigned a car that is theirs . Their task would be to write a story, based on the graph, that would describe what their car had done during the time indicated by the graph. These stories would then be presented at the end o f the session to the other tribes and could be challenged by other students if they were mathematically inaccurate. Each group was given a copy of the task criteria, so that it was clear what was required. I told the class that during the activity, they were on their own; that I would not be available to help or redirect them, but that I would be making observations of what was happening in the class. If they needed to ask any clarifying questions, they would need to do so of other students. I made the time available clear, indicating the time when we would be beginning the presentations in random order by selecting colours from a hat.  As a class, before the task was commenced, we discussed the learning behaviours that would be important in this task and listed these on the board:

Good learners show personal organisation -  keeping track of and working to the time

Good learners ask good questions -  to ask each other questions about what the graphs mean

Good learners show work organisation - following instructions, checking task criteria, self monitoring

Good learners look for links to what has already been learnt about distance time graphs

Good Learners don t stay stuck -  asking others in the group for help and clarification

Good learners stay tuned in to the task

Good learners persist to complete the story and prepare the presentation

Good learners cooperate -  listen, share, contribute, help each other, develop ides together

Good learners think - to see if their solutions are accurate and reasonable - offer justifications; come up with an interesting way to perform the solution

 The class began working. A few students approached me to ask a question, I just shook my hand and put my hand up to indicate that I wasn t available. I recorded my observations of the class during the activity and during the presentations. The class all worked really effectively initially, but when they realised that I wasn t checking their off task behaviour, some of them did remain off task for longer periods than I would have usually allowed. The task was completed, by some groups more effectively than others, but fairly well given that this was our first try of working in this manner. After the presentations I asked the students to each write a reflection of how they felt they went against each of the GLBs we had identified at the start of the lesson. In community circle we shared some of these reflections. That was the end of that lesson. At the start of the next lesson, students again brought their reflections to community circle. I read and distributed copies to the class of the observations that I had made during the activity, which they all found very amusing. I asked them to check their reflections against the GLBs to see if they had been accurate, and change them if they wanted to, based on my observations. Whilst I had not recorded every single thing that had happened in the class, my observations had triggered memories or similar things that happened in their groups. Many students made changes based on my observations, both positive and negative. When we reflected on the activity the students indicated two main points:

  • That is was hard to keep on track without me assisting them, but that they should be able to do that and they would like an opportunity to practice that more often.
  • That the observations I had made and given to them had really helped them reflect more accurately on how they had gone in the activity.
We repeated this type of activity on several occasions and I observed a real improvement in both the ability of the students to manage their own learning and to reflect accurately on their own learning behaviours.

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The articles below (taken from PEEL resources)  illustrate how teachers have started a lesson or topic so as to  engage students, get their interest and get them thinking.  PEEL teachers devised a procedure , 'What do you already know, what do you want to know.'  Amanda Ellaby built up a Wonder Wall - 'what do you wonder she asked her students'

In different ways  teachers were able to tailor the curriculum closer to students' needs  and interests as well as getting much deeper learning.

PEEL procedure F30 KWL - Know?: Want to Know? Learnt (Posted 14/11/2016)

This article taken from Teaching for Effective Learning , the complete book of PEEL teaching procedures, is a way of involving students in  what is being taught. Like the other article below by Amanda Ellaby  it is likely to get students much more engaged with   their learning.

This procedure involves three questions: What do I know?   What do I want to know?   What have I learnt? that are tackled in two stages.  Early in a new topic (though not necessarily right at the start), the students, either individually, or in small groups, or as a class, brainstorm and record what they already know about it.  This helps them identify what they would like or need to know.  These questions are recorded at the same time.  It is important that the students have some genuine choice here.  Following this first stage, the students and teacher set out to answer the questions.  Some teachers use a KWHL, where H stands for How will I find out?  This question can involve writing a plan of action with stages to be checked by the teacher as they are completed.  Answering the students questions may involve library research, but this does not always have to be the case.  It could involve practical activities, or use of resources that the teacher brings into the classroom, or practicing new skills that the students said they wanted to learn, or even activities that the teacher designs and leads in response to the students What do I want to know list

One strength of this procedure is that it allows for different students to set and explore questions either at different levels of sophistication or difficulty, or in different areas of interest.  When this has been done, some form of sharing of what has been explored and found will generally be useful.

What is important is that the questions from the W stage retain a high profile and are seen as drivers for at least most of what is being done.  The What have I learnt? stage is done at or near the end of the unit and is done against both the students questions and what they already knew.  Here the students evaluate the extent to which they were able to find out what they wanted to know as well as where and how their understandings have been extended or changed.  The thinking associated with a KWL helps the students see schooling as about key ideas, not just tasks done because the teacher said to do them.

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What do you wonder?
Posted 7/1/2016

In this post Amanda Saffin describes how at the start of a lesson or topic she asked students what do they wonder? This led on to a Wonder Wall which got students much more engaged with their learning.

This initiative grew with my want to change some of my classroom practices and children s learning.  I had noticed that I needed to be more open to the children s ideas and follow their directions, especially within our integrated time.  As it was, I felt that I was not interesting the children, nor using their existing understandings or building their knowledge.  I was developing the content of the lesson sequences and initiating the directions.

Often, at the commencement of a unit, I would run a session on what do you want to know , but I never felt satisfied with the children s responses.  They tended to suggest concepts or question that they already knew the answer to. After some consideration, I decided to approach my next unit a little differently.  I asked the children what do you wonder?   I did this by simply saying what do you wonder about People Who Help Us.  I had found that asking what do you want to learn was not that effective.  After reading about some work by Lane Clark, I read about her wonder board and decided that this formed part of a learning vocabulary that would be more appropriate for my Prep grade because we often wonder things, e.g. Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are. I developed the Wonder Wall .  The Wonder Wall was a wall that I set aside in my classroom.  At the start of a unit, I would ask the children what do you wonder about the topic, e.g. weather, farm or dinosaurs and they would come up with questions.  I would write these questions up on brown pieces of card that resembled bricks and stuck them onto our Wonder Wall.  The children developed some wonderful questions such as:

When did dinosaurs hatch?

Why were the baby dinosaurs eyes open when they hatched?

How big do farms get?

Do pigs and sheep have the same feet?

How do you put horseshoes on horses?

As we progressed through the unit, I would bring these individual wonders and questions down from the Wonder Wall and discuss them.  The questions became the lessons for my integrated unit.  This was fantastic for the children because they could see that what they were wondering was important to us.  It was also a terrific way for them to learn from each other, because many of the children had some knowledge to be able to discuss the questions.  I also supported these wonders with normal integrated activities, reading, drawing and excursions.  On one particular excursion to the farm, the children wrote their wonders down on a piece of card so they could ask the farmer.

The children were extremely motivated to investigate their own question.  I had a child come to school the day after developing the wonders, with books from the local library that answered his wonder. This suggested to me that I was capturing their interest and enthusiasm to learn. 

The Wonder Wall has changed the way I teach integrated topics.  I no longer develop a prescriptive curriculum, which could be followed each year.  I work with the children s questions and knowledge.  This openness to their ideas has made me ponder these topics from a totally different perspective.  I have conducted lessons on question that I would never have considered, e.g. How big were T-Rex s teeth? It has brought excitement and fresh ideas into our classroom community.

The most significant advantage of developing a number of rich learning tasks that encourage the students to link their prior knowledge and new learning, is the way they