Saturday, May 27, 2006

Year 12 Oral communication and other learning

I've just come back from a Saturday morning (till 2 pm) at school where all the Year 12 English students came to present their orals for assessment. The way we organised it meant that the students signed up in groups of seven or so, with their friends for an hour that suited them, then those seven students did their presentations with one teacher assessing. The students didn't know who would be assessing and there was a second marker who came in and second marked some of them as a control. It took about five hours with about five teachers working all the time and by then all the students had done their assessment. It meant that we saved about 4 periods of class time that we would have had to spend if we didn't do it all on one day like that. I felt it went well. The students all turned up and although some were very nervous it was a relativley painless way to do it.
Work has become very crazy actually with having to write and organise the exams for Years 9, 10 and 11 as well for yesterday and Monday (not to mention marking them), and of course the Government mandated report cards that we English teachers have to write (along with our Maths colleagues). As well as this we are implementing the Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) for next year and also the new year 11 study design for English in 2007. Our school also has a proposal to go to 75 minute periods next year (which I'm in favour of,I think) but there certainly a lot going on. I feel like I'm trying to juggle lots of balls in the air at once.
On Thursday I enjoyed having a focus group discussion with some of my Year 9 students who are experiencing Literature Circles. We tape our discussion and I'm very glad to outsource the transcribing of the tape. It's always interesting to reflect on the students' views about how they are experiencing the crriculum that I am enacting with their participation. When I have the tape transcribed I may reflect some more about what they have said. The focus group consists of some self described reading lovers and some very self described non readers (outside of the classroom, at least) so the discussions are interesting for me. I would love to hear some comments from readers who have experienced longer lesson times (75 minutes or so) to hear what you think are the pros and cons of this.


  1. The structure of the school day continues to be a highly debated topic here. Our school recently switched from a 4 period day (75 min periods, teach 3 + 1 supervision or prep each day) to a 5 period day (64 min periods, teach 3 or 4 + prep/supervision).

    I far and away prefered the 75 min periods. It gave us enough time to cover topics, in one class, in depth. 5 periods, given our content heavy curriculum, has lead to "cutting corners" in order to get all the required content covered.

    We have two semesters per year. With the 5 period days we teach 3 periods in one semester and 4 in the other (other periods are filled with supervisions and prep time). The semester where I have to teach 4/day is very difficult. With only 3 min between classes I find myself "out of breath" by the end of the day -- it's exhausting.

  2. I spent my first term of teaching at a school that had 4 73-minute periods a day. My experience was that it was absolute hell; my 4-on days left me exhausted, far worse than my 6-on days at my current school. But it was my first TERM (let alone year) of teaching, so maybe that should be taken into account. Even so, when the idea was tossed around at this school during a staff meeting once last year I was vehemently opposed to it.

  3. I really like 75 minute lessons (particularly for senior english classes- much better for in-depth discussions). The students have time to settle and you can fit in a range of activities. Good for group work, especially.
    At my school, we have period 1 and tutor group before recess, then periods 2 and 3 (period 3 can get a bit wearisome, I must admit), followed by lunch and period 4. Less runnning from one classroom to the next, which saves time.