Would you dare to watch the TV in the last lessons of term?


Since we are now telling all pupils how important attending as many schooldays as you can, it would seem hypocritical to spend a day or two in the last week of term watching DVD’s and colouring in. Also if your headteacher happens to be predisposed to dropping in just to see how things are going on the last Wednesday of term you may not have considered slipping in a DVD and pressing play. But then again, you are screamingly tired and can’t even get order out in the right words.

Well fear not! Here is a plan that means you can educate, engage, play a DVD (well BBC iplayer) AND tick some boxes toward achieving your whole school literacy policy.

Next week I will be re-using an old plan that always worked well with Key Stage 3 classes. Thanks go to Julia Skinner (@theheadsoffice ) for her original idea of the 100 word challenge which this is all based upon.

I use the following resources:

  1. BBC iplayer and the Planet Earth 2 series, though a box set of planet Earth (1?) works just as well
  2. One pen and one exercise book per pupil

Here’s how it goes:

  1. I ask the class to write down 6-8 words that come to mind when they think of “deserts” or whatever the title of the episode is that they are to watch. They have to draw a line under those words.
  2. Then I tell them we are going to watch a DVD on this topic for about 30 minutes and afterwards they are going to produce a piece of descriptive writing on the landscapes they have seen and what happens there. (I emphasise landscapes because as a geography teacher, this works better than the animals they would go for without any guidance, but you could choose any other facet of the programme). I say they should write down some words and ideas for this during the DVD, but not many as actually watching and listening is more important than taking lots of notes.
  3. I stop the video with about 20 minutes to go of the lesson (ours last for an hour) and tell them to complete their piece of descriptive writing. The only two rules they have to follow are:
  • It must not exceed 100 words (I am strict on this)
  • They cannot use any of their original 6-8 words they wrote down at the start of the lesson

As this is the last lesson of the term chances for peer and self assessment are not available, but I know this idea could be extended further to allow for more redrafting and improving of their work.

But as a stand alone end of term lesson that both challenges my pupils to learn and think and is also a bit different, this has so far worked very well.

and it has David Attenborough in it – so you cant go wrong

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

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…….




How to write a Scheme of work LAZILY

Hurst Spit

If you want  to write a scheme of work ….. you have run out of ideas and your creative juices are as arid as the soil in the plant pot you left in your classroom over the Summer holidays …..

If your concentration is worse than a Year 10’s on a Friday afternoon …..

If your motivation is lower than  a HMV assistant, well then I can give you some good news….

There are plenty of teachers willing to share their ideas with you and all you have to do is show proper gratitude and be prepared so share back. It really is that simple.

Here is how it worked for me. I had this Scheme of Work to write for Year 9 on flooding. I had a few ideas but not many. I was thinking causes of flooding,effects of flooding and management of flooding…. so i asked twitter and @tonycassidy @janeyb222 @njpiercy helped me out. Then I googled some stuff and www.tes.co.uk/resources provided some ideas. Then I found a couple of bits from www.rgs.co.uk. Then I look at old scheme of work i had written and found 2 more ideas I had got from other teachers, so I dusted them down and added them in too. Finally we had used the Hurricane Sandy in Year 8 lessons earlier in the Year and it seemed a shame not to make the most of that hard work, so that was recycled too.

And hey presto! you have at least a 9 by 1 hour lesson Scheme of work written and here are the resources I have garnered and adapted for Year 9’s to learn from this term


Here are the credits:

Lesson 1 – the pop up drainage basin is pure @tonycassidy I am late to this i think as many other people all over the internet seem to have used it. it is very easy to find.

Lesson 2 – A few ideas of my own using the Wider World David Waugh book to finish it off (well Waugh had to be there somewhere)

Lesson 3 –  @janeyb222 kindly sent me her lesson plan and i adapted it fit our school.

Lesson 4 and 5 – this is one of those I used when I taught this a few years ago. Its comes from Nuffield and can be found here

Lesson 6 and 7 –  is a combination of the RGS website (link above) and me searching the TES. then when I re-discovered the stop disaster website, I checked on twitter to see if anyone else had used it and got some tips from @tonycassidy and ‏@dawnhallybone 

Lesson 8 and 9 – Is just a few internet resources thrown together with a learning objective or two. We taught this to Y7 and y8 just after the disaster occurred

Pakistan ILT – ILT is an inschool term it stands for Independent Learning Task. But the actual task is amost a straight lift from the marvellous @_DavidDrake

And then you can also see an RMN folder. You see, I may have written, or rather compiled, a SoW but there are two of us teaching this and RMN has to teach things in her way, so not surprisingly, she adapts my plans. Since we have only just started to teach this topic, she has only altered the first lesson.

Please please feel free to use the resources in this unit. They are now yours to do with what you want. They were never mine in the first place. However, I would really like to hear of any ideas these plans give you. Do post below as a comment.

Second Thoughts on Mr Gove’s new Proposed Curriculum… let’s not worry about it

I wrote my first thoughts on the evening Mr. Gove announced his draft changes to the school curriculum. Now I will have another reflection at them……..

The bottom line is that on second thoughts we don’t really need to worry that much. The document clearly says that it is NOT a directive on how to teach, but rather on the content that needs to be covered. In my small area of expertise (mainly Geography and partly History) I can see that this is not a slimmed down list as was promised. What we are being given is a collection of what some rich old white men with broadly traditional, conservative views of their world think pupils should be learning and more importantly what these children should KNOW.

But why should I be concerned about this?

Firstly, like many I now teach in an academy and officially don’t have to follow all these lists.

Secondly, who would actually ever find out if I didn’t teach Glaciation? After all, in 2o years and 5 inspections I have never had a Geography expert either inspect my department of observe one of my lessons.

But most of all the biggest influence on pupils’ Geographical learning is not what the DfE decides up in Westminster, but in how we in our departments choose and plan lesson and activities, in how we individually deliver and adapt these lessons to our own styles and our own classes needs and interests. for example, sustainability is no longer a ‘must cover’ any more in geography; it doesn’t even get a mention in the draft document, whereas previously it was all over NC levels 5, 6, 7, 8 and exceptional performance. Now, as tricky an idea as it often is to my less able pupils, I will continue teaching it because I think it is important to have an idea of how to plan carefully and compassionately for the future.

Additionally, I have just finished reading “Dancing with Architecture” by Phil Beadle. If this book said one thing to me, it is that the how of our teaching is more important than the what. So if I tell pupils at the outset that “all will be able to describe” Russia or the geological time line or whatever, “most will be able to describe in detail and partly explain” and “some will be able to explain fully,  compare and analyse” then sure enough that is what they will happen. We will all go home satisfied, unsurprised and within the fortnight, have forgotten the whole drab and boring hour we spent together in room 47. Mr Gove will be pleased and I will be a day closer to retirement.

However if the department trusts in our own professional “fascination and curiosity” and we encourage our pupils to do the same, then the learning will memorable, relevant and of a high quality, even if OFSTED couldn’t find a way of measuring it. As Phil Beadle also says “Who cares what OFSTED thinks?….a generally outstanding teacher will be sufficiently confident in their own abilities to not bother engaging in any real way with the centralised attempt to define what it is they should be doing.”

something simple I learnt this week 3

This really is simple. To be honest it is something I noticed rather than learnt.

My own 3 children are all at primary school. When they have a ‘mufti’ day it is called home clothes day.

I teach at a secondary school. When we have a mufti day it is called non school uniform day

Somewhere between year 6 and year 7 we have changed our language to make school seem a negative thing to be