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A seasonal post? 10 revision strategies…
April 10, 2014
Table top minds maps 2

This blog post is all about revision and sharing some practical ideas both in and out of the classroom.

I’ve always strongly felt that high quality revision strategies are simply high quality teaching and learning strategies. Since I believe that revision is not something that should be left until the end of the course but it something that should go on continually throughout a programme of study any of these strategies can and should be useful in lessons throughout the year.

Here are 10 useful strategies that can hopefully be beneficial to your classroom.

1. Top Trumps

I love a good game of top trumps and they are a great revision strategy. The one above is one we created in the history department about the reign of King Henry VIII and is designed to revise key figures in the AS History course. It helps students evaluate significance, impact and recall key information about key individuals on the course. Even better to get students to make their own and consider the information from across the whole course in a different way.

Top Trumps

2. Only Connect

I love key words in grids to go through key concepts and ideas. This is something I use a lot in teaching Sixth Form Government and Politics where there are many new concepts and ideas for students to understand. Only Connect taps into this and is taken from the popular BBC4 quiz show Only Connect. It is great for revision because it helps students think and make connections between different words. Here is an example for GCSE History.

revision 1

3. Mind-mapping

A timeless classic. Everyone knows everything about mind-mapping these days. However, go a bit further and get them to write them on the table and take a picture for their revision with their smart phones. Fun, engaging and messy!

Table top minds maps 2

4. Revision table mats

These are great for revision. They help to focus students on key words, key events and in particular for chronological understanding. Our students tell us they find the chronology really hard on our GCSE Crime and Punishment course so we made up some A3 table mats focusing on chronology to support with this. This is an example of a table mat we have used to promote academic writing across the department.


5. Revision booklets

We used to give revision notes out at the end of the course before the exams. Why? Now, we always give them out when we start the unit. We use them as a kind of course booklet but students have everything in there they need for revision. It gets them used to the revision booklets. The booklets have activities in them and personal learning checklists so students can use them as a kind of learning diary too.

rev booklet

6. E-Learning

There are a number of great e-learning websites out there which can help you. There are websites which allow students to make mind-maps, quizzes and flash cards. Increasingly, students like to learn and revise interactively so this is going to be a key area for us to continue to develop.

7. Exam questions

This isn’t a new idea at all as when I was studying for my A Levels my teacher gave our class all the past questions and told us to complete revision plans around as many past questions as we could. It’s still a great idea for students to prepare for the exam and doing something active as part of their revision. Revision is a bit like training really and students need to be match-fit for the big day. Here are all the past papers put in a handy booklet for our A Level students.

Exam booklets

8. Revision bookmarks

Exam board criteria and style of questions really needs embedding. We’ve found that condensing this information down into a simple bookmark is a really useful way of helping students with this process. Plus they can use it to keep their page in their revision booklets.


9. Revision songs

We have a brilliant ability to remember words of songs and I like to tap into this by making up some fun songs about different events from the past. My favourite is a song about Thomas Wolsey set to the theme tune of Neighbours. ‘Wolsey, everybody needs a Wolsey’… and so on. The song helps students make sense of the Alter Rex debate and consider how far everyone did actually need a Wolsey.

10. Questioning

Quizzing, regular questioning and getting students to think are hugely important. We often use regular competitive quizzes between groups of students in class to help them revise. Anything along these lines however is useful. So activities like 20 questions, Bingo, Speed dating tasks are all beneficial as long as it gets students thinking.


So there are 10 activities that may help you as students prepare for the final few weeks before the exams. Try and embed this culture of revision throughout the year. Revision is a marathon not a sprint!

Thought Bombs: Splinter Cell

I love the smell of thinking in the morning…

I came across this idea from @lisajaneashes and was instantly hooked.  It seemed like a great way to add a bit of extra excitement into lessons so I thought I’d give it a try.  Like any new toy I wanted to see all the different things I could do with it; a sentence which probably explains a large number of Accident and Emergency admissions.  These are a few of the ideas I’ve tried and a few more I’m planning to try next with my general reflections.

Classic: Basically you cut a hole in a plastic ball, give the learners some information to have a discussion on then drop in more information that will support, challenge or change the direction of their thinking in the bomb and throw it in.  The original blog post to explain this properly is here…http://thelearninggeek.com/2013/08/thought-bombing/

Challenge: Another way in which I’ve used them is to place surprise tasks inside.  This way if a learner needs and extension task or has a choice of activities as part of the lesson they can select a Thought Bomb.  I’m trying to make the bomb tasks focused around creative or metacognitive tasks to give them a specific flavour and expectation.

Question Bomb: This is a very simple adaptation of the theme,

1)       Throw in a challenging question linked to the theme being studied.  You can even differentiate the questions for different ability groups.

2)        One member of the group reads it, 3 minutes to discuss.

3)        Then everyone in the group writes down the question and their answer in their books.  This promotes a focused, time controlled discussion followed by a bit of literacy.  The writing is supported by the group sharing the ideas before they start writing.

Different coloured pens or the word thought bomb next to this will evidence it if necessary.

Holy Hand Grenade:  I like to count to three before throwing these.  When the learners are working on a task or exam style question and look like they are struggling or slowing I’m experimenting with throwing scripture quotes linked to the topic for them to use to develop their ideas further. What I like best about this method is keeping the expectation and challenge high for completion of exam style tasks and adding in extra support when they need it rather than scaffolding so heavily that they’re not challenged.  These have seen a very positive response with learners asking for them when needed.

This could be easily done with chunks of content from other subject areas but you’ll need a subject specific dramatic name for them.

What Next?

Propaganda: That’s right I plan to bombard them with positive messages.  Will it be useful to put specific praise in a Thought Bomb and drop it into a group for one of the learners to read to the rest of the group?  The intent being to reinforce specific positive learning behaviours and strategies in the class by explicitly sharing them.

Pass The Bomb: As a plenary task I’m planning to have groups make their own bombs.

1) Each group will create a challenging question which can be answered using the learning from the lesson.

2) They pass their challenging question to another group who read it and try to answer the question to demonstrate their learning.

Reflections: Although a lot of the same tactics could be utilised in a wide variety of ways the Thought Bombs are certainly highly engaging.  The learners have been very enthusiastic about these and have demanded that we use them again.  The small amount of time invested in the making of the bombs was well worth the fun and excitement.

Finally I’d like to publicly thank the awesome Technicians in Seaham School of Technology who built my showpiece ammo crate above.

Educating for Character
April 3, 2014

What is Character?

There are many schools of thought on this but let’s not get too bogged down with stuff like Aristotelian Virtue Ethics!

For the sake of argument let’s say that character refers to our dispositions to think, feel, and act in ways which reflect our values, virtues, capabilities and strengths. Evidence suggests that while there are genetics at play, character is largely ‘caught’ through experience and role modelling. It also suggests that parents, family and teachers are the primary educators of character for children and young people.

Watch the Science of Character video on our homepage for more details – Character Scotland

Can we educate for character?

Yes, but it shouldn’t be taught in a top-down, didactic, ‘transmitting knowledge’ style of teaching, or in a way which simply tells children and young people who they should be. Character can be effectively taught using open and exploratory dialogue e.g. giving young people opportunities to focus on their own character and that of others and asking them ‘what do you think?’. Character Education as Critical Pedagogy perhaps?

In 1998, UNESCO offered a set of aims for schooling world-wide:

Learning to know - Learning to do - Learning to live together - Learning to be

Character is relevant in all of the areas above. Arguably we are getting quite good at teaching for knowledge, doing and living together (tongue firmly in cheek). But what about teaching how to be? This is where character can really come into its own.

How can character be taught?

Let’s focus on a maths lesson as an example.

  • Stop teaching maths for a moment and start teaching people. Instead of teaching pupils how to DO maths, teach them how to BE a mathematician. How would you do that? Perhaps you might start by exploring the relationship between maths and curiosity. A discussion starter could be something like the following:

Maths and science are manifestations of curiosity: a quest to figure things out. Discuss.

  • Discuss role models – Try focussing on Einstein. Show a clip about his life story and ask pupils which character qualities he demonstrated: his sense of curiosity, creativity, imagination, determination etc. Better yet – ask the pupils to choose their own mathematician, learn about his/her life and get a sense of the person’s character qualities.
  • Discuss quotations - for example:

“Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.”

Albert Einstein

  •  Discuss self-awareness and perceptions - ask pupils in groups to discuss who is the most curious person in this group? Or the most creative? Or the least creative for that matter? What are our perceptions of ourselves and others and what do they tell us? What is the character of the group as a whole? Can a group have a character?
  • Bring the language of character into your professional practice  - one tool you can use is to complete the VIA Survey (www.character-scotland.org.uk/resources/via-survey) and learn the VIA Classification of Character Strengths. It takes 15 minutes and it’s free. Once you’ve done that you can become a “character strengths spotter”. When you spot a pupil demonstrating a particular strength, tell them about it. Name the character quality they have shown and ask them if they agree or if they see it differently. Ask them if they can see a link between the creative thing they just did and “that lesson on Einstein 6 months ago”.
  • Encourage your pupils to talk about character – they can do the VIA Survey too – there is a Youth version depending on what they prefer. Pepper your lessons with references to character using the common language you and your pupils now share. Encourage your pupils to become ‘strengths spotters’ for each other.

Other examples for different subjects might be teaching empathy during a history lesson, teaching scepticism in modern studies or politics (showing some liberal bias here…), teaching determination and focus during PE etc. The general point is that you can explicitly link disposition with learning by bringing the concept of character to the forefront of thinking and practice in your classroom.

Before you know it, you will realise that in fact you teach character all day and you always have.


What do you think about this post?

Let me know by leaving a comment or you can contact me directly by using the form below.

Thanks :)

Gary Walsh – Character Scotland


LEGpO (or Po-Lego) – Genius Idea

Like nearly all of my recent great ideas this one was magpied from twitter.  The genius (no inverted commas) behind the idea is Rachael Stevens @murphiegirl whose very clear explanation for it all can be found here.

I can, however, take ALL the credit for renaming it LEGpO or LEG-PO if you prefer, as opposed to PO-LEGO.  I know, I’m clutching at straws.  The simple fact of the matter is whatever you want to call it – it works.  It works brilliantly in fact.

LEGO is engaging – everyone likes it (and those of us who’ve received a tweet from @LEGOBennylike it just that little bit more).  If you’ve piqued interest in kids then you’ve already won – or at least you haven’t lost..yet.

Start off with two LEGO structures you made earlier (I know I should reference Blue Peter  here, but I was always more of a Children’s Ward/Press Gang kid) and from there on it’s straight forward.  You suggest what the structures could represent, and at this stage it is all very abstract – you’re talking about themes and ideas as opposed to specific poems.  ”If these represent two love poems what do we expect from them?” Students’ prior knowledge, suddenly flows back to them, “the perfect one is like a sonnet ’cause the form is rigid”, “yeah, but the other one is like ‘Hour’.  You think that’s gonna be a sonnet because it’s fourteen lines, but the rhyme scheme is off.” “That’s because they’re lesbians!” Like i said – straight forward.

Then the fun really starts.  You need enough LEGO to go around – I don’t suggest you leave it until the morning of your lesson to negotiate with your own children if you plan on borrowing it.  I had a very upset seven year old on my hands when I tried to help myself to his, he actually wanted to count out the number of pieces I was taking in case they needed replacing!

Armed with a copy of the GCSE Anthology and free rein to choose any poem they had studied, pupils created their own structures.  We did have to stop after a few minutes, in order to explain that building “the most awesome spaceship ever” was not on-task behaviour, despite the very strong argument that in ‘The Manhunt’ there are couplets and “this is a two seater!”.

Eventually, every group stood and presented their creations – justifying the reasons for their choices.  And that element of the feedback was probably the most useful.  By now they all considered themselves ‘Master Builders’ as well as ‘Poetry Experts’ and they grilled each other.  Each time a group presented the questions got tougher – as they tried to trip each other up.  Each time a group presented the reasoning became stronger and more closely matched to the requirements of a Band 5 response.

I noticed a tweet that described LEGpO as ‘genius’ (complete with the inverted commas of the skeptic).  Well, I really do think it is genius. I think anything that engages twenty-five Year 11 students who’ve already spent the whole day studying English, when the rest of the school have a day off, really is genius.  But then I would think that. I did , after all, build the most awesome two seater spaceship ever!

Destroy Homework!
A selection of Y8 Destroy Homework from Braunton Academy on the development of anaesthetics.A selection of Y8 Destroy Homework from Braunton Academy on the development of anaesthetics.

As one of my brightest Y11s said just the other day, ‘History is so hard. There’s so much to think about.’

We all like to think that our subject is hard, I suppose. But what can make or break any future deeper learning is conceptual understanding. In the history classroom these concepts are often in flux and development across time, usually translated in various ways by stakeholders from different communities, classes and countries.

For example, when Y9 at Braunton Academy studied a brief overview of the key ideas, actions and events of the suffrage movement of the early C20 I wanted them to have a conceptual understanding of the government’s ‘Temporary Discharge Bill’. This bill effectively gave the police and local authorities license to arrest and re-arrest suffragettes. Why? The WSPU’s members would more often than not go on hunger-strike when arrested. Quite horrible force-feeding then took place which the group used to its advantage with many a derogatory poster. The government allowed the re-arrest of suffragettes to in part ensure that the women did not die in their hands.

Now, I used to follow the mantra that empathy is the Queen of the History Classroom, and that I am its King. That sounds great, doesn’t it? But having taught the holocaust however many times I’ve come to the conclusion that I rarely want an emotional response to a shocking subject because this can drown out actual facts. If students want to be shocked by something they can use Google – my job is to present facts to be analysed and applied.

But how, then, to demonstrate conceptual understanding of something that might be shocking, or strange?

A few months ago I came across the always-excellent Rachel Jones’s (@rlj1981) post on DESTROY homework. You can read more about it on her blog, but the two central tenets were to encourage a demonstration of conceptual understanding and to get students to actually do some homework in the first place!

So, having created a few examples myself as well as a video using the fab ShowMe app, I asked Y9 to destroy the WSPU’s anti-government poster regarding the Temporary Discharge Bill, popularly known as the Cat & Mouse Act. We did not analyse the poster in class, nor did I explain the act to them. They had two weeks to fret, create and destroy.

A selection of destroyed homework on the Cat and Mouse Act

A selection of destroyed homework on the Cat and Mouse Act

The results were far more than I’d hoped. Some had taken the poster and rearranged it into a completely new conceptual take on the process of force feeding, whist others created 3D models of suffragettes, made out of the poster to highlight the green, white and purple of the movement, running around plates with government knives chasing them. Two students created mobiles; two covered their posters in food; one simply placed a huge voting X in blood-red over the top. Three students who weren’t in when set asked if they could still do the homework. Only five out of sixty handed nothing in on the deadline – in my school that’s a miracle.

Having then decided to present the idea at #TMNorthDevon I set about creating another opportunity. I wanted to try a younger year group to show how it could work and so asked my only Y8 class – very bright but very reluctant to work at home without the threat of my glare – to destroy a choice of three images about C19 anaesthetic-free surgery. This time, considering how poor their homework record has been over the year, we did go through the main developments of ether and chloroform. I showed them the Y9 examples (now plastering the walls) and asked them to destroy just one of the three using their new knowledge. This time the purpose for me was probably more to raise the hand-in rate than to encourage a conceptual understanding.

The responses were again fantastic. One student had made an actual chloroform inhaler, a la John Snow, with the development of anaesthetics written around the canister. Another placed a 3D gravestone at the head of a dissected body, with the heart sticking out and declaring that it had sped up too fast, as James Simpson’s early use of chloroform often did to the young, fit and fearful. Many chose to represent the image of the operating theatre in flames, as ether was particularly flammable and thus particularly dangerous in a gas-lit environment. This time the hand-in rate was 100%.

So far I’ve marked these using SOLO. For example, if the concept has been completely misunderstood then they’re at prestructural, though I haven’t seen this yet. If the student has demonstrated links between various aspects of their study then they’re at relational. I’d reserve the extended abstract for those who make links to the historical context, or other necessary developments (such as Simpson’s use of the media, or Snow’s use of technology) across time.

‘Destroy homework’ isn’t a panacea for poor completion rates. Neither will it stop those hardened to years of frantic scribbling on a planner note page on the bus from continuing to do so. But find the right concept and I bet they’ll fly with it. Maybe they won’t even notice that they’ve done some work!

Oranges are not the Only Fruit…
Image by flickr.com/photos/wgyuriImage by flickr.com/photos/wgyuri

Orange BatteryLike a number of Heads of School that I know, my personal experience of school as a student scarred (and maybe even scared) me. We all draw on our personal histories: demonic Physics teachers, psychotic Woodwork teachers and – of course – vindictive, sadistic PE teachers. Whilst these histories get added to and increasingly fictionalised over time (come on, it can’t have been THAT bad?), some scars remain. For me, one major scar was Science. Well, not Science per se but how we were lead by the nose through the world of Science.

It was akin to what I imagine it is like becoming a Freemason, or a Rosicrucian, or maybe working for Google. A series of initiations into hallowed mysteries that, one by one, will be revealed to you if you are deemed worthy. Mix together the potions, write out the magical incantation (underline the title, Winnard!) and write down the conclusions. No, not your conclusions, these conclusions. do it again until you get the experiment right! Then we will reveal more unto you and ye shall be bathed in our scientific magnificence… Ok, maybe that’s getting a little carried away.

Yesterday we had our school Science Fair. an anarchic, messy and very enjoyable gathering of young people sharing ideas they’ve explored. Lots of gunk and goo and whizz bang pop. They all shared what they had done (method) and what they found out (conclusions). Some tried to extract power from the acid in oranges, some explored refraction and some explored the effects of sleep deprivation. So far so good. Where things got ‘brain sticky’ was when we got to “So what?” and “Why is this important?”. I asked a few of the students what they thought they could now do with what they’d learnt. What could they apply their new knowledge to?

Clearly I was off script. ‘Er’ and ‘Um’ became the stock response, along with “Because we had to do it for the Science Fair”. And  so (very much unlike me) I shut up, congratulated them all and moved on.

I then found myself going back to something I’d read recently in a book (big papery thing with writing). Ian Gilbert’s new(ish) volumeIndependent Thinking punched me in the brain around page 102:

“If all you do is concentrate on the learning… at the end all you will have is the learning. Nothing has changed. What was once learned elsewhere has been learned again here. Like a rapidly multiplying virus, you have simply infected more people with ‘stuff’ which, under the microscope, is a carbon-copy replica of the same stuff in the heads of thousands of children up and down the country and which will be extracted during a ‘routine examination’ and sent away to the exam board for analysis like sputum in a phial”.

How different – and how much more meaningful – would that Science Fair have been if it had encouraged innovation and making? I’m a big fan of making. I think making is a good thing and we do too little of it in schools. We learn about making, we watch people make stuff (field trips) and we sometimes write about what we would make if we could. But actually building, moulding, constructing andmaking stuff? Not so much. there was so much energy in those young people and clearly a lot of excitement about exploring the natural world. What was missing was change. Nothing had changed.

So what’s stopping us (apart from excuses)? What’s stopping us from developing young people as innovators, problem solvers and makers of solutions. Am I missing something? Yes there are extraneous forces at work and yes that sucks, but if change doesnt come from innovative teachers in classrooms where will it come from?

What is it that Buddha is supposed to have said? “To know but not to do is not to know”. Let’s make sure we inspire a generation of active do-ers and not just passive knowers.

March 9, 2014

The day of #PedagooLondon had arrived. Some of what I’ve written below is almost word for word what the presenter shared. Other elements have been inserted as my own thoughts and I’m unsure which is which in many cases!

Rachael Stevens- The Wind of Change

The inspirational Rachael Stevens @murphiegirl presented ‘The Wind of Change’ and essentially got the room excited about the way in which education is undergoing somewhat of a transformation at present.

She began with how she had spoken to others about the fact she was going to CPD on a Saturday! In London! For free! Where lots of other teachers would be! Sharing and learning together! Who’d have thought?

She then referenced the top #Twitterati who have been changing things with Ofsted. Things aren’t yet changing as much as they should be though. Yes, Ofsted policy has been changed but do all leaders, teachers and perhaps even more significantly, Ofsted Inspectors, follow it?

She reminded us that Twitter is tiny in comparison to the rest of the teaching world. Outside of us, there is a whole host of other teachers who don’t appreciate the change that is possible if we move as one group. They are still convinced that no-one will listen. Who’d have thought?

This disparity in the potential of the huge changes taking place and the practice taking place in schools is sending out mixed messages, especially to the newest generation of teachers who will influence the future. This is worrying.

Rachael reminded us all that we should follow the example of individuals like @cazzypot and bravely fight against the system. Changes don’t need to come from the top. Perhaps the best and most effective changes come from within. We have the power to change things and even if we don’t, we should try or we’ll be crushed.

Paired walkthroughs and lesson studies, for her, are the greatest tools to combat graded observations. Even lesson studies in their purest form- looking at what the learners are doing, rather than the teachers, is most valuable.

She played the following video, which, quite honestly, made me want to cry.

I work in FE so the call of ‘just saying no’ to SLT who want to carry out a graded observation would be lost. Ofsted are still grading individual lessons. There are no plans to stop doing this. I am trapped but I wouldn’t change the sector I work in for the world so I suppose I’ll just have to keep fighting for whatever gains can be made from within our own organisation.

Allegedly, Socrates once said,

This quote fits so much with my current role and the progress I see occuring in our College.


Tom Sherrington- Walking the Progressive/Traditional Line

After Rachael’s wonderfully uplifting speech, I navigated my way to @headguruteacher Tom Sherrington’s room, where he’d be speaking about ‘Walking the Progressive/Traditional Line.’

Essentially, he’d be arguing that any way is the right way as long as the students are learning. I suppose that might be simplifying things but I felt that was his ultimate message.

My notes in this are, well, copious to say the least. I think I practically wrote a transcript of almost everything he said! Once again, some of the comments and phrasing are mine and not his so this may warp or simplify his points but it’s just the way I do note-making so I sort of gave you an apology there and then took it away with the other hand. Let’s just get on with it, shall we?!

Are there certain methodologies that can be correct all the time, with any set of learners? Almost definitely not!

Teachers are forever feeling like they have to justify their methods. If the end result is good enough, why is this necessary?

There are so many elements of teaching, which can all add value and no single one should be dismissed outright because it fits a certain stereotype about being ‘fun’ or indeed ‘old-fashioned.’

‘Sage on the Stage’ and ‘Guide on the Side’ are unhealthy distinctions between teaching styles, suggesting the teacher is not the expert in the room.

Moving wholly from one to the other is wrong- shouldn’t it be a combination of both?

This image (from http://motivatedmastery.com/) makes everyone angry in one way or another (apparently the quote doesn’t even come from Einstein). It’s actually a childish reduction of a debate that should be happening about methods of assessment. The image polarises the two sides of the argument and prevents a legitimate discussion from taking place.

His son was asked to make a maths hat. What on earth is a maths hat in any case and how should it look?! His son stuck numbers and symbols on a wooly hat with staples. He was not challenged enough in relation to his present ability and tasks of low value can be found all over the place.

Caricatures are being made of what constitutes good and bad teaching. This renders very hard-working teachers feeling inadequate. If the students are learning then we shouldn’t be apologising for it.

Can it be said that traditional teaching leads to the crushing of creativity? Probably not…

It’s a flawed and messy argument on both sides- we need to have an awareness of both things- it naturally emerges for Tom (and through his blogs) that the two are closely related.

He spoke of the English department at his school that is exploring a ‘Poetry by Heart’ approach. Poetry is, after all, designed to be felt and experienced- not to be learnt and picked apart. He wonders how one could go about separating traditional and progressive in these lessons. The students are learning something by heart but are also taking part in performances and evaluations of language and meaning as part of this.

He is aware that everyone has feelings, emotions and dispositions, which education should also nurture.

He sees progress not merely as a set of steps moving upwards but when he tried to create an image that would represent progress as he saw it, there’d be a wholly indescribable mess of elements and that’s not helpful for teachers in ensuring that progress takes place.

He resolved that a cloud shape with jigsaw parts would be the closest representation of progress in that there are some foundation pieces that form the fundamentals and the middle pieces could be made up of whatever other elements the teacher felt led to progress in their lessons with their classes- the fluffy stuff of either traditional or progressive methods, depending upon the teacher.

Drills are important but there must also be a level of motivation and engagement in working towards the final result.

Life beyond the classroom is often ignored by teachers and any approach needs to take notice of the learning that takes place between lessons. For my sector, the recent release of the FeLTAG report will render this even more important.

Trivium 21c is a book that Tom feels brings together the two ideas of teaching: traditional and progressive. It describes a synthesis of the foundations of learning as well as the energy that should accompany it.

His final analogy related to his feelings about where we should be going with all of this.

He ended by showing a picture of a tree with the roots growing down below. If we have kids who have the trunk of knowledge, then we can take them into the progressive leafy parts reaching out in all directions.

The part of this analogy that especially related to my own FE setting were the roots. If the students have never developed the fundamental elements of wonder and exploration about learning then we can’t say, ‘we’re just doing knowledge today, folks’- a combination of the elements is even more essential in these situations.

In conclusion- we need one teaching approach for the other to work.

When asked if there were any questions, one person suggested that after all he’d said, perhaps the argument was worth having. I knew that, unfortunately he’d been unable to see the light of what Tom had said. The argument isn’t necessary because the means of teaching isn’t important, as long as the end goal is achieved.

Thank you Tom. You made sense to me.

After Tom’s session I had mixed feelings. There were still people who wanted this argument yet it didn’t need to be had. My hope is that through leading CPD activity at my College, I can influence changing the culture there too.

I sauntered a few doors down the corridor to my next session.
Daniel Harvey- Action Research
This session mainly did what it said on the tin. Daniel (danielharvey9) spoke about the approach his academy has taken to action research. Most of all, this session was a great deal of food for thought about the future development of our approach to CPD at College.
For those of you interested in the process, Daniel seems to have many resources that can help so get in touch with him. He also spoke to David Weston and Carol Davenport who would be two of the best people to speak to about research in education.
This is a summary of some of the steps his academy took:
Step 1- Form a question to work towards in mixed groups.
Step 2- Plan what to do and how to go about it.
Step 3- They needed to make the time for it and deadlines were set.
In mid-November an internal TeachMeet-style session took place where each group were asked to present their summary of what they were going to do. This made it real as previously many staff thought it wouldn’t even happen. All groups bar one managed to present on this deadline, which I think is incredible!
Part way through the process (January) groups were given the chance to refine and improve their own question or they could go and work with other people and form a new question.
The research they chose to conduct would ideally have an impact on other departments in the school (College) too. Ideally there’s a product that can be shared so that the impact is wider than just the people conducting that particular piece of research.
One main top tip for research that Daniel shared was to always have in mind the kinds of students you want to affect; not an entire year group but smaller groups and even individuals.
The first term of this process was really about getting teachers used to the idea of doing it and now the quality of work is a lot deeper.
The other important input is to make yourself available (or someone should be available) to answer questions and offer support to colleagues.
The work and research conducted will also be shared externally so that staff can share their work in a wider sphere. This adds another important dimension to the process and encourages staff to see the research process through to its conclusion.
I left this session thinking about how we might make action research part of the CPD offer at College but the session also gave me time to reflect on our approach to CPD in general, which is currently undergoing development. This is, I believe, one of the greatest thing about CPD in that it provides an opportunity to reflect on your work, your progress and your future direction. Who wouldn’t love that kind of an opportunity more often?!
After the once more horrible awkwardness of the break- avoiding people, eye contact and limiting movements so as far less likely to be noticed, I had realised today would not be a day when my people-related anxiety would lift. It would probably need to be endured for the remainder of the day.

After the break, I headed to ‘Taking the Temperature of your Classroom’ with Debbie and Mel, otherwise known as the fantastic duo of @TeacherTweaks.

To be perfectly honest, their slideshow is comprehensive and covers the vast majority of their session. When shared, this is all you’ll need to see. The session mostly provoked discussion about what we do with students who are not feeling challenged enough or those who are being challenged too much.
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(Image from Debbie and Mel’s Twitter feed).
What I mostly left this session with was the resolution that I should be trying to find the balance between stretch, panic and comfort in my lessons more often. Obviously feeling stretched is the ultimate but there are moments when feeling comfortable matters too- so that students feel able to take risks and also shine. To a certain extent, I think my students should be made to feel panic sometimes too. We’re preparing students for the workplace and life. They’ll all need to be able to cope with ‘panic’. I’m certainly going to be exploring these ideas further in my classroom so thank you ladies for producing this idea and making me think about and question my practice in more detail. The best kind of CPD achieves this for me.
Their Twitter feed and slideshow from the day(once shared) contains all of the fantastic ideas they shared.
One thing that I’m definitely going to do more of is modelling on video as a flipped activity for my students; especially in relation to annotating extracts and showing my thought process as part of this.

For me, this day needed Rachel Jones @rlj1981. A truly inspirational lady who shared some fabulous ideas, which can all be found here.

She began her session by playing Pharrell Williams’s ‘Happy’. Her classrooms must be a truly awesome place to be.

Her session was all about using engaging activities to achieve higher order thinking skills. Fun isn’t the aim but it is a convenient outcome.
I’m especially going to explore more ideas around 3D planning and using sellotape to attach ideas to around the room. Things could get messy!
@hgaldinoshea You did a fantastic job of organising such a wonderful day- thank you! This was a perfect day of thought-filling CPD.
Pedagoo London Storify
March 8, 2014

I wasn’t able to attend the event at the Institute of Education in London today, ‘Pedagoo London’ but I avidly kept track of the tweets.

I turned them in to two storify stories which can be seen below. Enjoy the inspiration!

Well done to Helene Galdin O’Shea on what looked like a brilliant event – certainly the tweets below pay testament to that!


Photo Credit: Todd Klassy via Compfight cc

The Cultivation Game
March 4, 2014
Image by flickr.com/photos/eddgrantImage by flickr.com/photos/eddgrant

One of the key areas within National 4 Biology is ‘The Commercial use of Plants’. This requires learners to investigate the yields of crops. My colleague and I were unsure of how to approach this but spent a full afternoon creating ‘The Cultivation Game’. We were worried we had spent far too much time on this one specific lesson but after having delivered it we both reaped the same reward.

The point of the game is for learners to understand how farmers can increase their crop yields using different ways and describe the advantages and disadvantages of these. The learners had a budget of £15000 to spend on increasing the yield of their crop. This game was set over 5 years and each year learners could change what they bought. Each year there were different ‘unexpected events’ which could affect their yield depending on what they had bought that year. For example, a flood or frost.

The learners were at first a little unsure of the game and not as engaged as we had hoped. As soon as they started the game and understood the concept, they loved it. They worked well in pairs and became proud of the profit they had made. This game helped to develop their problem solving and numeracy skills as well as cover this key area in biology. By the end of the lesson they could give examples of ways the yield of crops can be increased; state the advantages and disadvantages of the different methods of increasing crop yield and relate increasing crop yield to the limiting factors of photosynthesis.

Click here if you’d like to download the cultivation game.

Taking risks in the classroom/studio

Education very much these days is about getting it right, achieving and moving on. But when did getting it right all the time make for the best outcome?

Certainly in the art classroom and in the life of many artists and designers, getting it wrong can be as much a learning experience as getting it right.

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