Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Hollow Square Quiz - A Fun Way to Revise

The "Hollow Square Quiz" is a creation of mine designed to use the quiz as a device to:

revise topics prior to exam/test and
introduce a new topic by revising prerequisite material.
Initially, it concentrates on the basic skills. Later, the questions may become more difficult or delve into the problem solving area.

Because of the way it is organised, it becomes a fun way to revise or introduce a new topic. More importantly, every student can remain totally involved right up to the end of the quiz in an effort to become the final winner.

This is how I organise the quiz.

Teacher sits at/on the front desk.

All students stand around the walls of the room in front of the teacher forming a hollow square. (You might need to check the placement of students to ensure a disciplined environment).

Explain the rules below:

The quiz proceeds clockwise or anticlockwise.

All students must be quiet with no discussion on questions. Penalty: the student sits down and is out of the quiz temporarily.

A question is asked. If the answer is wrong, the student sits down. The next student is asked. If he/she is correct, the next student is asked a new question. If the answer is wrong, the student sits down. If three students get it wrong, the students sitting down get a chance to answer. If correct, they stand up in the space left by the incorrect students. If no one can answer the question, the teacher explains the answer. Then the quiz begins again.

The students are warned that questions may be re-asked either in the same form or a different form especially those which have not been answered.

Students sitting down must not talk either. If they do, they will not be asked questions to return to the quiz.

The winner is the last remaining student who has answered his/her question.
Here is how you keep all the class in the quiz right to the 'bitter end'.

If the last question results in the last one, two or three people failing to answer it, i.e. no one is left standing, everyone sitting down gets the opportunity to win the quiz by answering the final question first. (This is where the teacher can 'manufacture' a desirable result. By that I mean the teacher can select who they want to win to increase that student's confidence. There are often enough clues given by the last students to almost guarantee your selection 'wins'.)

Below is some advice on how to proceed to make this a valuable learning experience.

Don't repeat questions unless you make an error. This will help develop concentration and listening skills in your students.

The second and third students may get the answer because of the clues given by the previous student. That's OK because they have been concentrating on what answers have been suggested.

When you catch students out by asking the same question some time later, make sure you make the point that you've caught them.

Make sure you catch the first person speaking/talking and sit them down immediately. Talkers distract others and prevent total concentration and the ability of students to hear the questions and the suggested answers, thus keeping them out of the 'game'.

Give students no more than 10 seconds to answer. If an answer is partly right, you may ask for more information/explanation.

I often made up questions as I went or on finding a deficiency in my class's learning. Alternatively, I might ask the same question again but in a different way to test out their understanding or concentration/remembering skills.
This type of quiz has the following positives for me as the teacher.

Help develop listening skills
Involve all students in the re-learning process
Are fun and quick and easy to organise
Allow the opportunity, occasionally, for the 'winner' of the quiz to be 'manufactured' to build a student's confidence
Enhance self-discipline, listening skills and concentration

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Teaching Multi-Ability Classes - Some Strategies

Throughout their career, most teachers will have classes of students with a wide range of learning abilities. This means they have to cater for all these students. They cannot use a 'one model fits all students' teaching pedagogue. This article looks at four different approaches to teaching most types of classes. An experienced teacher might use all four approaches, at different times, to get the best learning outcomes for each class.

The Simplest Approach:

Step 1:

The simplest approach is to teach the learning part of the lesson to all the class as they are. Then set work to be done to consolidate your teaching.

Step 2:

There will still be students who will need extra support. There are three ways to help these students.

One idea is to gather them around you at the board or your desk and re-teach your lesson at an appropriate level for these students.
An alternative to this is to have a question and answer session with them in one of two ways. They ask the questions and you provide the answers until everyone is satisfied. The other is for you to ask and for them to answer until you are satisfied. You might like to do both in the order above with you asking questions last to test understanding.
A third alternative is to use a mentoring system where the less able have a personal mentor for the re-teaching.
Achievement Groups:

Step 1:

Group the students in your classroom in achievement groups for each subject. They will need to sit together to allow you easy access to them for the next step. Step 2:

Then, after the basic introduction and some simple set work to consolidate that introduction, re-teach the topic, if necessary, to each achievement group at an appropriate level for them.

Step 3:

Set follow up work to support that learning.

Note: (a)The more talented students should not be required to do many of the basic exercises, just enough to establish that they understand the new work. Then they can begin the more challenging exercises.

(b)These processes will enable all students to start and succeed and reduce unacceptable behaviour and time wasting.

Learning Groups and Mentors:

Step 1:

A third option is to create learning groups in your class that have the full range of student abilities with one or two student mentors per group.

Step 2:

Then teach your class group learning techniques so that they can learn cooperatively.

Step 3:

Use these techniques to teach your new work. The student mentors guide the cooperative learning strategies. They can have a great impact here because they often express your teaching ideas in a language that their fellow students understand better. This tutoring also enhances and strengthens the mentor's learning. Often the less able student can even contribute to the mentor's learning with their questions and comments.

Special Needs Teachers:

In some schools, special needs teachers can be of assistance when timetabled to your class.

Step 1:

Here you need to keep them informed as to your teaching program so they are ready to assist.

Step 2:

Plan with them how you want to use them and who they will be working with.


Seek their help in getting the best resources to help the less able.

Step 4:

You could even invite them to teach a lesson or unit with you as their assistant. They could teach the less able elsewhere while you teach the rest or you could do the reverse as a change.

Step 4:

Another way is for you to teach the new work, find out who is struggling with the new ideas and use the special needs teacher to re-teach/help those students. Thus, a variety of students would get their specialist help.

Step 5:

Most special needs teachers have some additional expertise with gifted and talented that they rarely use. Have them work with your more talented from time to time.

Step 6:

Above all, adopt a flexible approach so that the less able don't feel any stigma is attached to them for being less able in some 'academic' subjects.

Some Other Issues to Consider:

1. Text books: Here there must be lots of graded exercises so that there are available enough exercises to allow for consolidation of the basics. These graded exercises should be divided into easily recognisable groups that you can allocate to each ability group in your class. These graded exercises should introduce each new idea/skill in the correct order to enhance learning. Students are then able to begin the exercises at their level, avoiding unnecessary practice of skills they already have.

2. Basic Skills: Creating a strong understanding of the basic skills of each unit of study must always remain the teacher's first and foremost goal. Without this foundation, the step into problem solving and higher order thinking will not progress well.

3. Less able students need a variety of teaching strategies to enhance their learning. Chalk and talk lessons are often counterproductive for these students.

4. Homework:

Needs to be regular
Needs to consolidate the day's learning
Should not be onerous
Should be easy initially, allowing all students to get a start
Should be checked and corrected each time so that students see that you see it as important.
5. Formal and Informal Assessment: It is important that your assessment program reflects the teaching approaches you use with these classes.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sharing Space On the Road Safely

One important aspect of risk management on the road is maintaining sufficient space around your vehicle at all times. A large area kept clear around a moving vehicle shows evidence of other driving skills such as planning and anticipation. As drivers we have come to see the car as our own personal space and we seek to protect it. When some one feels their movement is being restricted they can feel threatened and react aggressively. By managing the space on the road effectively this can be kept to a minimum.

We can think of different types of space on the road. Free Space is an area that is available and is not going to be used by anyone else for the moment so is safe to move into. As the traffic flow is constantly changing the situation may change in an instant so as to create a different type of area. Always check for potential threats before occupying that section of road.

Threatened space is an area of road that another vehicle intends to occupy. This often occurs when changing lanes and emerging at T junctions. Learner drivers should be taught to look for spaces and not at cars in these situations. Judging if there is sufficient room to move off and reach driving speed without inconvenience to others. Threatened space has the highest risk factor attached to it so avoid moving into this. The highest risk is the area that a vehicle cannot help moving into, usually directly in front of a moving vehicle. The higher the speed of the vehicle, the larger the threatened space is.

Opportunities are presented by intelligent use of shielded space. This situation can occur at roundabouts when turning left with a larger vehicle on the right going ahead. As the vehicle to the right moves off the space in front is now shielded from traffic on the roundabout and is therefore safe to move into. Beware of using too small a vehicle as a shield and don't hesitate to move off. If the shielding vehicle is too small or moves away quickly you are left exposed in a threatened area that is closing down fast.

Always check if a space is opening, if it is then use this to your advantage and make progress. If it's closing then check mirrors carefully before making any decision as this can mean danger. By good use of planning and a courteous attitude we can maintain a steady traffic flow and reach our destinations safely and stress free.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fear Of Driving - Staying Relaxed On The Road

For many of us driving is one of the few times we spend alone. When alone we have time to think and reflect on the day to day issues that effect our lives. This can lead to drivers dwelling on problems that are not related directly to driving yet do have a direct impact on the state of mind of the driver. These problems, real or imaginary become attached to the driving task.

Nobody likes to admit to any kind of fear when driving. This leads to it becoming a hidden problem. It can become a source of embarrassment especially among young men who are expected to have no trouble driving at all. Fear of being mocked by peers makes many suffer in silence. In truth a great many people suffer from these kinds of problems. Usually they have their roots in past negative experience such as witnessing or being involved in an accident. A near miss such as a child running out in front of the car could trigger anxieties, or the root cause may not involve driving at all.

These fears can lead to other life problems such as lack of sleep owing to worry about the daily drive to work. Job prospects can be effected if the person makes the decision to avoid driving altogether. These fears can also spring up from bad learning experiences such as an instructor shouting and being overly critical or using training routes which are too complex for the learning stage of the pupil.

There are three different types of problem. The main ones being simple fear which can give rise to panic attacks. There is anxiety, which causes physical symptoms such as sweating and exhaustion and phobias for which there is no definite root cause. All these can be cured by working through them. Instructors can help in the early stages by being sympathetic and encouraging confidence in a learner.

Drivers need to consider where their sense of unease is coming from. By rethinking and relearning negative past experiences they can be overcome. If it is from one specific memory then concentrate on this and try to detach it from the present time. Think of times when you were successful, remember how good it felt and recall that feeling when starting to drive. Control your breathing so it becomes slow and regular and relax your arms on the steering wheel. Avoid gripping it too tightly. Seek to stay in the moment and deal with the realities of being on the road and planning ahead.

By thinking of the positive benefits of driving and encouraging self belief many fears about driving simply disappear.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Career Paths in Driver Training

The green badge of the approved driving instructor is a very strong qualification to have. With additional training it can be used to work in many different teaching environments. For most instructors, training people to pass the learner test is their main role but trying something different can make for a more interesting working week.

Every learner must take the driving theory test so offering tuition for this makes good business sense. Setting up classroom facilities may be easy but getting enough learners in one place at the same time is very difficult to organise. Producing study aids at home to guide pupils through the syllabus is a good way to structure their learning and perhaps charge a higher lesson price.

Fleet driver training can open up many new interesting paths. It is advantageous for an instructor to be included on the fleet trainers register as this acts as a guarantee of basic minimum competence. Training drivers in the workplace can be a greater challenge than teaching learners. Clients will have attitudes and habits ingrained through years of driving and a high degree of diplomacy is needed when addressing these issues.

The same type of training can be conducted via the safe and fuel efficient driving programme which is aimed at drivers of commercial vehicles. It would be necessary for an instructor to have had some experience of driving vans and lorries, preferably under working conditions to understand the stress that daily effects such drivers.

With further training an instructor could work in the field of community transport. Assessment of minibus drivers is an important part of this field. The instructor would need to ensure that the driver can carry passengers safely by displaying a very high standard of driving. The ability to engage with the public is essential for such drivers as well as a patient and helpful attitude. Drivers who transport groups such as the elderly or disabled will have to understand the needs of these particular clients. The assessor would definitely need experience in this field.

Training can be conducted for safety and economy awareness driving, which is becoming increasingly popular in the commercial sector. This is a less specialist form of training but the instructor may only deliver training for the categories shown on their driving license. If an instructor has another category other than car this could be an interesting and lucrative area to become involved in.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Staying Safe - Security For Driving Instructors

In a career that mainly comprises of working alone in the presence of strangers it pays for driving instructors to be security conscious. Most are paid straight after the lesson in cash. If pupils pay for a block of lessons that can result in a lot of money being kept in the car. It is easy to put the cash in a coat on the back seat but be aware, people have had money stolen by others who open the rear door when the car is waiting at stop lights and make off with the coats. Always keep cash on you so as to prevent this type of theft.

Many instructors use a satellite navigation device to locate the address of new pupils before putting it away in the glove box before the lesson starts. Be aware that the ring marking left on the windscreen after removal shows that you have a device and thieves will assume it has been left in the glove box. It's a good idea to wipe the windscreen after removing the device.

In some areas driving school cars have been prone to vandalism whilst practising manoeuvres. People assume that the driving school car is not actually owned by the instructor making vandalism less of a personal issue. In many cases the car is owned by the instructor who must stand the cost of any repairs or insurance claim. Be careful what areas you work in and if an area has a bad reputation then avoid working there.

As driving school cars are liveried in order to be noticed be careful what information you display on it. It may not be wise to put your personal address and phone number on there. Instead give only the areas you work in and keep a separate business number to display on the car. Always keep your instructors licence with your photo pointing inwards on the windscreen.

In winter, instructors work during the hours of darkness which can be an issue for female instructors. Take care where you pick pupils up and always try to make it as public as possible. Most lessons are conducted on a one to one basis but occasionally a pupil may wish to bring some one along to observe from the back seat. If this is a new pupil you have not met before and the passenger is not their relative and has no real reason for being there, you may refuse to take the passenger. Instructors do not like to put off new business but if you don't feel comfortable with the situation then don't do it.

Driving instruction is generally a safe career with the chance to meet a lot of interesting new people. Security problems are very rare but it always pays to be careful.