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Cleaning your work
How to washHow to wash

Hi all!

This is my first ever blog about teaching! Please apologise for my ramblings – if anything is unclear then don’t hesitate to tweet me @MrRDenham . Or even better, if you have a go at this, then tweet me some pictures to the above handle.

Context of the class:  Students have come a long way in recent times. It is the first time we have seriously considered entering a set 3 class into higher tier – normally only sets 1 and 2 get this chance. School has had the mantra of ‘safety in numbers’ when it comes to getting a C. Thankfully, this all changed now we are measured on progress. A change I am really glad of. Now the whole school has to focus on all students. Not just the ‘C’ grade ones. Students in this class range from an E to a B (got high hopes for one girl even getting an A) so differentiation is key.

Cleaning Your Work! The idea came to me when driving home… I felt that I was banging the same old drum with my year 10 class when it came to successfully analysing thoughts and feelings within a text: look at a text; show good examples; they attempt it; we mark it; I mark it; repeat! This was becoming very monotonous for me and the students – some were not excelling. I needed to attack this at a new angle.

The task:

The task involves students reading a text and then answering a question on it – developing sustained responses. We were answering a ‘thoughts and feelings’ style question. Using the washing up instructions provided by me, students had to ‘clean their clothes’ and create great examples of text analysis. They were tasked with creating 5 clean clothes. Along with this they had to purposefully create 2 dirty clothes – these were rubbish examples. I recommended they took out a step from the ‘washing instructions’ to help them achieve this. I feel that the latter part was the most successful for lower ability students as they were now able to recognise what a bad answer looks like. They were having to think how to make a bad piece of work, rather than concentrating on creating excellent examples and stressing themselves out with keeping up with the rest.

How to wash

How to wash

During the washing process, I also provided washing up ‘tablets’ to enable students to break away from just saying ‘suggests’ all the time. Like when we wash clothes, we lose a tablet to the process, thus eliminating a ‘suggest’ word. This helped them to increase their vocabulary and enabled them to stop their work sounding repetitive (C – E grade students were struggling to get out of this habit).

Then it was…walla – peg, or throw out (I used my working board to stick a bin bag on – always find that it’s good to have a blank display for you to use in class) your work as you go along.

Bin bag used to get rid of dirty clothes

Bin bag used to get rid of dirty clothes

These are two 'clean' examples pegged out to dry

These are two ‘clean’ examples pegged out to dry

To finish we stuck our work into our books: 1 clean, 1 dirty. They had to then reflect and state why the clean work is ‘clean’ and the dirty ‘dirty’, once again reinforcing their exploration in the lesson (it took us two x 50 min lessons to achieve this).

Reflection

Reflection

Note: During the final lesson of the week we did a ‘mock’ exam to help consolidate their learning further – a number of students requested the tablets to help them. If you have read down to here… then I thank you for your time. Hopefully this blog isn’t as bad as I fear! ENJOY YOUR WEEKEND FOLKS – I’M OFF TO MARK THEIR (AMAZING) WORK!

String Thing – A way to stretch , challenge and engage
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Last week staff who are part of the GO Barnwell coaching project @GOBarnwell were each set their respective GO Gold teaching and learning missions. Some staff were allocated ‘string thing.’ I deliberately kept the title rather vague so that it could be open to a variety of interpretations allowing for creativity and an individualization of the task. My colleagues, Emma , Jackie and I have written up three different activities we devised within our own subject specialisms. We all found that our individual string thing activities stretched our students ,encouraging them to develop and use their high order thinking skills.

 

String thing – MFL

This string activity asks students to use thinking skills and categorise vocabulary. I prepared six grammatical categories (verbs, cognates, false friends, nouns, adjectives, pronouns). Each category must be linked to another with a piece of string. On this string students must place an individual item of vocabulary (which had already been cut out and placed in an envelope). For example, if one of the items were ‘visiter’ to visit, students attached this word to the piece of string that connected VERB and COGNATE. The task became harder when students had to use translation skills, discuss grammar and watch out for false friends (words that look/sound like English words which do not mean the same thing). Students had to use a range of skills involving, dictionary use, knowledge of grammar (both in French and English), guess work and team worThis activity was a huge success, students felt motivated, challenged and each had a role to play in their team. All Groups discussed grammar at length which enabled me to ask more challenging questions about the grammar system or play devil’s advocate. After preparation of this task, the whole activity was student led and independent. I would highly recommend this activity with the following advice: include sticky tape in your packs for vocabulary/ string to sit properly, include blank cards for students to write their own vocabulary (I gave bonus points to students that could include as many of these as possible)

 

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String thing – Geography

My GCSE Geographers were at the end of the Urban World topic which had included a large number of case studies. I was keen to draw out the similarities and differences between the different locations. I colour coded the case studies to show if they were in the developed or developing world and then stuck them to the two rows of tables. I then connected the locations to each other with string forming a sort of web. Students were then asked to come up individually throughout the lesson on a rotation basis and either note a similarity or difference between examples. Similarities were recorded on yellow and differences on green. Students then stuck their respective post -it notes onto the string which connected the two case studies they’d been asked to compare and contrast.I was able to differentiate by asking different students to work on particular combinations which were more tricky. This activity encouraged them to not only think about content linked to the current topic but also material we’d covered in the rest of the syllabus previously.

 String thing GeogGCSE 2

String thing Geog GCSE 1

String thing – Biology

My gold mission was to complete a “string thing” activity. I chose to create knowledge webs with year 11 to support their revision of the B1 and B2 units and help them to develop a deeper understanding of how biology “fits together”. I separated the students into pairs and gave them a topic within the units. They had 10 minutes to create a mind map of information about that topic. I then asked students to link their map with others with string and explain the link they had made on a placard stuck to the string.  They found the concept challenging and initially found it difficult to understand how the topics linked together. The students were really engaged in the activity and worked hard to find the links. Upon reflection, I think I left the task too open, I might improve it next time by providing some links that students can then put in the correct places to begin with. I will certainly use this activity again, it was an enjoyable and visual way to link concepts together to develop an holistic understanding of biology.

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Learning by Mistake
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Learning by Mistake

Over the last few months I’ve become enthused by Carol Dweck’s work on the concept of a growth mindset. As a result of this I decided that it was time to make much better use of students’ learning mistakes in my classroom. Typically most students tend to not want to dwell on mistakes they’ve made, as they don’t want to be reminded of what they and others perceive as failure.

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My Best Learning Mistake

My year 8 Geography classes had been working on an assessment about Cheddar Gorge and today was the day they were going to find out how they’d got on. I always allocate a whole lesson dedicated purely to feedback and reflection when I return an assessment but today I added a new activity to our usual repertoire. I asked students to identify their best learning mistake – the one that they’d learnt the most from. This is actually quite an abstract concept, the class I first trialled this with found it tricky. I had another year 8 class after break so did some tinkering and provided a framework to help them structure their answer. I could almost hear both classes’ brains stretching as they completed this activity.

 

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Mistake Marsh
The second activity I created evolved after reading about the concept of a learning pit. I wanted to develop a variation on this theme and add a geographical flavour. Marshes are notoriously difficult to cross, so to is climbing to the summit of a towering mountain – a good analogy I felt for a learning journey. I returned assessments to year 9 and we did our usual review and reflection but added the ‘mistake marsh’ to our menu of activities. This was the final step in our evaluation process. Students were asked to note three mistakes that they’d made in the boxes on the marsh – these represented mistakes they’d made on their learning journey. They then had to decide which mistake was the most important one and write it in the box at the base of ‘Mistake Mountain.’ Once again there was lots of silence and cranking of brains. My hope is that by identifying crucial mistakes they will not make them again.

 

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I know that these strategies are not ‘perfect’ yet and that students will need more practise; I plan to revisit and refine as well as devising new activities to get the most out of mistakes. There always has to be a starting point and being afraid to make a mistake shouldn’t be a reason not to have a go!

I feel a bit like that about this first post – it’s the first blog post I’ve written for years and I know that I’ve made lots of mistakes but one thing I know for sure is that I’ll get better :)

Teacher Well-being Bags
BAG 1

After an overwhelming response to the teacher well-being bags created this week on #PedagooFriday, I decided to blog about them here on Pedagoo.

Many people have asked me where I got the idea from, so I think that’s a good a place to start as any.

The past few weeks have seen teachers blogging about their reflections on 2014 and hopes for 2015 using the #nurture1415 tag created by @ChocoTzar. Thanks to @sue_cowley who kindly collated them and you can find the full list of this year’s offerings here. These inspiring blogs are accompanied by @ICTEvangelist’s amazing posters. See here for those.

In addition, a growing number of teachers have also been blogging about their #teacher5aday resolutions, an exciting initiative designed to promote well-being belonging to @MartynReah For an explanation by the man himself, see here. A collection of #teacher5aday blogs can also be found here.

T5ADY

(Original image taken by @MissEtchells)

After reading many of the blogs from the list above it got me thinking about what I could do to improve well-being in my own place of work. It seems obvious and simple to me that if teachers are healthy, positive individuals their teaching practice benefits from this. In the current climate surrounding education teachers need to know that there are people who care about their well-being and that they really do matter. Teacher well-being bags were the outcome of a late night planning session designed to get this message delivered.

My role within the school is to improve teaching and learning. That means working closely with colleagues. It’s important to me that staff want to improve because they want to improve, not because I want them to. To achieve this I organised an in-house TeachMeet focusing on expertise from within the school. The aim was to make staff feel valued and encourage a collaborative approach to teaching and learning across the curriculum areas. This was to take place on our inset day after the Christmas break. Having asked staff to step out of their comfort zones, I was conscious that after two weeks away nerves would have set in. In an attempt to make staff feel welcome and confident I distributed the bags. They were an immediate hit!

Each bag contained a personalised poster created quickly and easily using @RhonnaFarrer’s design app.

WELL BEING

The rest of the items included are listed below along with instructions for use:

  • Cupcake cook book – set up a rota and get baking for department meetings
  • Star stickies – write praise on these and leave them in places your colleagues will find them
  • Stickers – label lessons/ideas that worked well
  • Notepad – write down great teaching ideas on the go!
  • Stickies – use these in department meetings to plan new schemes/lessons. Time-savers.
  • Mints – to keep you cool when the going gets tough
  • Biscuits – for duty days and break times
  • Highlighters – to make your schemes of work stand out
  • Tissues – for those days. We all have them.
  • Sweets – an energy boost for those afternoon triple lessons
  • Stamps – we all love stamps, right?

The list is by no means exhaustive and was, if I’m honest, a little rushed. I plan on improving the concept this term.  I’m already thinking about ‘revision packs’ for my year 11s!

Initial feedback from the bags has been fantastic. One staff member said she, ‘felt the room visibly lift,’  when they were distributed, whilst another stated, ‘it made me feel part of a team.’ I shall continue to measure impact over the next term but it’s already quite clear due to the response from staff and Twitter users that it’s a welcome idea.

I hope you’ve found them, and this blog, useful!

Why not have a go at your own #nurture1415 or #teacher5aday?

Abbie

Using video feedback to increase the impact of sixth form marking
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This is the video blog detailing my TLC focus and the impact it has had.

Below are the feedback videos that I made:

Below are some photos of the students DIRT. One student is targeted a grade A the other a grade C:

Cross-posted from @Westylish’s blog

#lovelearning14 R&R Workshop 1
Ped at PL

Following a fabulous day of education and entertainment we gathered to reflect on what changes from the day we would take to our own practice.  This is a summary of our discussions…

What did you most enjoy about today’s sessions?

I’ll not lie lunch and the pipe band were big winners but we also had some positives about the learning too.  People loved that they had ideas that they could take forward to use on Monday, much better than theory only CPD as it was practical, simple tactics to improve learning. Example – R&A Splicing. Variety of ideas, looking at the wider context and the breadth of knowledge shared.

People were also pleased with the enthusiasm and sharing of ideas accross ages; this event was a real lift for people and recharged them.  The fact it was a Saturday was also a positive as it allowed delegates to be out of school without worrying about what they have left behind.

The choice and flexibility of the organisation was praised, Fearghal in particular was singled out for being so helpful.

It was also interesting to discuss comparable developments in England and Scotland.  There will be more on that to follow in a further blog.

Great to see people as passionate now as they were at the first Pedagoo events.

And of course David Cameron “My practice is not a challenge to yours.”

What have you learned from today’s sessions?

The big message was the inspiration.

“Be bold, stick to what you believe in. Don’t lose sight of your values.”

“Build your confidence.”

“Keep Learning.”

“Reaffirm best practice.”

What will you do differently on Monday as a result of today’s sessions?

More confidence and enthusiasm.

Focus on staff development.

Bringing back collaborative culture to schools.

“Don’t adopt somebody’s practice, adapt your own.”

What would you like to be doing differently a year from now as a result of today’s sessions?

More involvement in Pedagoo. (Sales Pitch…You can access it from your computer as well as following @Pedagoo on Twitter.  It’s on Facebook too.  There’s also my favourite bit #PedagooFriday on Twitter.)

Collaborative planning.

Flipped classroom.

What support could our community of educators offer to help you achieve this?

Keep sharing.

What support could you offer others as a member of this community to help them achieve what they want to do?

Offer events (a few seemed genuinely determined to get things moving in their local areas.)

Share practice/Blog.

Talk in staffrooms, spread positivity and collaborate at grassroots.

#PedagooFriday

#pedagooglasgow
PedagooGlasgow

It’s been a while coming but I’m in the proud position to announce that PedagooGlasgow is on. After some healthy consultation with the University of Strathclyde, we will be holding an event on Saturday June 14, in Glasgow. We are still fleshing out the details but the day will take a similar form to the Fringe event we held a couple of years back and the PedagooLibraries event last June. A selection of workshops will be available with, hopefully, four slots throughout the day so you are guaranteed to hear some amazing ideas. After some great events in England, it’s about time we got something happening in Scotland.

However, I’m determined that this Pedagoo event gets teachers in a room talking. There will be no speakers as such, although David Cameron ( @realdcameron) has agreed to attend so you never know. There will be few frills – might not even be wifi – so the emphasis is on collaboration and conversation. The event will take place in the Lord Hope Building of the University of Strathclyde so the space has been created with learning in mind. In true Peadgoo-style this will not be a series of lectures but a day of workshops in which everyone is encouraged to get involved. Active not passive.

But it will not happen without your contributions, your interaction, your presence. So, now, we invite anyone who would like to lead a workshop to sign up. We hope that we can offer workshops from all sectors; early years, Primary, Secondary, FE, all other educational establishments. Workshops will involve a twenty to twenty-five minute presentation style talk from the leader and fifteen or twenty minutes of audience participation in some form. Who knows, it may prove so popular that you have to run it twice. We’re aiming for about eight at a time, four slots during the day, so there are lots of opportunities if you haven’t done something like this before.

It is also very likely that there will be little in the form of catering available. A real back to basics event. We may need to improvise with a PedagooPicnic in the main room of the floor we are on; coffee, sandwiches etc. We have no sponsorship so if I can find any coppers down the back of the settee then I’ll see what I can do. Shops are close by but it may be better to bring something. Who knows, you may share some great things over lunch, perhaps with those at workshops you couldn’t attend. Remember that’s what Pedagoo is all about. Getting teachers in a room to talk.

Pedagoo started three years ago when we were very much in the early stages of this final push into the new Curriculum in Scotland. We have all come a long way. But it is hugely exciting to be able to gather again and discuss the progress we have made in Scotland. We could be on the verge of something very special and we’re the ones to make that happen. By this time next year all assessment changes will be in place, more or less, and we will have what we have. The glass is only half full. Let’s make a start on filling it properly. Sign up now: Pedagoo.org/glasgow

Teaching and Learning Toolkit
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My toolkit contains tips, tricks, ideas, strategies, suggestions, resources and information for teachers across all subjects, ages and phases of education!

The toolkit is a central location for teaching and learning related posts laid out in a simple to use and interpret fashion. The information is short and snappy and links to what is needed are always provided.

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You can search for a post using a particular keyword or you can filter the posts based on their tags. Such as literacy, group work, independent learning and so on.

The toolkit is designed to allow teachers to become more creative, more inventive and most importantly allows them to save time by using some of the effective ideas that have been shared. The posts usually contain images showing the activity in action and provide links to further reading if relevant.

Currently the toolkit contains over 215 activities that have been tried and tested by teachers. I know they are effective because the activities I post are ones that are being used in classrooms. Ones that have been used and been successful with the students I teach.

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To date the toolkit has had over 550,000 views and is used worldwide! Many posts are currently being edited/updated to include the variations educators have made having seen the original idea from the toolkit.

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The principle behind the toolkit is to create more agile teachers who want to liven up the learning of their students. The toolkit is also a central hub to share important information such as the changes in Special Needs provision in the UK and so on. Some ideas you will love, some you will think about, others you may not agree with at all. That’s the beauty of the toolkit- it is guaranteed to cater for some of everybody’s teaching methods. If an activity doesn’t sit well with you, simply ignore it and try another? :)

If you would like to guest post and share an activity that you have used in your lessons on the toolkit then please email me on aal@cheney.oxon.sch.uk over 30 teachers have written a guest post to date.

Get in touch… @ASTSupportAAli

P.S-

The toolkit was recently featured on BBC News show BBC Click in the #Webscape section as a fantastic tool for educators worldwide.

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The toolkit is also linked to many websites/blogs.

You can help spread the world by sharing posts on twitter, facebook and google +.

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www.cheneyagilitytoolkit.blogspot.com

or

www.bit.ly/agilitytoolkit

Grid(un)locked-inspiring creative poetry analysis
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After 18 months in Special Measures and being constantly under scrutiny (a particularly devastating blow to our department – we’d just attained 81% A*-C against a target of 69% when it happened) we’re always looking for new and interesting ways to bring engaging ideas into our classrooms. This idea came about in February as we were bracing ourselves for another Ofsted visit and has been a massive success with Year 10 and Year 11.

Here’s how it works:

1. Students work in pairs/groups with a poetry grid and two dice (tip-use foam dice!)
2. Take it in turns to roll the dice and answer the question. Others can add to/ expand an answer to raise to overall level of response once they’ve exhausted their ideas
3. If a double is rolled, talk on the topic area for 30 secs without hesitation, deviation… (you get the gist)

It’s simple, effective and fun but there’s more to it than just being a grid with pretty colours. Firstly, the questions are all linked to the mark scheme descriptors for the exam. The one in the picture is designed for the AQA unseen question and I’ve also created an adapted version for the Anthology poetry. This allows students to respond to the poems in a way that is directly beneficial to the exam skills they have to demonstrate.

Secondly, The colours aren’t random. Each colour is linked to a different area: pink=structure, purple=feelings and attitudes/mood and tone, yellow=language, blue=themes and ideas, orange=talk for 30secs, green (without doubt the favourite with students)=creative connections and ideas (not directly linked to a specific mark scheme area but to access the poem in a different way and just maybe come up with something that unlocks the poem in a way they wouldn’t have considered).

Thirdly, the way they choose the question to answer is differentiated. Say they roll a two and a four. If they take the larger number horizontally across the grid and the smaller number vertically, the question will be more challenging than if they do it vice versa. All the questions require thinking about but I think that to access discussion and ideas at the highest levels students often need to ‘warm up’ and this is one way they can do it.

You’ll see in the picture I also made a vocabulary grid to use alongside the game. Eight of the boxes link to the question areas, one includes the tentative language (could, may, might, possibly) we’d encourage students to use when exploring Literature. Whilst the words on the vocabulary grid are pretty comprehensive, I also made sure they fully covered anything students might need for the ‘Relationships’ cluster in the AQA Anthology.

For Year 11 who have studied all the poems and are preparing from the exam, they have used the grid in a few ways. Sometimes we focus on two specific poems. This is particularly useful prior to writing a ‘powergraph’ (more on this another time but it’s transformed the approach for our more able students). I mentioned creativity earlier. Combining the questions with a pick-a-poem style (ie pick two poems randomly from a bag/spinner) has generated all sorts of links and connections that students might never have thought about otherwise.

In whole class feedback, there a couple of ways it can been taken further. I usually ask what the most perceptive point is that someone in a group has made so everyone can benefit from different ideas. I’ll also ask which question has promoted the best discussion in the group-it can vary for different poems. I’ll then give students extra time to continue discussions, possibly looking at questions mentioned in the feedback part but they can also look at questions of a certain colour if the dice have missed out any areas or even just choose a question they fancy.

One of the other benefits that my less confident students have found is that certain questions really help them unlock ideas. These are the questions they revise and when going into an exam they can consider them if they are stuck. Many of my Year 10s reported this was the technique that helped them the most in their recent Unseen Poetry mock.

It’s interactive, fun and relevant. The responses are genuinely worth it and encourage students to think in a way that isn’t gimmicky but genuinely higher level. That’s been my experience anyway!

I’m happy to email the resources via DM.

Aimee

Thought Bombs: Splinter Cell
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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.