As the year 11 cohort is midway through their exam season we have a strategy at school known as the Home Run to GCSEs (as mentioned before). One element of this system is the provision of “Turbo lessons” that are planned and delivered either the day before or the morning of an exam. Year 11s are expected to continue to attend school pretty much full-time in order to be present at each Turbo, although they have timetables relevant to their own bespoke “Home Run”.
Part of my role within the department has been to collaborate on planning these sessions, one on Friday for Paper 1, which is sat on the Monday, and the second on a Wednesday for Paper 2, which is sat on the Thursday.
It has proved a superb piece of evidence for my NQT folder – demonstrating relevant subject knowledge, statutory assessment requirements, giving feedback and encouragement to enable pupils’ learning and attainment, as well as planning a GCSE course into an hour Turbo slot!
From the 90 or so pupils we have taking sociology, we are able to stream them for Turbos, which is in contrast to our preference not to set by ability during the duration of the course.
Therefore, as they are off existing timetable they can be grouped as chosen by us within the department. We streamed them into a top, middle and lower system. I chose to take the middle group, which at the time felt like a good option, although this group has the largest spread of ability.
The top group was practising exam essay-style questions, using more synthesis and analysis while applying evaluation techniques in order to achieve the top band of marks within the exam mark scheme.
The lower ability group was rehearsing and drilling down basic concepts, key terms and examples to apply. The middle group was straddling this rather wide gap.
I was nervous being given this responsibility to fire up and send our pupils into battle with their pens and clear pencil cases. But equally I felt up for the challenge and privileged to be given the opportunity to participate and support them in their final moments before the exam.
Prior to the Turbo sessions, I had support from each year 11 teacher in the department to “stream” my middle group into top middle and lower middle in order to differentiate within the Turbo itself. I then had pupils working collaboratively to identify relevant key term, accurate evidence and examples while others were applying theories and perspectives. It allowed everyone to be stretched within their realistic personal ability yet be present and exposed to a wider spectrum of understanding.
I was keen to seek feedback for these sessions and slightly changed my approach from Turbo 1 to Turbo 2. This was because some of the stronger pupils wanted more freedom with their own revision strategy whereas the majority were happy with pitch and content. It is an extreme challenge to ensure the time is spent appropriately across the two sections of the exam paper as well as the various topics they will cover.
The few who wanted to work more independently were keen to have the resources I had compiled and provided, but they wanted to use them with their own style of revision, which I fully respect. I recall wanting to revise in the way I was comfortable with when I was a student and, most importantly, in the way it made sense to me. There is no point mind-mapping or writing flash cards if they do not enable the content to stick in your head.
Only time will tell how they all did. I am excited yet apprehensive to know and I will always remember this class as they are my first exam group to complete.
SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of sociology and philosophy from a school in the South of England.