Andi Price is a teacher and Pobble Champion at Ranches Primary School in Dubai. Here, he shares his Pobble journey and tells us how he transformed his class’ writing to become the best writing in Dubai!
A year ago, I made the unusual and, dare I say, radical decision of returning full time to the classroom. For 13 years, I had been a headteacher, in different UK and international schools. Although I maintained a teaching commitment in all my roles, I became increasingly eager to implement the new strategies for learning I was advocating as a leader.
Most of all, I wanted to implement learning assisted by technology. Being a semi ‘tech-geek, I had a huge desire to embed technology into my own classroom practice to accelerate learning and lessen the burden of teacher bureaucracy.
When I joined Ranches Primary, the school was only two years old. Nonetheless, it had analysed external and internal data showing that attainment in English needed to be raised, especially in writing. As part of the self-evaluation process, Pobble was highlighted as a tool that could raise standards.
We started with Pobble like many other schools by hosting a launch day in Key Stage 2. Simon, known affectionately by the pupils as ‘Mr. Pobble’, presented an engaging topic for the children. Their imaginations flowed. By the end of the day, all pupils were ‘Published Authors’. And they were very proud: other pupils commented on how good the writing was and their parents were able to view their work.
But this wasn’t enough for me: I realised Pobble had so much more potential than being a vehicle for sharing writing between home and school! A resource with over 100,000 pieces of written work can do far more than just communicate with parents and raise self-esteem. I was convinced it would be able to raise the standard of writing further.
For starters, I enabled my class to deconstruct pieces of written work, separating good ideas and constructing construct sensitive, critical feedback. Pobble provides ‘activity cards’ for this purpose, that can be integrated into any classroom routine. I introduced these tasks as part of our SOLE time (Self Orientated Learning Environment). It has proved to be a very popular activity. Pupils can find age-related WAGOLLs (What A Good One Looks Like) independently with ease using the search facility.
Using Pobble in class has become a daily routine. I found giving pupils a licence to independently log on and connect with students within the surrounding vicinity really motivated them. We linked with Kings’ Al Barsha School, 5 minutes down the road. With a little direction, my pupils were able to search for the desired school, find pupils in Year 6 and send comments to the students using the ‘Pobble Sandwich’ model. This was a win-win situation. Not only did the students at Kings’ Al Barsha receive quality feedback from their peers, but it also ensured my students are immersed in top-quality writing. Furthermore, they had to suggest how the pupils could up-level their work. Very powerful assessment indeed! We have now widened the focus and linked with other schools around the globe.
I also spent time stealing ideas from my newfound teaching resource, you might have heard of it: Twitter. The students print out WAGOLLs from Pobble, that they know are written by children of their age, and overlay an A3 laminated sheet. They then use the structured template to label, underline, highlight, annotate many pieces of work, building up a multitude of top-quality writing ideas. We call this process, being ‘WAGOLL Detectives’. I feel that children witnessing the standard of writing by others of their age has contributed to the dramatic improvement of writing in school.
It is obvious that pupils love Pobble. They adore investigating other pupils’ work, commenting on genres they are focused on, reading comments on their own work from all around the globe and being nominated in the recent Pobble Awards in various categories. The pupils at Ranches love Pobble so much they were inspired to film and produce their own video!
Like most schools nowadays, we are constantly evaluating. We are certain we can utilise Pobble even further. Our next steps for Ranches along the Pobble journey are:
• to introduce Pobble to our Key Stage 1 pupils;
• to build links with schools internationally, to validate our curriculum and judgements against other British Curriculum schools;
• to moderate writing online with other schools ensuring moderation is a purposeful task and not just a tick box exercise.
Our Pobble journey so far has been extremely fruitful for all concerned: pupils, parents and teachers alike. The constant support provided by Pobble is very reassuring. Undoubtedly, the platform has had a huge impact on standards in a short space of time. I can firmly say Pobble has played a major part in aiding Ranches Primary to close the attainment gap. Not too long ago, our writing was graded as weak. Recently, after a very thorough annual inspection, an inspector fed back that what he saw at Ranches was ‘the best writing he has ever witnessed in Dubai!’