Transcript of Do it now

This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity. Listen to the podcast (12:06)

Jackie – The following podcast is brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Secondary Learners, Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. As we commence this podcast today, let us acknowledge the traditional custodians of all the lands on which this podcast will be played around New South Wales. Their art, storytelling, music and dance along with all First Nations people hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia. Let us acknowledge with honour and respect our elders past, present and future, especially those Aboriginal people in our presence today who have and still do guide us with their wisdom.

Welcome to the Creative Cast podcast series. I'm Jackie King and I'm Creative Arts Project Officer with the Department of Education. Today we are discussing the strategy of the week with Caroline Jarvis, who is a music teacher at Willoughby Girls High School.

Hi, Caroline. Thanks for joining us today to share your strategy of the week.

Caroline – Hi Jackie, thanks for having me.

Jackie – You submitted a great video about ‘do it now’ activities, which is a strategy that I really love and particularly for Stage 4. But before we get into that, are you able to tell me a little bit about your context at Willoughby Girls High School and the music classes that you have there?

Caroline – Sure, Willoughby is in Sydney's North Shore, so we are mainly dealing with higher socioeconomic kids, although there is a small portion, there's some housing commission in the area, so we do get a mix, but generally from the highest economic area. We’re also quite near Chatswood which is quite the centre for new Australians or coming out from other countries and want to get their education in Australia. So I think we have just a 50% of our students have another language. A lot of them are in the more sort of developing EALD phase rather than emerging, and that adds some extra challenges in the classroom. We're really lucky that in our local area, the primary schools have really big and amazing band programmes.

Jackie – That’s fantastic.

Caroline – Yeah, a lot of the kids, even some of the schools, have music specialists, but having said that, we get a really wide range of experience of music education in primary school. Some of them are obviously coming in really capable on a variety of instruments, and some of them had never had any musical education whatsoever.

Jackie – Wow, so that's like a big differentiation sort of gap that you need to fill there.

So, your ‘do it now’ activities – what are they?

Caroline – Sure, it came from two places. First of all, we were noticing in our context that Year 7s were coming into high school less equipped than ever to meet the challenges of high school, of changing routines and organising themselves and the Year 7 transition team asked teachers to establish routines in their classroom that were predictable so that when year 7s came into the room, then you exactly what to expect. And so, the ‘do it now’ activities sort of started, firstly as a classroom management routine where we're establishing a consistent routine where Year 7s would come into the room and know exactly what they were meant to do and to create predictability, but also to engage them and learning the second they get in the classroom. The second place it came from, as we had created all these resources in our faculty for Year 7 to sort of revise content at the beginning of a lesson, but we were finding we’d would often skip over them you know, we only have 3 50-minute periods a cycle in Year 8. It's not a lot of time, so we would have best intentions of doing these activities to recap previous content and would actually never get to them because we need to get them on the keyboard, or we need to get them into the listening activity. So my thought was we could utilise that time better when they're coming into the classroom and finding their seat and handing out the books and doing the rolls by actually engaging them in learning straight away. What it has evolved into is something a little bit different, but essentially, we set up these ‘do it now’ activities through Google Classroom. We create a Google form. There's one for every lesson, and they come in straight away, they sit down, they get the device out. It takes five minutes maximum is the idea, and once they're finished, they put their device away and they're ready for learning. And in that time, I mark the roll I, hand out the books and make sure they're all settled and ready to go.

Jackie – Fantastic. I love ‘do it now’ activities, and similarly, when I was at school when I was teaching at Kurri High School, I used to it now activities all the time. Particularly for Stage 4, it’s really important to get them in, get them doing something straight away. So you could do all that business like the marking of the roll, et cetera. So you kind of do it a little bit differently to me in that that you've always just got a Google form. Is that right? So it's always like a quiz?

Caroline – Yes, and it has a lot of positives. What it has evolved into is, we found it this really amazing way to collect lots of quick snapshots or data from student learning, because from the Google form itself, there's a little button that you can export into Google sheets, and you can see all the students’ responses there in a table in front of you. I feel like using data to inform practice has got a bit of a bad rap, but when you're actually setting up the data yourself, then it becomes meaningful if this is the thing I want to measure. So that's been really amazing as far as this differentiation that you mentioned before because we've all had the experience in music where a student comes in and says “I am 6th grade piano” and you assume they have that theoretical knowledge that a 6th grade pianist has, and it turns out they really don't. Or someone who says, I've never done music before and then you get into it and you find that actually they have some musical skills and they go “oh, well, I kind of did it with my primary school teacher”, but obviously did it a lot more. So it's actually really effective in measuring as a pre-test. If you’re starting notes of the treble clef in Year 7, we sometimes say to them look at this ‘do it now’ that you're going to do today, if you don't know it, just put your name and submit it. That's fine. That's your way of telling me that you've never done this before. If you want to give it a go and you're not quite sure, great, but otherwise fill it in. And we’re able to actually use that data to then adjust how we teach and differentiate to particular students. So, if you have seven students that are highly proficient with the treble clef, you give them an activity that sort of gets them to delve into that deeper, maybe performing something off notation. Then you can focus on the group's students that are left that have never done it before without the distraction of the know-it-alls without those students feeling silly because don't know it.

Jackie – Sure, so how have you found that students respond to the ‘do it now’ activities? What's been the outcome of implementing this strategy?

Caroline – I really have found them coming in with that predictability of settling down and knowing that this is what they do as soon as they come into the classroom has helped so much, even with kids that are – in a Willoughby Girls context – a little bit more extreme in their behaviour, because they know what they're meant to do. And particularly learning support kids who sometimes find it challenging to understand an instruction, they don't need to know what they're doing, because straightaway they come in and they do it. But also to just get them focusing on learning straightaway has been really helpful. It's a little bit meta, but I got them to do a ‘do it now’ activity reflecting on the ‘do it now’ activities and one of the things that came out the strongest in a bunch of questions that I asked is they really felt like the teachers knew them better and knew their strengths, and were able to then set them appropriately challenging learning goals as a result, which I just thought was really wonderful.

Jackie – I love that.

Caroline – I think particularly from a well-being perspective as well – look, we've got to be honest, I teach four Year 7 classes. I see them three times for 52 minutes. That’s 110 kids. I don't have a lot of opportunity to get to know them really well, and I do feel like this year I know my students and their strengths and weaknesses so much better that I ever had before. And it's just so easy to just check Sheets, have a scroll through, highlight certain results, but also giving them opportunities to comment to get some more qualitative data if we're going to use this data. To ask them how they feel about things, for them to set learning goals, has just been so revealing about them, not just his learners, but as people.

Jackie – I think this strategy, I actually write down, I've been looking a lot at CESE's ‘what works best’, their 2020 update, and I'm like this strategy hits high expectations, explicit teaching because you're setting that goal straightaway, they're coming in, it's on the board or they know where they've got to go, they know what they're going to do. Assessment, formative assessment, we’re formative assessment every day. Using data to inform practice, classroom management. And you've just touched on well-being one of the reasons I use the ‘do it now’ activity as well is I like to use a ‘ready to learn’ scale for the children to tell me where they're at as they come into the room. So it helps me to check in with students who need to be checked in with. It gives you that time to do all of that sort of stuff while the students are just getting in and getting on with an activity at the start of the lesson.

Caroline – I love that! I might write that one down and take that and incorporate it myself!

Jackie – Yeah, it's lovely. Well, thank you so much for chatting with me today and sharing this wonderful strategy. I think it's a really fantastic strategy, particularly for Stage 4 to get them in and to get them settled and engaged in learning straightaway in a classroom situation. Is there anything else you want to add before we finish up today?

Caroline – Yeah, look, we've only implemented this for the first time this year and already I've learned so much and will be changing certain things this year, and I just feel like the opportunities are endless. The more we do it, the more I think, if I can sort of embed a video into this, I could get them – give them a sample of an assessment and get them to evaluate it against the criteria. Like I just, as I said, it started as a classroom management, but it's just evolved into something so much better.

Jackie – That's fantastic. Well, thank you so much for sharing with us today, Caroline, and I hope that you might be able to share more strategies on our strategy of the week as we continue to roll out this series further down the line. Good luck with continuing to develop your strategy of the week with the ‘do it now’ activity, and we look forward to talking to you again.

Caroline – Thank you so much for having me, Jackie.

Jackie – Get involved in the conversation by sharing your favourite teaching strategy in the Creative Arts Statewide Staffroom, General channel. You can email us at Creativearts7-12@det.nsw.edu.au. This podcast was brought to you by the Creative Arts Curriculum Team from Secondary Learners, Educational Standards Directorate of the New South Wales Department of Education. Podcast music was composed by Alex Manton and audio production by Jason King.


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