A couple of weeks before the end of term I received the results of the optional QCA tests which my class took at the end of May. I thought I was the last person to take too much notice of data produced by testing, but I actually found it really interesting analysing the results, and reflecting on my teaching through the year.
This year in my year group we had been asked to have a big push on writing, and the development of integrated ICT. As people following his blog will know, we also had the significant challenge of implementing our first hour of the day of child initiated learning. Now, inevitably when you have a big push on something, something else will slip. You simply cannot focus strongly on all areas of the curriculum, especially as an inexperienced NQT.
Reflecting on the year I would categorically said this area for slippage in my practice was in reading. I did not do guided reading groups or work with individual readers as much as I should have, and I was not as diligent in working on encouraging and supporting reading at home as I could have been. It simply wasn’t possible for me with all the other challenges I faced, and things I had to focus on. Improving this was my first target for next year.
What surprised me is that come the end of year tests, not only had the reading scores generally not suffered but many children had made significant progress, with quite a number of children progressing 4 sub levels in a year (for international readers this is twice the target progress)! This area was by far the best in terms of the three tests they took, and I was left surprised and confused by the fact my biggest success was in something I had been conscious of not doing well.
After some thinking on this I discussed it with my ever-wise colleague Rachel Aver. Her reaction: not the least bit surprised! She said it was obvious from the way I question children that I would get good results in reading, as I am asking them to infer and make conceptual links all the time. It doesn’t matter that I don’t sit there and read a book with them (at least in terms of the test results- it matters hugely in other ways), because all the little conversations I naturally have as part of my teaching support these skills. Thinking about it objectively she is right, but this raises some interesting implications for me.
Perhaps if I want to improve my practice in other areas what I need to do is not radically overhaul my planning, or structure tasks completely differently. Perhaps what I need to do is work on those little interactions and make sure that I am approaching conversations with a view to the type of thinking that needs to take place for pupils to succeed in all the key areas. Tom Barrett made an interesting point on this when be wrote of the transition to being an infant teacher when he described how every opportunity for learning must be seized, even counting out equipment when completing organisational tasks. I think this is in many ways true further up the school too. It appears that my natural inclination to deeply question children on comprehension that has made more difference to assessment data than all the ‘big strategies’ I have implemented.
The challenge then, is how to implement these ‘little things’ outside of what I do naturally, in order to drive up standards. This is something I need to think hard about, how might I consciously develop those interactions that drive forward other areas like Maths? Deciding on strategies for me to develop it is going to take some reflection…