SOLO has been somewhat of a hot topic in education in recent years (during my RQT training 2 years ago we were asked to look at it and it came up again during a school inset day a few months back). The problem I always had with SOLO was that I found it was just a case of creating labels for something that most of our lessons do, or at least I felt that way about MFL. The nature of teaching our subject means we have to start each topic, each scheme of work, right back down at word level, build it up to forming sentences and then eventually text level to show some progression. That is quite frustrating for a KS4 class and demands a lot of a teacher in terms of creative ways to introduce vocabulary. I guess that is another reason why we have been experimenting so much with flipped learning lately.
What I really appreciated about Samantha Broom's (@spanishsam) talk at the #ilic4 conference last weekend is that she said right from the outset that she doesn't bother too much with the labels. I am absolutely useless at names for things (don't ask me to explain the difference between the imperfect and preterite, you will have to remind me which one is which first) and I hate the idea of creating a contrived classroom situation in which you would have to break the flow of a target language led lesson to explain to pupils that we are now moving from 'unistructural' to 'multistructural'. The pupils probably don't care too much about the name of what they are doing as long as they are learning (and then again there are some who don't partiulary mind if they aren't doing much of that either!). After explaining what the labels meant, Sam gave us a chance in pairs to describe a grammar point using the stages of SOLO. Eleanor and I come up with this for regular present tense verb endings:
Prestructural: No idea what a verb even is or why I need one
Unistructural: I know a couple of infintives
Multistructural: I know there are some endings I need to use but I haven't tried that yet
Relational: I can apply my newly learnt pattern of endings to verbs that you give me
Extended Abstract: I can apply my endings to a number of regular verbs and use these correctly
We discussed that for us in MFL, vocab learning puts us frequently among the first three stages of SOLO Taxonomy - 1. students have to cover a set topic; 2.they don't know the vocab they need for that topic so we teach them it; 3. they begin to commit this vocab to their memory and finally; 4. we remove the scaffolding and let the pupils use the new words creatively by themselves. Personally, I feel that SOLO is much more valuable to the teacher toolkit in terms of planning for progression as opposed to engaging pupils with the terminology, in MFL at least. I will keep the stages in mind when planning lessons but I don't feel it is appropriate to share this with the students at the expense of target language in the classroom, especially if colleagues around school are using the techniques anyway. That is not to say that I believe we shouldn't share the aims and objectives of a lesson and / or series of lessons with a class, I do this on a daily basis, just that I won't be pointing out the name of the thinking processes behind it.
I really like this graphic for a more detailed explanation - interestingly, we are shown the 'verbs' for learning instead of nouns; a theme resonating the whole weekend at #ililc4. Apologies, no image credit - just from a Google search.
You can find Samantha's presentation here.