Mrs Humanities

Because I'm married to the job


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

guest post

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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Mrs Humanities shares… 8 RE Teachers to follow on Twitter

mrs humanities shares

For the third in the series of Mrs Humanities shares… I thought I’d go ahead and recommend some of the fantastic RE teachers out there that far too often get forgotten when it comes to the Humanities.

Whilst at my last school I had been setting up the Humanities department from scratch, whilst RE wasn’t taught as a stand along subject I tried to incorporate it as often as possible. I often looked to twitter for inspiration.

In no particular order then…

Dawn Cox

Dawn Cox
RE Teacher and T&L
From Dawn you will find a huge wealth of knowledge and information on RE teaching as well as teaching and learning in general. There’s always something up for debate or discussion on her feed; whilst I rarely get involved they are often enlightening. Take a look at her site missdcoxblog.wordpress.com for inspiration.

Andy Lewis

Andy Lewis
Assistant Headteacher / Director of RE
Andy was a regular source of information, he often shares insightful links that are helpful to the non-specialist and specialist RE teacher alike. You can find out more about Andy and his contributions to the teacher community at his site mrlewisre.co.uk.

Laura Passmore

Laura Passmore
RE teacher
This lovely lady is a good tweacher friend and often provided snippets of inspiration. Whilst Laura doesn’t share so much in the way of teaching practice from her classroom, what she does provide is an array of links and ideas from across the web that can be useful for both RE and teachers in general. Passionately promotes teacher well-being and is a member of the #teacher5adaybuddybox community.

Miss Westbury

Miss Westbury
Second in Department
A variety of smashing pieces of good practice can be found on Miss Westbury’s feed along with links, articles and general teachery goodness.

SN RE Teacher

SN RE Teacher
Head of RE
Often you’ll find snippets of what is going on in Sue’s classroom, along with plenty of links and re-tweets of helpful articles and sites.

Clare Nolan

Clare Nolan
Leader of KS3 RE
Relatively new to the teaching profession but an active member of the teaching community with a wee blog at clareenolan.wordpress.com although no new content as of late. Often you’ll find snippets of what’s going on in Clare’s classroom along with how she works with the Girl Guiding Association.

Corrine Guntrip

Corrine Guntrip

Trust RE and Ethos Lead
Plenty of positive inspiration can be found on Corrine’s twitter feed; more recently in terms of her own work/life balance (especially with the cutie that is Buddy, I think that’s the dogs name?!) but also plenty of re-tweets of relevance to RE and education.

Jo

Jo
Newly appointed Research Lead at CHS.
Lots of inspiration for the RE and other Humanities teacher. Good balance of subject specific, wellbeing and T&L inspiration available.

And one little extra one

 

Jessica Nield

Jessica Nield
RE and Humanities Teacher
This one’s not posted much (yet) but she’s my sister-in-law so I had to add her for encouragement to get more involved in the T&L community.

Hope you’ve found someone new to follow.

Feel free to add any other recommendations in the comments. I might even add them to the post as I’d like to take it up to 10 recommendations.

Mrs Humanities

 


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Mrs Humanities shares… 10 History Teachers to follow on Twitter.

mrs humanities shares

This is the second in my new series of posts – Mrs Humanities shares… In each post from the series I will be sharing some of the stand out practice I’m regularly inspired by, interesting ideas, recently shared resources, news stories etc. If there’s something in particular you’d like to see then suggestions are warmly welcomed.

This time I’m really excited to be sharing some fantastic practitioners that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in person on several occasions and love sharing ideas with. Others I’m yet to meet but find them a source of inspiration regularly. In no particular order then…

Tom Rogers

Tom Rogers
Head of History and owner of  RogersHistory.com
This man is the mind behind #TMHistoryIcons, a quality source of inspiration for both the historian and general teacher alike. Often in agreement with much of what he writes both on twitter and for the TES.

Mr Allsop History

Mr Allsop History
Head of Humanities and author of 366 Days: Compelling Stories From World History
If you’re a history teacher and you’ve never come across Scott’s site(http://www.mrallsophistory.com) then I’d be very surprised; it’s a wealth of material as is his twitter feed. Scott regularly shares interesting links, ideas and his own resources.

Mr. Thornton

Mr. Thornton
Subject Leader
A twitter feed of regular inspiration. In my #PedagooHampshire2016 workshop I referred to Mr Thorntons idea for marking crib sheets and it was an instant hit with the attendees. I think his hits shot up from that day (just kidding). You’ll find a continuous source of inspiration on his twitter feed and a can access many of them on his site – https://mrthorntonteach.com/

LoveToTeach

LoveToTeach
Subject Leader
Kate is another of the #TMHistoryIcons team and a valued member of the twitter teaching community. She regularly shares a variety of general teaching and learning ideas as well those for the historian or geographer. Kate runs the blog lovetoteach87.com, check it out.

Russel Tarr

Russel Tarr
History teacher and author of A History Teaching Toolbox: Practical classroom strategies
Russel is probably one of those history teachers that you’d be ashamed to find you missed out of a list of history teachers to follow on twitter. A constant source of inspiration for both subject specific and general teaching and learning ideas. Probably most famed for his sites – activehistory.co.uk and classtools.net His twitter feed is a constant source of inspiration much of which is linked to his own practice.

Heather Mary James

Heather Mary James
Humanities Teacher and Head of Department for Citizenship and PSHE
A ray of sunshine on my feed at times; often shares teaching and learning ideas across the Humanities with a good dose of teacher well-being thrown in. You can also find Heather blogging at thelondonhumanitiesteacher.com

MissSouthernHistory

MissSouthernHistory
Head of History
A lovely lady I’ve had the pleasure to meet at #TMHistoryIcons that regularly shares ideas, links and articles. Regularly shares photos of what’s happening in her classroom, which I love, particularly when the kids are dressed up and bringing their learning to life.

LA McDermott

LA McDermott
History Teacher
Many an interesting idea shared, plenty of inspiration to get your mind lesson planning. Amongst all the good practice you’ll find a few subject specific links.

J Mosley

J Mosley
History Teacher
You’ll find plenty of inspiration on this feed. A consistent source of creativity and plenty of lesson ideas to help with your planning.

Jonny Hemphill

Jonny Hemphill
History Teacher
Now I can’t say I interact with Jonny at all, what I mean is I see inspiring ideas, articles and links shared by him but I don’t think I’ve ever said anything to him even though I’ve shared his tweets on MagpiedPedagogy numerous times. Now I feel bad, so Jonny, here’s a big HIGH FIVE to you, thanks for what you share.

Well hopefully there is someone new on the list for you to follow.

If there’s someone I’ve not included but you think should be, feel free to name them and add a link to their twitter feed in the comments.

 

Mrs Humanities


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Mrs Humanities shares… 10 Geography Teachers to follow on Twitter.

mrs humanities shares

Okay so this is something new I’m trying a new monthly feature on things that stand out to me. This could be anything from teachers to follow on twitter, interesting pedagogical practices, recently shared resources, news stories etc. Suggestions welcomed.

I’m starting with 10 Geography Teachers to follow on Twitter, these are people I regularly interact with, follow links posted or magpie ideas from. There are many more I could add but I really can’t spend all day writing a post. So in NO particular order.

David Rogers

David Rogers
Geographer & Author of  100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Outstanding Geography Lessons

Can often be found causing a stir, shares a great deal of insightful articles, links and resources for the everyday teacher and/or geographer. Writes about geography, pedagogy and wellbeing at http://www.davidrogers.blog/.

jennnnnn

jennnnnn ❤️️🌎

Head of Geography
Regularly shares great teaching practice for the geographer and general teacher alike. A particular stand out example has to be IDEAL. Check it out here.
Hoping she might write a guest post for us all soon (hint, hint).

Rob Chambers

Rob Chambers
Head of Geography
Set up the AQA teacher schoology collective; a huge amount of resources have been shared widely as a result. Regularly shares geographical articles and the occasional resource. Shares good practice at http://www.geobytes.org.uk/.

Mark Enser

Mark Enser
Head of Geography
Shares teaching and learning ideas, information and topical debates. Has many insightful posts on his site https://teachreal.wordpress.com/

P Logue

 P Logue
Subject Lead for Geography and Subject Lead for Ethics & Philosophy.
Shares a wide variety of resources, pedagogical practice and articles related to geography and the humanities. Paul has recently written a guest post on differentiation, check it out.

Geographyblog

Geographyblog

Head of Humanities, main subject Geography.
Shares some excellent resources, most of which are freely available on TES. Provides lots of inspiration for creative teaching techniques.

Kate Stockings

Kate Stockings
Head of Geography.
Kate has shared lots of good practice and ideas for teaching Geography.

GeographyPods

GeographyPods

Head of Geography
You would have probably come across Matt’s site at one time or another – http://www.geographypods.com/. I use it regularly now that I teach the International Baccalaureate. Whilst a bit quieter on the old twitter front these days (mastering the work/life balance I hope) but still shares a range of great ideas, articles and links.

Hanna R

Hanna R
Geography Teacher
Hanna wrote the first guest post on the site on how she’s combined approaches from both myself and @P Logue. She regularly shares teaching ideas and articles, both relevant for the geographer and general teacher alike with a bit of wellbeing thrown in.

GeoBlogs

GeoBlogs
Author of http://livinggeography.blogspot.co.uk/
Alan is a very experienced teacher and Geographer. He shares a wide range of articles, links and research. He’s a wealth of knowledge and an active member of the geographical community.

 

Finally…

This list could go on for a lot longer, unfortunately I do not have the time to continue it now but might add to it as time goes on.

Please feel free to share any particular recommendations you have for geographers to follow on twitter in the comments.

Mrs Humanities

 

 

 


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Stop. Peer assess. Progress. 

stop peer assess progressHow often do you carry out peer assessment at the end of a task? I know I used to do it a lot in the past, I’d get students to read each other’s work, write a WWW and EBI comment or a kind, specific and helpful comment depending on the school system and then that would be the end of it.

Then when I started using DIRT in lessons, I might have got students to re-write a piece of their work or write an additional piece in action of the peer feedback.

Then I eventually realised, why I am getting them to peer assess at the end when if they were to carry out peer assessment part-way through a task that would give them time to act on the feedback there and then.

I first did this some time ago now in my last school, it was just before we had Ofsted in so that would have been about May 2015. In fact I did it during the observation lesson, students had been working on the Spanish Armada double lesson; at the end of the lesson they peer assessed each other on their chosen criteria. The next lesson they continued with the activity and made improvements as they produced new work – for instance if a student had wanted their use of PEE paragraphs assessed and in particular their use of evidence from the sources, their peer assessed how effectively they’d been applying evidence and how they could improve, when they continued the work the next day each time the student included new evidence they’d write it in pink to demonstrate the progress they were making in their use of evidence in their PEE paragraphs.

These days I rarely use peer assessment solely at the end of a piece of work, instead I apply it within activities to give students the opportunity to assess progress, make improvements and access inspiration to develop their own work.

Recently when I’ve mentioned the power of peer assessment in my classroom I’ve had a lot of backlash from other teachers on twitter, particularly when I’ve shared the ACE and SpACE peer assessment techniques. People arguing that we are expecting novices to assess novices. Now I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t expect my students to ever give a summative grade or level without assessing it myself as well, they are learning.

I might however ask them to predict the level or grade they think a finished piece of work might achieve using success criteria or a mark scheme and justify why in order to help them to understand what is being assessed but I never take it as the final grade. It’s merely an opportunity for students to engage with assessment criteria; in my opinion if they understand the assessment criteria when they sit an assessment whether it be a formative piece, a summative or external exam then they can apply it better? No?

I know my learner’s are not experts, but I’m training them to be. I’m facilitating their learning and that means both subject content, life long learning skills and their understanding of assessment criteria in order to maximise their potential in their GCSEs or other exams.

The opportunity to peer assess isn’t just about the outcome (grade, marks, levels etc) but the process. Students see other work whether it be good or bad practice; reflection upon what they see allows them to improve their own work. It’s an opportunity for idea sharing and to be inspired. A time to reflect on one’s own strengths and weaknesses. A time to consider successes and areas for improvement. An opportunity to gain feedback before submitting work as complete to the teacher. Personally peer assessment is more than that, it’s a learning experience.

Yes, peer assessment does reduce my workload slightly. In the sense that it means students receive feedback there and then and the opportunity to act on it in a timely manner rather than days or weeks later. I mark their work, I assess their work. But I often found that marking work at the end or part way through myself meant a delay between producing the work and them receiving feedback on it, further more it meant a lag time between production and opportunity to act on the feedback.

I personally want my students to access timely feedback, verbal works but I can’t get around a whole class of 28-32 students in the time available so peer assessment helps students to access this feedback. Yes it takes training from day one, yes it takes time and yes it requires scaffolding but eventually students get it. They become confident in their ability to self and peer assess, they learn exam techniques throughout their years in secondary education and not just in the ‘exam’ years. Give stop, assess and progress and go in your classroom (but be consistent and persistent with it, it takes time to master).

How do you use peer assessment in your classroom? Do you agree with me? Disagree (polite debate welcomed)?

Mrs Humanities