Time and tide wait for no man

Time and tide wait for no man – Geoffrey Chaucer

It is now my fifth week working at Michaela. I taught my Year 9 class last Friday and on reflection, I was gobsmacked at how much I managed to get through. The routines are so slick and the behaviour is so impeccable that I am able to get through so much in an hour. I thought it might be useful for me to narrate a history lesson at Michaela, so I decided to note down the rough timings the next lesson I taught them. Here goes:

8:14am – I arrived from corridor duty to find my Year 9s lined up immaculately. The head of department was quizzing them on dates related to 18th and 19th century British history. I moved to the front of the line and asked the pupils to get out their equipment and stand behind their chairs as soon as they got inside. I wished each pupil a hearty ‘good morning’ which was always reciprocated, with a beaming smile.

8:15am – Two pupil book monitors had already gone to the back of the room to collect exercise books and paper and handed them out to each row, where they were left in a neat pile. The others were stood behind their chairs in silence. I asked them to sit down and take out their practice books (used for homework/prep at Michaela).

8:17am – I told the pupils what their homework was over the weekend and they diligently wrote it at the top of the next clean page in their practice books. They then packed away their practice books and sat up straight. I asked them to pass down blank paper for each pupil.

8:18am – The pupils then completed a test from memory of the key people (with a few lines of detail) associated with the growth of the British Empire, which is the topic we are currently covering with Year 9. As an extension, they were asked to add thirteen key dates and events associated with the growth of the British Empire.

8:25am – The tests were passed down to the end of the rows and I collected them quickly. At the same time, exercise books and our unit booklets were passed down. The pupils then turned to the back of their books and completed a quick re-cap exercise, designed to allow the kids to retrieve all their learning from last lesson. The re-caps are always printed at the start of the lesson for that unit in the booklets.

8:27am – Rapid fire re-cap on the topic we covered last lesson – the early Industrial Revolution. I led a speedy Q&A and the kids use green pens to correct any mistakes they made. Merits were given for any elaboration. For example – I asked ‘when’ the Industrial Revolution was as part of the re-cap and every pupil had their hand up. I then give merits for any pupil who could tell me ‘why’ the Industrial Revolution began in Britain. Many made reference to geographical advantages; however one pupil was also able to articulate the unique political conditions in Britain which enabled technological progress to develop more quickly. Another pupil was also able to make a reference to new ideas and the fact that in Britain, enlightenment thinking was often practical and scientific, rather than the French philosophes who were more concerned with political issues.

8:30am – We quickly moved onto their essays they wrote from the lesson before last (How useful is Brooks Slave Ship in understanding the conditions for slaves being transported to the New World?). I had made some notes after looking through all the books earlier in the week and delivered specific feedback by highlighting mistakes individuals were making as well as the common mistakes they were all making. I gave merits for exceptional work and picked an excellent example to dissect on the visualiser. The pupils were able to see an example of a great piece of work which I was able to comb through in front of everyone. The kids were then able to use their green pens to improve their own work and I gave them a couple of minutes to add extra explanations, or more precise details. 

8:35am – We moved on to the main focus for the lesson that day – the social effects of the Industrial Revolution. Pupils took out their rulers (used to help them follow the page) and we began reading the text. We covered factory and mine labour, with particular reference to the introduction of the workhouse on a large scale in British cities. After each paragraph I would explain any difficult concepts and clarify specific details. The pupils were rapt as I told them the stories of atrocious conditions in Manchester factories, particularly the prevalence of grisly injuries through the use of textile looms.

8:45am – I read a short section of a poem to the class by William Wordsworth called ‘The Old Cumberland Beggar’. I have early 19th century editions of Wordsworth’s folios in my classroom, mainly because I find you can discover some incredible insights into British politics, foreign policy and society in his poetry. The poem highlighted the disdain that politicians often felt for the poor. I was able to teach them a new term too – social Darwinism. The pupils love it when I get out the old books and they are always craning their necks to see if the pages are really falling apart as I say they are!

8:50am – As this was a high ability group, I gave a short lecture on the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act and its consequences. The pupils annotated their booklets as I took them on a whistle stop tour from the Elizabethan Poor Laws, through to the Speenhamland System to the contemporary 19th century concern for poverty and cost-cutting. I narrated to them that many pupils would only cover this content during their A Levels. I told them about eligibility criteria and the workhouse test after 1834. The kids were asking loads of questions about the jobs the inmates would do in the workhouse, such as stone-breaking. As a department we all agree on the core knowledge that the pupils need to know. However, because behaviour is so good we are able to make relevant digressions which are really beneficial to the pupils.

9:00am – Ready, get set, GO. With three loud bangs on the table, the pupils began their silent practice. They answered questions which elicited factual recall of the key points of the social changes of the Industrial Revolution, with later questions requiring more elaboration on the significance of the 1834 act. 

9:02am – I quickly marked the tests that the pupils completed at the start of the lesson by sorting them into three piles (100%, pass or fail). I was then able to speedily put the data into a spreadsheet.

9:07am – I had a quick wander around the room and gave some verbal feedback to some of the pupils for their questions, highlighting grammatical errors as well as conceptual and factual misunderstandings.

9:12am – I asked the pupils to pack away, which was done in fifteen seconds. The book monitors then collected the books and placed them in the cupboards at the back of the room.

9:14am – I asked the pupils to stand behind their chairs and I fired a few re-cap questions at them on the Industrial Revolution, but also on the early development of the British Empire. Pupils knew the date of Columbus’s voyage to Hispaniola, the Act of Union between England and Scotland and the date of Lord Anson’s naval reforms, in addition to Pitt’s blue-water strategy. I quickly informed them of their test results and gave some quick tips to those that did not do so well on how to improve.

9:15am – I dismissed the class. Many showed real gratitude for the lesson and some wanted to stay behind and ask more questions. I had to tell them to see me in the yard if they wanted to know more. I then headed out to the corridor to greet my next class.

Aside from sounding like a regimental diary from the first day of the Battle of the Somme, I hope this gives some indication of what we are able to do in one hour when the routines are so slick and behaviour is so conducive to learning.

Incidentally, this was all before any lessons had begun in many schools.

At Michaela, the hours are so productive because we count every second.