How I Structure A-Level Sociology Lessons

Below is an overview of broad structure I use to teach every topic in the A-level sociology syllabus, and it’s my first post directed at sociology teachers rather than students.

I typically stretch the structure below over four hour long lessons in a week (I think the norm is 3-4 lessons in most schools and colleges), meaning that lesson one would be an ‘intro lesson’, lessons two and three ‘exploring lessons’ and lesson four the formal or informal ‘assessment lesson’.

NB – the week long, 3-4 lesson structure doesn’t work for all topics as some topics within A-level sociology are too short or long, but for shorter topics, you can stretch this structure over just one hour long lesson, just cutting out a few stages (or get students to do some of them at home) for longer topics (perspectives) you can just split the perspectives up.

Any of the stages can be extended or reduced, or omitted as time allows/ doesn’t allow.

Some people might balk at the idea of such a generic structure, but there’s a lot of variety within each section to mix things up.

If there’s enough interest in this sort of thing then ‘ll post some specific examples of a week’s worth of teaching for certain topics. It’s probably worth mentioning that I use ‘learning packs’ which integrate all of this btw.

Also, you might note, I’m a big fan of note taking – you can make this as creative as you like, but it needs to be done!

Lesson one – introducing the topic/ stating aims/ getting students thinking/ Clarifying difficult material/ note taking.

  1. State Aims/ Provide an overview of the topic
    • Normally on a PPT.
    • Could take the form of a ‘question’
    • For difficult topics you could even spend 20 minutes lecturing.
  2. Getting students thinking –
    • Find out what students know already – simply provide a question, they think up quick answers… or further questions!
    • Provide a data response with questions
    • Do a true/ false activity
    • If possible provide some questions that link back to previous, related topics.
  3. Preferably outside of the lesson – students do their own notes/ or a grid/ or simply answer questions – Provide Hand-outs/ text books with core knowledge
    • Getting students to structure their own notes is the most effective way of them learning.
    • If you’ve got them, you could use ‘learning packs’ with analytical questions.
    • I use summary grids all the time at this stage. Research has shown that all students love summary grids, although there’s no actual evidence to support this.
    • Quite a nice activity is to get students to compare notes/ suggest improvements/ even vote on the best set of notes.
    • You could of course do NOTE TAKING IN THE LESSON – 20 minutes once a fortnight/ once a week is hardly a crime against humanity (just a crime against OFSTED).

Lessons two and three – first informal assessment/ data responses/ researching, exploring and discussing

  1. First wave of Assessment for Learning (PAIRS/ GROUPS) – assessing concepts/ explanations/ evaluations (NOT elaboration at this phase)
    • Sentence sort – e.g. match the perspective to the statement.
    • Gap fill
    • Ranking – I’m sure you all know about cards
    • Brief summary writing – show a question on a ppt, include 10 concepts underneath, get students to write a brief paragraph in answer to the question (one of my favourite activities)
    • Quick posters passed round – different pairs take (for example) one of Marxism/ Feminism/ Functionalism – first pair add in concepts/ second pair evaluations/ third pair selects the most important idea (there ar lots of other versions)
    • Quick group quiz – of course, you could get the students to write the questions too.
  2. Video or data or music response case studies! Normally individual work, focusing What these suggest about a question/ concept
    • Get students to watch/ read/ listen the ‘item’
    • Discuss as a whole class or in groups – any of – what concepts does this demonstrate/ what perspectives does it support criticise/ etc…
    • If we’re doing methods/ education, this where I’ll do Methods in context planning activities.
    • If you’re watching a video, you can easily set it in advance, and show a brief clip at the beginning of a lesson to lead into this.
  3. Exploring in More Depth/ researching something in pairs or small groups (the easiest way to include Stretch and Challenge) – students basically produce something and then share it with the rest of the class
    • Straightforward web-search with question sheets
    • Produce a nice poster for the wall.
    • For anything about social policy – a ‘what would you do?’ type activity.
    • Write a letter to a government minister/
    • Actually go out and do some research
  4. Feedback findings to the rest of the class or to another group
    • If I’m doing full-on class presentations, I’ll always be selective.
    • I also get students to upload whatever they’ve done to a Moodle Forum so their work can be access later.

Lesson four – informal or formal assessment

  1. Second wave assessment for learning – more complex that the first wave earlier – covering most of the topic or sub-topic
    • Define these concepts, and explain them questions
    • Complete Venn Diagrams to show differences and similarities
    • Outline and explain questions (taken from the exam)
    • Marking and improving exercises (based on what they’ve previously done!)
    • Essay planning tasks – using essay planning grids
  2. Formal Assessment Work – Focussing tightly on the exam, without notes (usually done in the following week)
    • Moodle/ Socrative Quizzes
    • In-class Short answer tests
    • Essay paragraphs – focussing on explaining/ elaborating, analysing or evaluating
    • Once every term – a full on exam
  3. Extension work – simply provide links to…
    • Reading
    • Music link
    • Twitter etc.
    • Further questions…
    • My blog! Or a blog!
    • They blog?
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