Modelling – writing like a geographer

In my recent blog on differentiation, I spoke about modelling as a key strategy for guiding and supporting students to reach the ‘brilliant outcome’. In Roseshine’s ‘Principles of Instruction’, evidence-based research has demonstrated that when teachers provide students with models and worked examples, it has effectively supported them in solving problems faster. So, why would teachers not model excellence?

In our department, we have used CPD time to ensure all teachers have a clear understanding of what excellence looks like in geography – a key component to establish – before modelling can be embedded into our everyday teaching practice. This has led to a writing structure known as PDL: Point, Develop, Link, which allows all students to apply their understanding to exam-style questions to maximise their marks:

  • Make a point – for example: One-way global inequality can be reduced is through remittances.
  • Develop the point – for example: This is when migrants send money back to family living in their country of origin.
  • Link your point back to the question – for example: This reduces global inequality because the family members can use this money to pay for key living essentials.

We have this structure resonating throughout the learning materials we provide, as well as on the desks:

Write like a geographer

Alongside teachers knowing what excellence looks like, the use of modelling in the classroom requires teachers firstly to establish a conducive learning environment thereby ensuring strategies such as live modelling can be used. Ben Newmark’s ‘10 principles for great explicit teaching’ provides the foundations for setting up a learning environment that allows modelling strategies to flourish. One of the strategies Newmark talks about is the need for teachers to teach students to listen; you need all 24 (sometimes less, sometimes more!) pairs of eyes focused on your every move as you demonstrate excellence. This is now my second academic year as Head of Department at my new school, and we have trained students to ‘actively listen’ by having nothing in their hands when we are talking. Initially, this took time to embed and required endless persistence and patience. However, now I can see the benefits, with fewer students saying, “Sir, what do we need to do?” at the end of the demonstration. In a recent lesson with Year 7, the department used visualisers to demonstrate how to draw river cross-section profiles – an inherently difficult skill for GCSE students. Through the insistence for listening during the demonstration, students set about plotting their own profiles with greater success.

The effectiveness of modelling as outlined by Shaun Allison and Andy Tharby in ‘Make Every Lesson Count’ requires the use of strong questioning, timely feedback and understanding of what excellence looks like to enable students to develop independence:

Photo 17-03-2018, 16 37 52

In many of our lessons we have developed the following modelling strategies to guide students towards independence:

  • Live modelling using the classroom whiteboard with students coming up to the board to indicate where the Point, Develop and Link sentences are within the answer, as well as finishing off sentences where the Point and Develop sentences are already done;
  • Completed answers (Blue Peter style) with students highlighting where the PDL sentences are and then using this model to support the writing of their own answer;
  • A poor example for students to spot the mistakes and make the necessary improvements to make it the ‘perfect answer’;
  • A gallery of excellence in each classroom to show what excellence looks like for the different style of exam questions;
  • ‘Capturing excellence’ during the lesson by spotting student answers and displaying them on the visualiser to showcase to the rest of the class.

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