Monthly Archives: November 2013

Running Dictation

A core group of my colleagues and I have been on a mission to find as many uses for sticky notes in teaching as we can. This link came up on my twitter feed last night courtesy of retweets but ultimately from @TeachingEnglish. I have waxed lyrical about the power of twitter before and last night did not let me down.

My year 7 English class are in a writing kind of mood at the moment. They even redraft their work … YES!! I said … redraft.

I get comments like “Miss, can you just check this to see if it makes sense but remember it’s only my first draft”. One of my students even got her Mum and older sister to help her with her first draft so that I only had to read the second draft (she showed me the first draft).

When I followed the link and read 15 ways to use ‘post-it notes’ to teach English  I knew I had found the physical activity I needed to break up our double lesson … #4) running dictation.

Image0505Image0506I asked the students to pair up (12 pairs and a trio today). I had prepared the sticky notes with text from the first chapter of the first book of Harry Potter, with 20-ish words on each sticky note.

Then the race was on!

I gave them 15 minutes to collect (read, remember, retell and write) as many of the quotes as possible. They took turns to be the writer and reader.

A group of year 11s were quite bemused watching the year 7s run happily back and forth across the learning space trying to remember as much of each quote as possible and writing like their lives depended on it.

It was fun, frenetic and something all of them could do regardless of ability. Even my Aspergers’ got into this, despite the chaos in the room … and were the first to recognise the source of the text 🙂

At the end of the session we talked about the skills we had used … reading, memory, grammar, punctuation, spelling, speaking clearly, team work. I told them that normally I do this as straight dictation as a listening skill … we decided that we like Running Dictation much better.


Any other great ideas for sticky note activities????

Rewards to shout about?

My year 7 English class are a unique mix of personalities and, like most stand alone secondary schools, it takes a while for those personalities to learn to work together. This group are particularly LOUD! Their homeroom teacher (also the year 7 coordinator) and I were reaching serious frustration point in trying to encourage an appropriate level of noise for inside work. Then, while randomly surfing the net and the app store, I found an ipad app called Too Noisy.

too noisytoo noisy 2We experimented with the free version and eventually the yr 7 teachers have bought the app to get all the features. Essentially it is a noise meter with graphics that allow students to see when they are getting too loud. The teacher can set the levels for different activities. It is most effective when shown on the whiteboard so all students can see it but if I am using the whiteboard then I just set my ipad on the front of my desk.

The most recent updates have included a star system … if students can keep the noise level below the yellow (halfway mark) for a set number of minutes they earn a star. If they get too noisy and ‘crack the screen’ setting off the alarm they lose a star.

This has really appealed to the students and we now have a new challenge in our classroom. I have set the star level to 4 minutes. The challenge is to earn 10 stars in a double lesson (90 minutes).

This then prompted the question “What will we earn?”

Seemed like a fair question and when I threw it back to the students they could only come up with “fish & chips” or “chocolate frogs”.

I’m not against extrinsic rewards, especially at junior levels to work towards self management … I offer a chocolate frog each week as part of our spelling games …  but it did strike me that the only rewards they could think of were food rewards and not really ‘healthy’ options. I joked that I would be happy to bring a bag of apples or carrots as a reward but that didn’t go down too well. After some thought they decided that the reward could be a games session … I have a game we play in teams that promotes vocabulary, grammar and thinking skills (students especially like the ‘hot seat’ rounds where they are under pressure to come up with words).

So this is now our goal … 10 stars = 1 games session!

What I like about it is:

  • A) the students chose it;
  • B) it is something that is fun, not expensive and everyone can be involved in;
  • C) it doesn’t link goal achievement with food.

Not everything we do needs an extrinsic award, ultimately we move towards intrinsic satisfaction with a job well done … hence not every goal in our class has a reward but it doesn’t hurt to have a little fun every now and again.


What is your attitude to rewards?