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Digital Learning Environments Teaching and Learning

Formative Assessment: the review of Learning Intentions revamp

One year on already? I feel every week I intend to sit down and reflect on creating Learning Intentions to record, honestly, what happened to them in my classroom. Frankly, the best things kept distracting me. I have learnt a lot about teaching, motivation and what independent learning truly means this year, as well as effective content creation to support my classes.

The first 5min window

The first 5mins of every lesson is the most crucial to setting the mood and direction of the lesson. Ideally, every lesson would start calmly, with students and the teacher knowing their roles, with friendly introductions and minimal fuss.

This is not the reality. I know that in my science lessons this year, the expectation to greet the students in front of you, set a meeting, greet the students at home, communicate to all students the task they need to complete, provide the links or the directions on where their task is, deal with technical issues, do the register for all 27 students… half of which still can’t find their microphone button… yep. That was our reality. For the great majority of this year, this first window was not 5mins. It often over ran.

The first 5mins has put an extraordinary cognitive load on our teachers this year. Repeated 8 times every day makes for an exhausting and unsustainable experience. This tweet from @FixingEducation encapsulates this perfectly:

What did I learn from this year? I learnt that starting with a Learning Intention that introduced new concepts immediately was futile and detrimental to my sanity and my students mindset. Previous to this year, I used to write it on the board whilst the students filed into class. This was no longer an option… and this forced me to really think about whether that act of “writing the Learning Intention down” was the best use of the lesson time. It was not.

Instead my routine focused getting me and my students into the right mindset to learn. After the register, greetings and when my students were ready, I shared the intentions. This realisation honestly was the biggest game changer to the pace and mood of my lessons this year. The window of time to do the register shortened. The panic of seeing my students doing “nothing” as I faffed disappeared.

I will talk about what I actually did in my first 5mins in the next post. This post now will focus on how I communicated the Learning Intentions. When I was ready. After I had said hello to every student in the class (yes, at home too!) When all the students were captivated and ready to absorb more scientific knowledge. In the second 5mins of the lesson.

Below is typically how I started lessons with my Year 9 class. I have used the same lesson throughout for the images. By giving them an active learning activity that is hands off, gives me more time to ensure everyone is logged in and listening when I want them to be concentrating on Learning Intentions.

The second 5mins

My use of OneNote to create and distribute this lesson starting template worked quite well. The one thing I did tweak on it was instead of me reading the sentances to them, I selected the students to read them out. I used the random name generator on ClassroomScreen to do this. I did this because at the beginning of the year our Head of English gave us some fantastic and realistic methods to boost literacy in our classrooms without taking the time away from our subject content, this being one of them.

Classroom Screen was great to use to keep students actively engaged in the Learning Intentions because at any point they could be called to read the intentions. I frequently shared my Teams screen onto this and used Nearpod to guide the learning.

I also realised quickly into the year that OneNote was too slow for me to realistically see whether all my students were engaged, although it remained a great place to collect their notes so I could see them. OneNote was good to deliver the Learning Intentions template to them daily so they did not have to copy it down.

Showing comprehension

To discover whether the students understood the “Model of Success” I also used Nearpod frequently to instantly see how my students were interpreting my explanation of what success looked like. By using the features of “Draw it” or “open ended questions” I could instantly see engagement and share student work on the board without walking around the class. Nearpod’s ability to show work to all students created opportunities for student reinforcement of understanding that can be seen by all students, no matter where they are.

The lesson creation screen of Nearpod. I either uploaded a powerpoint of my lesson with the Learning Intentions already on it, or I edited the Learning Intentions into a pre made Nearpod lesson from the Nearpod library.
A student view of an Open Ended Question. I see all students writing and Nearpod easily tracks which ones are and are not engaging.

Learning Intentions can quickly become a meaningless activity. The slide that the teacher hurriedly skips when tight on time, or a filler activity for the students with little impact. These methods ensured that everyone in my hybrid classrooms were on board and had actively thought about their direction, setting their minds towards absorbing new knowledge for the remainder of our precious time together.

By Linda Parsons

Author of Digilin Learning.
Follower of Educational Technology enthusiasts, of all subjects. I am an MIE Fellow, Apple teacher and Google Educator. If it can be used as a learning tool, I will be keen for it. Currently a science teacher in the UAE.

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