Mrs Humanities

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Resource – The Hydrological Cycle

resourceI 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


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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…


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…


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…


…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.


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.


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.


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






Developing Independent Learners – The ‘Help Yourself’ Resource Station  

help yourself resource stationThrough the course of the last academic year one of my aims was to develop more independence in my learners.

I tried several approaches which I’ve documented in other posts, including seating plans, GCSE help yourself display and attempts at flipped learning.

I’ve learnt so much from the process as have my students, particularly those in year 7 and 8.

The ‘Help Yourself’ Resource Station was probably the most successful approach.

What is it?

Quite simply the ‘Help Yourself’ Resource Station is a table and display board with resources that will support my students in their learning.

It includes a wide range of resources and templates that students can access freely to support their learning.


What’s included?

The display board contained resources for each year group on the topic they were currently studying. These could have been in the form of information sheets, activities or worksheets.

In addition students had access to DIRT sheets and a support sheet for using historical sources and later the 5 Minute Help Yourself sheet.

At times, other useful information got added to the space on the board such as project sign up sheets and reminders.

The table contained a wide variety of relevant resources that students can help themselves to in order to scaffold and support their learning.

Resources included

-Literacy mats

literacy mat
– Timelines support sheets

-Note taking laminatenote taking laminate
-Key word lists

key word lists
-Topic support mats (placemats)

topic placemats

-Humanities Skills Mats such as the Using Sources Support Mat

skills mats.png

-Self and peer assessment sheets

self and peer assessment

-Templates and blank maps for classwork


Along side the resources there were whiteboard pens and equipment available for students to access when required.

How is it used?

Once set up the resource station runs itself, you will need to monitor and replenish now and then but on the whole it’s pretty simple.

Students  collect the resources they need based on their own decisions or your guidance. At first it took some training but by the end of the year students were happily helping themselves to the required resources.

For example I had some students that needed spelling support, they’d help themselves at the start of the lesson to the key word list and their literacy marking would focus on the correct spelling of those key words. If they spelt the word incorrectly, they would use the key word list to find the correct spelling and write it out 3 times and within a sentence. at first it took some reminding but eventually they become independent in the approach (with fewer spelling mistakes).

Often main activities in my lesson have an opportunity for choice in presentation and format, the templates and blank maps work effectively for this allowing students to make their own decisions in how they present their work.


Personally I feel it’s enabled many of my students to become more independent in their learning, in particular the high and middle ability. I felt low ability students needed more encouragement to use the resources available to them but eventually some of them were accessing them without prompt.

If I were to change anything I’d add a challenge section with generic activities that could be applied to any topic.

The Resources

I’ve uploaded a load of the resources I’ve used here. Many of them I have not made from scratch and instead have used or amended resources I’ve collected over the years. If one of them is your, please let me know and I will add credit where credit it due.

If you have any questions about the ‘Help Yourself’ Resource Station, just ask.

Hope you’ve been inspired.

Mrs Humanities






Sharing Resources – TES


Since I’m moving on from my current role and won’t be needing many of the units of work and resources I created over the past two years, I’ve decided to upload and share them for others to access and use freely.

Although I’m happy for the new Head of Department to have them, I also want others to benefit from the time and effort I’ve put into making them (and there’s been a lot).

So to view the full units of work and download any of the resources follow the links below

I will add more links to this post as I upload to the TES.

The Powerpoints are all my work, most of the resources are but some I’ve edited and reformed into pieces suitable for my classes. If I’ve failed to give credit where credit is due (more than likely) please let know and I will amend.

Feedback is always appreciated as I like to know how to improve my work, however please don’t moan about the use of Open Dyslexic font (yes, it’s happened).

You can find other resources of mine through my TES shop (although everything is free).

Hope you find the resources of use.

Mrs Humanities


Developing Independent Learners


This term I’ve been using independent learning projects with some of my classes in year 7 & 8.

At the start of the topic I discussed with the students the success criteria for the topic and asked them how they would like to go about carrying out the scheme of work.

We discussed several ways of working on this SoW

a) a menu – where students select ‘items’ from the menu to produce over the term to produce a piece of work that meets Bronze, Silver or Gold standard.

b) personal choice – where students could make their own decisions on how to present their work

c) guided – where the teacher provides suitable learning activities to meet the success criteria

Each class voted for b – personal choice.

We then discussed whether working in groups or individually would be better. All of year 8 decided on groups of no more than 3 so they can easily learn what others have discovered.

The majority of year 7 decided to go with groups, again of no more than 3, but a few wanted to work individually as they felt they would get distracted working in groups. Very mature of them to admit so I was happy for them to work alone.

We then had a planning lesson; focusing on how we would learn what we need to learn. We discussed approaches to research, presentation and feedback.

As guidance all students have a copy of the Need to Know Questions and topics success criteria  both in the front of their books and in their planners. Here’s the year 7 version.

learning matrix yr 7


In the initial lessons we discussed the meaning of the command words e.g. describe, identify, locate, define and what these might look like at Bronze, Silver and Gold standard.


To support and direct students with their learning I’ve put resources in the ‘Help Yourself’ Resource Station for students to access. 20160108_162028The main purpose of these has been to support students when they just can’t quite find the answers they are looking for or need focus on what it is they need to do. I’ve a variety of resources to enable students to meet the success criteria from information sheets like this…

info sheets

…to worksheets/activities like these…

population densitypopulationfeatures.png

…all intended to help them to learn about an aspect of the topic that could then be applied to their project.

Students have been very good at using the resources to develop their understanding and then apply it to their chosen project format.


Students have set their own homework based upon their groups or individual progress. A few I’ve had to guide in the process but on the whole students have been self-motivated in and out of class.

Presentation of Work

Students opted for personal choice. This is enabled a variety of approaches to meeting the same success criteria. Some are making information booklets, others posters or PowerPoints. One group is demonstrating their learning as a blog another has created a Passport to Britain. The creative has been incredibly.

For example to meet the same objective one group have started to create a 3D relief salt dough map by interpreting a relief map from the Atlas.

relief(A work in progress, by the end of term this will have human and physical features located using cocktail sticks)

Whilst another group have traced a map of the British Isles and coloured in their relief map, they followed this by doing the same with population distribution so they could overlay and compare the two.

relief map


To check student progress throughout the lessons I have been having ‘progress’ chats with groups and/or individuals to check their understanding. During this process I tick off and highlight with them the criteria they have achieved and the criteria they need to focus on. I question them and challenge them to further progress on what they have learnt.

Having this time with students has enabled me to get to know more about how my students learn and what I can do to further support them on their journey to independence.

In addition to the chats they’ve done a few quick fire quizzes at the end of lessons and have completed exit tickets and entry tickets.

For example after the first week of lessons, students completed a simple exit ticket. I assessed their answers and those I felt hadn’t demonstrated enough progress were identified using traffic lights and answered the corresponding questions. This encouraged them to develop and level up the initial answers they’d put on the exit tickets in the previous lesson.

Then each lesson since they’ve then self-assessed their work and had discussions with me on the next steps to either reach gold or to securely meet the silver criteria outlined.

entry ticket week 2 yr 7.png


Students have either chosen the criteria they are aiming for based on their progress this year so far and their confidence in the task – most are aiming for gold. I’ve directed some to the criteria they should focus on however.

Some students I meet with at the start of the lesson and bullet point the criteria they need to focus on that lesson, some I will provide specific resources for to enable them to do so. The rest are either directed to resources or simply have mastered the independence and get one with it completely by themselves.

In year 8, groups have been awarding each other points for the following team work, leadership, creativity, out of a school work, self/peer assessment and personal effort.  They’ve been looking at the successes of others in their team and awarding one another what they see as suitable. It’s created a very collaborative environment with the icing on the cake being their explanations as to why the person deserves the points. Creates smiles all round.


Conclusion so far… 

These are my finding so far

  • Engagement across the board, students arrive eager and leave happy
  • A collaborative and supportive atmosphere is clear
  • My favourite phase has come to be… “Miss, did you know…” my year 8 students are frequently teaching me things about the adventurers and the explorers.
  • Students feel empowered in their learning
  • Opportunity to have conversations with students has enabled a greater understanding of how they learn best
  • Opportunity to share successes and excitement about the topic and their learning
  • Freedom to work at their own pace – some have spent more time on certain aspects whilst others have spent less
  • Consideration of what they already know has allowed for different starting points
  • Students are deepening what they already know
  • Marking and feedback has been on-going in lessons, students have accessed feedback immediately
  • I’ve been doing less ‘work’ in lessons and students have been doing more.

I can not wait to see the finished pieces and final projects.

Do you do anything similar? How could it be applied in your classroom.

Mrs Humanities





Life after Levels – Taking GCSE grades into KS3

Life after levelsIt was decided at the end of last year that across the school the GCSE grades would be taken down into Key Stage 3 as an approach to life after levels. I truly struggled with this concept over the summer holidays and in fact still am, as a result I turned to twitter.

My goodness, the response was rapid; I’m clearly not the only one struggling.

I firstly mentioned that I had introduced the 1-9 grades to KS3 this week using a feedback grid. In the lesson we discussed what the GCSE grades equated to in terms of ‘old’ levels – my school have created a conversion from levels to grades 1-9 which are linked to progress points. The grades have then been broken down further into 4 categories; mastered, secure, developing and entering. Having a level to GCSE grade conversion makes things slightly easier for developing the new assessment system however a lack of information from the exam boards is making it more difficult.

From mentioning the introduction on twitter I ended up in discussion about the struggles we were having taking the grades down into KS3. Before long I was setting up a collaborative Dropbox for history and geography teachers to share ideas and to help others develop a 1-9 grading system at KS3.

I hope it will enable many educators from Humanities, Geography or History, who are struggling to develop a KS3 1-9 system to find a collaborative space to share ideas, research and approaches as well as an opportunity to gain feedback from other professionals. We are all approaching this with different experiences and ideas, hopefully with each other we can develop a system that works for each of us.

However this isn’t an attempt to create a standardised system but an opportunity to discuss and share to help us create something that works for each school, department and educator.

Please Note: Since we are in the dark in regard to grade descriptors at the moment yet have to create some form of assessment system, our assessment criteria may all change once grade descriptors are released.

If you’d like to join the list of contributors, send me an email at  or DM on twitter with your email address and I will happily add you to the list.

Mrs Humanities

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Homework Points


Last year I trialled numerous homework approaches with KS3 from booklets to takeaway homework. It was a fair bit of trial and error. The most successful were the booklets, however they required a great deal of printing; also many of my students really enjoyed creative homework especially those that involved model making.

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After much deliberation I’ve decided this year to use a points menu, since we had numerous issues with the takeaway homework method but I liked the menu approach. I feel giving pupils choice in their learning, develops a sense of responsibility. I also like homework to foster a sense of curiosity so try to encourage further research or activities that allow my learners to develop their own interest in an aspect of the topic.

Homework Points Menu

Quite simply students will be given a variety of options and have to choose enough of the options to equate to the designated number of points. In the first term it’s 120 since it’s an 8 week term, I will then adjust the points target accordingly dependent on the length of the term.

Each student will have a copy of the menu stuck into their books at the start of the topic. Each time they hand a piece in they will sign off the homework choice on their menu and glue it into their books (if possible).  Students will be able to hand the homework in at any point throughout the term but must ensure all homework is submitted before last week.



Update on successes (or failures) to follow.

Do you use choice menus? How effective have they been for you?

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Resource – Rainforest Role Play Game

Rainforest Role Playing GameSome of you may have noticed my post last month on twitter about my proposed role playing game to teach about the tropical rainforest.

Now that we’ve finally played the game I thought I’d share it with you.


Primarily a decision making exercise; pupils are given a role to play and have to make decisions and contributions to the game based upon their role. In this scenario pupils are taking on the role of a variety of pre-created roles but you could easily get them to come up with their own.

Game Scenario

Pupils were introduced to the survival scenario – they were in a private plane as part of a group going tio carry out research in the Amazon rainforest when they hit trouble in the skies causing their plane to crash just south of the Amazon river. They now need to work as a team, using each others strengths to survive.

RPG game scenario


Each role was carefully thought out in advance to ensure the pupils would be able to ‘think’ like the person and so they had a particular skill to contribute to the challenge.

RPG character roles


In order to play the game, each group were given a copy of the instruction sheets, a set of 3 option cards and a pack of cards with a variety of natural and human resources that would be available to them from either the rainforest environment or the plane. They were also given 12 blank cards and a white board pen.

In addition some groups were provided with ‘Survival Cards’ these were tips and ideas to help them consider what to build and how to survive.

Option Cards

RPG option cards

Resource Cards

resource cards 1 resource cards 2

Survival Cards

survival cards

At the front of the room I had a “Mission Complete” table where paper, colouring pencils, scissors were kept along with the dice to roll as part of missions 2 and 5.

The Game 

Each group were given a variety of cards – firstly the option cards, secondly natural resource cards and thirdly human resource cards. They then had a number of blank cards to add a suitable resource they may have had in their luggage or on the plane that could help them to survive; whilst the captain and plane hostess had up to 3 – the captain had a spare for later on in  the game.

RPGOnce roles were chosen and pupils had sorted the cards into separate piles the game started. For each mission they had to design something to meet the challenge on the option card they’d chosen. If they had read the instructions carefully before started they would have realised that they had very little water and this would should be their first option as they had shelter in the form of the plane and a short supply of food available.

RPG game

The pupils carried out each mission in turn, showing their completed design to me after missions 1 and 3 to confirm whether they passed or not. Essentially what I had been looking for was a labelled their diagram, an explanation of their design and justification of their reasoning behind it; if they achieved these they were allowed to move on. Failure to meet these criteria meant they were sent back to ‘adjust’ their design.

Pupils were encouraged to use the names of features found in the rainforest as well as the layers etc. in their explanations. Whilst they did well at referring to the layers and characteristics of the layers developed from the previous lesson, the one thing I found was they were not using the natural resource cards to full affect.


How did they win? Well in short they had to complete all of the missions set, unfortunately when I played with the first class only 1 team worked together effectively enough to make it through the missions and survive the rainforest. The second class however…. well they all perished as a result of to much enthusiasm. They just simply did not read the instructions or work effectively enough as a team to complete the challenges; perils of the rainforest I guess.


Firstly the decision making aspect of the game was most effective, there were so many ideas being discussed with a variety of debates over heard. The pupils were using their knowledge of the rainforest layers studied in the previous lesson to make decisions, along with the work we’d done on Preparing for Natural Disasters in term 3 where they considered human needs and survival skills.

Secondly it developed my pupils use of geographical terminology and reasoning; it was very interesting overhearing conversations and debates where pupils were disagreeing with one another based on their understanding.

Thirdly, it appealed to the boys. Raising boys achievements has been an aim this term; this worked. They had the opportunity to design, verbally discuss, lead etc. all of which involved little to no writing. They were pleased yet they made such progress. #win

Areas for Improvement 

More time – an hour was not enough. 1.5 hours would be ideal for this activity to give them the time to design, label and explain effectively.

More role play – whilst some groups truely took on the role of their character their were many that just thought like themselves. Next time I’d like a few props to get them into character.

More use of the resource cards – pupils were clearly making use of the human resources, there were designs with straws and bottles to catch water, ponchos over tree branches for shelter and so on but they lacked natural resources in their designs. Whilst they discussed for instance they layer in which they’d hang their water catchers and why, they weren’t using a great deal of the terminology introduced during this lesson. Next time I’d make a rule that they have to bring up the resource cards used and demonstrate where they’ve used them in their designs.

Overall though it was a very enjoyable success.

Can I use it?

If you’d like to use my resources head over here for the resource.

download here

Since I don’t own the copyright on the images on the resource cards, I’ve taken them out. I’ve left the Survival Cards images as I’ve hyper-linked to their source.

Let me know if you use it, any feedback would be appreciated.

Mrs Humanities

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Word Walls

Originally posted on

Original Post – Word Walls

One of my classes really seem to struggle to remember and use key terms in their work. My focus this term has been to develop their use of and revise key terminology.

This week I tried out ‘Word Walls’. As a starter task students quite simply drew a wall of 6 bricks and filled each brick with a key word/term they knew the meaning of.  The more able were encouraged to add more bricks to their wall.

In the next step they highlighted 3 bricks and passed their book to a friend. Pupils then had to write a definition for each of the highlighted terms. If they didn’t know the meaning they were encouraged to use their friends book to find the answer. Failing that they could ask somebody else in the room. Once complete they returned their books and confirmed whether or not the definitions were correct. They were encouraged then to use these key terms in their work.

Having reflected on the task I’ve thought of so many other ways this could be developed. In fact I’m thinking I might do this with plastic bricks and whiteboard pens. As a class each time a pupil uses a key term appropriately they get to write it on a brick and add it to the wall. I’m sure this male heavy group will love the challenge of getting it as high as possible.

Some other uses

– At the start of topic add already known topic vocabulary and then add to the wall as their vocabulary develops throughout the topic
– As a starter put a letter in each brick, pupils to find a topical key word starting with each letter
– Pupils or the teacher could fill the word wall with key words to be used in a lesson or during a piece of extended writing as a type of success criteria, tick off as they are used.
– As a started pupils could fill the word wall template to provide a friend with words to use during the lesson, sort of like a word wall bingo card.
– Start the lesson with a blank word wall worksheet, each time a key term is used verbally pupils add it to the wall. Add more bricks as required.

Follow Up

I later made use of this idea again with 2 year 8 classes and the plastic bricks. To be honest I experimented with the concept, both lessons were very different, first lesson had a focus on questioning whilst the second lesson had a focus on using key terms. Both turned out to be effective in their purpose. My pupils even suggested using the activity before assessments to revise and develop their understanding of key words.

Here’s one example…

word wall

The group started with two key words from the starter task and had to add 3 more that related. They went on to write questions that gave each word as an answer to quiz the class. They later swapped their bricks and used the words to write a PEE paragraph about the topic ensuring they included the words in their wall.

Definitely one to be used again.

Mrs Humanities


Resource – UK Population Distribution

UK Population Distribution Resources
Last week it was our self-evaluation week so observations galore. Fortunately we know in advance when we will be observed, giving us time to prepare.

I was booked in to be observed teaching a low ability year 7 class. The topic of the lesson was UK population patterns. I’ve taught the topic many times over the last few years but had never come up with a way to make it distinctly ‘active’. Usually it has involved discussing population distribution in the classroom, demonstrating sparse and dense population densities and looking at a few maps to describe and find reasons for the patterns.

I knew this would not be engaging enough this time. I struggled for ideas initially but eventually came up with this…..differentiated task pots

I’d set similar tasks to those I carried out in the past but created more choice, challenge and engagement.

There were cards sorts instead of a powerpoint, worksheets instead of well a powerpoint… I’m sure you get how it’s been carried out before.

I started by creating 3 levels of task, identified by a spice grading.

l3 worksheet l4 worksheet l5 worksheet

(please note I do not own the copyright of the maps used, they were in resources I’d used at a previous school and I’ve taken them out of the versions you can download)

I’ve used spice rating many a time before but thought I’d add some intrigue to the task by placing the card sort materials into takeaway cartons. And yes, it worked, the students were eager to engage with the tasks in order to open their carton.

spice 1 spice 3 spice 2

In each container there were cards suited to the task set on the worksheet.

Level 3 (spice rating 1) – cards to sort into sparse or dense
Level 4 (spice rating 2) – cards to sort into those relevant to London or the Scottish Highlands
Level 5 (spice rating 3) – 4 location cards and both picture and text cards to help explain why there would be a sparse or dense population.

The opportunity to write on the tables with a white board pen I imagine helped make the activity engaging.

population distribution task

I used for the first time WAGOLL  (what a good one looks like) to demonstrate to the students what I would be looking for as part of the level 5 card sort task. It helped them to focus on what my expectations were and how they should go about it. Will definitely use WAGOLL again.


The feedback from the lesson was very positive (judged Outstanding, even though I don’t like gradings).

You can download my resources below.

I’ve take images out but you can easily replace them.

level 3 worksheetlevel 4 worksheetlevel 5 worksheetpopulation distribution card sort population distribution

Hope the resources are of use.

Mrs Humanities