Since the start of term in September I have tried out some new ideas with my classes to help them become more independent learners.
Place of the week
I have randomly picked countries from around the world and created a long list. Each week a new country name is put on the whiteboard and students are now eager to find out where it is. Used as a starter activity at KS3, students find the location using an atlas and then write a geographical description in their exercise books. They are now much more able to use the atlas and know how to find a country, where to find its flag and how to use indicators such as GDP and birth rate. The more able students can use these indicators to explain the level of development in the country. Although there is not always time for this starter, the students are always keen to find out the new location for the new week.
Green pen time
Another starter activity that I have used with KS3 and KS4 students is "green pen time" - an idea built on a new school policy. The students use green pens to respond to my feedback in their exercise books (a mixture of questions, spelling changes, punctuation changes etc...) using reminders on the board. E.g. "sp" means spelling, "C" means capital letter, "P" means punctuation and "T" means a task to complete or a question to answer. Now the students have used this several times, they are much more independent and able to respond to the feedback without asking too many questions.
Takeaway homework menus
Using inspiration from many different takeaway homework menus on Twitter (http://bimblesgloopsandflobs.blogspot.co.uk/2014_01_01_archive.html?m=1#uds-search-results) I created a Nando's takeaway homework menu for my Year 8 classes who have been studying rainforests. It took a while to explain how to use the menu for the first homework task but the students are now more confident in choosing their own homework task and some have produced excellent work. It also allows for clear differentiation and the students feel slightly more enthusiastic about completing homework that they have chosen. Perhaps next term I can take it a step further and allow the students even more independence in creating their own homework tasks.