Friday, 12 July 2013

Bank of Mr Bilton

Yesterday I was moderating a #ComputingHour chat session on the topic "Successful teaching of coding - where to start?" The point was made that it was ok for students to make mistakes when coding because they will learn from their mistakes and ultimately improve their understanding.

The first lesson I learnt when teaching coding, however,  was that I needed strategies to avoid the constant need to firefight - i.e. the need to answer 30 questions all at the same time. I thought it would be interesting to see what strategies other teachers employed and so I posted this tweet:

It was great to see the excellent strategies that were suggested - all designed to encourage students to learn more independently, to not always rely on the teacher to answer a question as soon as it arises.

1. Peer Teaching
The ball was set rolling by @Coding2Learn who suggested that teachers make use of peer teaching -those that succeed help those who struggle. Only when they cannot help each other do they ask the teacher.

2. SNOT
A great acronym, SNOT, was suggested by @SharplesICT. SNOT stands for Self, Neighbour, Other, Teacher. In other words, students consult all help available in the classroom before they ask the teacher.

3. C3B4ME
Based upon the "language" of texting, @SuzanneCulshaw suggested C3B4ME, indicating that students should, again, consult all help available in the classroom before they ask the teacher.

4. Q Tokens
Another strategy suggested by @SuzanneCulshaw was Q Tokens, or Question Tokens. Here students in the class each have 3/4/5 tokens per lesson and have to hand over a token every time they ask a question that has an easy answer. This strategy has proven to be a great way of making students think up decent questions that they can to ask the teacher.

In my case, I am currently using the acronym VOTE:

V Video Watch the video

O Other Ask another student to see if they have the answer - their neighbour first of all, followed by someone else in the class
T Teacher Ask the teacher for the answer

E Execute Show progress by completing the work now that you have the answer


The VOTE acronym works hand-in hand with other strategies I have written blog posts about. Here's how I use it:

When they enter the room, students are given 2 bank notes issued by The Bank of Mr Bilton. When they leave the room they exchange the bank notes for a Growth Mindset and/or Effort stickers. See my Badges, Stickers and Achievement Points posts for more on these.


The bank note is shown below. The fact that it has my photo on it gives it real value for the students. An editable version of the note can be downloaded if you would like to add your own photo. Every time students fail to go through the VOTE process they have to hand over one of their notes, ultimately earning fewer stickers than students who were able to work more independently.

Download the editable .PNG file here

This system works really well for me. It is great at eliminating superfluous questions and definately encorages students to become independent learners. An important part of the acronym, however, is Video. This aspect of VOTE will be the subject of a future post.