New Year Resolutions Update #1: Phoning Home

Yesterday I made four phone calls home to the parents of pupils who had made positive starts to their English lessons. It was an absolute joy to speak to their parents and share a good news story.

All week I’d been keeping a note of pupils who had made good contributions to class discussions, settled in well or produced excellent work. In my free period yesterday I made the calls. When I made this resolution for the new academic year I hoped I would find the time to keep it. Hearing the pleasure, pride and (in one case!) relief in the parents’ voices when I shared my news, I’m more determined than ever to keep it up.

One Mum said “I was worried for a moment then; I thought it must have been something bad.” That’s what I want to change. I don’t think communication with parents focuses on the ‘good’ often enough, certainly not from a subject-specific point at secondary level. I’m hoping to change that.

I’ll be sharing my good news story with my department as term progresses to encourage them to do similar. In the meantime, I’ll just bask a little in remembering the warm, fuzzy feeling I got after I’d made the calls. It brightened up a very hectic Friday, hopefully for those families as well as for me!

Mobile Phones in the Classroom: do you use them as a teaching tool?

“Do you allow learners to record sessions on their phone, their very own dictaphone? #ukedchat or are phones #banned” @MoodleMcKean posed this question part way through tonight’s very productive #ukedchat on Twitter (weekly Thursday 8-9pm)

Ah, the mobile-phones-in-classroom battles I have fought this year!

“Carly, are you texting?”

“No, Miss.”

“Then exactly what are you fiddling with under your desk?!”

We have a policy that phones are switched off in school and out of the way. I’m sure many schools have similar. Largely it works, but we do have the odd pantomime every now and again with pupils who persist in checking phones/texting etc almost as if their lives depended on it.

So when I saw the question posed above, I was stumped!

Using mobiles productively in the classroom? What genius! Dictaphones… I’d never thought of them like that before. And yet it’s simple. Every one of my A Level group has a smartphone – they like to display them at every opportunity! – so why shouldn’t I encourage them to put them to good use?

I’ve pointed my GCSE class in the direction of the SHMOOP Literature study guides (a great iPhone app) and most of them downloaded the To Kill A Mockingbird guide. As one put it: “Handy for the bus, Miss.” Beyond that, I’ll confess, I haven’t really explored the potential of mobiles in the classroom.

Will this make my classroom more inclusive? Tonight’s #ukedchat topic was, after all, creating an inclusive classroom. Well, if I allow use of voice recorder/dictaphone facilities in my A Level classes, then it certainly may address the needs of those pupils who struggle with lengthy note-taking. And however we like to think pupils make that leap seamlessly from KS4 lessons to the more collegiate seminar-style of KS5 lessons, it isn’t easy for many. Note-taking is a skill that needs a lot of teaching.

So, using mobile phones as dictaphones: one small leap for some, potentially a giant leap for my school!

I look forward to giving it a go come September.