Nelson Mandela

I was at Wembley in 1990. Mandela came on after an afternoon of dull music. We clapped and cheered and clapped and cheers and shouted so long. I saw Nelson Mandela in the flesh and heard him speak. It was and will always remain one of the most important moments of my life. so here below are some resources which may be useful in your lesson to tell pupils about this man, who more than maybe any other gives us hope into the 21st century

If there was a prophet in our era it would be Nelson Mandela, & if Nelson Mandela was not in our era he would be a prophet”-@TamimBarghouti

Nelson Mandela This links to a short powerpoint that i put together last night. It has some pictures and quotes, a link to one of his speeches and some more of his quotes. All done in a rush. But so as to have something to tell the children. what could I do that was more important than that?

This link takes you to Channel 4 obituary/tribute to him (10 minutes long)

Ferghal Keane of the BBC and his obituary on Mandela

And this one to a collection of headlines and front pages from around the world

This is his life in photos from the Guardian

December 5, 2013. Tags: . Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Changing the way Pupils Present in Class

I just stumbled across something that works really well………

I have had enough of sitting at the back of my class watching 6 different groups present their group work to the rest of the class.I am fed up with them: not knowing who is speaking next, long pauses, the group breaking into giggles, reading off a piece of paper, reading from behind a piece of paper, some people saying nothing, people not being able to read the writing of whoever wrote the speech. I am especially annoted when the whole thing takes up about half an hour.


I am trying this simple adjustment instead……

  1. Pupils complete the group work as before.
  2. But then they leave their presentation on their desk and in groups they wander around the room ‘art gallery style’ reading and looking at everyone ele’s works on the desk.
  3. The pupils judge each others’ work using the criterai that was established at the start of the work. (i have found this works better with the criteria on the board not on the desks)
  4. In their group, or individually, pick what they think is the best piece of work
  5. We hold a secret ballot
  6. The best one or two pieces of work are then displayed in the room and the’winning’ students are awarded a housepoint
  7. The pupils then complete 2 sentences in their book. “One thing I saw another group do that was good was…..” and “one thing that our group did well was….”

And honestly the whole process takes 15 minutes and produces better reflection and  learning than doing it another way.

But the best thing of all is the conversations the pupils have reviewing others’ work and referring to the criteria. It was a joy to listen to!

Note to  Teachers:

I used the old Geography Matters 1 text books as they have a section that contains a series of maps for 5 different settlements. however any OS map or maps would work with this. Equally, although we used the ipads and the right move app, a PC and their website does just as well. The powerpoint from the lesson is below

Thoughts on river severn stuff 2

October 16, 2013. Tags: , , . Key stage 3, presnetation. Leave a comment.

Talking about Progress

Dont tell anyone, but i find marking SO boring.

I think this is often reflected with how my pupils receive their books back. The first thing they want to see is what mark/grade/level/percentage they got. Then the second thing they want to see is what mark/grade/level/percentage their friend got. Maybe they will then look at the comment and target I wrote – maybe. Unless of course I put it on a previous page to where their mark is. There is no way they are going to be bothered to turn back a few pages to look for something they are not interested in and might not even be there.

And so the lesson starts and, without anyone noticing it, we have all silently agreed that there may be a target in their book but we will not bother referring to it again.

How then do my pupils or myself actually know if they are making progress

So this year I thought we could change things a bit. I have 3 aims: 1) Improve the response to the targets I set 2) Improve my monitoring of these responses and 3) Not increase the amount of time I spend marking (see opening sentence)

So I have drafted this table to put in the front of their books at the start of the year. I would appreciate your thoughts as to the viability and effectiveness of this tactic.


  target Level at the time (if given) Page and date My reply Page and date for proof Teacher’s response
1 You need to describe geographical patterns in more detail 4c 12 and 10/10/13 Please see my comments on the map 16 and 29/10/13 Well done you have definitely got a level 4a now



Thanks to twitter suggestions, I am considering the following changes:

a) Speed the whole process up so pupils respond to original comment quicker. Maybe by setting the next homework as this task

b) Ditch mention of levels

c) Try it with only one year group and review at October half term ( I would prefer y8 I think)

still open to more suggestions though🙂

August 25, 2013. Tags: , , . Assessment, marking. Leave a comment.

The Ashes and not doing your homework

There were a lot of Englishmen and women talking about the cricket yesterday. The reason was that Stuart Broad had plainly hit the ball and been caught. Yet the umpire missed it and gave him not out.  Broad did not ‘walk’ and carried on batting. So was he correct to do this? Or was he cheating? And more interestingly, how different were his actions compared to another player who had recently been banned for 2 matches for claiming a catch that he knew had bounced before he caught it?


That made me think about pupils and their moral behaviour in my classroom. If I forget to take in homework and a pupil hadn’t done it should they put their hand up and own up to it? I think not; I would say they got away with it because of my mistake and poor teaching.

Then what about the pupil that says they have done the homework when they haven’t? I take in the class’ books and find she has deliberately lied to me. In this second situation I would certainly punish the pupil because I would consider her actions much worse than the first pupil’s.


So I say fair play to Stuart Broad. You carry on.

July 13, 2013. Tags: , . Ashes, Homework. Leave a comment.

Assessing Year 7

I have always felt sorry for our Y7s. In their very first week of secondary school life they are all funneled into the hall, sat at desks, made to be silent and instructed to take CAT tests. It makes me wonder what they think we are like, if that is what we think is the most important thing they should be doing to start off their KS3 and 4 educational career. Mind you that would be hypocritical of me, as we in Geography give our pupils a baseline test in their second lesson to assess where they are in their Geographical skills and understanding. We base ours on a good one I stole from @davidErogers a couple of years back.

When we have looked at these results we have noticed 2 things: 1) they are rather low and 2) by the end of the year most pupils have really improved. Does this mean that our Geography team is stunningly gifted at our job? or is it that Primary School teachers are notably poor at theirs? Or is that Primary school teachers are inflating the levels of their pupils at the end of KS2?

I personally don’t believe any of these are the case. And I specifically find it distasteful when secondary colleagues of mine propose the last of these to be the case.

But I have been suggested another possible cause and I think it is one that rings true. Primary schools are pressured to get the best possible Levels for their y6 pupils. these SATS are taken in May when there are still probably 9 weeks or so of the year remaining. After that the pressure is off. There is a  chance to do whole school productions and the like is quite rightly grasped with both hands. This means that pupils aren’t being educated in a “NC level” style for 3 and half months. That is a long long time in the life of an 11 year old. They are then expected to walk into this new classroom staffed by this strange Geography teacher and sit a Geography test to prove how well they can explain the human impacts of a tourist development in a rural area or something similar. This would be like asking Gareth Bale to play like its the European champions League Final in his first pre season friendly away at Stevenage in August.

So for September 2013, we are going to teach our new year 7s all about the wonders of geography for half a term and then in late October ask them to sit an assessment. Alas, with the increasing demand for data at all times, in all classrooms and for all cohorts ( I mean pupils) I cannot see the whole year group September tests disappearing any time soon.

July 10, 2013. Assessment, key stage 2, Key stage 3, National Curriculum. Leave a comment.

Just showing off really – Year 8 Guerrilla Geography

I took 27 motivated Year 8s today into town to do some Mission explore inspired geography. I cheated a bit really by asking year 8 teachers to nominate 5 girls a class on the criteria “Who has been working really well in your lessons over the last couple of months?”, so we had some even better than usual pupils with us. Then I cheated some more by repeating a day i had run with year 10. and that was a cheat in itself because I had stolen the idea from guerrilla geography specialists –  and their great idea for a guerrilla geography day  on gender representation.

So really I have nothing to tell you about top tips for field trips or geography teaching.

Then, even better I got the pupils to do all the work. I sent them off for and hour and a half to collect photos and video clips of how men and women are represented in our town centre. We walked back to school and then I said they had 2 and a half hours to turn their images and clips into videos using the ipads. And then I left them to it. Here is what they produced in no particular order …… If you want to leave any comment on their video to encourage them further , that would be lovely…….




June 18, 2013. field work, guerilla education, ipad, Key stage 3, mission explore, Tecnology in schools. 3 comments.

Lets get more grown ups in school

Last week I was taking a group of year 8s just off of our school grounds to do some Mission Explore work for their geography lesson. (See
The next day I received this email forwarding on concerns from a concerned member of the public who had rung in to the school. The email also got copied into some members of SLT. It was like I has been caught doing something I shouldn’t. Here is the correspondence

“A member of the community expressed concern that on Friday morning some of our students were behaving oddly. The member of public saw girls running up and down Woodland Path, some others on their hands and knees on the zebra crossing, causing villagers to remark on their odd behaviour. They thought the girls were truanting from school.”

Do you know what? I am rather proud that my class were doing their mission explore work so well that they got this reaction. They weren’t just indolently lying about wasting their time. They were interacting with their surroundings and seeing their own environment from a new perspective. To me this both good Geography and good Learning.

I am worried about a lot of adults’ opinions of schools. Firstly, these viewpoints are based on what they experienced 10, 20, 30 , 40, 50 , 60 years ago. So their ideas may not all be relevant to how teaching and learning is today. Secondly, and more worryingly, is that these opinions are based on personal perceptions formed by children and teenagers. We all know how a pupil can say about a really caring teacher “oh he really hates me.”, when it is quite obvious this is not the case and the pupil has completely misinterpreted being told off for being disliked. These false understandings then get fixed in the memory as truths. On top of that, these selected and possibly incorrect recollections are then stretched out to form a whole philosophy of education, which is then applied en masse to any situation or issue in education whether it concerns their own child or a whole national government policy.

This is why schools should be getting parents and the wider community across the threshold and into the classroom; not so we can tell them what to think, but in order for their opinions to based on up to date, relevant and accurate information and experiences.

April 30, 2013. Enjoying learning, field work, Lighting fires, mission explore, Parents. Leave a comment.

Michael Gove’s Speech on education Blogs

He didnt mention mine, the complete and utter bastard © Viyvyan of the Young Ones

And I wrote about him last week

April 25, 2013. Michael Gove. Leave a comment.

something simple I learnt this week 4

This is another ‘learnt from my own children’ simple thing …

I came home this evening and asked my son how is maths lesson went and if had asked his teacher that question about how to work out the area of a circle. He said he had and that his teacher had told him “we are going to do it in a lesson soon.”

I asked him “Do you want me teach it to you now, so that you can be ahead of the others?”

He replied “No I want to be the same as everyone else.”

So the simple thing is that not all children want to be better than others. Which I guess is like adults too. ( see my previous post about striving for an outstanding OFSTED grade for a start).

This is not necessarily a bad thing. There are other things in life than striving to get the highest mark in class.

April 24, 2013. Tags: . OFSTED, outstanding judgement. Leave a comment.

When does doing your best become cheating?

In the recent January Maths GCSE exams foundation pupils had to get 17 more marks out of 200 than they did last Summer to a get a grade ‘C’. So if they apply for a college place in a few years time and their next door neighbour, 18 months older with exactly the same Maths ability, is also applying it is likely the elder boy will get the place as this year’s student will have a lower GCSE grade. This whole situation was better explained that I could manage by William Stewart in the TES this week

Yet at the same time the schools are under ever increasing pressure to get more of their pupils the magic 5 A* – C (Including English and Maths). It is like the government is both turning up the heat and pushing down on the saucepan lid at the same time. I mean, we may squeeze out some more ‘C’ grades in the short term, but sooner or later the pot will explode. This is not a sustainable situation. Schools have a choice; head teachers have an important decision to make. Do they continue to play the game to curry favour with their overseers? Or do they come clean and take the honest and truthful path by bravely stepping away from the present day preoccupation with data, predicted grades, FFT and headline figures?

I am not a member of SLT and am no longer a governor, so that dilemma is not mine. But I can tell you what it looks like from the classroom. This Year’s Year 11 are already more dead on their feet than I have ever seen, they are more concerned, stressed and pale looking than before – and its only April. They have been entered early to Maths in January. If they get their predicted grades then they stop studying that subject, and if they didnt they can take the exam again.

For English there is another wheeze that the Guardian’s Secret Teacher pointed out. I am not an English teacher, so please read it to get a proper grasp of what is going on. But the short of it is that someone has found out that one exam board syllabus is easier to get a grade ‘C’ at so it is worth entering your ‘D’ grade students into that one.

Now I bet you that if you asked a head teacher in a school that was trying one or other (or possibly even both) of these schemes, then they would tell you that they are only doing the best for themselves. Others might question whether that headline figure of 5 A* – C including English and Maths might have something to do with it. After all with a higher figure, schools will have a better chance of either delaying an OFSTED inspection or getting a higher grade in one. so why wouldn’t you consider it?

One problem with this approach is that it is undermining the importance of other subjects that are not English and Maths. Teachers of these subjects are feeling less valued and presumably pupils are looking at the subjects in the same way.

But that is not my point. I want to know what effect this is all having on these 15 and 16 year olds. If English is so important, what are the A, B, E, F and G students thinking as they see some of their peers getting extra time and help in this key subject? If Maths is so crucial to their futures, why is not worth the whole year group re-taking? Pupils know what is going on, they can see that a GAME IS BEING PLAYED HERE.

And it is being played with them. Secret teacher is right, they are being reduced to statistics. They don’t count as actual people. Teachers have been moaning at Michael Gove for this. But how can schools claim the moral high ground, when the pressures pupils are increasingly under play second fiddle to getting the right set of results for only of their pupils? This isn’t playing fair or clean; it is playing the system.

But worse, if all the pupils know that some are being entered for an exam as it is easier to get a ‘C’ grade in that syllabus, then  how can we hold ourselves and our school up as a paragon of virtue? And what are we telling our young people about how to get on in life? Is success at something so vital that all rules must be bent and loop holes exploited? Is the only way to get on in life to sneak your way to where you want to be? Does doing your best include not getting caught at cheating?

The way it looks to me is that we are educating children to see the world as somewhere where your own success is more vital than how you achieve it, that winning at all costs isn’t such a bad way of living. We are creating a generation of people who wont mind pulling a fast one on someone else to get what they want. It is up to schools, to teachers, to governors and to head teachers to take a moral stance. Otherwise we are not doing our job properly.

April 20, 2013. GCSE, Key Stage 4, Michael Gove, OFSTED. 2 comments.

Next Page »