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Inspiring disaffected year 11s

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#1 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 04:07 PM

I post this rather in desperation. I am currently struggling with a large group of yr 11 disaffected, hormonal, male, would be gangsters who seem to have decided that History is boring and they don't want to do the work that I am setting them. I can't understand this - how can they not enjoy my re-enactment of the Munich Putsch, by standing on the table and firing my pistol (whistle) into the air or the Weimar republic newspaper activity that Richard D kindly posted which would have meant some time on those lovely computers or the powerpoint that I showed them about Stresemann (thanks Mr Crowe)? I have become so frustrated that I have resorted to noting and dare I confess even copying. Any form of discussion is nigh on imposssible as it is far more interesting to talk about music, TV, girls etc or doodle rather disturbing pictures of guns. I virtually had a mutiny when I set a timed essay AND expected them to answer it! Any suggestions would be gratefully received, as you have gathered we are studying germany 1918-1945.
Yours resignedly ...
Until the lion has a historian of his own, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

#2 Anne Piper

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 05:43 PM

This strikes a chord! Year 11 today, Stresemann ppt, completely hoarse from talking over background chatter, and comments that this is sooo boring!

I have used the Weimar newspaper, and it was brilliant, some of the newspapers were inspired! I have sugested to my group that their homework for the next few weeks will be to do some independent research on the Weimar Golden years with a view to producing their own slide shows perhaps to go on the school webpage. This will be closely supervised and I will put them into working parties and give them the key topic areas. The response was positive, but we shall see what the end result is!

Any inspirational ideas would be appreciated by me too!
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#3 Dafydd Humphreys

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 05:50 PM

Do what I did - do away with Weimar and MWH. In my opinion this topic really only comes alive post-16. Just my 2p.
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#4 Stephen Drew

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 05:56 PM

Perhaps you could start from the premise that all students like to be successful and create success for these students - even if you know it has been done with all of your help and that they could not do it on their own at present.

I have created for my Year 11s a fortnightly cycle of lessons that includes one lesson every two weeks of "being the examiner". I have written eight answers to each of two exam questions per lesson. Each answer is a different level / mark and they are given a very brief one line description for markschemes. They then have to try to match the eight answers against the correct point on the markscheme and therefore put them in order.

This approcach works a treat. The students rapidly start saying things like "That answer is rubbish / pants etc. etc. because it just waffles and does not have any evidence or explanation". They start to pick out answers with evidence but no explanation and then the next level and so on.

The proof of the success is that my students this week (the second time they did it) had all the answers in the correct order within a few minutes and then dissected answers with great clarity. The fist time they did it they struggled, but by two week's time they will be ready for a new set of challenges. The outocmes of the lesson are clearly visible in their weekly exam question homeworks where they are explaining much more and giving much better evidence levels.

You could follow the exam marking session up with a highly structured exam question where they are basically completely spoon fed the answers with writing frames, the markscheme and textbooks etc. to help them - as well as you. When they suddenly get Cs and above in this scenario I suspect their interest will rise somewhat. They may not suddenly become totally focussed students, but they will perhaps be more positive.

I have a highly disaffected Year 11 boy who comes to me every week after school for help where he has so far achieved A, A and A* for his two part exam questions. I am doing most of the work for him and discussing it with him in depth, but he is growing in confidence every week and may even manage a grade D at the end rather than the Grade G he was heading for.

PM or email me if you would like the lesson resources I have mentioned. I have two sets of resources on Germany 1919-1945 porduced so far and am happy to share them with anyone.
"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts." - Bertrand Russell

#5 Andrew Field

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 06:05 PM

This sounds like a great idea - something I've been thinking about / been keen to do, but have never found the time to get round to it. Not teaching the same topic at all, but when the students are put in this position there's a different emphasis.

With the would-be-gangsters, all you can really do is simplify the work even more and more, into small accessible 'chunks' for them to put things together. Card sorts, gap-fills, incomplete answers - anything to get them in the working mode again. Such a difficult situation though...

Lots of short, competitive quizzes also works well - I've started doing a 20 question factual quiz every two week. This has the effect of creating an atmosphere of competition and mentality of success. Giving a ridiculously inappropriate prize such as a primary school 'well done' sticker seems to somehow appeal too.

I guess you also need to wade in and remove the one or two individuals you feel are at the heart of any potential mutinies and get them to work with SMT for a lesson or two.

Not that I'm speaking from a position of success I hasten to add.

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#6 Dan Lyndon

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 07:13 PM

Thanks everyone, certainly a few ideas to chew on. I know that I shall keep plugging away, but it is nice to get a bit of support too. I think that I might get them to design a ppt on each of the Nazi leaders and share the outcomes with each other - maybe a bit of solidarity will help.
Until the lion has a historian of his own, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.

#7 Helen S

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Posted 08 October 2003 - 07:22 PM

I get the same experience too!

My Year 11's are a funny lot! 1/2 work and 1/2 do as little as they can! Not great when I'm trying to get coursework out of them. I've had to resort to tight deadlines for each part backed up by the after school detention system.

My worry is year 10. They keep telling me how they dislike History despite my efforts to come up with varied tasks. Apparently the person that did my job before
1. never made them write
2. never set homework
3. let them sit where they wanted
4. let them eat and drink in lessons

(yeah, right!)

Is there 1 to 2 worst members? can you possibly have them removed for a couple of lessons so you can get the others on side? Hopefully then they'll see its the disruptive few that distroy lessons for the majority.

Having said that with my year 8's there are more than a few characters so this option isn't as great.

Hope things improve!

Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.
H. G. Wells

#8 bemused1


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Posted 08 October 2003 - 07:34 PM

Not teaching Nazi Germany this year having pushed it into post-16 but the following worked well last year. Like Andrew, factual tests every two weeks, marked by students in class. This produced a league table of results. Students had a joker to play for when they thought they had revised for a test well.This doubled their points from that test. The tables were put upon the wall following every test and were very motivational even for the SEN students. At the end of the complete unit I gave a book token for the person who was on top, even though I had never mentioned a prize as they all worked so well.
Also, had students in pairs writing a speech for Hitler which they then had to deliver to the class. Having watched film of Hitler's speeches they were expected to use hand gestures and other typical mannerisms.
Good luck.

#9 JohnDClare


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Posted 08 October 2003 - 09:24 PM

First, may I say that the putting-the-marks/comments-to-the-essays is BRILLIANT. Well done Stephen for a brilliant idea which please may I steal!!!

Secondly, the idea of a joker is inspired!!! I just love it.

When you're faced with a class with even a few real turned-offs, it can be very depressing for the teacher AND the other pupils, and really puts a downer on the course for everyone.
Of course, a good teacher tries everything possible to inspire and 'turn on' those pupils.
But there comes a time when you realise that this person is instransigently negative, and that s/he is there ony to wreck the lesson.
In that situation, you have to fall back on the second principle of teaching.
The first principle, of course, is to do all you can for the best off all the pupils given to you.
The second is that, failing this, you will create a learning environment where those who want to learn, can do so.

In such a situation, like a magician from a hat, I pull out with a flourish the 'Greenfield Certificate'!!!!

1. Explain to the negative(s) that you understand their problems with interest and understanding, and that you are going to propose a solution amenable to all.
2. Explain that your responsibility is to get GCSEs for those who want them, and that, really, their duty TOO is to behave in a way so as to hep their peers/friends get the best results they can.
3. Tell them that, if they want, you will take them off the GCSE course and put them on the 'Greenfield Certificate course'.
The Greenfield Certificate course is different to GCSEs. GCSEs measure how well you've done something. The 'Greenfield Certificate' simply measures whether you've done it. Which is much easier and nicer.
So, they can still watch the videos, but they don't have to try to understand them. They don't have to partipate during your teaching and class discussions, but they do have to shut up so others can learn from them. They don't have to take notes - you will give them more interesting things like wordsearches/ drawings instead. They won't have to do the essays - you will give them a section of the textbook to copy.
At the end of every topic/half-term, as long as they have done the elements you require, you will give them a Greenfield Certificate. [You mock up a pretty coloured thing which lists the different elements they've studied - I can let you have the one I use if you want, but I'm sure you can do better.] The 'Greenfield Certificate' is not a GCSE certificate of course, but they can put it in their Record of Achievement, and it tells an employer - 'here is a man who gets the job done'.
The work you will give them will be fall-down easy. If they finish it before the end of the lesson they can get on with something else - their homework if they want. But they MUST behave in such a way as allows those who want to learn, to learn.
Do you have a deal?
4. Then you change almost nothing, actually!
a. You sit them around the edge of the group, to physically identify the 'Greenfield Certificate' candidates.
b. At the start of every lesson, you announce what both groups will be doing together this lesson, what the GCSE pupils only will be doing, and what the Greenfield Certificate pupils will be doing.
c. Both groups must listen to your exposition. Both groups can watch the videos and try the activities/dramas etc. But when it comes to the actual work element, set GCSE exercises for the examination pupils, and give a worksheet with a set of mundane, VERY easy and wherever possible entertaining tasks to the Greenfield Certificate pupils. It is important that you invest this work with a validity: it is work they must finish to get the certificate - but make sure you give them easy stuff they will be able to finish in the time.
5. Regularly, present the Greenfield Certificates to the 'non-exam' group with great eclat.

What I USUALLY find is that, with the pressure-to-perform off, the antagonistic pupils respond to the appeal to help their peers by getting on invisibly, and beaver away at their fun tasks quite amiably.
What I OFTEN find is that they positively enjoy doing work they can now do successfully, and I have had pupils throw themselves into class activities, stay back after school, ASK for homeworks and even come out of other lessons to finish their list of obligatory tasks - all to get a 'Greenfield Certificate'!!!!!
What I SOMETIMES find is that - having done the dead-easy work and understood it, many pupils who would have been straight-down-the-line non-entries in fact do passably well in their Mocks, and I suggest: 'Do you want me to try entering you for the GCSE (there's nothing to lose)' and they graciously 'let me' and with a little bit of cramming they sometimes do quite well, though I've never had one get a C.

All a 'Greenfield Certificate' is is a bit of card I've run through my printer, and I always feel a bit of a trickster. But I bull it up as a real good thing, and lustrum after lustrum of turned-off pupils have happily plodded through the work - and let me get on and teach the others.

#10 Arjun Sen

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Posted 24 November 2004 - 06:54 PM

Do what I did - do away with Weimar and MWH. In my opinion this topic really only comes alive post-16. Just my 2p.


I'm not sure even this would actually fully address the problem. I have Year 11s some of whom say they hate MWH but love the ancient stuff or even 17C. The reverse is also true. I suppose some sort of modular IB allowing a wide choice of topics would help with preferences but how do we get text books to cover everything? At least Cambridge iGCSE (which is what I teach) goes solidly from 1919-1989.

Deeper than this, my Year 10s started as bubbly and highly interested and have developed into yawning Year 11s. Some want to concentrate on their Science Doubles and so won't take the History exams since History involves a lot of work, is not a compulsory subject and they can't find career importance in it. I did a chat with them about the 'uses of history' in careers but kids wanting to work as geneticists or IT programmers weren't impressed. Another feels that in between two highly promising career possibilities (in his view) of highly paid computer person and highly successful musician, History seems just the teacher's hobby.

In Year 10 it was sufficient for them to take it as one of the more interesting of whatever sets of choices they were offered among the optional subjects. By Year 11 and with the mocks approaching, they realise that they are going to have to get serious about revision and study unpleasantly hard to do well. Inevitably, priorities are coming out, even for the swots. History is limping in behind the others despite my best efforts and a good amount of patience and forbearance with digressive discussions to keep interest levels going.

They don't want me wearing a false moustache and waving a plastic luger pretending to be Hitler. My Year 11 are hormonal as well but more focused. And it's no longer on History.

Any ideas?

#11 JohnDClare


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Posted 24 November 2004 - 09:38 PM

Strategies which work with Year 11

I wrote this four years ago for my own staff, but it is here for you if you want to.
Feel free to criticise - or reject it altogether.

Year 11s are children standing on the threshold of adulthood. They want the best of both worlds and the duties of neither. Most of their reactions and attitudes are different to ours, and some of them we find incomprehensible. They are emotionally brittle and volatile. They over-react, go hyper, get hostile, become over-confident and lose confidence – all at the drop of a hat. Their values are different to ours. They are able purposely to close their minds to the pressures they don’t want to face; often, the more important the duty, the more they shirk addressing it.

Harry Enfield makes humour out of this – they are 'teenagers'.

All the research shows that identifying and ‘pushing’ disaffected and underachieving pupils is actually counter-productive. It is so because teachers try to do so without taking into account the teenage psyche.

Below are a series of strategies which can be successful, when applied at the right time in the right way. To a degree, many of them involve acting and dissembling.

Ways to fool teenagers into passing their exams.
1. Teenagers hate you ‘going on and on’. Realise this, and use it as a weapon – sparingly and to maximum effect.
2. Teenagers hate you ‘moaning’ at them, especially when there is nothing they can do about it at this moment. Teenagers DO NOT mind being told off – they see it as part of the territory. But make it short, appropriately fierce, to the point . . . and then let the matter drop.
3. Tomorrow must always be another day. Teenagers HATE you ‘dragging up the past’.
4. When telling off a teenager, never postulate or argue in the conditional. Never tell them what they are feeling or what will happen if . . ., etc. They will reject you on the grounds that ‘how do you know?’, and they will therefore be able to reject the message of the reprimand (we all know how pupils ‘glaze over’ as we are talking). Realise that even those who dare not backchat you to your face are backchatting you in their head. Restrict yourself to the unarguable FACTS, which gives them no grounds to let themselves off the hook.
5. Be longsuffering. The most powerful reprimands occur when you can pull out a long list of their failures where you did nothing or even acted positively while they did this, and this, and this . . . but now the time has come for it all to stop.
6. Lighten up. Share a joke. Smile. Be good fun. Hail fellow well met is a good strategy.
7. Butter them up. Loads of (false if necessary) flattery. Seize on the good amidst the dross in their work and comment on that – that is what you want more of. Build up their self-esteem – if necessary by strategic lies and acting. Give them the confidence to pass.
8. Encourage them, much as you would a runner in a running race.
9. Constantly reassure them that you like them.
10. Do little favours and give little presents – both to the group and to individuals. Bring in a newspaper cutting that you saw and thought that it might help X / do a revision crib and give it to the group ‘because I thought it would help you’, etc.
11. Don’t go on and on constantly about how the exams are coming, and they’re not ready . . . etc. They will just ‘turn off’. Instead, frequently break off from the narrative of your teaching to give them ‘asides’ and ‘tips’ for the exams – ‘By the way, one question which often comes up in the exam is . . .’/ ‘One good trick when you do the exam is . . .’ Firstly, it will make them feel that you are doing them a favour. Secondly, every time you mention ‘the exam’, it creates a flutter of panic in the pits of their stomachs. Who can resist this!!
12. Be positive much more than (and even to the exclusion of) negative. Tell them what they are capable of if they do, not how they will fail if they don’t.
13. Make them feel that they CAN do it.
14. Did you want to add the words ‘if they try’ to point 13? Resist doing so.
15. Do not go on about how much hard work it will take to come up to standard. Remember that Year 11s are outgrowing their strength and their sense of duty and that they find work much more difficult than us. They will usually do anything to avoid it, and become stomach-twistingly bored as they go on. If you go on too much about how much work is needed, they will think ‘I could never make myself/ I don’t want to work that much’ and give up.
16. Teenagers can quite enjoy feeling guilty. Don’t be afraid to lay it on how much they have distressed you or how much they have let you down. But don’t over-egg the pudding, and don’t expect them to show or admit you’re right.
17. Remember they are young adults Treat them as adults/partners in the learning process in situations where they gain. Too often we expect them to react like adults in situations where they do not want the burden.
18. Remember they are still children. Treat them as children in situations where they gain. Too often we treat them like children in situations where they object.
19. Explain thoroughly. Many children are culturally deprived, and often they do not have general knowledge of even the most basic things. Many lack the ability to remember work they did in previous years, or even last lesson. Many cannot appropriate meaning easily from written text. So, assume nothing, and explain orally from the thread to the needle. Ask if they have understood before you ask them to start work on anything.
20. Give an outline overview of the whole topic before beginning to work through the parts.
21. Give them a programme of what they will be doing for the next half-term. Start each lesson by reminding/ telling them where today’s lesson comes in the overall scheme of things.
22. Expect and require certain things, and don’t others – for instance, I require ALL pupils to give 100% attention, application, co-operation and behaviour in lessons. I require notes to be complete and in the right order by the end of the topic. But I can’t be bothered to get uptight about irrelevancies such as trainers not shoes, unobtrusive jewellery, eating sweets unnoticeably in class. Adopt a set of standards that the teenagers can give mental assent to – if necessary, discuss with them what you might acceptably get uptight about, and what not.
23. If your SoW relies on pupils doing every homework on time, you are going to become very stressed. When giving homework, check their homework burden for that date, and negotiate accordingly.
24. Some pupils can’t organise themselves, lose their work and turn up without any materials. Don’t let those pupils take anything home. Keep their work in your classroom.
25. For work/ notes the pupils do, have a typed copy, to give to pupils who have been absent or haven’t done it and can’t or won’t catch up. Other pupils can’t easily read their own writing, and it makes sense to give these pupils also a typed fair copy set of notes to revise from.
26. Personal revision at home is the key period for exam success. Pupils go up or down two grades with ease. So make fully sure that, when they cease to attend your classes, they are suitably equipped, not only practically (with good revision schedules, materials etc), but also psychologically, to make the most of that time.
27. Liaise with parents. Write home when the pupils begin the assignment, asking the parents to monitor and encourage their children. Write home if the work isn’t finished on time, and ask the parents to make sure the pupil finishes it. But realise that the resolve and power of parents, also, is limited.
28. At the end of every topic, the History department sends home an (easy-to-write, mainly ticky-box) interim report, to tell the parents how the pupil has done.
29. Remember that the pupils want to do well too.
30. Do not ever become sulky, or visibly sorry for yourself, or ‘take your bat home’ with the pupils. They despise this, although (because???) they do so all the time!!
31. Be reasonable with them and be overtly understanding of the limitations of their character and the problems of their situation. Do not expect them to be at all reasonable about you or your situation!
32. Don’t treat as a group. They are not all the same. Don’t let a few wasters your view of the whole class. Most of the class will be genuinely pleasant and diligent pupils.
33. Teenagers tend to be immune to ‘atmospheres’ or a teacher ‘in a bad mood’. Sometimes they even enjoy it. It is a tactic they use at home to get their own way. They are going to do fairly much the same amount of work whether or not there is a pleasant or unpleasant atmosphere. You, on the other hand, will enjoy the lesson much more if there is a happy atmosphere. So let go of the fact that lots of them haven’t done the homework (etc.), and create a happy classroom – except perhaps every now and again, just to show them what it could be like.
34. Pupils are like bacteria – eventually they become immune to certain strategies, especially those which are used too often. You need to keep finding new ways round them. ‘One step ahead’ is the key to happiness; ‘one step behind’ will lead to stress.

#12 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 24 November 2004 - 09:58 PM

Thanks John, you've just written the speech I have to give to staff about dealing with my year group... :)

#13 Andrew Field

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Posted 24 November 2004 - 10:17 PM

Fantastic advice from JohnDClare there. Hopefully he won't mind, but I've just turned it into a Word document, changed the part about his specific pupils and uploaded it here.

At the same time, it might be worth calling everyone's attention to the Booster materials that the DEFS have just released. Part II (new this year) in addition to last year's materials now also covers History coursework.
DFES KS4 'booster kit'

With these resources side by site, it is still remarkably obvious which one is of more practical use. Thanks John. :flowers:

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#14 Lou Phillips

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Posted 25 November 2004 - 09:23 AM

Although I don't teach GCSE at the moment, can I just say how inspiring the advice given in this thread is. Most of the ideas are certainly applicable to all year groups, especially a year 9 group I am struggling with. I love the test league table and 'joker' idea and may begin to use it with my SEN groups who have regular spelling tests of key words. They love competitions, quizzes etc and this may spur them on even more.

So, as ever, thank you! :flowers:
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