Learning Gems Uncovered


It’s the end of our first term of 2018 already! Term 1 is always a time for getting to know new students and considering the best ways to transition each cohort and support their learning.

At the beginning of the year, I wondered what I could do to help students with ASD, anxiety, or ADHD to make a smooth transition into Music and Italian lessons. I decided to use the pop sticks method.  This method involves getting a selection of wooden sticks – similar to those used for ice blocks/popsicles – and writing each student’s name on a stick. I asked the students who required additional support to sit at the table beside me, pull out sticks and read out the names.  I would then ask questions or use other learning strategies with the randomly chosen students.

How does randomisation uncover ‘gems of learning’?

‘Randomisation’ is a term used in educational theory for creating a more inclusive classroom. Each classroom has extroverts, who are always willing to contribute, and quieter students who prefer to ‘hide’. When students know that they may randomly be selected to participate, they are more attuned and prepared to engaged.  This can lead to a greater variety of responses; including surprising interactions we might call ‘gems’. See, for example, p. 82 in the chapter “Eliciting Evidence of Learners’ Achievement” in Dylan William’s text: “Embedded Formative Assessment”.

The results in my classroom

The pop sticks method has proven to be very effective in our Music and Italian classes so far this year, in several ways.

  1. It has given students who require extra support a sense of security and predictability. They are also more focused.
  2. In Italian lessons there is a strong focus on oral and aural work. This strategy has ensured that every student has a chance to read and speak Italian. We can all can hear each student’s pronunciation, intonation, fluency and expression.
  3. In Music every student has a chance to share their understanding and knowledge of the musical concepts.
  4. Waiting for your turn, and knowing you may be chosen at any time, encourages ‘thinking time’. This means students offer well thought out answers.
  5. Randomisation opens opportunities for all students to share their learning. The class LISTENS!!!
  6. Gems of learning are uncovered.

Some examples of Term 1’s ‘gems’

  • A Year 4 student explained to the class how the plurals in Italian are formed and how they match the gender of the nouns.
  • A Year 4 student explained to the class that she could see patterns in the sentences and that the verbs have a common beginning but change to match the subject.
  • A Year 1 student explained that 4/4 in Music means that the notes are grouped in 4s and that they have the right value in each group.

These are examples of complex thinking and engagement with content in our classes. Students enjoy their learning!

Other effective strategies for eliciting students’ learning

There are many strategies teachers may choose to use to elicit responses from students.

  1. Question Shells: Asking WHY questions which encourages open-ended thinking and explanations.
  2. Hot Seat: Student must summarise what they just heard from another student’s answer.
  3. ABCD: Students choose which answer they think is best and then must explain their decision.
  4. Reporter at Random: Selected student reports to the class what their group has been learning and discovering what has been achieved.

Inclusion is not just about physical proximity. It's about intentionally planning for the success of all students. Unknown.

Do you use other creative response strategies in your home or classroom? Leave a comment and tell me about it!



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