During my PGCE, I was taught all the tools to become a good teacher, but no one told me that the time of day would have a massive impact on my lessons - and my sanity.
I became frustrated during the main teaching practice with one particular mixed ability Year 7 class that I took for last lesson on a Monday. I searched the internet for suggestions, but found little to assist me, although I knew that the effect of the time of day was different from other behavioural issues.
When I taught the class, I found the children could retain information, but lessons were often disrupted by a failure to concentrate for long periods, even with a four-part lesson. So I decided to use the data from the pupil removal system (the disciplinary procedure used at school) for my own research. This lead to a completely different result from other research I had found.
The research I was contradicting was that of Val Dowson in 1999. He carried out six experiments with Years 2 to 6 in independent schools across Newcastle. Over a year he showed that children learned better when taught and tested in the afternoon rather than in the morning. I disagreed completely.
The class was taught in a six-lesson day, lesson six on a Monday, Tuesday lesson two, Wednesday lesson two and Thursday lesson six. My research was undertaken over a seven-week period using the pupil remove system. This stipulated that once all warnings for behaviour had been issued a teacher could remove a pupil for the remainder of the lesson.
I looked at the results from two different perspectives: total number of removes per day, and total per lesson for the school as a whole. Monday and Wednesday were the highest with 10, but the totals per lesson were more relevant: lesson 1 had 5, lesson 2 had 3, lesson 3 had 8, lesson 4 had 3, lesson 5 had 4 and lesson 6 had 4. For the 24 removes that occurred during my research, only eight pupils were in my class.
Because last lesson on a Thursday was in the library reading, the pupils didn't view this as a "lesson", meaning there were few problems. I found that I needed to change the style of other lessons to meet the pupils'
needs - not their learning styles, but actual personal needs.
Effects of time of day on learning, by V Dowson (1999), at http:cem.dur.ac.ukebeukresearchterseDowson
How I coped
Every class is different, but it is helpful to work out your own difficult lessons in advance.
What I did was
* Have work on the desk as soon as pupils arrived.
* Use quizzes or word searches as starters (relating to scheme of work).
* Delay the register until after the starter.
* Have pupils working on focused tasks in pairs rather than bigger groups.
* Modify schemes to allow some lessons to take longer than anticipated.
* Put the activity on the board to avoid pupils asking what that lesson would be about.
As an NQT I still do these, but I also
* Organise the classroom into groups of tables rather than rows - this is great for pair or group work.
* Put dictionaries on the desks so that the pupils can use them for the starter (and other work).
* Use the commendationmerit system for those who work quietly.
* Have teaching tasks on the board, not just objectives, so they could be ticked off.