The FOCUS lesson is the second phase of the instructional model I am attempting to use in my classroom. It follows on from the first phase: Experiential Engagement and is explained in The Formative Assessment Action Plan.
A vital aspect of the teaching and learning cycle is providing FEED UP in order to to establish purpose, increase motivation and set goals. Feed up links to the experiential engagement phase of the instructional model because it makes reference to the need to make learning engaging, authentic and relevant. The focus lesson allows students to be able to see where they are going in their learning and carve out a route that makes sense of their own experiences and motivations. It enables students to become active rather than passive learners.
Of course, exactly how you achieve this in a way that is not dreadfully dull is a little less certain. Working with a Year 13 English class during their Making Connections study I attempted to create a FOCUS LESSON by providing the students with a modified copy of the assessment criteria. I know, you have fallen asleep already. My thinking here was to allow students to clearly see exactly what they needed to do in order to achieve success at each grade. Time was spent fleshing this document out in order to ensure that students engaged with it and understood it. In previous learning sequences I might have handed out this document and explained it in class, but I probably would not have spent sufficient time to ensure whole-scale student understanding. During this particular sequence I spent longer than I normally would in order to equip students with the knowledge needed to take ownership of the criteria and allow them to become more self-directed in their learning. My hope was that students would be less reliant on me to explain where they sat on the marking scale and could more effectively identify both their current skill level and the steps that needed to be taken in order to move forward.
Because the concepts covered here were quite important, I produced a video presentation which explained the assessment criteria and loaded this onto the students’ class page on the school LMS. This then became a resource that students could go back to in order to double-check their understanding.
I reflected that this was a rather dull, but necessary lesson. The challenge, moving forward, will be to find ways of making the FOCUS lesson (or sequence of focus lessons) more engaging for students.