WALT and WILF, do you know shorthand?

The world of education is full of acronyms, some useful and descriptive, others sometimes a little bizarre. A quick check on the internet produced a very comprehensive list of acronyms that might be useful to Governors, from Gloucestershire County Council, address below:- www.gloucestershire.gov.uk/utilities/action/act_download.cfm?

BA Bachelor of Arts; BAGA British Amateur Gymnastics Association; BBC British Broadcasting Corporation; BDA British Deaf Association; BDA British Dietetic Association; BDA British Dyslexia Association; CAB Citizens Advice Bureau; C&G City and Guilds; CAD Computer Aided Design; CAF Common Assessment Framework; CAL Computer Assisted Learning.

The extracts from this list for the first five in B and C show just a few among many. There are 25 in A alone. Many of the above are useful as guides to organisations around the education arena, but the list also highlights some elements of the educational landscape.

Two very common acronyms in classrooms are our dear friends WALT and WILF, which stand for “We are learning to…” and “What I am looking for…” These two characters are child friendly ways to share the less prosaic and perhaps less easily understood, learning objectives (LO) and success criteria (SC). Classrooms are awash with varied targets, whole class (LO/WALT), group based (SCWILF) as well as individualised targets. On occasion these elements are articulated differentially. Teachers will indicate that “All children will…, Most children should.,while Some children might..” If some children might, who are they and shouldn’t that just be their target, as a group or individually? As for “most”, who is excluded from this? The lack of clarity in the use of this system can allow differentiation by outcome to be the class norm, supporting whole class teaching, with no real differential challenges. So what is the point of being bright in this system?

Learning Objectives and Success criteria have the potential to become equally vague, the mantra at the beginning of each lesson, because it is the expectation of the teacher. The WALT/LO should be shared at the beginning, to introduce the children to the lesson. However, it is the use of the WILF/SC that will determine the learning outcomes of the children. If WILF stands for “during this activity, I am going to be looking to see if you are able to….” there is the implication of significant action on the part of the teacher, a) in setting a task that allows this to happen, b) engaged teaching to check on progress thought the task, then c) judgements on achievement, from child and teacher.

This level of thinking differentially inevitably results in a variety of activities within the classroom or the same activity at very different challenge levels. As teachers seek to individualise or personalise the curriculum, their understanding of the children’s differing levels of achievement should result in groups of children having a very clear understanding of where they are in their learning and what their next learning goals are. Once this position is secure, these targets can be individualised to take account of the needs within a mixed ability group. So WILF can be group based i.e. Group Shakespeare, can you write the beginning of the story, setting the scene, in around ten sentences, using a good range of adjectives and sentences that show that you  use connectives. Group Marlowe, Your setting should give a reader a clear feeling of where the story takes place, in half a dozen interesting sentences. There is different expectation in the use of time and the qualities that are being sought.

The teacher is the ultimate QA (quality assurance) person in the classroom. WILF can help to guide thinking towards that end point.

Given the ease with which acronyms seem to proliferate, it might be worth keeping in mind KISS, keep in simple, stupid. ERIC (Everyone Reading In Class) and USSR (Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading) still exist as far as some schools are concerned, the latter also called DEAR, Drop Everything And Read.

Some acronyms can be very powerful.


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