How can we get primary-aged children to give us feedback about their classroom experiences? Iwona Glowacz used the prospect of getting published as a way of collecting pupils’ thoughts

Being asked about ‘the student voice’ by the editor of G&T Update made me think about how to collect feedback from our most able pupils and conduct a sort of litmus test of ‘customer satisfaction’. I decided to incorporate a reflective writing task in the work I was doing with a group of G&T writers, introducing it as a response to the publishers request for pupil opinion. I used a PowerPoint presentation to introduce the task and talked to the children about their thoughts on what makes a good teacher and a good lesson, what helps them to produce a good piece of work that they can be proud of. Each child made a plan, then went away to write. Once completed, we read the articles out to the group and helped each other to improve the pieces of work. The task provided pupils with a challenge and they all enjoyed doing it, in many cases involving parents and carers as well. Their responses were very reassuring as all the staff here work hard to ensure that each and every child is given opportunities to succeed and fulfil their potential.

When I was learning about The Great Fire of London my teacher said ‘It’s a very good account well done’. I am proud of my work because my teacher said ‘Good ideas, try to make the ending more exciting’. I am proud of my work because my teacher said ‘lovely rhyming.’ I am proud of my work because my teacher said ‘Wow! Super’.
Angelee Gohil, aged seven

The school

Holbrook Primary School is a two-form entry school on the outskirts of the city of Coventry. It caters for 440 pupils, including 52 nursery children who attend on a part-time basis. Most pupils are of Asian origin, although the school population is changing as more Eastern European children are arriving into the country.

I am proud of most of my work but the two pieces I am most proud of is the three cool bears, it is the same as ‘Goldilocks and the three bears’ but in a teenage slang version. This was the most exhilarating piece of work I did in the entire year. The other piece of work I am proud of is ‘Dad’s story’, it is a book I wrote from dad’s point of view. I really enjoyed it because I had read the story and it was great!
Kavita Pallan, aged 10

A growing Pakistani heritage group has developed within the school accounting for 46% of the school population whereas the proportion of children of Indian decent has recently reduced to 25%. Children from a white UK origin stand at 7.9% while children of Somalian descent have grown to 3.7%. Overall, the population of black and minority ethnic pupils is 70% higher than the national average.

When I talk with my talking partner first, it helps my work because we share ideas and solve questions together. Although I try my best, sometimes my teacher helps me… to make my work have more vocabulary, connectives, interesting openers and lots of punctuation. Also I try to make my work more unique and use my imagination in my stories. Finally I am proud of my work because my teacher enjoys reading it because it has great vocabulary and I think she thinks it is FANTASTIC!!!!
Abbideep Bains, aged 10

Ninety-four per cent of the school population has English as an additional language and about 40% of pupils are at the very early stages of learning English and require daily translation or support.

My teacher sets me more targets when I have finished them so that I can move to a higher level. I think my teacher enjoys my work because she leaves good comments and smiley faces.
Mohammed Hasanan Younis, aged seven

The school is also in an area of high unemployment and there are high levels of poverty – our free school meals register is double the national average. The proportion of pupils with special educational needs is around 25% (15% higher than national average) and the attainment of children when they start school is very low as their experiences of play and the world in general, is often very limited. However, a recent visitor to our school commented that it is ‘vibrant and you can feel the sense of purpose and expectation – its lovely.’

The vision

We provide a creative, exciting and inclusive curriculum which allows all pupils the opportunity to reach their full potential, whatever their background and circumstances and helps them become responsible and respectful citizens who make informed choices. We want all children to:

  • cross all barriers to learning – to be the best that they can be
  • be effective, confident communicators
  • respect diversity, be responsible and understand the contribution other members of the school and wider community make
  • take pride in their identity and their achievements
  • develop key skills for lifelong learning and feel safe to take risks
  • understand how to stay safe and healthy.

At the beginning of each school year new targets are discussed and set in order to encourage pupils to take responsibility for their learning and be positive in their approach to all school activities. This year’s whole-school targets were:

  • I will use key skills to help me learn.
  • I will be a Holbrook ‘95er’ which means I will try to attend school for at least 95% of the week.
  • I know what I can do well and I will make the most of my talents.
My teacher is always proud when I use compound words because it shows her that I have listened and tried to use harder words.
Mandeep Nagra, aged seven

We also believe in rewarding whole class behaviour and have a reward system in place whereby pupils can collect a marble daily. If pupils achieve 20 marbles, their reward can include extra time on the Trim Trail, an extra story and ‘Golden Time’. If they achieve 40 marbles the reward can include a class picnic or watching a DVD (with popcorn!). A massive 80 marbles can result in a super award of a trip to the local park or the cinema. The pupils respond really positively to this system and often encourage others to improve their behaviour so the class can achieve rewards.

My teacher gives us extra time, gives me advice and supports me. I never give up because I want to have a good life so I try hard. Sometimes I work in a group because it gives me ideas, it helps me work because we talk to each other and get different ideas. My teacher gives us preparation time, confidence to try and she makes me feel proud and glad about my work. She never gets my chin down about my work. My teacher shows us diagrams and labels when we are on the carpet listening so that we have an idea about spelling hard words and I find that really useful. Finally when my teacher puts us into groups and we work together helping each other get ideas, we all enjoy it because it helps us sort out right and wrong answers. We all enjoy it and our teacher praises us for it. Once I start my work sometimes I can’t stop because she has made me want to do it and that’s the best!!

Idreece Zaman, nine

Study support is an integral part of the school, touching on many aspects of the school curriculum. We try to provide after-school activities that suit the needs of our pupils, including the able, gifted and talented. Activities have included breakfast club, football, netball, language classes, rugby club, choir, music lessons and drama club.

My teacher helps me by… Giving me positive marks such as ‘brilliant alliteration, good imagination’ but she sometimes gives me other marks like ‘remember capital letters’… Sometimes she gives us extra time after lunch to finish our work. She gives us confidence by giving us stickers and green certificate letters. She gives us advice on how to make our work better… Another way she helps me is by giving me tests so I can see if I have progressed or not. I am proud of my work because I always get good marks and I’m in the top maths, literacy, writing and spelling group and I’m the leader of my science group. Finally I just want to say my teacher helps me a lot.

Aman Singh, aged nine

EAL

EAL is potentially a barrier to identifying G&T pupils but we address this by encouraging children to use their home language to support their learning, while at the same time, helping them to develop excellent English language skills. This dual approach involves:

  • modelling speech in English and asking children to repeat what has just been said
  • accepting translated answers to speaking and listening activities (I have two Polish-speaking children in my class and am lucky in that I can speak to them in both languages, so they are able to answer in Polish or English which has made a huge difference to their learning)
  • scaffolding their developing language (the children quickly come to understand that they will be supported and are not afraid to take those first steps and speak in English independently)
  • talking partners. Children are paired with someone who speaks the same language (child or adult). They have one minute to talk through an answer together ‘rehearsing’ what they may say. This allows for mistakes to be put right and gives new English learners the confidence to participate in the lesson. Often, in maths in particular, children can grasp the idea of the lesson and then work out the procedure in their own language, often getting the correct outcome. So in a maths lesson, counting can be in many different languages.
When I was writing a mock newspaper my teacher wrote ‘excellent understanding’ and beside it she wrote ‘try to include a quote.’ I appreciated that and will try to remember it.
Gururaj Phull, aged 11

Iwona Glowacz, Holbrook Primary School

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