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Observation Observation

School observations are an important part of the Creative Classrooms Lab project. On this page you will find information on the observation methodologies and gathered during visits undertaken by Diana Bannister, University of Wolverhampton to the 8 countries involved in the project.

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How Can You Encourage Your Students To Explain Everything?

Athénée Royal d’Ans

My first observation visit in Belgium Wallonia region is an hour away from the centre of Brussels to Ans near Liege.  Athénée Royal d’Ans school has 1000 students and consists of one main building surrounded by quite a number of small buildings across a huge site. 

We begin the morning in deep discussion, unpicking the challenges of implementing tablets in schools.  (And of course, there are quite a few…)

This term the lead teacher Sandrine Geuquet, is going to start working on school to school collaboration but today she has a special task for the students, to communicate with a virtual expert.  One of the teachers in the school has recently won a prize to spend six weeks at the Princess Elisabeth research station in Antarctica.  Today, he will liaise with students and give them opportunity to ask questions.  Whilst previously the Antarctic has only been in films or documentaries, today for these students, it is very real.  It enables them to understand the direct challenges the teacher is facing. No supermarkets, a small group of people in a limited space.  There is opportunity for greater understanding of survival strategies.  This is a good example of “Bring in the Expert” and whilst not every school has a teacher travelling to the Antarctic, it is crucial that schools make the most of such opportunities for students.

  • Do you use real experts in your classroom?
  • Have you connected to someone from a different organisation to work with your students virtually?
  • Have you tried connecting to someone in a different country?

The second lesson of the morning is French and today the focus is on spelling.  This is sometimes a difficult subject to inspire and excite others, but Sandrine skilfully manages to enable the students to participate.  The lesson begins with a 10 minute listening task.  The students have one device between two and have to write down the test that has been recorded for them, identifying the spelling rule.

  • Do you give your students regular timed tasks using the tablets?
  • How can regular listening tasks improve the students’ learning outcomes?
  • What kinds of tasks do you give to the students to enable them to improve the pace of their work?
  • What resources can your students create to support their own revision?
  • Which apps do you consider essential for different subjects?
  • Has your school identified a short list of apps that all teachers and students can use?
  • What different kinds of outputs can the students produce in the lesson to demonstrate their understanding?

The students respond well, knowing that they have a limited time.  In the next part of the lesson, the teacher gives the student groups a different spelling rule and they must use the app Explain Everything.  The students work in pairs to make a podcast using the app; when they are ready to record, they can leave the classroom.  The final products can be shared between the students using the teacher’s website and become great home-made revision examples.  The students have produced creative outputs and also developed transferable skills that can be used across subjects.

Next Stop: Italy