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Time for QWERTY®

Updated: Feb 7, 2020

So by this time, you've probably had a look at QWERTY®. You know what it stands for and you'll no doubt have browsed our blogs on the various stages. So far, so good. You might also have investigated when you should use it. The next thing to consider, then, is how long it should all take. Are we talking extended navel-gazing or snap decisions?

The answer, as you might expect, isn't fixed. There are lots of variables to consider.

Firstly, you have to take into account the person using QWERTY®. Their facility with the technique will vary according to:

  • age

  • ability

  • experience

  • support levels

  • and how much they have practised the technique before.

Then, in the task itself, whether it is simple or complex and the amount of interest the child has in it. Is it a straightforward solution that is required or a multi-part, multi-leveled project that could soak up every available minute?

Time to get the cogs turning

It's impossible to say Q = 5 minutes when it could just as easily take 3 hours. If you don't define your Question well, then you could waste a lot of the time that follows. The idea behind QWERTY® is to think not just creatively, but effectively - using what time you have to best advantage.

If you think of Question, Wonder, Explore and Rank combined as the design stage and Target as the implementation, with YaY! bouncing between the various areas as required, it becomes a little easier to define.

Ideally, the design phase should take between 10% and 25% of the time available. Tasks similar to things they've done before will be at the lower end of that spectrum, while one-off tasks or a bigger project will be closer to the 25%. The Target stage should take 60-70% of the time. It's the execution of the plan that will give you the final result you are after, isn't it, so it makes sense that that is the lion's share. The YaY! can be anywhere between 5 and 15% depending on how well the plan is working.

If we take some examples.

'Write a story' in class

Let's suppose they have an hour. The planning for what they are going to write should only take a maximum of 15 minutes to allow them time to actually write the story. Of that, the Question should be quick (as they have no doubt been told what to write or what to include/exclude in it). The Wonder and Explore would probably be 5 or 6 minutes each, with a few minutes at the end to Rank the ideas they have come up with. Writing it (the Target element) would probably be about 35 - 40 minutes to allow 5-10 minutes of YaY! time to edit and polish.

Humanities Homework

Love it or hate it, that homework on the Romans has to be done. QWERTY® can help your child use their time effectively. As with the story above, the Question may be largely set for them (unless they get to pick their own element/approach) so shouldn't take long. At the Wonder stage you might be spending time remembering places you have visited (e.g. Hadrian's Wall or the local Roman baths), doing some research, background reading or interviewing someone who knows a lot on the subject. In the Explore phase, they pick out the favourite topics/pieces of information. Rank them (as they may not have time/room to use them all), which can sometimes happen as they go along. Then, make that poster, write the essay, draw the villa, taking the bulk of the time available and the time at the end for checking, polishing and evaluating for next time. If it's a 20 minute piece of homework you're looking at, then it might be something like this: (in minutes) Q=0.5, W=2, E=2, R=0.5, T=13, Y=2. A project over the holidays would account for substantially more time, but the proportions should probably be similar.

If you take a structured approach to this, particularly at the beginning, it's no bad thing to use a timer of some sort to keep the Learner on track. This isn't to make the whole experience stressful or frantic, but just to keep them jogging along rather than use up all their time daydreaming at the Wonder stage. A sort of decide, move on, decide, move on mantra to keep things moving.

The key to QWERTY® is to get the child to Stop! Think! before they rush in to a job without knowing what they're going to do or how to approach it for the best. It's a way to plan what strategies they'll need to adopt or consider the best techniques or tools for what they have to do. They need to spend enough time on the planning element to be sure they are implementing the right/best thing, but not spend so long on the planning that they don't have time to finish the project.

In the early days, or with younger children, you will need to give them a fair amount of support. That doesn't mean doing the thinking for them, but giving them ideas of what to think about e.g. 'Remember where we went at half term? Yes, Chedworth Villa, that's right. Did you see anything there that you want to include?', or where to look for information (helping them find good websites or reference books). You could give them a hand with the Explore stage ('what would happen if we put those two things together? 'that's a bit dull, how could we make it more interesting?') or the Ranking process ('Which one do you think Mrs White will like better?' or 'Which is funnier?').

There is no doubt that, at first, it might seem to take longer using QWERTY® than just getting stuck in. But it is so worth it in the longer term. It's a bit like teaching them how to load the dishwasher. You get a few cracked mugs to start with - not to mention a few grey hairs! - and it seems to take forever... but then they can do it by themselves in a fraction of the time, giving them confidence in their abilities and making everyone's life easier.

The more practised the child becomes at QWERTY®, the quicker they will be able to do some of the elements, allowing for more implementation time. Similarly, if they remember solutions that they have used before (using Wrap and Remember), that can speed up the process, too, giving them more time to develop extra bells and whistles.

Above all, taking the time to use QWERTY® can make a project more fun rather than a chore. It gives the child an opportunity to think creatively and use their imagination rather that just do the 'same old, same old'.

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