Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job

Leave a comment

Planning for Progress – A 5 year plan

This post began in December 2015, as I finished planning essentially what would be a 5 year GCSE course I started writing how I’d done it (Yes, how I had done it since I was a single person Humanities department with a few non-specialists teaching lessons). But for some reason I never finished it, but recently it’s been a topic of discussion so I thought I would come back and finish the post.

At my last school I developed a programme of learning that would take students through from year 7 to year 11 in Geography and History. Each step of the way setting foundations, building knowledge and strengthening their application of it. They would spiral through the content and skills time and time again, with each visit they would be strengthening what they had previously covered.

I left before implementing it at GCSE, so I’ve no idea how successful it was. The first cohort that went through the process sit their GCSE this year, 2018.


The idea behind this 5 year outlook of learning was that students would learn the general content of a GCSE course in Key Stage 3, then if they decide to continue with that subject at GCSE they would build upon their knowledge and understanding to a much greater depth with greater focus on complex skill development and exam practice.

You could say that I considered that Key Stage 3 would teach the breadth of the course whilst Key Stage 4 would be the time in which they go into the depth of the course.

At the time I teaching Humanities through 2 hours a week, so I had to consider how the foundations would be set in both Geography and History.  Therefore I also considered it important that the content covered at Key Stage 3 would provide students with sufficient knowledge and understanding of the subject for their futures whether they were to choose the subject at GCSE or not.

What would be the benefits of a 5 year plan?

  • Prior knowledge of subject content before GCSE course starts
  • Can go into greater depth of subject content as not teaching from scratch at GCSE
  • More time to focus on higher order skills
  • More time on exam practice
  • Retrieval practice

However I wasn’t naive to the challenges this would also create for instance how would I ensure that students weren’t bored by returning to previous learning, how would I ensure the learning was age appropriate and how would I show progress and development of knowledge from prior knowledge?

Choosing Topics

In order to decide the topics to be covered at Key Stage 3, I worked back from the required content and skills of the selected GCSE courses for Geography and History.

From there I created topics that would cover the foundation content needed for later on, which ended up looking something like this. Pink topics are those that combine Geography and History, yellow are solely historical topics and green solely Geographical.

KS3 Outline

Many of the topics in year 7 and 8 were thematic inquiries. For instance I broke the historical topics in year 7 and 8 into inquiries across the ages, year 8 for example studied Conflict through the Ages by investigating changes to armour, weapons and fortification from the Anglo-Saxons to WW2 along with the reasons for conflicts through time.

Programme of Learning

If I’m honest I hate schemes of work, they are restrictive and too prescribed. I prefer an outline of the content and skills to be covered so that teachers can choose the appropriate format and approach to teach their classes. I’m very much a facilitator of learning, I like my students to explore the content in which they are studying with the ability to digress somewhat to explore avenues of interest.

Therefore after having spent the first year at the school writing ridiculously detailed schemes of work which had to have ALL of the work embedded in it prior to teaching I rebelled and merely wrote a outline for each year group.

Scheme of Work for one topic…. 

schemes of work

Programme of learning for the entire year… for Humanities and Opening Minds


Tracking Progress

This was the final challenge. At the time, grade descriptors were yet to be published and I felt like assessing students was a minefield; yet it had to be done. The school wanted students to be assessed by grades 1-9 at both KS3 and 4 as well as a further break down into entering, developing, secure and mastered within each grade band. Mind blowing!!!

Anyway I created grade descriptors for grades 1-9 that could be taken down to KS3 from GCSE based upon what I already knew, what I’d learnt and what others were doing. Setting up a collaborative dropbox helped majorly and I learnt so much from other practitioners.

The descriptors were based on the assessment objectives from AQA Geography and History and looked something like this…

his 1his 2his 3

geog 1geog 2geog 3geog 4geog 5

Finally in order to help me to identify whether students were progressing effectively I created the following so called flight paths. These would then help me to identify the grades and where in the grade students were –  entering, developing, secure or mastered as mentioned above.


Since the school required frequent data drops for all groups at the same time, I then decided that I would monitor progress through the use of a learning matrix for every topic as shown below. These essentially outlined what would be covered in the topic, what students would need to know and the extent to which students had demonstrated their understanding – these were associated with the colours white, bronze, silver, gold and platinum as shown above.

learning matrix assessment for learning

The best thing about these has to be the fact that they reduced my marking workload whilst demonstrating student progress. Simply I would write the code of the criteria achieved in the students book where it had been achieved, I or my students would then highlight it yellow. I’d then draw steps and write the code of what I wanted students to do next and again one of us would highlight it, this time in pink. Once the student had acted on the feedback I would tick it off if achieved. This clearly showed to students the progress they were making and helped them to identify and verbalise what they needed to do to improve.

Unfortunately doing all that alone in addition to the day-to-day of teaching, led me to burnout and I left the school before full implementation. I’ve taken so much away from the process however and can clearly see similarities in the approach my team and I have developed in my current school.

I hope you find this post of use, feedback welcomed as usual. Also feel free to get in contact if you want copies of any of the resources here.

Best wishes,

Mrs Humanities

1 Comment

Resource – Access to Education

Access to educationAt my last school I taught and developed Opening Minds, our citizenship and RE curriculum. As part of the year 7 provision they explored human rights with particular focus on education. One of my favourite lessons which led to much discussion and questionning from the students happened to come from a very simple lesson looking at access to education over time in the UK.

Students first mind mapped what they knew about education in the UK. There were many misconceptions with many believing that education had been accessible by all for a very long time.


We then looked at these misconceptions by exploring a timeline of education in the UK.  Students were given a set of cards to arrange into chronological order, after which they discussed what they discovered.

timeline cards images

Finally students completed a timeline on access to education in the UK. Students were scaffolded dependent upon their varying abilities and skills associated with chronology and production of timelines evident from their Humanities lessons.

You can download the resources here.

Hope you can make use of the resources.

Best wishes,

Mrs Humanities


Leave a comment

Mrs Humanities shares… 5 Differentiation Strategies for SpLD

mrs humanities shares

Now I’m no expert in SEN or SpLD for that matter, but these are 5 strategies that I have found that work for my students over the past 5 years. These strategies have come from research or CPD I have undertaken.

1 // Pastel Colours for Powerpoints
Since I can remember I’ve been using pastel colours for PowerPoints and other digital documents. I read somewhere during my NQT year that pastel colours are preferable for students with dyslexia but are also beneficial for all students as white backgrounds can cause eye strain. Ever since then I’ve been using pastel colours for displaying information on the whiteboard. Yellow for task instructions, blue for information and green for assessment for learning. In addition the background is a light grey to reduce glare and sensitivity to bright lights.

Further reading on role and value of colour 

2 // Structure Scaffolds
To support students to develop their extended writing I’ve used a variety of scaffolding strategies over the years in order to enable students to break down the task and focus on demonstrating their knowledge as opposed to structure (initially). Some approaches include sentence_starters_mat, structure sheets/strips and tasks broken down into sections which come together as one piece in the end.

atstructure stips differentiatedtask break down

3 // Note Taking Supports
Students with dyslexia regularly struggle to take notes, the challenge of listening and writing at the same time is clear. In order to develop note taking skills, I’ve provided what many people these days call ‘Knowledge Organisers’ as a reference point and note taking supports to support laying out and recording information.

independent learners topic placematsindependent learners note taking

4 // Differentiated feedback
This really applies to all students, however there are things I focus more or less on with students with SpLD than others. For instance focusing on subject knowledge as opposed to spelling, punctuation and grammar, making students respond to questions as opposed to making improvements to a previous piece of work and editing as opposed to full re-writes.

5 // Words to use in a lesson
Really simple but effective way to develop subject specific terminology in SpLD students and their practice of spelling such terms has been the list of key terms to use during lessons. These appear as a list at the bottom of PowerPoint slides and students are given the key word list at the start of the topic. They’ve then been able to highlight the words for the lesson that they need to focus on using. These are the only spellings I have focused my attention on in the marking of their work and these are the only spellings I have had them correct. I found this worked particularly well with boys, particularly one higher ability boy in year 8 that particularly worried about the structure of his written work and SpAG, he’d focus too much on these rather than showing his understanding in written work. When we started to focus on the spelling of key terminology instead he wrote more about what he knew and understood. independent learners key word lists

I hope this post is of some use to you.

Share your approaches in the comments.

Mrs Humanities


A Spiraling Curriculum?

Now this post is just about thinking aloud, sharing my thoughts and ideas. Nothing is set in stone and apart from initial ideas discussed on a recent course with one colleague, nothing has been discussed with the rest of the team. So this post may or may not make much sense, but I’d love your ideas and feedback.

I first started to consider the spiral curriculum model when my last school introduced mastery as a way of assessing student progress, although the approach didn’t quite work it made me aware of it. Later when I went to a CPD course on Developing the More Able, it cropped up again and it quickly got me thinking about how to incorporate such an approach. Unfortunately due to the system in place, it wasn’t possible to implement. However the concept has stuck in my mind.

More recently I was inspired to look at it again whilst on an IB Diploma Geography course, despite not being related to Key Stage 3, it got me thinking.

So what is a spiral curriculum? 

The ideas was first developed by J.Bruner and essentially involves the return to topics and concepts over time. Learning is essential spread out and material is revisited repeatedly with development and progression on the initial learning. Each time a topic, skill or concept is revisited new details are introduced and the complexity of thinking develops whilst at the same time the basics are reemphasized until mastery is achieved.



How is progression achieved?

Progression is approached through the development of the same concepts and skills but each time with increasing complexity and sophistication. Not only is the breadth of knowledge developed so is the depth as learning takes places.

Progression is therefore not only vertical through increasing complexity but also horizontal as the range of knowledge and application of understanding develops.


My Plan

So the school I’m currently teaching at covers the IB Middle Years Programme at years 7, 8 and 9. Students then undertake GCSEs and return to the IB at Key Stage 5.

Before starting I knew very little about the IB programme, but amazingly so much of it fits with my approach to teaching. Anyway whilst away on the IBDP course my mind started whirling and I was inspired as to how a spiral curriculum can be developed through an inquiry approach.

Firstly my thoughts started with teaching by country/region/continent.


Next step was deciding on reoccurring themes. What’s important to geographical knowledge? I’ve considered these 6 themes to be of most relevance to our students and the world in which they are growing up. In addition I considered what knowledge in particular would be required for GCSE and IBDP Geography – or A levels if students choose a different route. What do you think? Suitable as reoccurring themes?


I want themes that are applicable to students and their life long learning of geography and/or humanities.


Then my favourite part was deciding on core topics to run through each country/region/continent of study.


Next I need to make the topics and content relate to the MYP assessment criteria, key concepts for Individuals and Societies and related concepts for geography.


Surprisingly it was a lot easier than I had anticipated, I must be getting the hang of all they MYP terminology malarkey.

So the idea is that for each region students will develop their knowledge and understanding of the reoccurring themes through inquiry into the core topic/s for each country, region or continent of study.

Whilst the units are split into countries, region or continent slowly but surely the topics will start to make comparisons with other countries. For instance whilst looking at the tectonic landscape of Iceland, not only will students look at the impact of eruptions there they will make comparisons with an LEDC such as Montserrat.

With each unit, the students will develop their skills and understanding in relation to the reoccurring themes and their application of their knowledge. For instance in year 7, students may create graphs to show the population size of a selection of European countries, then when looking at the UK start to look at population density and describe patterns with evidence. By Iceland they will be able to use the population density maps and describe and explain the trends shown. Initially being scaffolded in the process so that by the time they come to producing an inquiry on a country of their choice in year 9, they would have mastered the skills in preparation for GCSE and will be able to carry them out independently.

My ideas for monitoring progression are as follows

  1. Formative assessment of the reoccurring topics which students will cover in each unit will be assessed on shared success criteria for the bands entering, developing, secure and mastered. A target will be set which will be returned to the next time they covered the reoccurring theme.
  2. For each unit there will be an assessed piece of work related to the learning taking place in relation to the core theme of the unit. These will relate to the MYP assessment criterion.

Here are my ideas so far…


Okay so these are my initial ideas. They are just my thoughts and ideas, nothing set in stone yet. What do you think? Could it work? Anything you would suggest?

Mrs Humanities




Leave a comment

Resource – The Hydrological Cycle

I created the foundations for this lesson in my PGCE year but have recently updated it for my year 8’s.

It’s quite an engaging activity and my students have taken a lot of the key terminology from it in the past. This version is for higher ability students but it’s pretty easy to differentiate or scaffold.

Activity Set Up

  1. Set the room up into ‘stations’.
  2. Place one ‘station card’ at each station along with dice.stations.png
  3. Student’s start at a station and record their location.
  4. They roll the die and look up the corresponding instruction.
  5. Students move to the identified destination.
  6. As they do so they record the transfer process that allowed them to move from one part of the cycle to the next.
  7. After 8-10 minutes students should have moved around a considerable number of the stations to be able to create a systems diagram.

Follow Up

To follow up from the activity I have students each other about their journey around the hydrological cycle, at which point they tend to compare and contrast.

I then select a few students to feedback to the class. Usually they forget to explain why they transferred from one part of the cycle to the next. So I will ask other students to improve upon the answer given when they outline their journey.

New Tasks

This time I’ll be getting my students to create a systems diagram of the stores and flows of water in the cycle. Before doing so students will come up and add to the list either side to enable students to differentiate between stores and flows. systems diagram.png

Finally my students will be answering a question that I offer them 8 marks for. We will discuss the different between describe and explain and then look at the example given. Students will reflect upon the example to explain why it has only achieve 4 marks and what they would do to improve.

After that students will write their own answer and peer assess what is produced.

peer assessment.png

If you’d like a copy you can download it here.

Hope you can make use of it.

Mrs Humanities