Mrs Humanities

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Guest Post from @Jennnnnn_x – Stretch & Challenge. A few ideas….

guest postStretch & Challenge. A few ideas….

How can we ensure all students are challenged every lesson? Here are a few ideas I have used to encourage challenge in my Geography lessons recently.

What can you find out?

“Learning happens when people have to think hard” Prof. Robert Coe – Durham University. How often do we make students think hard – looking back I know that I don’t do it as often as I probably should…

So here is one idea I have used at the start of my lessons:

This example was for a Year 10 introductory lesson to Urban Issues.

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I left my students with this image on the board/a copy each and then left them to think for 15 minutes (which felt like eternity) I then gave them some discussion time. Amazingly they came up with most of the ideas off the specification – they annotated their image to show their thoughts and added to them through discussion. I repeated this with my year 9’s and while there was more moaning, once they realised I wouldn’t help them they tried a bit harder and I had similar outcomes – they had summarised our whole topic in about 25 words and from one photograph.  Have a go – you might be surprised what they come up with!

Hexagons

An old one, but a good one. I remember seeing hexagons everywhere a few years ago but I had forgotten about them until I came across an old example when tidying my classroom. So I started using them again and I remembered why I like them so much! There is no right answer – which means there is lots of room for discussion and often the students come up with links that you might not have thought of.

I used this idea to support an exam question in a year 13 lesson looking at LDC countries. I put images onto the hexagons and the students cut them out, stuck them next to others and then annotated the links between them. They then used this to plan their essay. It worked well due to two reasons – it supported lower ability students as the photographs helped as a prompt to start different sections but it also challenged the higher ability students because the ‘link’ is usually where this class fall down – they forget to link their ideas to both the question but also other topics.

Here is an example:

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IDEAL analysis

Command words – are the one thing every time I mark mock exams I wish my students understood. Despite doing a range of activities linked to command words and having them stuck around my room and on the table in front of them, I till find students explain when the question asks them to describe and vice-versa.

With the new examination changes and the increasing level of literacy needed to interpret some of the questions the focus on command words is more important than ever!

I went to a PIXL conference back in November and saw Rebecca Chew (@MissChewBeka) present her ideas on stretch and challenge… I have used every single one of them in various lessons since but my favourite is most definitely the IDEAL analysis.

It is based around a need for students to understand the different command words, but also that as we move through the word IDEAL the difficulty increases.

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I – identify – what is it that you can you see?
D – describe – what does it look like, where are different objects/landforms?
E – explain – why is it like that, what are the reasons for what you can see?
A – apply – where else might this happen, how might it be similar/different?
L – link – how does this link to wider geography, other topics, other places?

Students seem to like it and more importantly find it useful. I recently marked a year 10 mock which asked students to use a figure (a photograph of the devastation caused by an earthquake) to support their answer and saw many of them plan their answer using IDEAL.

Below is also an example of a differentiated worksheet given to support some of the students in my class.

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There are some more examples on my twitter if you want to take a look (@jennnnnn_x)

Hope some of these ideas are useful,

Jen (@jennnnnn_x)

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Guest Post from @MrBishopGeog – Tools for rebuilding a Geography department

guest postTools for rebuilding a Geography department

Geography: 35% A*-C

School: 70% A*-C

Was the information I was presented with at the start my data analysis task in the interview. “What was your reaction to the data you were presented with” Was a question I was asked in the subsequent discussion interview.

Well, from the outset I knew it would be a challenge and certainly different from the outstanding school and department I worked at in my previous position, but it was a challenge that I was excited about and felt I was ready for.  A year in, Mrs Humanities’ invitation to write a guest blog presented me with a wonderful opportunity to reflect on what I have done as well as to look at some of the tools I have used to help make steps towards becoming an outstanding Geography department.  I hope that others will find them useful and would love to hear others’ experiences, this is in no way meant to teach people to suck eggs, so apologies if this is all obvious! I have put some of the resources from this entry on Google drive: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0BzjsXrvgQ2-mMUo0U2JxS2YxUWc?usp=sharing

 

  1. Ensuring assessments are rigorous and accurate:

I was very lucky to stumble across the Edexcel Progression Grids early on last year and developed a way to track back so that every assessment had descriptors which would:

  • Challenge the students appropriately
  • Work in line with the new GCSE specification
  • Fit the school’s “Emerging, Developing, Secure, Mastery” Progress descriptors

The idea was that we could work our way back to make sure that students predicted any grade in Year 11 would be assessed and tracked accurately no matter what year they are in.  All assessments would be based around the Exam board criteria by using the table below:

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The grids themselves are far too complex for students/ everyday teaching, so once I have worked out what I will be assessing/ in-depth marking I adapt the language to make them more accessible allowing teachers, including non-specialists to use the same marking + feedback.  Below is an example of how I have used the Edexcel grids to create ‘student friendly’ feedback for Year 8 climate graphs assessment.

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  1. Developing Academic literacy:

Early on I realised that students’ exam experience was lacking, not only did they not feel confident about writing their answers but they were also intimidated by the possible range of questions which could occur.  As a result I developed the following ‘command word wheel’.

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At the centre are all the command words for GCSE Edexcel B.  The rings then explain what the command word is asking for, then give an example of a key question that could be asked and finally give them a hint/ example of a sentence starter.  Students in all KS4 classes have adopted this into the front of their books and if in doubt will check what is required, as they get better practiced there is less need for referring to it! Not only do we use this in Geography but it was also used in a Year 10 skills workshops which went down well.

  1. Targeting students for appropriate intervention

Having only worked at one school previously I was surprised when at my new school there wasn’t the use of transition matrices, either on programmes like 4Matrix or in any other form, so I asked around and was told that staff didn’t find them useful – I love them!  It really helps me to judge which students in my classes/ in Geography need extra support with making progress. At school I have a target list of all students ‘making less than 3 levels’, ‘at 3 levels’ and ‘exceeding 3 levels’ of progress.

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I found that ‘easy wins’ (closest to the 3 levels of progress area and particularly more able) appease senior management, and give a boost to the department’s confidence in being able to make an impact.  More long term intervention is then aimed at students who are further away from 3 levels of progress, intervention is then both appropriate and challenging.

  1. Developing fieldwork

My new school had never run a residential fieldtrip and I was determined to make this a corner stone of our department! I really believe that residentials add a huge amount of extras and deserve the extra funding required.  Students gain so much more by being embedded into the environment they are studying, we get more time with them so that they can reflect properly on their learning, and it also helped me to get to know the cohort better through the inevitable ‘fieldwork bonding process’.  I know other departments are having issues with fieldwork so I have shared a letter/ proposal on the Google Drive linked that I put together to help support our case…

Ironically with the sudden increase in Geography’s popularity and further cuts we have now been told that the residential aspect of fieldwork may not be able to happen next year…!

  1. Sharing good practice!

I am not a technology kind of guy, but over the last year and a bit I have seen the wonders of sharing practice on Twitter.  Not only does it reduce the workload enormously but I get a wonderful sense of community from sharing and stealing!  I am constantly inspired by others online who drive me to challenge my practice and create new exciting material. So thank you to everyone out there for sharing their thoughts and ideas.

 

There are many more challenges to face before I can confidently talk about our Geography department being an outstanding department but I am happy we are making baby steps towards that.  I have the luxury of an incredibly supportive colleague, who on many occasions I feel could/ should be doing my job!

As I say, I hope people find some of this useful and not all obvious!

Enjoy the summer holidays!

Ben (@MrBishopGeog)

 

 


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Guest Post from @Lisamoniquepool – Teaching History in a specialist school

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Teaching History in a specialist school: a peek at life as a non-specialist specialist.

Even with just two years experience in a specialist school, there are lots of thoughts to share about the experience as a History teacher.  The school is a specialist provider for dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia and a range of other learning difficulties and it was, to be honest, a tentative leap for me to accept the job without the specialist SEND training I thought would be essential. Pupils at this school are well-behaved, polite, largely tidy, funny, caring, flexible, motivated and deserving the absolute best service possible.  They also usually have negative baggage from mainstream struggles, late identification of needs and anxiety.  The science behind children developing these difficulties is an area I don’t yet fully understand. I haven’t cracked the best way to help them learn yet – but  the door has just chinked open a little.

‘Back in the day’, in 1999, trainees learned to deliver and develop a subject and SEN understanding was limited largely to differentiation, an overview of some ‘common’ learning difficulties and the behaviour management that could result from pupils ‘kicking off’ due to inadequate meeting of needs;  I’m not aware it has changed much, and the chances of emerging as a qualified teacher with a parallel, comprehensive specialist knowledge of SEN, are still rare.  Therefore, schools with specific areas of expertise like mine, employing subject experts needed to meet national curriculum demands, means 3 things: a very steep learning curve, dependence on advice from experts  & quality CPD, & a sense of justice.  Achievement for our pupils is the high bar it is anywhere else, & it is up to me to make sure I don’t do them the mightiest disservice by not helping them learn their way.

So, the scene is this.  Small classes, no more than 8.  A full gamut of subjects and the expectation to sit GCSEs.  No TAs.  Pupils dropping in and out for therapy sessions.  The usual ‘no pen, Miss’ and ‘X is winding me up’ but no extraordinary behaviour (in fact, the opposite – the energy required, the latent frustrations and anxieties, previous learning experiences, developmental lags should imply some really difficult pupils but there are none, behaviourally).  Classrooms are typical – some over-busy and jolly (guilty), others more functional.  Chairs get left untucked, bags forgotten, pupils loiter when you secretly need a coffee.    Breaktimes are lively and way more important than the bits in between (obvs) but boundaries are clear, routines set (& quite often known!)  In short, nothing really different to any mainstream school, it might seem.

So what does it mean to teach History in such a school?  At a crass & simple level (& no disrespect to my pupils with the generalising), pupils struggle with writing, generally have reading ages considerably lower than chronological ages (at worst, by half), struggle with spelling (‘Lebensraum? Harsh, Miss!’).  So reading and writing are onerous?  Hmmokay.  They find sequencing illogical and taxing, find chronological sweeps of time impossible to fathom.  Right, so cause and consequence is an early obstacle, and don’t even start thinking about change and continuity.  They can struggle with empathy and inference, so sourcework & interpretation is really confusing.   Memorising 10 key words & meanings is a massive feat, so let’s not even contemplate how hard pure exam-based GCSEs will be (4 topics crammed with content – yikes).  Formulating ideas and communicating non-verbally is tough.  Getting started and knowing how to organise thoughts can be a spaghetti mess.  Time-pressure is a nightmare – where all pupils have 25% extra time as a minimum, how to manage a 1-hour lesson and accelerate all pupils’ learning simultaneously?  Letters on a page – even a well-crafted, colour-coded, diagram-based page – jump around and have a party.  Dates?  Well… Recording understanding and ideas, when nearly all pupils are entitled to a Scribe in exams, is either uncomfortable or impossible, or anything in between.

Ah ha, you say – all those skills that historical thinking and understanding are built on?  Well fundamentally, yes.   However, as the Historical Association freebie postcards told us a few years ago, History is ‘gossip well told’ so, provided I can crack the methods, everyone loves good gossip so what’s the problem?   The solution is to go west and differentiate, my friend!   In fact, differentiate like never before – pupils at my school are not weak learners, or unlikely to achieve – far from it on both fronts and the school motto of ‘the same road by different steps’ suggests that, at one level, History teaching is no different to any other school, as long as you target it appropriately and personally, which is what we’re all supposed to do anyway.  Pupils at my school have extraordinary intelligences, probably more unorthodox, sometimes disguised, more empowering and more unique than I ever understood so, hey, if I can tap into these intelligences, I’m flying, right?   Well yes.  But how does it work? What needs to be done that is different?    ‘Bespoke learning’ & ‘tailored lessons’ may be fashionable eduspeak but actually, it comes down to that basic bottom line – knowing pupils’ needs and ensuring they can access, enjoy and stretch.

In a typical day, I need to consider font size.  Paper colour.   Chunking instructions.  Colour.  Processing time.  Key words and meanings.  Access to sensory tasks.  Which pupils need a finger fidget.  Which pupils need an escape card.  Which pupils can read comprehensively and still understand very little of what they have read.   Who needs to fire up the laptops immediately (&who needs to process instructions before tippy-tapping).  Who needs scaffolding.  Who needs more, much more, teasing out of thoughts.  Who needs extension work that fits.  Who needs 3 chances to clarify instructions.  Quite a list, but is it THAT different to the thoughts of (history) teachers in any school?    I’m not sure whether my SLT team would agree, but I believe that the development in History learning & teaching is a 60-40 balance:  60% tapping into, planning for my student’s individual needs and 40% how much I love my subject.  How can I explain how very cool and clever David Low was?  How can I make it easy to understand the physical lapse of time between Alfred’s victory at Edington and the Battle of Hastings?  How can I best relay the consequences of the consequences of the Boston Tea Party?  How can I explain that a non-King – William Marshall – was as important as a King in 1216?  It’s about thinking more creatively than ever and making resources specifically for my pupils.

Visually fantastic clips that appear to tick all the content boxes have narration that is too quick.  There’s no chance to process before the next bit is up.  Powerpoints often have captions that also move too quickly – pausing and re-reading helps, but loses the impact and flow.  Textbooks are an enigma: all those letters on a page, partying away & dancing around.  The weight of reading material, and even the content expected to be processed, can cause alarm, disengage pupils and immediately elevate the subject into ‘wordy’ and therefore to be avoided/loathed.  But at the same time, should my pupils be deprived of that overview, reference point, glossary etc?  The chance to look through and get a holistic ‘feel’ for the topic?  I suspect, despite the convention that most textbooks don’t work for us,  that actually they would.  Trial to start in September!

Please be sure, I’m no guru.  I don’t have the background knowledge about what creates special educational needs and disabilities.  I don’t have a teaching legacy in SEND.   I don’t have a full armoury of every strategy ever developed, but I’ve made a start.  I do have no-singing, no-dancing lessons.  I do occasionally have lessons that would horrify Senior Leader or Ofstedians.   I do get it wrong, quite often.    But it’s a superb challenge, with infinite possibilities and I think I’m getting a bit more of a handle on it and, really exciting, it’s probably helped me celebrate my passion for History because it’s the one resource I have, for free, in spades.

Lisa (@Lisamoniquepool)


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Guest Post from @GeogOnOut – A Career in Teaching (inspired by you!)

guest post

Wondering how to get into teaching? Not sure if teaching is a career for you? Here’s a great guest post of one currently unqualified teacher and his route into teaching. Filled with positivity and an experience somewhat different to the ‘norm’ of undertaking an undergraduate degree at uni followed by Initial Teacher Training; it truly goes to show there are other approaches to entering this career.

A Career in Teaching… (1)

Looking back, my route into teaching hasn’t been the most normal, although as I quickly discovered, there isn’t really a ‘normal’ in teaching. It all started when I turned 18, after failing all of my a-levels, I started a job as a Kitchen Assistant. As I wasn’t moving away, I decided to stay on at the local RAF Air Cadet Squadron where I became an instructor cadet. This is where my love for teaching really started.

Over the year, I embarked on a Mountain Leader Award and attended Duke of Edinburgh Leader and Expedition training courses provided through the cadets. This allowed me to develop and deliver courses which included navigation and expedition units for the CVQO BTECs and DofE Training framework. This was my lightbulb moment! Upon the realisation that I enjoyed, planning, developing and delivering courses and resources. I decided to take the plunge and take an Open University degree course to pursue a career in teaching. A love for Geography in school, a keen traveller and outdoor pursuits enthusiast Geography was the subject, and in my opinion it is one of the most important subjects of our times.

A year into studying my BA(H) International Relations with the Open University, I landed myself a job at my first secondary school as a Teaching Assistant; and oh boy were my eyes opened in the first week. With the support of my Line Manager and the SEN team my outlook of school life quickly changed and for the good. I had gone in with the impression that I could just support students and they would just “get it”.  That disruptive students would just behave when told. Oh how I was wrong. Over the period I was there, I was given the opportunity to also take a tutor group, extra mentoring duties, support the SENCO with alternative pathways, The Princes Trust, and BTEC Outdoor Adventure units. Upon leaving the school two academic years later my whole attitude had changed, I knew that I had to support, engage, encourage, nurture and build strong relationships with students to enable them to learn, believe in themselves and achieve. This role also enabled me to see lots of teachers teach, providing me with ideas which would power me into my next role. The ethos that I developed from the team will forever stay with me.

So moving on, I took the plunge to apply for a Cover Supervisor role and gladly and excitedly accepted a post at Royal Wootton Bassett Academy (RWBA). This role evolved even before day one, which included a 0.5 UQT job share to start a new KS4 alternative provision program (know as the Alternative Baccalaureate) with another new member of staff. For me, the first challenge meant completing a BTEC Award in 1 year. Over the course of the first year, myself and my colleague developed what we felt was needed to be the new Alternative Pathway which we have trailed this year. (This may be a future post when I start blogging so watch this space!) I was also able to volunteer and have quickly become heavily involved with the DofE Award at the school.

And….Onto this year, which has been the most exciting and biggest challenge for me, with the success of Alternative Baccalaureate program, support from the staff team at RWBA particularly the Deputy Head. I undertook a larger teaching timetable, with KS5 BTEC units and KS3 Geography which would massively support my development moving forward and applying to SCITT providers. The Alternative Baccalaureate program has also has taken leaps and bounds this year, with what was a difficult group to start with (again more in a future post) with successes in the newly designed curriculum, strong links with local colleges for vocational courses, extended work experience for students and fortnightly volunteering with the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust to name a few.

When free time permitted, I have remained fully involved with the DofE Award and have been lucky enough to attend Holocaust and Genocide education CPD with RWBA and University College London. (Follow @RWBAHolocaaust for more! Its well worth it.)

Last September, I also took to Twitter and discovered a whole community of teachers supporting, sharing and developing together. Finding @teachertoolkit, @mrshumanities, @davidErogers, @Oteaching to name a few. This has further developed my ethos of teaching, and it has helped me become somebody who is open, always wanting advice, new ideas, and willing to be critiqued within school when being observed in order to be the best I can. I am a true fan of #teacher5aday and @MrsHumanities #teacher5adaybuddybox with a somewhat limited commitment to the hashtag currently.

Looking back, over the past few years, all of these experiences, support and ideas have given me a real positive perspective on education, the difference I can make, and has sparked a whole new interest in the direction I want to take, this is something that would not have happened coming from a ‘brick’ university straight onto a PGCE course.

Alongside all of this I have continued studying with the Open University and have just completed my degree, I will be moving on in September to the North Wiltshire SCITT (@NorthWiltsSCITT) for my Geography Initial Teacher Training, I am excited for my training year, where I can really develop pedagogy, teaching and learning. I believe that amongst the negativity and rapid changes happening in education, that there are also real opportunities for teachers and students alike. I hope to start blogging my ITT experience to inspire others to the profession; to continue to be involved in Alternative Provision to engage and provide a purposeful education to those that struggle with mainstream school, I will continue with Outdoor Pursuits and of course lots of travelling, as that is surely Geography right?

David (@_dwilliams3193 & @GeogOnOut)


Good luck on the new adventure David.

Follow David and his adventure into teaching on his new Twitter account @GeogOnOut and check out his new blog as well.

Want to know more about how to get into teaching?

Check out the following sites for further information.

 


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Guest post from @ploguey – Differentiation ideas that work every time

guest post

I’m really excited to share with you the second in the series of guest posts on the site. I love how everyday differentiation has continued to change and develop since I wrote my last post on it some years ago.

If you have an idea or something to share, get in touch.

Hope you enjoy this one from Paul, @ploguey.

differentiation

It’s a feeling we all have very often. Your class is exiting the classroom door and you have that sinking feeling, and the thoughts begin to cross your mind:

  • I didn’t do enough differentiation in that lesson.
  • I didn’t do any differentiation in that lesson.
  • Students could have made more progress.
  • I was sure that they all would have got that done with no problems.

Scenarios like these really stress me out. It also means that I tend to try and overcompensate the next time I see that class, forcing hours of extra planning upon myself. Once, for a lesson observation, I differentiated for every single student in the class. Yes, you read that right. The lesson was a huge success; however, the main piece of feedback was that I need to focus on improving my work-life balance.

The best aspect of EduTwitter is the virtually unlimited access to teaching and learning styles from teachers all over the world and from other subjects. It’s been my absolute joy to try and test out strategies and make them work for my classes.

These are my favourite methods to use, as they are easy to plan, not time consuming, students enjoy using them and they are designed to support students to produce high-quality work. I have shared these ideas at our differentiation CPD recently.

Read, Edit, Improve

An idea I magpied from @JamieClarke85. This method is designed to support students in answering exam questions and builds upon the WABOLL method (What a Bad One Looks Like). Students are given a poor question response and annotate the mistakes and problems with the response. They then feedback and offer ways to improve the answer in the ‘edit’ section. Finally, they improve the exam question. It’s been highly successful in assisting lower ability students.  It’s one of my favourite methods because students end up practicing exam skills and doing exam questions without even realising it!read edit improve

@jennnnnn_x and @geographyhanna have done wonderful adaptions of this.

read edit improve 1read edit improve 2

Structure Strips

One of my newest methods and I love it how easy it is for students. We are following the new AQA 9-1 Spec and 9-mark questions are very tricky for students to manage.structure-strips.jpg

The structure strip breaks down the question into manageable paragraphs and supports students with the knowledge and skills necessary needed to be successful. Again, it’s been great in supporting my lower ability students in Year 10, but it’s also allowing my higher ability students to reach the top end of expected responses while they adapt to the new accepted writing style. Over time, I tend to take away the targeted questioning for the higher ability students to ensure they are being challenge.

Originally inspired from @_Jopayne and @MrsSpalding.

 

IDEAL analysis

My students love this one, particularly my Year 11s. A simple restructuring of a stimulus question by focusing on the five main geographical skills of interpretation: Identify, Describe, Explain, Analyse and Link. This allows students to build up their answers through probing.  I’ve seen Year 11 students writing this on their mock papers and using it to answers 6- and 8-mark questions.

IDEAL Analysis 1ideal-analysis-2.png

Chilli Challenges

Inspired from the easily recognised Nando’s menu, it offers students a choice of task that suits their understanding and ability. I have found that the ‘Red Hot’ challenge is by far the most popular one, so careful consideration is needed to be given to ensure that students are not pushing themselves too far and struggle as a result. Adaptions included differentiating by target grade, flight path etc.

Chilli Challenges

Thanks for reading.

Paul (@ploguey)