Magazine article NATE Classroom

APP in KS3 English-Enemy or Ally? Yet More Paperwork

Magazine article NATE Classroom

APP in KS3 English-Enemy or Ally? Yet More Paperwork

Article excerpt

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For those of you that have been teaching for 'an age' and have witnessed a plethora of assessment ammunition gain ground only to retreat later, you probably weren't intimidated by the new way of Assessing Pupil Progress when it popped its head over the parapet. You were, in all probability, just mildly annoyed--but you allied yourself to the unit ready to take aim, fire and shoot it down in flames because it was yet another form of assessment and extra paperwork for teachers that would come and go. Alternatively, you may have been quietly thinking (but daren't say out loud) 'I preferred the KS3 SATs at least we didn't have to do the marking'; you may have remarked, during a Department Meeting, 'are we going to get extra time to do this?' You were either in the enemy camp, sat on the fence or an ally. Whenever a new initiative is developed we are often sceptical because some of us don't really like change; some of us believe that those who develop new initiatives have been out of teaching for so long that they have lost touch with what really happens in the classroom and it often creates more work for us to do. Let's face it (to use a double negative as only an English Teacher would ...) there is never nothing to do! I think I spend more time doing paperwork and on the computer than I do in the classroom ...

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However, having said all of that, I came to APP with an open mind--it appeared soon after I began my NQT year so I was bogged down with all that an NQT is loaded with anyway: difficult classes, observations, too much marking, no social life, evidence files, fitting into the school and the department and getting the kids to learn stuff that you had only just learned yourself! Getting to grips with the levels and levelling work seemed onerous at first but with a little trial and error, and a few alterations, it soon became a great teaching and learning tool. The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency says that 'APP is the new structured approach to teacher assessment, which equips teachers to make judgments on pupils' progress.. It helps teachers to fine-tune their understanding of learners' needs and to tailor their planning and teaching accordingly.' And I think it can, if you take a practical approach which suits your particular department.

Optional Tasks

As a department, we started out using APP as suggested; we tried the DCFS Optional Reading and Writing Tasks particularly in years 7 and 8 ('Bits of an autobiography I may not write'; 'A night in the Red Room'; 'Reality Show Application') as formative assessment with a view to working out where our pupils' strengths and weaknesses were and taking them forward. We aimed to undertake one formal reading and writing task a year chosen from those suggested and use other end of unit assessments alongside the Assessment Focuses. We aimed for each year group to complete four formal assessments a year. However, we soon discovered that the lesson plans from the optional tasks were dull and didn't really fit with the task variety, questioning, peer assessment, and general enthusiasm that were expected from a 'good' to 'outstanding' lesson. In addition to the shocking photocopying bill that ensued, another crucial reason we found to scrap the optional tasks was that we thought the students underperformed (the marking was also an atrocious burden).

Progression Maps

Having used several of the Optional Tasks we decided on a different approach. As a department we agreed to give the Progression Maps a go post assessment to both discover what category of readers and writers we had and help them progress by using the lesson ideas provided. The Progression Maps are part of a plethora of materials helping teachers develop lessons tailored to pupils' needs. If you had a 'Competent Reader working towards level 4' the Progression Maps give you lesson ideas which focus on each Assessment Focus. …

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