Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job.


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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

Newly created blog: http://mryesterday.com/

Download a copy here.


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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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Meta-cognition in the Classroom

I first came across the term ‘meta-cognition’ 4 years into my teaching career when I attended a Stretch and Challenge Conference back in 2015. Yet I’d been applying meta-cognitive strategies since I started teaching. Once I was able to put a name to the strategies I employed it opened up a world of other examples, evidence and approaches.

What is Meta-cognition?

Put simply, it’s thinking about thinking.

However in reality is far more than just thinking about thinking. It’s active monitoring. It’s continual awareness. It’s our response and behaviours.

“Awareness of one’s own thinking, awareness of the content of one’s conceptions, an active monitoring of one’s cognitive processes, an attempt to regulate one’s cognitive processes in relationship to further learning, and an application of a set of heuristics as an effective device for helping people organize their methods of attack on problems in general”


Hennessey, 1999

It’s made up of two elements, meta-cognitive knowledge and regulation. The knowledge element being made up of the learner’s awareness of their cognitive abilities whilst the regulation refers to how learners monitor and respond to their cognitive processes.

Being able to consider, monitor and control how you learn, how you think and how you overcome struggles are vital qualities to build in our students in preparation for both exams and their futures.

“Metacognition describes the processes involved when learners plan, monitor, evaluate, and make changes to their own learning behaviours.”


Cambridge Assessment, 2017

Developing Independent Learners

I’ve posted many a time on strategies, resources and ideas for developing independent learners, but all to often I’ve not taken the time to discuss the use of meta-cognition in my drive to develop independent, self-directed learners.

I’m sure many readers will already apply elements of meta-cognition into their teaching but may not necessarily know it.

“Too often, we teach students what to think but not how to think.”


OECD Insights, 2014

I remember making use of some strategies back when I worked in EYFS between my PGCE and first teaching position. For instance when we were seeing what would happen to seeds grown in different locations I asked the children what they thought might happen and what made them think that, at which point they would apply knowledge they’d gained from other experiences. This led into a discussion of how they learnt that. Even at pre-school age they could think about what they knew and how they learnt it.

Encouraging and engaging learners to think about how they learn, the struggles they experience, how they overcome them and how to apply responses to future learning is essential to building independence in the classroom, so that when our students leave compulsory education they have the resilience and tools to be lifelong, responsible learners.

Below is a video of Dylan William discussing the importance of young people being able to reflect on their learning and how this has impacted his teaching practice.

In the Classroom

Until I started exploring meta-cognition, although I was applying elements in my classroom already I hadn’t been using it to its full potential. Once I got to grips with the theory, evidence and strategies I feel my practice developed and improved along with my understanding of my learners.

In my classroom you’ll see elements of meta-cognition on a regular basis from the planning stage to the reflection stage by both myself and my learners.

If you take my average year 8 extended writing task we will do the following:

Planning Stage
– discuss the aims and objectives of the task
– identify prior learning that will be relevant
– discuss prior strategies and struggles in applying the required skills e.g. evaluation
– review targets and identify which will be of relevance to the task or seek out new ones
– consider application of targets in this piece of work

Monitoring Stage
– as students work, meta-cognitive questions are asked about their progress and how they are monitoring their progress towards the aims and objectives of the task
– students are asked about the challenges they have experienced so far and how they’ve overcome them
– students peer and/or self assess the work against specific success criteria or using the ACE peer assessment strategy

Evaluation and Reflection Stage
– students are prompted to consider their success in the strategies they applied to achieve the aims and objectives of the task or learning goal either through questioning or written review.
– students are asked question such as
‘How well did you do at….?’
‘Is there anything that didn’t go well? What could you have done differently?’
‘What did you find hard with this task? How did you overcome this?’
‘What will you try to take away from this that you can apply to future work?’.

Impact

When I started at my current school there was a class I started with in year 8, I taught them again in year 9 and continue to teach some of them in year 10 at present. Over that time, I’ve witnessed their ability to self-regulate develop and grow as has their independence and enjoyment in the learning process. The ones I still teach, I do less for them now when it comes to meta-cognition. They’ve been scaffolded through the stages, supported in developing their independence and I’m now there to facilitate and support their self-regulation through meta-cognition. It really does support learners independence.

Useful resources

The EEF last published some useful resources on Meta-cognition and self-regulated learners including the summary sheet below.

Metacognition and self-regulation evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation

Metacognition and self-regulated learning from the Education Endowment Foundation

Getting started with Metacognition from Cambridge International Education Teaching and Learning Team
h

Metacognition from Cambridge International

Meta-cognition: A Literature Review from Emily R. Lai

Hope you find the post of use. Feel free to share any other useful links in the comments.


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Outline of Revision Workshop

Last week a couple of colleagues and I delivered a workshop to parents on revision and retrieval practice. When I shared the following tweet, there were a number of requests to share the presentation. Unfortunately since the presentation and workshop are not my sole work, I’m unable to distribute it. Instead below you will find an outline of what was covered. 

Introduction

First we started with an introduction into the long term need to review and recall information. We explained how teachers will naturally and continuously refer to prior content and learning, encouraging students to create links between what they know and what they need to know.  Also explaining deliberate practice and retrieval although without those terms. 

Next we gave a bit of theory. I explained the forgetting curve and the importance of reviewing notes on a regular basis. 

I then went on to discuss the work of Graham Nuthall and long-term memory as well as the necessity for deliberate practice. 

After a bit on theory, we turned to the 4 stages of revision. 

  • Stage 1  Developing & maintaining a positive mental attitude
  • Stage 2 Getting organised
  • Stage 3 Little and often
  • Stage 4 Review and revise

Stage 1  Developing & maintaining a positive mental attitude

Firstly we discussed the impacts of exam stress nationally on student mental and physical health with evidence from research carried out by the NSPCC. This was followed by a series of quotes from our own students of the pressures and stresses they feel associated with exams and assessments. These quotes were really powerful to explore the wide range of pressures students endure and a reminder of what it is like in their shoes. 

This was followed by exploration of the following: 
– Healthy Balance, this outlined ways to keep a healthy balance in terms of diet, work-life balance and physical health
– Mindfulness, this outlined how and when to apply mindfulness practices
– Workspace, this outlined how to set up a suitable workspace for students
– Reduced distraction, this outlined ways to reduce distractions through preparation, phone blocking apps and the impact of music
– Support and guidance, this outlined places parents and students can go for advice on revision, mental health and exam stress

Stage 2 – Getting Organised

In this section we outlined ways parents could help students to organise themselves in preparation to revise. 

We encoruaged that students do the following to help themselves to prepare

  • Identify subjects and topics to revise for
  • Carry out self-assessment of the topic content and identify missing areas of knowledge
  • Gather notes, revision resources and equipment
  • Create a revision timetable
  • Interleave and chunk revision by distributing the topics from within each subject into blocks to make the memory work harder

Stage 3 – Little and Often

In this section we offered a wide array of strategies students may wish to try and use as they prepare for exams. To start with our main advice was students should try to make their revision a long term process that is regular and spaced out, they could break it down into chunks of time or subjects or topics. They should identify key areas to focus their revision by RAG/confidence rating the specification content and after that it’s a case of practicing and applying what they know to exam style questions. 

Some of the suggested strategies included:

Stage 4 – Review

The final stage involved discussing how students should review their revision notes regularly and make use of them through application to other strategies such as the self-testing and flashcards. 

We also demonstrated how students may wish to use the Leitner system to review and self-test and reiterated the importance of deliberate practice. 

Hope this helps you to prepare something similar to help your students with the revision process. 

Other useful blog posts of mine

Resource – How to Revise in Geography
Resource – Learning to Revise Guide for KS3

Mrs Humanities shares… 6 Epic History Revision Resources
Mrs Humanities shares… 10 Great Geography Revision Resources

Resource – IBDP Geography Case Study Revision Booklets
Resource – GCSE Case Study and Exam Question Revision Booklet
Resource – AQA Revision Booklet adaption by @MrTomlinsonGeog


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Resource – Welcome to GCSE Geography

Yesterday I shared this post on twitter and since then I’ve had a number of requests for a copy of the document.

I’ve amended it slightly to make it more generic and adaptable for other schools to make use of.

welcome to GCSE Geograpy #AQAGeography

You can download a copy by clicking the button below.

download here

Don’t forget I’ve also uploaded a range of revision materials for students and teachers to make use of.

Resource – How to Revise in Geography
Resource – Assessment for Learning Booklet AQA Geography
Resource – GCSE Case Study and Exam Question Revision Booklet
Resource – AQA Revision Booklet adaption by @MrTomlinsonGeog

Hope you can make use of this resource and the others.

Best wishes,

Mrs Humanities

 


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Resource – Road to Aspiration

resourceA little idea for form time to get students considering where they want to go this year, to question there aspirations and goals and to consider how they will get there.

Image

The road to aspiration resource can be used in a variety of ways from verbal discussion to reflective journal. I’ve not thought that far ahead yet, so can’t tell you how I’ll be using it just yet but thought I’d share in case if inspires others.

Hope you like it, if you’re inspired to create something similar, please share your creations. Always love to see and share them.

Mrs Humanities

 


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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 strategies for developing independent learners

mrs humanities shares

Are we doing too much for our learners? This question has plagued me a lot recently.

I’ve seen hundreds of fabulous resources that take the hard work out of learning for our students. That remove the responsibility from students to teacher. That take the independence from the learning process. That make them dependent on us, their teachers.

Now I’m sure many people will argue with me that it’s a result of increased scrutiny; the unrealistic performance management targets; the use of target grades etc. Which are all completely valid arguments and I agree, but it still scares me that so many teachers are doing so much for their students. Things that take away their students responsibility and independence in the learning process.

Things like case study guides with all of the content students need, completed knowledge organisers, again with all of the content students need. Completed exam questions, so students can learn to replicate. Revision booklets again with all of the content. It all worries me.

I’ve never hidden the fact that I facilitate learning, that my aim as a teacher is to make my students as independent as possible in my classroom and in their learning. That I want my students to leave school being able to learn for themselves; to be able to critically analyse and evaluate; to design and create; to research effectively; to be responsible for their own learning; to want to continue learning after compulsory education.

I’ve created numerous posts on developing independent learners such as these

Developing Independent Learners – Help Yourself Display and Resource Station

Developing Independent Learners – Seating Plans

Developing Independent Learners – Attempts at Flipped Learning

Developing Independent Learners

Developing Independent Learners – Independent Learning Projects

Developing Independence in the Humanities Classroom

Although my practices have evolved and changed over the last 4-5 years, developing independent learners is still at the core of my teaching.

Some ways I approach ‘developing independence’ are as follows

1 // ‘Help Yourself’ stations

I’m a big believer that students should learn to take responsibility for their progress and learning. That we should facilitate them in any way we can to help and support them but at the end of the day, we don’t sit their exams. That’s down to them.

Here’s some further reading from Tom Rogers if you’re interested

Anyway, whilst I do differentiate for students individual needs I also believe that students need to be able to identify when they need support and should develop the ability to be able to work out for themselves what that support looks like.

Therefore in my classrooms for the last 4 years, there have been a ‘help yourself’ areas or stations. This is an area where students can find resources that can support them in a variety of ways. For instance students can find sentence starter mats to help get them started with a variety of extended writing tasks, topic platemats/knowledge organisers that provide the key content of topics (see below for more details), blank maps, atlases, peer and self assessment sheets, note taking templates, timeline sheets and the list goes on. All of which students can help themselves to in order to help them with the tasks they are undertaking.

Initially I will direct students to particular support and overtime encourage them to help themselves to the resource they feel appropriate. Usually as students start to recognise their areas of ‘weakness’ they can independently select the appropriate support strategy.

Read more on ‘Help Yourself’ stations in my original post here.

2 // Project Breakdown

I start year 7 with a homework project that is broken up into smaller chunks, each with their own deadline. We cover map and atlas skills to ensure all students embark on the rest of their geographical learning with the basic skills required.

Student’s therefore complete a project as homework over the course of the first term on a European country of their choice. Each chunk of the project fits with the work covered in class allowing the students to demonstrate the skills and knowledge they developed in the lesson.

The breaking down of the project into chunks develops students time management skills and teaches them to break down a project over time to ensure they do not complete other projects just before the deadline.

Over time these breakdowns are removed so students can independently carry out projects without the haste of

3 // Blank or Basic Knowledge Organisers (AKA Placemats, Knowledge Mats etc.)

I’ve seen knowledge organisers with the entire topic on one sheet. All the content a student needs to know. It makes me question why the student needs to listen, to participate in the lesson, to do the tasks set by their teacher. If they have everything they need to know in front of them, surely it encourages students to ‘switch off’. Some may argue that students have KOs in order to then apply the knowledge, but I fear this reduces their ability to retrieve information.

I prefer to use KOs or placemats as they were originally intruduced to me to provide a basic outline of the content students generally struggle with.

For Geography for instance I often find students confuse the 3 tectonic plate boundaries and find it hard to visualise convection currents.

placemat.png

In History it tended to be the sequence of events, names and places.

placemat History.png

Therefore I created a basic visual summary for my students to collect if they so desired. These mats would consist again of the very basics to support my learners.

I also encourage students to create their own KOs at KS5 and hope to implement this into KS4 in due course. In order for my KS5 students to do this I’ve created KO sheets with blank boxes, except for a question or statement in which they respond to in order to collate the knowledge they need to demonstrate thus retrieving and revising the content for use later on.

KO ks5

KO ks5 2

4 // Revision

I refuse to give students the content they need to know in the form of a booklet or similar in order to revise from. Sorry, but they should get that from lessons, why else bother going to lessons if it’s not to learn the content?!

Instead for I provide a variety of resources to support my students.

To start with for each topic students receive an AfL grids with an outline of the topic content. At the start of the topic students self-assess their prior knowledge and then at the end their understanding of the topic in order to highlight the areas for future revision.

Then in regards to revision of the content I’ve created how to revise guides to help students to develop an ongoing approach to revision as well as teaching retrieval strategies and exam technique in class.

In addition I’ve created case study templates for students to complete to summarise the case studies and examples explored. To support revision these have been combined into a case study and exam question booklet so students can also apply the content to exam style questions.

gcse revision

All these strategies require my students to do the work and be responsible for their own learning and progress. I’ve provided the resources, taught the content and given them the support they need to succeed but it’s up to them to actually learn what they need to know for the exam.

5 // Inquiry/Enquiry based learning

At my school we have a real ethos for developing inquirers. I love that we do loads of inquiry based learning across the school. Students get to question, research and develop their curiosity throughout.

In KS3, at the start of each unit, my students write down questions. These questions influence my planning, the resources I use and the lesson objectives over the course of the topic. Students are the driving force of the lesson content. I teach the same year group the same topic to reach the same outcomes but the approach varies dependent on the class questions.

Now that I’m settled in my ‘new’ school for a full year, I’ve seen the progression students make through this approach. Enquiry truly develops their curiosity and interest; they constantly challenge me to further my subject knowledge and keep it up to date as their questions get us exploring aspects I’ve missed in the past or thought not relevant when planning schemes of work.

Through their questioning comes exploration, analysis and evaluation; deepening their understanding and I love it.

How do you develop independence in your learners? Feel free to leave a comment or get in touch.

Mrs Humanities


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Mrs Humanities shares… 5 note taking strategies

mrs humanities shares

One of my aims for the coming September is to start the school year with my sixth form students looking at different approaches to note taking.

At present my common experience is that students write down the majority of the information on the board whilst adding a few additional notes from our verbal discussion. Not that there is anything wrong with this but I feel confident I can help them to create better notes and use class time more effectively.

Therefore I’ve been doing some research in note taking strategies and thought I’d share a few with you. All of these I will be exploring with my year 12 students in September before helping them to choose a suitable approach.

1 // Cornell method

The page is split into 3 sections, prompts, notes and summary.

cornell2

Prompts – key terminology from the lesson, questions, dates, names etc. that can be reviewed at a later date

Notes – main notes are taken here

Summary – students review the notes and resources after the lesson and summarise. Key points are highlighted ready for revision.

cornell example

2 // Outline method

With this method, students indent their notes with each step becoming more specific. They can split the page into three columns like so.

indent

General information – brief, concise notes on the general content of the lesson

Specifics – concise notes on the specifics of the lesson

Details and examples – facts, stats and specifics to be included here along with any examples or comparisons given

The end product may look something like this…

indent example

or this…

indent 2.png

3 // Highlight and annotate

Before the lesson students will print off the PowerPoint slides or download the PowerPoint to their personal device if they use one. Then quite simply, rather than trying to copy down notes from the board and resources that are provided in advance, students simply listen and annotate them. All too often I find students copying down information that I’ve already provided them with online in advance of the lesson, therefore more time can be spent of using lesson time to deepen their knowledge and understanding through higher thinking tasks, debate and discussion.

annotate.png

4 // Flow based method

The flow based method requires students to write down the main ideas rather than paragraphs and sentences, similar to mind-mapping. Once initial notes are written down, students connect ideas, concepts and specifics by drawing connecting arrows to associated content, key terms and diagrams. This method forces students to consider the inter-connectivity of what they are learning and bring in knowledge from outside the lesson. This form of note-taking is very personal and demonstrates the students flow of thinking.

flow example

This method can easily be turned into a visual format as well.

5 // During-After method

The during-after method involves students splitting the page into two columns like so.

DA

During – students take notes on the content.

After – students write questions either during or after the lesson to test their understanding of the content after the lesson.

DA example

Final Thoughts

For me the key point of these methods will be that students review their notes after the lesson in some way; whether it be summarising, self-testing or simply reviewing their notes. It’s vital that students use and return to their notes regularly.

Hope you’ve grabbed an idea or two. Feel free to provide further suggestions in the comments.

mrs-humanities.png


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Classroom Ideas – Information Collectors

I love using resources with students that encourage them to discover information for themselves. I regularly use information collectors with my classes right from from KS3 to KS5.

They are a simple concept, an A4 sheet laid out so that students can collect relevant information from the sources of information provided. Students are required to read the information, watch videos or carry out their own research to find the required knowledge.

Here are some examples…

info collector 3 gorges damks5china

Once students have had access to the resources for a desired time I get them to feedback by handing out whiteboard pens and having the students add information to a copy projected onto the whiteboard.

As students add to the whole class version we discuss additions and students add to their personal copies. These are then used in the creation of another piece of work such as an extended piece of writing, a project or an essay.

I encourage my older year groups to take a photo of the board and either print it out or use it to add detail to their notes.

Hope this gives you some inspiration.

Mrs Humanities

 


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Resource – IBDP Geography Self-Assessment Sheets

resourceAs part of encouraging learners to take responsibility for their learning, my students are encouraged to make use of self-assessment sheets. The idea behind these sheets comes from my Before and After topic review wheels, which involves students reflecting on their prior knowledge before undertaking the topic and the assessment of their gained knowledge at the end of the topic.

Students are instructed to print a copy of the grid at the start of the topic and to self-assess their prior knowledge in the before column. The content of the grids is directly lifted from the IBDP 2019 Geography Specification, but could easily be amended to suit any exam specification whether it be at KS4 or 5.

coasts

As students work complete the topic, they are given exam style questions from past papers and ones we have written ourselves. After reading their feedback they complete the progress table, set themselves a target and then put the date or page number of the location with evidence that they have met their target and acted on feedback.

In addition students are given a case study and example summary sheet, in order to help students to bring together their understanding of the case studies and examples studied. Students simply have to summarise the key points in their table. Effective for instilling content. summary sheet

Now I do check the self-assessment sheets are used however the summary sheets are a tool to support students in their studies. If they choose not to use it, that is up to them but the support is given.

If you teach IBDP Geography you can find the resources here, to download a blank template for editing to suit other exam specifications click here.

How do you encourage students to reflect on their learning?

Mrs Humanities