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Let them break stones

Jill Parkin tests whether you know your VAK from your Hoover

Since our re-launch here at Inner City Academy, we've adopted a new school motto. On everything from our CCTV to the weapons- frisking entry gate, you'll see the words "Learning - this time it's personal."

But for personalised learning to be student-effective, our educational facilitators need to employ a variety of teaching and learning styles.

That's why we're giving a six-point test today to all of you looking for your first promotion to the combined job of Year 10 tutorhead of pastoralschoolwide physics co-ordinator. What would be your most likely reaction to these six situations?

1 In Year 10 we have 30 per cent special needs, around 80 per cent of whom walk round the classroom and shout half the time. How will you engage them?

a These aren't problem children but auditory learners. They will respond to my voice and we will have a conversation.

b They will respond to my voice and I will shout at them.

c I'll try to find out what works for them, but will need classroom support and extra timetabled sessions.

d Give them something else to do - stonebreaking, perhaps - until they reach school-leaving age.

2 The council, in accordance with mobility quotas, has just licensed the only travellers' site in this borough. On the off chance of a highly mobile pupil dropping in to our school, how would you assess him or her?

a We'd run some CAT tests; we'd have a handover chat with his last school; and ask for his KS3 SATs results.

b Give him sums and spelling tests and hope he's still around for the results.

c Being realistic, the Senco could probably get a very good idea of where he's at while helping him settle in socially.

d Give him an old kettle to mend.

3 We have a gifted mathematician here in Year 10. He can multiply seven-digit numbers in his head. How would you teach him?

a Obviously lacking kinaesthetic experience. Put him in a room with an abacus.

b Ask him what he wanted to do next and look for a good website.

c Call in gifted and talented expert help from county and from the Mathematical Association and the UK Mathematics Trust.

d Obviously I couldn't teach him. Would he like to help me teach the rest?

4 What does VAK stand for?

a Visual, Auditory and Kinaesthetic - the three main learning types.

b Vacuous, arid and kramping. The main thing is get something in their heads somehow and survive the day.

c The learning types - but, frankly, I think we all need a mixture.

d It's a song, isn't it? 'You say vac and I say hoover; you say shaker and I say moverI'

5 What might be a good arrangement of chairs for a plenary session?

a In a horseshoe.

b If the chairs are on the ground rather than flying through the air, that'll do me.

c Plenaries should be short, so chairs can be however they are as long as we can see each other.

d What's a plenary?

6 Explain the Socratic method of lecturing for auditory learners.

a Draw them out by asking questions and then fill in the gaps.

b Silence them with a good slug of hemlock.

c Hang on a minute, wasn't he done for moral corruption of his pupils?

d Exercise authority by throwing socks.

How did you rate?

Mainly As

You have swotted up the VAK principles, haven't you? Your awareness is great but you're actually being too literal for your pupils' good. If you tried to use all these methods for all pupils all the time, you'd be exhausted before the end of the second week.

Mainly Bs

You're very droll and would rather not be serious for more than two minutes, but there is something in this learning styles thing. Would you take a trip with someone behind the wheel who'd learned to drive just by listening or watching? Try some other approaches.

Mainly Cs

Yes, you've got this thing in proportion. You're aware of the theory but you're also pragmatic, so you'll be helping your pupils without narrowing their experience or making life too hard on yourself. With any luck, you'll both survive.

Mainly Ds

Did you download your PGCE from a rogue website? If you really took in as little as this at college, perhaps you should ask yourself if you're in the right job. Teaching requires a hard skin, but you seem to be a complete dinosaur. Or are you just joking?

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