Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job.


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Resource – Thematic unit on conflict, fortification and armour

When I taught Geography and History through the umbrella of Humanities, we did a lot of thematic topics; exploring concepts over time and space.

I thought I’d share with you the unit we did on conflict, fortification and armour.

Outline

The unit took students through technological advances in conflict, fortification and armour, finishing with a personal interest project.

I remember my year 8’s really enjoying the topic. It gave them insight to different time periods and encouraged them to research and find out more.

Here are some example resources:

The topic covers a range of content and whilst I’ve produced much of it, some elements such as the ‘top trumps’ were free resources available online. Since it was so long ago since I made the lessons (2015) I can’t remember the original sources but if you find one of them is yours please let me know and I will add your name and the source to the piece.

Castles – Type and Location

Siege Warfare

War at Sea

World War 1 – Technological Change


Homework

Homework gave students choice and different levels of challenge.

Week 1 Homework
Week 3 – 7 Homework

Examples of the homework produced




Levels
You will notice some of the resources use National Curriculum Levels and some use GCSE ‘grades’, I’ve just uploaded the resources I had. I clearly hadn’t backed up all of the resources at home before leaving the school. Doh!

If you’d like to access the resources you can do so here.

I’m not a historian, so my apologies if there are any historical inaccuracies, I put a lot of research into the materials and got them checked by my historian husband…. but I’m sure there will be something to be found.

Hope you can find them of use.


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Mrs Humanities explores… How the fight against climate change is more than just school strikes and protests.

Yesterday as a number of my students chose to discuss the school strikes on climate change with me, I decided it was time to talk to them about how the fight against climate change goes far beyond policy change. That politicians, governments and world leaders aren’t the only ones that need to take action.

Starting the Discussion

When student’s asked me my thoughts I decided it was time to talk to them about behavioural change. I asked many of them to consider the actions they take to fight climate change. Many of them had little to say except we recycle.

We discussed the benefits of raising awareness through protests and strikes and that through such action we can ask for change, but it also requires us to change.

As a Geographer I teach the science, the evidence and the impacts. We touch on ecological footprints throughout and consider ways to reduce ours, we explore in detail mitigation and adaptation methods too. But I’ve forgotten to put taking action into my curriculum design.

Helpless

Often I think young people feel helpless when it comes to global issues. They have little say in the matters that will concern them in the future. Take the EU referendum for instance, I’ve worked in two schools during the entire process from proposal to now, both very different contexts. However, the EU referendum intrigued the students and engaged them in politics. I remember the day the results were announced and it was all many of my students talked about for the rest of the day; many disappointed, a few pleased others just unsure. But what they understood was that their futures were influenced by the decisions of others and that they had no say in the matter. They felt angered by this. Many of my current students feel the same way.

But acting on climate change is something they can do. We need to empower young people to see that dealing with world issues isn’t beyond their control. If they want to see change in the world, they mustn’t be apathetic about it. Small changes make a big difference. Our choices influence decisions being made my others. For instance, if we start to boycott instead of supporting polluting brands, they will eventually change their ways.

Behavioural Change

Prior to training to teach I worked for several months with Global Action Plan on their EcoTeams project.

EcoTeams originated in the Netherlands in the 1990s and since then over 150,000 people have participated worldwide.

An EcoTeam is a group of householders who get together once a month over a five- to six-month period to follow a step-by-step process of manageable actions on sustainable living. Team members measure their household’s environmental impact, share their experiences and agree together on practical lasting changes.

NSMC
Source: https://www.thensmc.com/resources/showcase/ecoteams

The project involved providing workshops to EcoTeam leaders that would then set up EcoTeams in their local area. The idea being that each team would take weekly changes to their behaviour with the ultimate aim of reducing resource consumption, their ecological footprints and their environmentally detrimental behaviours.

Reflecting on the climate strikes has got me thinking about how we as teachers, school leaders and adults can support young people in changing behaviours, attitudes and ultimately influence policymakers.

Going Forward

Working in an International Baccalaureate schools means we provide opportunities for ‘Creativity, activity, service’ within the diploma and at KS4. We’ve introduced the community project to year 9’s this year and students started to explore ways of taking action in their school community.

Whilst there are plenty of extra-curricular opportunities. This has got me thinking about how to develop this into the curriculum right from year 7.

At present we are teach about energy resources in the UK and within the topic they learn about the UK’s energy mix, the pros and cons of renewables, nuclear and fossil fuels, we explore and debate fracking and consider how the UK could become a ‘Zero Carbon Britain‘. I’m now considering how we can develop activism and behavioural change into this unit.

How do you develop student actions on global issues? Would love to here more on what others are doing, feel free to leave a comment.


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Guest Post from @TeachYesterday – Breaking down exam skills with ‘source windows’

Breaking down exam skills with ‘source windows’

Inference can be a tough skill to teach, particularly at KS3. The nuance and context that surrounds a source can be incredibly complex, but, like any other skill, improving a students’ inference can be achieved by the consistent repetition of good practice (easily said, I know).

During my training year, my SENCO emailed me a template of a ‘source viewer’ he had seen on Mrs. Humanities (a website which then became my professional life-raft), I decided to adapt the source viewer to make it suitable for my lower attainers (Figure 1).

Originally, I was trying to create a resource that would help them with the basic provenance of Time, Audience, Author and Place.

Figure 1


The students enjoyed using the laminated source viewers and asked to use them again. So following this mini success, I decided to adapt another version of the viewer (Figure 2) or ‘source window’, as the students had named it.

Figure 2

This one focused on the exam specific interpretation and source skills needed for the AQA GCSE History papers. This viewer had three sides which were colour coded; the purple panel included generic versions of all the source and interpretation questions found in the AQA papers. The orange and green panels featured questions that broke the required skills down, making the students’ answers more of a step by step process. The challenge for each student is then to attempt one question from the colour above at some point during the lesson.

Feeding Back

The students are directed to the colour panel of questions that is appropriate to them on feedback sheets I use to mark their books. I assess their source analysis using the AO skills sheets (Figure 3) and assign them one of the three colours.

I was then able to say to a class “Everyone answer questions 1-4 on the source window for Sources A, B and C” and the class would then be answering three versions of a GCSE question differentiated based on their level without me having to micro-manage three tasks to one group.

Figure 3

This was a big hit with that same SENCO as I was then able to differentiate by task on all my source work without any extra resources and at any point during the lesson.

Feeding Forward

After source analysis tasks students then consult their AO skills sheets (Figure 3) and assess their own answers and identify one skill from the next level of difficulty that they will work on in the future. I even make them write it in the ‘progress focus’ box to ensure each student is aware of their target. I then encourage them to refer back to this the next time we are doing source work.

Figure 4

I then stared to create other resources (Figure 4) that all use generic versions of KS4 questions which also break the required skills down into the same three levels. These resources allowed me to create ‘circuits of progress’ in students’ books that make the students’ progress clearer to the student themselves. This enables them to move up through the tiers refining their skills as they go, outlining a pathway so the students know exactly what they need to do to improve. I have shared my adapted source viewer on Twitter and other people, (some from around the world) have made their own versions adapting the questions to their own exam papers. Create your own and share it!

Thank you to @MrsHumanities for the inspiration

Mark Grantham – DCCA
Follow Mark on twitter @TeachYesterday

Download a copy here.


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Resource – The Power of Feedback Download

I know not everyone sees the power of feedback in the same way I do. I also recognise that not everyone that has tried implementing ‘effective feedback’ has been as successful at doing so. But I want to help others to see the benefits of continuing to attempt embedding feedback into their classroom practice.

That’s because for me feedback has been a major influence on my classroom practice, revolutionary even. Embedding feedback has completely changed the way I think about learning, the process and the approach. Embedding feedback alongside several other approaches such as planning backwards, scaffolding and simplifying my teaching strategies has had numerous benefits including (but not limited to):

  • reduced workload
  • pleasure in learning for student and teacher
  • strong student progress
  • student ownership

To help others to understand the value and power of effective feedback, I’ve put together this helpful document (download link at the bottom). Aimed at those that might be a reluctant to try, those that might be new to the concept or those with misconceptions.

I’ve started with an explanation of the value and power of feedback, introducing the basics on the value of it. I’ve tried to keep it short and simple.

Next I’ve explored the 3 stages of the feedback cycle – feed up, feedback and feedforward.

In each section I explore how it maybe implemented and the value of each stage.

Before providing an example of how to embed a feedback cycle in the classroom based on this previous post on embedding feedback.

My aim is to help others to see the power of feedback for both students and the teacher.

If you’d like a copy for your own practice or to share, you can download the PDF here.

Hope you can find it useful.


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Exciting News: Pre-order ‘Making it as a Teacher’.


I’m super excited to share with you that my book ‘Making it as a Teacher’ is now available to pre-order from Routledge.

Cover of  'Making it as a Teacher
How to Survive and Thrive in the First Five Years' by Victoria Hewett
Cover of ‘Making it as a Teacher
How to Survive and Thrive in the First Five Years’ by Victoria Hewett

I’m super pleased, rather proud and somewhat terrified about it’s publication so I really hope it’s what is needed to help keep new (and experienced) teachers in the profession.

If you fancy having a read when it is released, you can pre-order it here. You can also pre-order it from Amazon here. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it and find it useful.

Thank you for the support along the way.

Best wishes,


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Mrs Humanities explores… Staff Wellbeing Policies

I’ve had the urge this week to explore school wellbeing policies. I don’t have any particular reason to do so, it was just something that I was thinking about and wanted to investigate.

My findings came as more of a shock than I anticipated. You see if you do a google search on it, you’ll find plenty on student wellbeing but policies specifically associated with staff wellbeing, well they don’t seem to be as prominent as expected.

I started my search with ‘Teacher Wellbeing Policy‘ On the first search page I found the following:

Only one of these hits links to a policy that is in place. Just the 1!! Although there were some interesting hits on how to look after staff wellbeing and even a model wellbeing policy from NASUWT, there was a distinct lack of actuall policies.

Since I didn’t find this search of much of use, I tried ‘School Staff Wellbeing Policy‘, having considered that it’s not just about the wellbeing of teachers, but every member of school staff. Thankfully this provides more relevant hits.

The one thing I found interesting though were that over the first 3 pages of the search, only 3 out of 30 search hits were policies from Secondary schools; the majority came from Primary. Why is that? Do Primary schools focus more on staff wellbeing? Maybe they make them easier to find on their websites or just that they are more likely to make them publicly available.

Finding that most of the examples available came from Primary Schools, it got me wondering about the schools I’ve worked at. So after a bit of digging I found that out of the 5 schools, 0 have a staff wellbeing policy publicly available or perhaps they are hidden in the depths of their websites; either way I felt frustrated that schools don’t have to publicly provide a staff wellbeing policy. All of them have significant policies in regard to student wellbeing, everything from general wellbeing to safeguarding and bullying. But where were the ones for staff?

In particular, finding that one still had no publicly available staff wellbeing policy in place, actually upset me. This is because at the this school, I’d been asked to write a wellbeing policy because “you’re into that stuff”. It was only a few months later that I then experienced a breakdown due to work related stress – there are others that left under similar circumstances. I’ll let you ponder on whether there is a relationship there.

Findings

There were a few themes running through all of the policies I read.

  1. The role of different members of staff and teams in the school from the Headteacher and Governors to individual teachers and support staff.
  2. Who was responsible for the wellbeing, mental and physical health of staff
  3. The support available for all staff

What I found most interesting though was the variety in many of the policies. Some policies made the Headteacher and Governing body responsible for staff wellbeing, whilst others made it very much about the individual taking responsibility for their own health and wellbeing.

The well-being of staff is the responsibility of the Head teacher.

The well-being of the Head teacher is the responsibility of the Chair of Governors.

Holy Trinity Primary School

Some outlined how they would improve and/or promote staff wellbeing. Some examples included:

  • An afternoon treat – which involved small groups of staff taking an afternoon off to wellbeing activities such as baking, yoga, sports, a museum visit, a picnic at a country park etc. with the rest of the group
  • Headteacher lunch – staff could drop in and join the Headteacher for lunch on a series of set dates
  • Provision of facilities such as tea and coffee making equipment for free
  • Annual reviews and communication of policies and implementation of changes
  • Involving staff in the decision making process e.g. sharing school calendar before publication so staff can have their say on it
  • Provision of whole school calendars for assessment and reporting so staff can plan their workload accordingly
  • Induction processes for new staff to help them find their feet
  • Provision of relevant and suitable PD for all staff
  • Celebrating staff achievements
  • Providing refreshments and snacks before and during after-school events such as parent’s evenings or school ceremonies
  • Creating a private space for staff to take a break during their lunch and break times

Some outlined the support in place or available such as:

  • The Headteacher
  • Counselling services – face-to-face or over the phone.
  • School vicar and prayer groups
  • In-school wellbeing team
  • A staff wellbeing group
  • Human Resources
  • Occupational Health

Whilst others took a very matter of fact approach which outlined the responsibilities and roles of different stakeholders and how to proceed with concerns surrounding wellbeing, work-based stress etc. Some went on to outline the reponse that would be taken if concerns were raised or time off requested. If I’m honest, these ones left me wondering to what extent these schools support staff or discourage staff from raising concerns surrounding staff wellbeing. I guess I’d need to visit them to really gauge the answer to that.

Surprising Findings

One in particular jumped out at me where it said:

‘Individuals will assist in the development of good practice and ensure that they do not, through their actions or omissions, create unnecessary work for themselves or their colleagues”.

Annon

This statement really surprised me for several reasons.

  1. What constitutes ‘unnecessary’ work for themselves and others?
  2. How can one ensure they do not create unnecessary work?
  3. Will there be a list of ‘must-do’ and ‘don’t do’ work?
  4. What constitutes an omission?

This also got me pondering about the capability procedures associated with the actions and omissions, if you’re not contributing to the development of good practice, are you then creating further work for others? It really got me wondering.

What makes a good staff wellbeing policy?

Note: This is completely a personal consideration, I’ve not had any experience in HR or school leadership beyond HoD but I have experienced the negatives of poor work-life balance, a series of schools with different levels of consideration and support for staff. Therefore please don’t take what I say here as anything other than my opinion.

Identify aims

Firstly any staff wellbeing policy should identify what the school aims to achieve for staff overall. What does ‘wellbeing’ actually mean to the school, the leaders, the staff? How will they cater for everyone?

Direct to other policies

It should direct to other policies in place that support staff wellbeing e.g. marking and assessment, behaviour, sickness and absence, safeguarding, performance management, professional development etc. If these policies don’t already, the wellbeing policy should briefly outline how these other policies support and promote staff wellbeing.

Role of Stakeholders

The policy should outline who the stakeholders are such as the Headteacher, governors, SLT, teachers, support and office staff along with their role and responsibility in building an environment that supports and nurtures it staff, their wellbeing and their work-life balance.

Practical Actions

Next should be an outline of what the school is doing and will do over the time frame of the policy and then beyond. Actions that will help to manage and reduce workloads, that will value staff and provide solutions to challenges. Essentially it comes down to how will they address stress.

This doesn’t mean the introduction of ‘wellbeing’ activities – token gestures that falsely shout “we care about you”. Actual strategies that help to manage workload, foster a work-life balance and support staff during stressful school periods or events in their life.

This does mean… no enforced ‘Wellbeing Days’, the kind where staff are sent off to do activities that if they wanted to do them they could do in the time they gain from better working practices,policies and procedures.

Sure offer activities before and after school or at lunchtime that staff can join in if they choose too such as after school exercise classes, morning yoga, tea with the teachers etc. but don’t make it compulsory or an explicit part of the policy. Instead it should be outlined as provision of opportunities and not compulsory activities.

Practical actions should be associated with other school policies and thus actions that help to support staff, their workloads and to manage whole-school or individual challenges.

In-school Support and Procedures

Next the policy should outline the support available in the school and the procedures in place to guide staff in what to do when they are struggling. This could be people to talk to and people that can guide and help within the school such as HR and admin, the school nurse/counsellor/wellbeing team and of course the Headteacher. No body should be afraid to speak to the Head of the school, if they are in my opinion they are doing the job wrong.

External Support and Procedures

In addition to the support available and the procedures to take within the school, the policy should also outline how staff can get support elsewhere such as through national and local organisations and charities. The school may provide a wellbeing package to its staff which may provide staff with access to counsellors and other services; this too should be outlined and contact details provided.

Managing Issues

Finally, the policy should outline how they will manage any issues that arise. This should be a set of procedures so staff know exactly what to do, who to talk to and what the potential responses will be.

Perhaps more of a decision tree rather than a set of bullet points is what I’d envisage. This is so staff can clearly see the steps and procedures in place to support them, the help them manage and to enable them to thrive.

Review

I’m not entirely sure where I’d place this, but I do believe there should be an outline of how the impact of the policy is assessed, how wellbeing is monitored and how frequently the policy will be reviewed. The review process should involve all members of school staff and should have a degree of frequency i.e. termly, annually.

Further Reading

If you’re interested in a bit of further reading on staff wellbeing here are a few links that I have found interesting:

Supporting Staff Wellbeing in Schools – Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families

Supporting staff wellbeing – Heads Together Mentally Healthy Schools

Looking after teacher wellbeing – Ed Support

Staff wellbeing: A whole-school approach – Ed Support

Caring For The Wellbeing Of Teachers And School Staff – YoungMinds

Every school needs a staff wellbeing team – here’s how to start one -Daniella Lang, Headteacher, Brimsdown Primary School

Final Words

The last thing I’d like to say on the matter though is that the policy isn’t necessarily the important part here, it’s the implementation and enactment of the aims, actions and procedures to foster an environment that values and cares for its staff. It’s about the creation of a workplace that places student and staff wellbeing in the same high regard and the development of working relationships that demonstrate care, compassion and empowerment.

Why? Because we want the best for our students. Happy, healthy teachers can create happy, healthy students.

Please feel free to share your experience of school wellbeing policies, the good and the bad.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.


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Are you a Half Term Planner?

Are you planning on spending some of this half term planning lessons, SoW etc? Why not try to save yourself some time and give a #PlanningShoutout.

It’s pretty easy, head over to Twitter. Write a tweet outlining what it is your planning and add the hashtag. You might want to include any subject specific tags such as #TeamGeog, #MFLTwitterati or #TeamEnglish.

It’s a simple idea so we can help each other to reduce our workloads and spend more time relaxing in our well deserved breaks.

So far there have been quite a few requests and lots of replies with offerings.

Enjoy the half term.


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Resource – Geography in the News Reading Review Sheet

During a lesson with one of my year 13 classes recently, it became apparent that I often ask “did you see in the news…?” after my students highlighted the fact that I regularly ask it and they always say “nope”.

It got me thinking about how I can get them to engage with current affairs, especially as so much of it is relevant to the IB Geography course particularly the higher level topics. This morning it came to me! As part of their revision process I’m going to get them to find, read and review news articles that link to the content they have covered. They will then share their findings with the class in order to develop discussion and a review of their prior learning. In particular I want them to be able to see the bigger picture of how much of the content links.

In order to help facilitate this process I’ve created this resource sheet.

It got me thinking about how I can engage other year groups in reading around the subject, especially as there are a number of students that excel in Geography every year and I encourage to read and watch the news to be able to draw upon other examples in their work.

I therefore decided to make a similar sheet for MYP (Key Stage 3) to use for Geography as a stand alone subject, for Individuals and Societies as a discipline and for IB Environmental Systems and Societies. For MYP I’m thinking I might set it as one homework per unit of inquiry.

I’ve made a further version which is more general and can be used with any year group.

To download editable version and a PDF, click here.

Hope you find them of use.


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Embedding Feedback: An Example

When I first started investigating marking and feedback, I never thought it would change my practice the way it has.

During my PGCE and NQT years, I used to mark books, write a ‘what went well’ comment and an ‘even better if’ comment, then expect my students to read it, set themselves a target and act on that target at a later point. The likelihood of my students actually acting on or even learning from the feedback was pretty much non-existent. They’d read it, write down a “next time I need to…” and then simply forget. For me, marking was simply a tick box exercise I felt I had to do. For students it was an unnecessary activity that added little to their learning experience.  

Now I guess I plan around feedback. I think about what I want my students to learn over time and plan backwards. I plan what I will teach and how I will teach it over time. I carefully consider what I will model, what I will scaffold and what I will feedback on. Feedback will then influence my planning.

Here’s an example of how I’ve planned backwards to help my students to progress forwards.

FEED-UP

  • Students started the topic by completing a description that required them to fill in the blanks. This modeled what a good description looked like. Students self-assessed their answers after we went through the correct response as a class.
  • Next they use that exemplar to write their own as shown below.
  • Next students created their own description and explanation with the use of success criteria which was provided on the whiteboard. Students peer assessed using ACE peer assessment and then made improvements shown in pink. I then assessed their completed work against the shared success criteria.

FEEDBACK

  • A lesson later they used what they’d learnt from the previous lesson to write an unsupported answer to a question. You can see that this student has taken on board the feedback they’d previously received to give a ‘perfect’ answer.
  • Following on from description and explanation of patterns and trends, I wanted students to be able to use research effectively. I planned a lesson whereby I gave students the relevant information in a range of resources and they had to take notes. I went through a few examples of how students could take notes before letting them loose on the resources.
  • To follow this up they then completed a homework task which required them to summarise the information they’d collected using the description and explanation skills previously covered.
  • Next stage involved exploring effective research and academic honesty. Students were given the task to create an infographic to explain the cause and consequences of the One Child Policy in China. Students were given a range of sources to use, they had to cross-reference the sources and assess the reliability and effectiveness of each.
  • The feedback they then received on this piece helped them to develop their research and investigation skills which would make up a part of their summative assessment.
  • Next students developed their evaluative skills by exploring the three gorges dam and assessing the social, economic and environmental sustainability of it. This started with one lesson on collecting information, the next lesson writing their evaluation before peer assessing and making improvements (pink pen).

Throughout this process and up until this point I’d used a variety of feedback strategies including live feedback, whole class feedback (from me to my students and from my students to me) and reviewed their books noting down any misconceptions or areas to develop, all without actually having to do much marking myself.

Feedback has been embedded in my planning to ensure students get feedback so they know that what they’ve learnt is correct and I can assess what I need to do next to support individuals.

What I learn from feedback then feeds into the support I provide students, it helps me to review specific content with my classes and to undo any misconceptions. The feedback feeds forward into my planning.

FEEDFORWARD

  • Students brought all of this together by then finally producing a piece of work on life in modern day China and assessing the sustainability of modern-day China.
  • Each piece fed into developing their skills for the summative assessment. The summative assessment then feeds into what they will do in future topics.
  • Finally following feedback students reflect on the skills and knowledge they gained through the topic. They’re encouraged to consider their targets and progress through the course of study and reflect upon the implementation of the feedback in the summative task.
  • After summative feedback they set themselves targets to take forward.

Throughout the entire process I’ve think about what I want my students to be able to do and know by the end of year 13.

In this case I know it seems a long way off when they are in year 8, but I feel it’s all working toward what they need to be able to do once they leave compulsory education if they are to be successful life-long learners.

What my students learn through this unit, both skills and knowledge, they take forward into the next.

Teaching backwards and embedding feedback into my classroom practice has been revolutionary in terms of what I can get my students to achieve. It’s changed the way I plan lessons completely and has enabled my students to make excellent progress whilst I no longer have the marking workload.

For further reading on feedback and teaching backwards I recommend the following books

Hope you find this post of use.


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Resource – IB Geog your Memory Revision Resource

This is a resource I’ve been working on now for a couple of weeks and finally today I was determined to get it finished.

It’s a revision resource for the IB Geography course, covering all of the core and the 3 options we cover – Oceans and Coastal Margins, Geophysical Hazards and Freshwater.

It’s quite simple really. It’s a wide collection of recall questions, 30 for each of the above topics, in a spreadsheet.

I have then used a mail merge to fill a template. This means I can easily move the questions around if necessary.

If you’d like instructions on how to use the mail merge feature in word, check out this post.

My using mail merge I’ve been able to easily produce 30 ‘Geog your memory’ sheets ready for revision.

The template consists of a questions and answer sheet. So far I’ve simply copied the question sheet onto PowerPoint slide and the answers onto another. I’ve popped the questions on the board and given students the 10 minutes at the start of the lesson to answer the questions. We’ve then discussed the answers and then I’ve shown them the answer sheet which they’ve used to add notes to their answers.

And yes, you can download them too. Click here to download the documents including the spreadsheet of questions, template and the 30 ready to go sheets.

The feedback I received on the first two have been positive. So I hope you find the resource of use with your students.