As we all know, Ofsted want us to engage in dialogue with our students in written form in their exercise books through marking and feedback. In the past, especially on teaching practice, my students reluctantly etched their green pens in their books to show that they had responded (albeit with a bit of bribery) to my marking and comments. With a laborious effort, they did that to some extent; but what I really wanted was a way in which to motivate my students to respond to my marking in a thought-provoking way; while simultaneously raising their literacy skills and their ability to articulate themselves when arguing.
During my teaching practice, I stumbled across a sheet of differentiated opinions and connectives for Spanish and French. The department I worked with mostly used it with GCSE level students to try to get them to express opinions in a more sophisticated way – raising attainment. It was a great idea, and I decided to deploy it with younger groups of KS3 students – just to see how they would respond to it.
It gave them a real push to aim higher. It felt good; however, some students failed to see the relevance – and a large number simply didn’t understand the phrases on it. This led me to think: how can I possibly raise argumentative skills in Spanish/French/Russian if my children don’t understand the phrases in English?
This led me to my believe that we should be pushing different ways to express opinions, not only in subjects that specifically require them in their mark schemes, but across the board.
Therefore, I believe all subjects should start stocking up on opinion vocabulary and promoting the language of arguing it in their subject areas in order to empower and enlighten students. Furthermore, I would suggest that successful use of such language should be directly linked to a praise system – so students see the merit in their choice of words. In my classroom, sophisticated opinions are used as a means to stretch and challenge; successful demonstration comes with the reward of a merit for creative thinking.
At the end of the day – I want my students to be able to have the confidence and the ability to know they can articulate their points of view to secure the future they want and so rightly deserve. So why leave empowering vocabulary in my subject because it’s necessary?