Wednesday, October 14, 2015


So hard to sum up the experience of being GANAG-ed. Let's say, initially, after the two day professional development with GANAG guru, Jane Pollock and her incredible below bum length blonde hair, I barely had time to reflect on what I'd been teaching. The hair comment suggests I'm taking the piss. I'm not, but her hair was a presence at the PD. In a fascinating way. (Sorry, Jane, if you ever read this, but you must know everyone was thinking it, if not chatting about it.)

I'd been quite cynical about my school's approach to GANAG. It's non-negotiable; part of our professional review. We are required to implement this teaching and learning methodology. You can read my previous whining here, if you haven't already. But given that I'm a cynic/zealot special combo, I put my hand up for the Jane Pollock PD, about which admin and several subject coordinators were singing the praises. Happily, I got to go.

There's almost too much irrefutable research informing GANAG. As I've written before, the research based text, Classroom Instruction That Works (CITW) 2nd edition, seemed to me to be a bit of a tedious read. How good it was, therefore, to have the information presented in a compelling, highly engaging way by the charming and unwreckable Pollock. I haven't read the first edition of the text yet, but I'm hoping it will be more readable because Pollock was a co-author. And here's a link to the PDF. Read the introduction to that first edition and it will sum up what GANAG is about.

Meanwhile, Pollock's PD training excited me. After the PD I couldn't wait to type up the notes I'd furiously made during each session. Couldn't wait to return to school and deliver lessons that were going to engage and inspire even the most reluctant kids.

That was eight weeks ago. GANAG initially made me work mind-blowingly harder as I tried to implement new systems, some of which have worked. So what's changed?

1.  I rearranged the desks in my room into rows of pairs to facilitate 'pair/share' - see CITW - because it's a 'high yield teaching strategy' which enhances students' learning. Students protested loudly. One year 10 boy almost cried and refused to come out of the corner. The year 11s got into one lesson ahead of me and returned the desks to their previous formation. I re-rearranged them and encouraged the pair/sharing so students, through discussion, could clarify and reinforce their learning.

I persisted for about two weeks before the resulting chaos started to seriously interfere with my chi - the energy force that runs through all living things. Call me anally retentive but I reverted to the previous 'horse-shoe' desk arrangement. Apart from my chi hurting, I was sick of looking at students' backs; found that students' talk was unrelated to my teaching goals; that I'd actually facilitated little gossip hubs and reduced the learning in the classroom. Was wasting time getting students to stop chatting and turn around so they could actually read the learning goal on the board.

Pair/share worked so well during Pollock's PD with a group of enthusiastic teachers. My kids thought it was party time; that their teacher had 'lost it'.

2.  The goal - the initial G of GANAG. At the start of each lesson, the learning goal, derived from the appropriate curriculum standard, is displayed on the white board . Students have been issued goal sheets and have immediately copied the goal and given their initial self-assessment of their effort and understanding.

No, I'm kidding. I write the goal on the board, then I have to distribute the goal sheets so students can copy out the goal. I collect the goal sheets at the end of each lesson because if the sheets leave the class room with the students several students won't bring them back next lesson. (Funny. They never forget their mobile phones.)

At first, when I distributed the sheets many students moaned. But I've persisted with this one and the students did indeed get used to it, as Pollock assured us would be the case. It's been a worthwhile process. Students know what they are supposed to be learning; they make honest judgments about their effort and understanding. Collecting the goal sheets each lesson allows me to quickly gauge students' learning. Yes, there are other ways of assessing this but the goal sheet provides an efficient record for me and the kids.

3. A is for accessing prior knowledge. This is the part where I begin the lesson by projecting a visual onto the front screen and writing a question next to it. For example, we'd been studying the text Chew On This. It's about the fast food industry. Prior to the lesson I Googled 'fast food images' and found a photo of an infant facing a huge plate of french fries. How does this relate to what we've been reading? I wrote on the white board.

Students instantly start talking about the image. They connect with their prior learning. Their neurons start making connections. They drop their gossip and tune in.

Have to say, this unfailingly works. Meanwhile, I mark the roll and after a few minutes we're into the lesson.

I thought this 'accessing prior knowledge' would be the most challenging aspect of GANAG for me; that it would increase my already heavy workload. In fact it's easy to find relevant images while I'm reading various media and social media on-line. I use Evernote and Everclip to save articles and images. It only takes a few minutes at the start of the day to set up my 'APKs' -  GANAG-speak - as open tabs on my computer,

As for the final NAG, I may or may not write about that later.

There is heaps more to being an effective teacher than GANAG, of course. However, I'm grateful for having participated in Pollock's GANAG in-service and love it when I learn something new that actually improves my teaching effectiveness.

No comments: