Teaching and Learning Blog

Welcome to the new Teaching and Learning blog! A fresh endeavour for 2018, this is a place for us to share the innovative and student centred work that happens across the school each and every day. We are proud of our teachers and the creative and challenging lessons they plan to help students develop their understanding and build life-long learning skills and curiosity about the world around them.

This blog will help us share insights into what our teachers are working on as part of our imaginative CPD programme, as well as a platform for teachers themselves to talk about the techniques and strategies they are using for the benefit of their students. This will include fascinating information about about how we meet the needs of, and challenge, all of the students in our classrooms.

We are committed to sharing students’ perspectives from inside the classroom, and our Teaching and Learning Ambassadors will also share their insights and experiences.

We hope you enjoy reading about this impressive facet of our school this year.

Mrs Ashton
Assistant Headteacher
Teaching and Learning and CPD

6th November 2018

Revision Revolution: Retrieval

'Twas the night before the exam, in the study café,
A student with a highlighter got carried away;
The textbook was read, again and again,
In hopes that the words would stay in her brain;
Until finally she made it to bed,
If only she had a way to keep it all in her head!

Equipping students with effective study strategies prepares them not only for GCSE and A-level assessments, but also with the skills required to be lifelong learners. Many preferred study strategies, such as re-reading notes and highlighting, lead to only short-term learning. They are not that effective when it comes to retaining information over a long period of time. Fortunately, a simple shift towards the use of a technique called retrieval practice can lead to big improvements in long-term learning.

Retrieval practice involves deliberately recalling facts or concepts from memory to enhance learning.  Every time a memory is retrieved it is strengthened and less likely to be forgotten. Evidence from research demonstrates that retrieval practice is more effective than re-reading material that you want to remember. It seems unintuitive because when you re-read something you become very familiar with it very quickly. However, it is easy to mistake this familiarity for meaningful learning. Being familiar with textbook notes does not necessarily mean that you will remember them. Retrieval practice can feel much more difficult but it is exactly this challenge that improves learning more than simply looking up an answer in a textbook. The struggle to drag something from your memory also provides information about what you do and do not know. It is easy to believe that you know the names of the six wives of Henry VIII but you cannot be sure unless you actually try to come up with the answer yourself.

As teachers we support students to learn our subject content through the use of retrieval practice in lessons. For example, through the use of low-stakes starter quizzes, questioning and tasks that require students to think back to previous topics. But how can students use retrieval outside of lessons to make the most of time spent revising?

Retrieval practice can be as simple as writing down everything you can remember about a particular topic on a piece of paper. Many traditional revision activities such as mind-mapping and practising exam questions can be retrieval if they are completed from memory only checking answers afterwards. Here are two strategies that students can use to embed retrieval in their revision repertoire.

Retrieval when revising from a textbook:

When revising from a textbook condense key points and important information on a notes page. Next, form questions that could be used to test this knowledge. Write the answers in a separate list so that you can practice answering them later on. Regularly go back to these questions to strengthen your memory for the information. The revision revolution booklet contains templates for revision from a textbook and self-testing (pages 5-7).

Retrieval using flashcards:

Flashcards are a popular tool for revision and can be very effective if used properly. Flashcards should have a question on one side and answer on the other side so that they can be used for regular self-testing. When self-testing using flashcards, it is important to actually generate the answer to the question by writing it down or saying it out loud before checking the answer on the back. Flashcards can be shuffled to mix up practice so that lots of topics can be tested in one sitting. It is important not to drop flashcards from the pile if you think you know them. You might know it now but for long-term memory you need to keep coming back to it!

For more revision tips, resources and videos visit the Revision Revolution section of the Didcot Girls’ School Teaching and Learning webpage.

Miss A Kyriakides
Head of Biology
Lead Practitioner

4th October 2018

Why we care about Teaching and Learning: a student perspective.

As head Teaching and Learning Leaders, we feel as if it is our duty to inspire younger students to develop their learning skills so that they become the best learner they can be, as well as enjoying the experience. In this process we are working alongside the teachers at Didcot Girls’ School to ensure that all lessons are at the best standard possible – by which we mean adapting lessons to help students learn in a way that will suit them individually, as well as the class as a whole.

Our vision is that all students at DGS can have a more active role in how they learn, as well as giving them the confidence to take ownership of their learning. All the Teaching and Learning Leaders have started making revision strategy videos to help students refine their study skills as part of the Revision Revolution. These will be used in Student Guidance time next term to support independent work. In the future we hope to speak to more of the teachers at DGS to discuss how students learn best in lessons to ensure that every lesson is highly effective.  

We both wanted to be Teaching and Learning Leaders in the school because we are so passionate about it and wanted to make a difference. This is because during our four years at this school we have felt like DGS have made such a huge impact on the way we learn, partly due to having an amazing support system to ensure you can understand everything you learn and receive help if not. As a result, we wanted to be part of the difference staff and students make to continue making the school a better place. We are going to do this by inspiring other students to enjoy the process of learning as an experience so that they can achieve their potential.

We will keep you updated with the exciting plans of the teaching and learning team in the near future.

Kimberley Turner and Clara Inglett

Lead Teaching and Learning Ambassadors, Year 11

24th September 2018

Dyslexia affects 15% of the population and is often a diagnosis associated with ‘not being able to spell’. In actual fact, Dyslexia is multi-faceted and varies from individual to individual. Some co-occurring difficulties include; motor co-ordination, language, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation but these are not, by themselves, markers of Dyslexia.

The definition of Dyslexia according to the British Dyslexia Association, 2009, is:

'Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.

Characteristic features of Dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.'

A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds or has responded to intervention.                 

Here at Didcot Girls’ we are aware that the term ‘Dyslexia’ can be used very loosely and can cause students to feel anxious. As a school we are determined to banish the negative connotations associated with Dyslexia, support students in finding strategies that work for them and also educate the wider community about the varied impacts Dyslexia can have on people’s lives. We are working hard to ensure that all classrooms across the school are Dyslexia friendly and that teaching strategies allow all learners to access the curriculum. Some examples of the strategies that teachers are using each day include:

  • Having visual aids available for every lesson, or asking pupils to create some as part of the lesson, therefore making effective use of multi-sensory sources of information.
  • Varying input and outcomes, such as through the use of small groups, discussion and audiotapes to maintain interest and provide memorable experiences.
  • Avoiding long lists of instructions given verbally and providing clear lesson structure – using the board to provide information visually, where appropriate.
  • Making sure that high frequency work lists and subject-specific key wordlists are available on each table for any writing task.
  • Outlining the lesson at the start helps to remove uncertainty about the session ahead and enables learners to monitor and mark the different stages of the lesson

4th October – World Dyslexia Awareness Day



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