I’m going to start this blog by going on a trip down memory lane. When I first started teaching 20 years ago, things were so different. It was a case of ‘We are multiplying numbers’ I showed the children what to do and then they practised lots of examples in their books. I’m pleased to say my teaching has improved massively since then. Unfortunately though some initiatives that have been introduced have caused me a major headache and probably wasted several weeks of my life… one being the success checklist.
In my second year of teaching the learning objective was introduced as a vital part of the lesson. Observations were judged on whether you had this displayed and referred to this at the start of the lesson. Then somehow, fast forward a few years, things evolved into every child sticking the learning objective and matching success checklist in their books for every lesson. This list contains steps which need to be included in their current piece of work.
The problem I have with this is a) it became an aspect needed for every piece of work b) needed to be differentiated c) needed photocopied and chopped up EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR EVERY SINGLE LESSON! I calculated that it took me 5 minutes to produce a set of success checklists per lesson, then 5 minutes to photocopy and cut into individual strips. So 10 minutes per lesson x 3 lessons a day equals 30 minutes a day x 5 days = 2 hours 30 mins a week. 10 hours a month! When did that ever happen? And the worse thing is that everyone just did it. I only moaned to my mum but didn’t have the guts to talk to my head about it. No I just ploughed on regardless.
I think the checklist also reflected the children’s personality too, rather than their understanding. Some children would analyse each bullet point and ask if they were unsure if they have covered everything in the lesson. Some children, with lower self esteem, would colour red and cross everything. Some children, who couldn’t give a monkeys,would tick everything even if they blatently hadn’t done all the points. One child, I think so bored of years of this regime, put one massive tick that covered all the points on the list. I mean, why waste time?
Breakthrough! Recently at a staff meeting we finally decided to get rid of the checklists. I wanted to run around the room screaming ‘I’m free! Free at last!’ But I restrained myself and just politely nodded my agreement. We decided as a staff, to write success checklists with the children and use mainly for self/ peer assessment after extended pieces of writing. We would display success criteria for other lessons on the whiteboard. And I must say a few weeks into this new system it’s like a weight has been lifted. I have more time to mark, plan or have some me time. When children use a checklist now after writing, it’s so much more effective.
Fortunately other schools are following the trend and only using success criteria when needed- proved by my twitter poll results below. A much needed change in improving work life balance.