Becoming a grade riser means using effort to improve your skill. Not everyone is going to get top marks, but those struggling at the lower end can benefit hugely from some simple changes to how they work. Success and motivation will feed effort and this means looking at where pupils are at the beginning of the year and not where we would like them to be; finding a starting point as their launch pad.
Dr Susie Nyman, multisensory teaching ‘guru’ likens becoming a grade riser to creating a croquembouche (crock-om-boosh), a glorious pyramid of delicious profiteroles.
It is where all the individual elements of your subjects some together for you to understand, recall and relate information in preparation for exams. This is just like the individual profiteroles majestically stacked to make a magnificent tower of colours and flavours.
The art of balancing the yummy, cream filled balls on one another can be tricky but, when they all come together, they are spectacular! That’s a bit like the feeling we get as teachers, parents and even pupils, when we finally have that light bulb moment (or even the faintest glimmer of light) that we are on the right path and making progress.
A starting point for all students is perhaps ensuring that, at the beginning of term, they have a clear understanding of command words. When it comes to exams, all the subject knowledge in the world won’t count for anything if they don’t understand what the question is asking for.
Recognising the words being used in questions will reduce stress experienced by slower processors or dyslexic students and will further improve grades for more able students. It will also help create a more level playing field for your entire class if everyone understands the command words, not just those students with a broader vocabulary.
Command word glossaries and posters placed around the classroom are a great way to help pupils consistently stay on track when it comes to gaining their best possible marks. In a single lesson you could have a whole class producing illustrated command words, embedding images in their minds to help them understand and recall the meaning of each word.
Much research has been done into learning strategies, but the recurring theme of success is effort. It really doesn’t matter what the end grade is, so long as you have made the most of their abilities by helping them to put in the effort.
For a more in depth view of how we can ‘Shift the Curve’ take a look at Tom Sherrington’s blog post (Mind The Gap podcast author and educationalist).