I faced a strange problem recently where I knew that my students were listening. Cold call questioning was giving reasonable answers across the room and engagement was pretty strong. The issue came as soon as I wanted the class to write any notes. Even made as brief as possible, there is a lot of content in chemistry, and so there is a lot to write. For some of my students this was a phenomenal struggle as their writing skills aren’t great. This became a time sink, and slowed down everything that I was trying to do. Worse, it ate into the time that I wanted students to practise new skills and to use new information in questions. Even the best students lost focus, attention and momentum when I asked them to make any notes. Suddenly it struck me that even though they knew what they were writing at the time, without practicing using it they suffered the transient effect. They weren’t going to go over it again because the notes were often written in a messy way or were rushed and illegible or they were just incomplete. I had to find a better way.
I wanted to create booklets to help speed up the process. At the same time, I didn’t want the booklets to be radically different from what the children could see on the board in front of them as I think this would lead to distraction. In the end, I made up power point files and workbooks for each chapter of the AQA GCSE.
For the slides I wanted to focus on two main things – Clear explanations and crisp, clean layout. This focus came about from the researchED guide to ‘Explicit & Direct Instruction’ and Oli Caviglioli’s ‘Dual Coding With Teachers’. Both books highlight the need for clarity, the former in terms of verbal and linguistic communication, the latter in terms of visual communication. Both call for a more stripped back approach and strive towards ‘flawless explanation’ meaning one where there is no possible ambiguity.
How many hours have you spent trying to find the perfect image to fill the last corner of a powerpoint slide? How many times have you artfully arranged images and pictures and animated clips? Have you ever used lots of fonts and bright colours to make your slides more visually appealing? There is a concept in cognitive science called the split attention effect. It simply means that the more things we try to concentrate on at once, and by this it means anything over one thing, the more likely we are to overload our working memory and hinder the learning process. Add to this the idea of dual coding which is how the brain can process new information more quickly by pairing simple clear explanation with a simple clear diagram or image, and you have the rationale for how I made the resources below.
The linked files are not intended to be a full lesson, but rather that the lesson should start with some form of retrieval practise, then the powerpoint and filling in the appropriate sections of a booklet, followed by lots of practise of the specific content.
Please note! The booklets and slides are supposed to be live documents. If I spot any errors or there’s something that is out of sequence and doesn’t work in that place I will be updating them. However, if you download them and want to keep/alter them that is fine, but please don’t keep them static. Much as I have a high opinion of myself, they might not be perfect and you could find things to improve. So here they are! Follow this link for my scheme of work and workbooks for AQA GCSE Chemistry.