I’ve been waiting to write this blog post for ages but for some reason or other, there has always been something that has cropped up that has stopped me. I am not sure why, as using a visualiser is probably one of the most influential techniques in my teaching armoury, and I have found it has given me the greatest impact in the quality of work produced and knowledge retained. I am going to discuss the various benefits of using a visualiser based on my experience as a primary school teacher. This however is relatable to secondary classrooms and indeed further education.
I can not say that word ‘modelling’ without enough emphasis. The key to getting things right in the classroom on every level (from a sheet stuck in correctly to an accurately converted improper fraction to a mixed number) is down to how you explicitly model that to the learners. For me, the best way to do that is by using a visualiser. I have used one for the last 5 years now and I honestly can’t imagine how I would produce the quality of work I do without one. As a child, I adored seeing art tutorials where they gave me step by step instruction how to succeed. A visualiser allows you to do just that. In every single aspect. Primary teachers will know that you can tell a child how to do something multiple times and they will still interpret that oral instruction in their own way. Seeing it laid plain and bare, with no wriggle room, makes it clear precisely what you expect. Presentation, expectation, achievement laid out in front of the child. Those of you who have read my ‘presentation pest’ blog will know how important this modelling is within the classroom.
EXPERIMENTATION WITH A W.A.G.O.L.L
For those unfamiliar with the phrase ‘W.A.G.O.L.L.’ it literally means what a good one looks like. Whatever lesson I teach, I will use a visualiser to create a live W.A.G.O.L.L. to serve as example children which will inspire to achieve. The great thing about a W.A.G.O.L.L. is that it allows for instantaneous differentiation of the SAME taught task without the tedious (and pointless) need to create separate work. I will create a W.A.G.O.L.L. which is constructed through dialogue with the children and then give the same set phrase:
‘You can use my W.A.G.O.L.L. to guide you at the start, change elements of my W.A.G.O.L.L. or completely ignore it and do your own thing.’
Three choices. Same task. Allows for scaffold, support and challenge. All provided under a visualiser through co-construction. The above photo shows how they took shared ideas in a DT session and followed that pattern.
The ability to provide whole class, immediate feedback under a visualiser is simply breath-taking in how powerful it is. As I walk around the class room, I can find examples of powerful, excellent writing, art, critical thinking and whip it under the visualiser straight away for the whole class to see. We all know the power of peer and how seeing the work of another child displayed to the whole class has in terms of engagement and reaction to improve and want to emulate.
I would NEVER use a visualiser to display misconceptions spotted in children’s work (although have heard horror stories where teachers do this) but when I spot them in work, I write them down, stop the class and invite the children to look at what I have done wrong. We discuss and they go back and check own work to make sure they haven’t made those errors. So no pointless next step marking they check the next day that means nothing. Immediate whole class feedback, under a visualiser, during a lesson in context to support progress.
I am a huge fan of daily retrieval practice and you can read blogs I have written about what they entail and mean on my WordPress site. For me, the ability to use a visualiser to quiz children instantly means my work load is down (as I am not generating resources to display) and can act instantaneously on things I see need immediately addressing. A visualiser allows the questions you have to be written and displayed. Yes, this can be done on word or other software, or indeed written on a white board. I personally find the ability to write, draw, scribble, use dual coding to express my thoughts SITTING DOWN COMFORTABLY can not be underestimated.
ONLINE PLATFORM DURING THE SCHOOL CLOSURES
One final comment to make about the use of visualisers during recent stressful times is that that provide a wonderful support for parents at home to watch how you would deliver lessons. It isn’t the same as having their teacher there but that grounding of modelling and feedback can still be shared and used to produce excellent work at home using a visualiser.