I love teaching the topic of Entrepreneurship. I feel it is the most relevant to all of my students, whether they go on to study business in the future or not. It is also a chance to get creative.
I like to begin with an engineering type challenge. Students split into groups and were given a number of materials (pipe cleaners, streamers, plastic cups, straws, balloons etc) and had to develop a prototype for a new product. It could be anything. Students were limited only be their imagination.
Product Design Challenge
Another activity I recently developed was the mystery entrepreneur bags (see image below). I created 5 mystery bags that each contained 8 clues about the identity of a different entrepreneur. Students had to work in teams to discover the identity of each person.
Mystery Entrepreneur Bags
After finally working out the identities for each bag students then begin to research the qualities that make each person successful. This is the starting point for students to begin assessing their own entrepreneurial skills.
As I have worked through the TfEL pilot project it became clear I actually had 2 smaller projects rather than 1 big and overwhelming one. I am now experimenting on two of my classes instead of one!
The newest class to go under the microscope is my year 10 Business class. In semester one this class was on of the most difficult I have ever had to deal with. The class has changed somewhat with the change of semester. A range of new students have joined the class and some of the more difficult students have left it. It is still quite the mixed bag though. As such, it has been essential to develop some ground rules. I decided to go with a reward system rather than a punitive system. So far it is working well.
The first stage was introducing the idea to the class. I eventually settled on a punch card program (similar to those used by coffee clubs). Students can get their card punched for displaying examples of positive behaviour. After getting 25 spaces punched they will earn a special reward (to be negotiated with each student individually).
The next stage was setting the terms – or the things that can earn students rewards. This involved some brainstorming (see photo below). Overall, my students came up with 15 possibilities and through voting we narrowed it down to 10. These were the things that would apply to the whole class.
Brainstorm of what behaviours could earn rewards
I also asked students to develop 5 personal behaviours – things that would apply only to them. If they couldn’t come up with their own I would do it for the. This could be things as simple as attend lessons (for those students inclined toward truancy) to participating in class discussions or not swearing.
The most interesting things to come out of this was students recognising that there were a lot of things that were stopping negative behaviours rather than encouraging positive behaviours. Hence, helping others become something that could earn a reward.
While this is technically not a feedback tool, it is impossible to fully engage with a class when poor behaviours get in the way. By addressing this, I will hopefully be able to build a better relationship with my students and they will be better able to engage with the content of the course.
After 1 week the majority of students are pointing out to me when they are displaying positive behaviour and have their cards out ready for me. Fingers crossed it stays like this!
The main focus of my pilot project is on student feedback. I originally proposed to use a range of feedback tools with my year 11 Business and Enterprise class. On further consideration I realised that this was not going far enough. If I really wanted to incorporate student voice I would have to have input from my student during the whole process. To do this I took the biggest (and scariest) risk of my teaching life: I let my students design our entire learning and assessment plan for the semester.
I gave students a copy of the curriculum document, explained the minimum requirements of the course and let them loose. Students worked in groups to select their preferred topics, assessment tasks and the performance standards to be assessed for each task. I then compiled their suggestions into a master document.
It was terrifying. I have never taken a bigger risk as a teacher and I have never been more surprised. My students wanted to study topics I would never have thought they would want to. There are now 2 – 3 assessment options for students to select from in each topic we study and cater for a wide range of learning styles. This is not something I would attempt with a younger class but it has already improved the engagement of the class.
I also asked for input into the types of feedback this class want from me throughout the semester (see photo below). It was difficult to get students to think of any forms of feedback that were not traditionally used already. This is not surprising really, as they have not experienced anything else in all of their schooling. I will be slowly introducing them to new forms of feedback as we work through the semester.
The results of a class brainstorm – they really want chocolate and stickers!
After attending a session with Dylan Wiliam about formative assessment into daily practice it was time to narrow down my focus for the TfEL project I am involved in. Wiliam suggested it was best to stick to 3 – 5 formative assessment tools and so I narrowed down my options to the following:
Traffic Light Cups – Green indicates understanding, Red indicates assistance is needed
Exit Pass Questions – to get an idea of what students learned and where they need more help
Multiple Choice Flip Cards – students respond to multiple choice questions about content
I will use these tools in conjunction with things like the feedback memes I have posted about before. I am also developing a self assessment tool so students can evaluate themselves.
As part of my pilot project I will be implementing these tools over the coming weeks in the hope of getting a better understanding of my students.
A while ago (before I moved house, got sick etc) I attended a Professional Development session run by Dylan Wiliam. It was amazing. It is rare to go to some training that you don’t want to leave. This was one of those sessions. The whole day was about how, when and why to use formative assessment tools. Since this is my focus during the TfEL Pilot Project I am working on it was incredibly useful for me.
Wiliam pointed out that just because students can provide the right answer doesn’t mean they understand the content. It is far more useful to be interested in what students think. If every student in your class is getting all of the answers correct you are not doing them any favours – you are not extending or challenging them.
He talked about some controversial ideas (considering he was in a room full of teachers) like regular testing is good for students. I though he was going to get lynched until he continued… regular testing improves a student’s ability to recall information. The final score of the test is not what is important, it is the process itself. If you really want to improve student results let them self mark the tests, and never record the scores. We should be testing more and marking less.
I was most interested in ways I can best incorporate formative assessment tools into my daily practice. I was sadly given no quick fixes. Wiliam pointed out that it takes 10 years of deliberate practice to master something and the process cannot be circumvented. This means it is going to take me a lot of time to properly master the use giving and receiving feedback with my students. I suppose the point is that I have started this process
I have been feeling a bit off lately but as a teacher I am used to that. With the rapid approach of the first major year 12 deadline I have just ignored the feeling and carried on. Bad move.
I came down with a cough last week and again I soldiered on before being told how awful I look and being sent home early. I took a day off then jumped right back into work again. Bad move.
Since I am not bouncing back the way I usually do I took myself to the doctor today and was soundly told off by my doctor for not coming to see him earlier. Turns out I have a pretty bad sinus infection and I have had it for 6 to 8 weeks. I am now on a host of antibiotics and other such drugs and have been told I must take a few days off.
Moral of the story: look after yourself. No one is invincible and without their teacher students don’t learn. If you feel sick deal with it, don’t put it off hoping you will bounce back because sometimes you won’t without help!
I am a big fan of making learning fun. As such, I have a range of simple but fun board games in my classroom that I adapt for use a revision games. Kerplunk, Jenga (or Uno Stacko in this case) and other such board games. I modify the games so that students must answer revision questions before taking their turns. In this instance I even got my students to come up with their own revision questions (see images).
I rearranged my classroom and set up the games in advance as well as printing out sets of the pre-prepared revision questions so that the lesson did not seem like a normal one, it suited the tournament style game situation I had in mind.
They spent today’s lesson practicing for their upcoming exam and playing a variety of games at the same time. Of course, not all of the students participated as they should have but that is to be expected in a high school classroom. On the whole though, I think my students are better prepared for the upcoming test.
The final topic for my year 10 students this semester is business communication. This is one of my favourite topics. It has so much scope and allows me to do a range of games, activities and lessons with my students. We have watched episodes of the TV show “Lie to Me” to understand facial expressions. We have watched episodes of John Cleese’s documentary “The Human Face”. We have even watched an episode of Fawlty Towers (bad communication) as an example of what not to do.
Since I moved house recently (see post Never Ever Ever for more details) I needed to conduct an “off the cuff” style lesson with this class recently because my lesson plans went the way of my USB (again see above mentioned post) so I had to make up a lesson on the fly. Thankfully I have taught this topic before and had some activities up my sleeve.
I decided to run my students through a few activities/games that restricted the types of communication they were allowed to use. No speaking, no looking etc. The one that went over the best was one I call “Back to Back Building”. Working in pairs students sit back to back. One student places a selection of random items in a pattern in front of them then describes it to their partner who has to make the same pattern (see images below).
one of the patterns made by my students
The students who made the pattern above and were the best at communication games.
A few weeks ago I gave my year 12 class the task of investigating businesses and industries that used unethical business practices. Part of this task involved creating a series of advertisements to raise awareness of their chosen issue. As part of this task I spoke to the class about how most businesses and agencies use focus groups to gather feedback before going ahead with big campaigns. This gave me the idea of getting my students to undertake their own focus groups using other students from the school.
I arranged to “borrow” a year 8 class from a colleague and divided both classes into small groups (see image). I gave my students a range of questions to ask and invited the year 8s to be truly honest when giving their feedback. Overall it went really well. Those students of mine who took the process seriously got some useful feedback and those students who had not done much in the way of work got a stern talking to from a group of confident year 8s who were not afraid to tell it like it was! It was win win from my point of view!
my students presenting their ideas to a “focus group” of younger students
If I may offer some advice…
Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever move house during the middle of term.
Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever move house during the middle of term and the start of a major senior school assessment period.
Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever move house during the middle of term and the start of a major senior school assessment period and then misplace your USB containing the drafts of your students.
Just don’t. Take it from me.