A student for a day

How Calrossy's unique structure benefits every student

Student for a day – Monday, June 9, 2020.

Recently our Director of Quality Teaching and Learning, Rob Marchetto, shadowed a Year 7 boy, for all his classes. This allowed him to see the benefits of Calrossy’s distinctive diamond model through the superb teaching of single sex classes.

The teachers were not given any notice that he would be attending their classes.

Calrossy’s breadth of subjects exposes the Year 7 boys to such a diversity of knowledge and skills which typifies Calrossy’s holistic approach to exposing students to a range of learning opportunities. 

There were a number of recurring learning strategies employed throughout the day that clearly worked well for these young adolescent boys.

  • The power of routines – such as the way boys enter into the classroom and the teacher waiting for silence before instructions were given.
  • The importance of explicit instruction (step-by-step) and modelled worked examples for showing students what success looks like was a consistent feature.
  • The amount of independent deliberate practice, and repetition of learning, that the boys had the opportunity to do was a very high proportional time within lessons.
  • There were opportunities for boys to clarify their understanding, to engage in physical work and to display their creativity within the lessons.
  • Two fifths of the lessons involved using computer software in non-technology subjects, tapping into the interests of this demographic. This is enabled due to Calrossy’s MacBook program and the suite of educational offerings that this computer program supports.

Below is his recount of the experience.

At the beginning of each lesson all the teachers asked the students to take off hats, leave their bags outside before entering classrooms and stand behind their desks. This is an expected routine at Calrossy, that acts to prevent behaviour problems from arising.

 

Period 1 Geography – “Place and Liveability”

Students design a city using Minecraft

The students continued designing their own town on Minecraft. The class had previously watched a video on the 10 most liveable cities in the world.

Contextualised to Tamworth the boys had an ideation brainstorm of the recreation facilities that make it such a liveable city. Such as the sporting precinct, skate Park, retail shops. The class was collectively contributing individual sections towards the one town being designed so that it became an optimal liveable place. This activity culminated after six weeks of prior knowledge on the topic of Place and Liveability, allowing the boys to transfer their knowledge and apply their critical thinking and creatively make a town that would be desirable to live in. The Minecraft game allowed for the class to collaborate on constructing their own town. Here is a photo of the town the boys were collectively creating.

 

 

 

Period 2 Technology

This was a lesson in the highly successful year-long Paddock to Plate progra

Today the boys were preparing garden beds using shovels, picks and spades in order to plant winter herbs and vegetables. The lesson was a great example of a hands-on, relevant learning experience.

Following this the boys will design their waterwise irrigation systems aimed at sustainably watering the vegetables. In pairs they record photographic change over eight weeks, culminating in diary entries noting those changes. This then crosses over with Mathematics as the boys construct average heights recorded in a table or graph. The boys will be using design thinking principles engaged in testing, modifying, justifying and evaluating their irrigation system that they create. The teacher and their peers will then get the boys to reflect and evaluate the success of their designs. 

This lesson is an excellent model of how Calrossy integrates STEM across the curriculum, in this case combining Science, Technology, Maths and Design, all while working outdoors and keeping the boys active.

Period 3 Science. Expansion – Particle Theory

The Science teacher used the successful learning mode of explicit instruction, using the board to model worked examples and to make written annotations. This type of instruction is particularly beneficial for visual learners.

This chunking down of content through using diagrams/models on the board helps embed new or previously introduced terminology. This is known as dual coding which combines words and visuals such as pictures, diagrams, graphic organizers, and so on. The idea is to provide two different representations of the information, both visual and verbal, to help students understand the information better.

I noticed the following strategy was used with the aim to have the class noise to a minimum as the teacher asked the boys to “keep ideas in our heads” instead of calling out answers. Calrossy’s aim for 7 – 9 (single gender classes) is developing engaged and courageous adolescent learners. With this firmly in mind the teacher asked repeatedly “who is feeling brave?” and this encouraged the boys to take the initiative and be confident in their learning. This highlighted for me one of the main benefits of our single gender classrooms in early secondary, where students surrounded by their same sex peers are challenged and encouraged to “have a go”. This resulted visually in the boys being encouraged to raise hands so that they suggested their answers. 

The teacher asked rhetorical questions that supported conversation and reinforced the understanding and visuals of the scientific theory that was being taught. This verbal exchange also allowed the teacher to assess the students’ understanding of the topic.

The Science teacher used the teaching tactic of repeating questions so that they could hear the question more than once, and also allow for wait time so that the boys could have time to adequately think. 

The boys were able to actively write down notes and draw diagrammatic representations in their Science notebooks so that they had a record of their learning. 

This Science teacher embodied the positive notion of authority. Someone is always in charge. If the teacher doesn’t take charge of the classroom, the loudest/naughtiest/most influential pupil will. Authority was never absent in this classroom. Authority is not to be confused for authoritative, authority is in reference to the Science teacher’s knowledge of their subject and expressing their passion for the curriculum that they deliver. At Calrossy teachers’ knowledge of their subject and of the habits needed to succeed gives them the authority to explicitly lead the learning in the classrooms.

 

Period 4 Mathematics

The teacher greeted the students at the door and asked the boys to attend to the parts of their uniform that were needing attention.

This lesson focused initially on reviewing improper fractions and mixed numbers. The boys ruled up their books so that they could attempt the learning for the lesson. The boys were absolutely silent in the dialogic questioning and answering exchange, honouring their peers’ answers, modelling respect when another student spoke and not ridiculing a peer when they gave an incorrect answer. This was a great reflection of how the Calrossy model promotes confidence and courage amongst these early secondary learners.

The teacher asked the boys as a class to share their answers and then wrote and modelled the answers on the board in a different colour. 

This teacher had high expectations for not calling out and interrupting when they or a peer were talking to the class.  A feature of this lesson was the measured pace of the lesson, transitioning swiftly from one part of the lesson to the next.  I think that one of the reasons the boys were so attentive is that at every stage in this lesson their chances to experience success were maximised. At one stage the teacher stopped their instruction and asked a boy to move to another desk so that he was able to take personal responsibility for his learning behaviour. 

The Mathematics teacher then wrapped up at the end of the lesson and gave clear homework instructions, and asked for confirmation of what the instructions were for the homework they were doing. Many boys thanked the teacher for the lesson and said goodbye.

Period 5 Music

The boys were working on their Music composition assessment using a computer software program known as Muse Score, where students are to compose a two- part rhythmic composition for un-tuned Percussion Instruments. The composition should include: A minimum of two un-tuned percussion instruments and a minimum of 12 bars in length.

A repeated pattern (ostinato) across two bars that could be transferred to different instruments. Their music teacher modelled what was expected from an ostinato on the whiteboard. 

The boys were able to deliberately practice their composition and get feedback on what they needed to attend to or improve in. 

As their music teacher circulated around the room he was able to give formative assessment to the boys that communicated exactly what it is the teacher wanted students to learn and do. Among those things what students learnt well, and what they need to do to work on a bit more and provide a basis for offering students guidance and direction to remedy these difficulties.  This individual feedback meant all the students were supported or challenged according to their ability.

 

Rob Marchetto

Director of Quality Teaching and Learning