Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job.


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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.

Rationale

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

outline

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.

progress

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


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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.

1.png

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:

2.png

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.

3.png

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.

45

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:

1

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.

1.5.png

  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’.

2.png

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.

3.png

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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Recommendation – Twinkl Secondary Resources

Recently I’ve started to make use of the newly added Twinkl Secondary Geography resources.

The variety of resources is huge with 12 pages of material so far covering everything from tectonics and coasts to tourism and urban issues. The most common of geography topics all make an appearance.

At present there are plenty of resources for Key Stage 3 and a growing number for Key Stage 4 linked to the AQA, Edexcel and OCR specifications. Key Stage 5 is currently bare but an area for future development.

Each of the lesson packs are fully resourced, many of which have eco-print versions, as are many of the stand alone lessons or single activities.

Personally I really like the opportunity for differentiation in the lesson packs, they are a great starting point to differentiate up or down depending on your students. Some resources even have differentiated versions already. I wish they’d had these when I worked at my last school, they would have been of massive benefit and would have saved me so much time with planning, differentiation and scaffolding.

My personal favourites are

But don’t take my word for it, check the resources out for yourself over at Twinkl.co.uk

Mrs Humanities

 

 

 


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Using Padlet for Notetaking

During the course I attended over my half term I decided that instead of taking notes in the traditional manner, I would use Padlet to make them interactive and memorable.

I’ve used Padlet before as a revision tool with a GCSE group and thought I could easily use it to share the earning and key information with my department and school on return this term. I was right.

Here’s a look at what I created

MYP humanities geography individuals and societies notes
I found this approach useful for the following reasons

  • could add links to course material
  • easy to sort and organise
  • simple notes could be added as discussions took place
  • could instantly look up and add links to anything I found of particular interest that I want to return to later on
  • digitally stored so easy to share
  • can be public, private or password protected

I’ve decided this is going to be my new way of note taking… well once I get an iPad or something similar that is. Can’t be lugging my laptop to school just for meetings and it would just look unprofessional if I used my mobile.

Hope it’s given you something to think about.

Mrs Humanities

 


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A question to Ponder

In a lot of my lessons, particularly those I planned for Opening Minds (combination of citizenship, values, PSHE and RE) would involve this activity.

It’s really simple, but encourages students to develop their thinking skills.

It’s called quite simply “A question to ponder”.

Student’s are presented with a question to consider, this can be at the start of a lesson, middle or towards the end. Sometimes I pose the same question two or three times in a lesson to see how their opinions and understanding develop through the course of a lesson.

Sometimes I get them to write down their thoughts, sometimes I get students to discuss in pairs before sharing with the class, other times I simply get student’s to verbally share their ideas with the class. It’s quite a useful approach to combine with Think, Pair, Share activities.

Here are some examples from geography and opening minds that I’ve used.

q2p 2q2p farmingq2p

I had an idea this morning whilst I planned year 12 lessons of introducing it as a plenary activity. Students will write their own Questions to Ponder based on the lessons learning and one or two will form the starter for the next lesson.

I will present the question on the board at the start of the lesson giving them time whilst they get settled to ponder it. We can then discuss the question for 5 minutes or so and link it into the next lessons work.

Hope you’ve been inspired.

Mrs Humanities


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Experiences in Long Term Planning

Planning lessons, is probably one of my favourite parts of being a teacher.

If I’m honest it wasn’t until half way through my NQT year that I started to see that it’s not so much the planning lesson by lesson that’s important it’s the planning of learning as a whole over a period of time.

Initially I would lesson plan by looking at the SoW and planning each lesson by what the scheme said should be taught. I later came to realise I hated this, it made teaching rigid and meant I was pretty much teaching to the test.

When I became Head of Humanities I was provided with the opportunity to start from scratch. The school was in its first year of opening, the former HoD left nothing behind so I literally had a blank canvas to work with. Whilst at times it was hard, it meant I learnt a lot about structuring learning over time – for each topic for each year group I’d consider the knowledge and understanding required, identify the skills focus, create a variety of forms of summative assessment and organise opportunities for formative assessment.

In my first year (2014 – 2015) I was writing schemes of work like this…

SOW

These would be for each year group (7,8,10 & 11) for each topic (6 per year in KS3) for each lesson of the topic. This was the expectation. Since I was the only one in the department I had to plan each lesson, resource each lesson and then embed it all into the SoW.

Last year (2015 – 2016) I decided this was too time consuming and eventually started writing schemes of work more along these lines…

example

This was much easier, it simply outlined the topic title and skills focus, assessment weeks and data input weeks. The resources provided the lesson outline, resources etc. so why did I need to repeat it all in another document? The lessons were organised clearly into the department folder like so…

organised

…this meant that any other teachers teaching Humanities could quite simply find out which lesson they were on and find it in the folder along with all the resources necessary to teach it. All they needed to do then was differentiate to suit their classes.

For each topic I had the outcomes in mind and outlined at them at the start of the SoW. This meant non-specialists knew the aims and objectives for the SoW.

outcomes

From the feedback I received from non-specialists this made it a lot easier to know where they were in the SoW and where they were heading with it; making it easier to prepare for summative assessments and data input.

Over the long term, I’d look at the skills being taught across the year to ensure an even spread of each assessment objective (see table below) for the key Humanities subjects of Geography and History.  Each formative assessment would assess students ongoing knowledge and understanding and would focus on particular assessment objectives.

AOS

For example this assessment (below) focused primarily on source interpretation as part of assessment objective HAO3 Source Skills. However the task required students to draw upon their knowledge and understanding of the topic which meant they also covered aspects of other assessment objectives. This helped when providing holistic grades for students.

assessment

So this has been approach to planning over time, hope it’s provided some ideas to help you.