I have spent most of the last month watching with some awe the way in which teachers at Canons have been experimenting with their teaching through our OPP project (see previous post). In particular at how an NQT - the wonderful @biomadhatter - has been finding his way round SOLO taxonomy and been welcoming all-comers into his classroom to spread the SOLO word. The impact of this has been that the Science, Maths and English departments have all come on board to a greater or lesser extent; that the SLT of the school have caught a whiff of the sense of professional enthusiasm; and that a number of students within the school are beginning to point out each other's 'extended abstract' thinking on Blackberry Messenger (that last is a slight exaggeration, but only a slight one!!).
But as well as watching on with a sense of awe I have also been filled with an unenviable sense of jealousy and longing. The reason for this is that my Y11 and Y12 classes had started their study leave just as the Canons SOLO army had left their trenches and so I had no classes with which to join in the battle. I do appreciate that nobody will feel sorry for a Deputy Head's timetable, but this is the first time in my career that I have been playing catch up with T&L innovation. And I'm not a great watcher.
So today was a red letter day for me. My first lesson with my post-AS Y12 students and so my first full on SOLO lesson. I had three 50 minute periods with them and so decided to devote one to introducing the SOLO taxonomy with the other two to applying it to Marxist theory for A2 Sociology.
For the intro lesson I used the familiar symbols (removed from their names & descriptions) in the connection phase. Whilst I registered them they had to predict what the symbols might mean in terms of developing understanding: straight into the extended abstract thinking. The result was incredible. With a little focused questioning they used visual literacy skills to completely unpick all five levels of SOLO. I had a second slide with the names on to help move them on, but it was not needed. For the activation phase I put the words 'Stephen Lawrence' on the board and asked them to self-evaluate their SOLO understanding of the concept. Strangely for multi-ethnic London sociologists most were Unistructural or Multistructural, with one student even suggesting he might have invented SOLO (does that make her Prestructural or Extended Abstract). They followed this up by trying to find an area in which I was Prestructural (they failed with the Avengers but succeeded with the Illuminati).
Having established the notion with themof a SOLO taxonomy I asked them to work in small groups to highlight the SCLY4 mark scheme to identify elements of SOLO. Unsurprisingly they noted that the top band was Extended Abstract in nature, and powerfully they uncovered that the key to hitting this band is that their sociological theory needs to be abstracted in how effectively it is applied to the specifics of the essay question and the context of the real world. This has been a real focus for me all year but was the first time they had seen it for themselves, making my consolidation activity (to predict why I wanted them to use SOLO) a little redundant - they were a step ahead of me all the way through the lesson; surely an example of excellent progress?
I'll say less about the SOLO application lesson other than to say that I used the wonderful Describe HOT SOLO MAP from Pam Hook's book. Initially students used it to reflect what they already knew about core Marxist concepts such as 'ideology', before adding to it after a short period of focused and independent reading around the core concepts. These HOT SOLO MAPS are shown below and were used as the six groups carouseled in a 'Sociological Speed Dating' activity, the aim of which was to develop Relational thinking.
The only problem with this first SOLO lesson was that I had planned a little too much and was unable to get to the evaluation tasks in the consolidation phase of the lesson. But not to worry as that's where we are headed next week in preparation for a timed essay, the outcome of which I very much hope will be far more Extended Abstract writing, otherwise known as top band writing, otherwise known as A and A* grades. Who says SOLO is a distraction from real learning???
But most of all I'm really happy to have at last joined the ranks of the Canons SOLO army, and am very much looking forward to my next skirmish.