Have applied 3 times but never got to a TLT event before. I loved it. As a result i am relaunching this old unattended and unused blog. I wanted to write something quickly before I even got onto the weekend marking, so things were fresh and as yet untainted by time pressures and skepticism. Below is a write up of my notes from yesterday. I have included any ideas I think I could actually employ in my teaching and their learning. I am following John Tomsett’s excellent advice from the opening keynote of not trying out ideas I liked the idea of but didn’t understand. I’ve been teaching more than long enough to have my own good ideas and practice.

John Tomsett (@Johntomsett ) – Keynote

  • Avoid using shiny new ideas that I don’t understand instead embed and improve what I do already
  • Use metacognition when going over mock exams and with a visualiser write down what I am thinking when I read the questions in the paper
  • Remember most pupils don’t use a pen outside of school so train them in writing a lot in 90-120 minutes
  • This slide of his on achievement is excellent ach

Andy Tharby (@atharby ) – Questioning

  • Get into a routine of using mini quizzes and questions as lesson starters to revisit last lesson, last fortnight, last half term’s work
  • Sequence these questions (and all questions) carefully to fit in with new GCSE spec demands on knowledge and skills
  • Include ‘crackerjack’ questions that cover more than one topic
  • Can I design a subject question template for GCSE topics like his one for English?template

John Tomsett – (@Johntomsett ) Assessment and progress

  • Concentrate more on dragging them all to the highest understanding than differentiating in lessons
  • Don’t talk about high, mid and low ability/ attainers instead say high mid and low starters
  • Overarching principles of assessment photo ……Assessment must improve learning (do all our KS3 topic assessments do this?)
  • Progress is relative… hard work and changing rates of development can have different effects. This shows how lower started pupil can pass higher starter. bell-curve

Stephen Lockyer (@MrLockyer ) – Challenge and Differentiation

  • Get pupils to self regulate their work. They should learn to how they could improve. (Maybe get them to argue with each other whose work is the best and why)
  • Convince pupils they are doing really well maybe working above their target level
  • I like the idea of every major piece having an audience, but in geography who is that audience?
  • Keep an excellent example of the end of topic piece of work to show next year’s pupils. My colleague is thinking of doing this via photos on a blog so it all also works as an online “praise website”
  • Get pupils who have understood to help explain to pupils who are still trying (geography expert photo?)
  • Beat the drum – publicise high achievements as much as possible (be unBritish)

Lindsay Skinner (@lindsayjskinner )- Keynote

  • One of the key peaks of attention in lesson is about 5 minutes in. So maybe start with one of Tharby’s quizzes and then 5 mins in hit them with a key introduction
  • Slow speech down when either it is a key part of the lesson or when you are dealing with a particularly tricky piece of bad behaviour
  • Leaving words out increases informality – consider that when giving instructions (and maybe adding one or two in when telling off)
  • Using anecdotes in class may help pupils see the teacher as a human being and treat them as such.

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

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 http://www.rightmove.co.uk/ does just as well. The powerpoint from the lesson is below

Thoughts on river severn stuff 2

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🙂

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.

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.

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 – www.missionexplore.net  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…….