Author Archives: rlj1981 Rachel Jones

Using Canva in the Classroom

or “Class-pic Civilization” Sorry about the pun.

I tried using in the classroom with my AS Classical Civilization group today. Part of what they need to learn for the exam is key quotes from each book of the Iliad, and I wanted to find a way to make the quotes more memorable. The text is written in the Greek Epic Poetry style, and not all that easy to memorize.

I decided to try using, a new design website, which is free to use to have the students make graphic representations of the quotes. The website has great flexibility in how the backgrounds, images, text and formatting can be manipulated, as well as a large selection of free creative commons images that can be imported. It also has the facility to upload images, so the graphics you produce can look really polished and professional. You can use the templates provided, of which there are many and produce work only using content from the website. Here are some examples of my students work using the content from the website:










You can also import images from your documents, or other sources if you need to produce more specific content. Here are some examples of my students doing that:










There is a lot of creative freedom in the graphic you can produce here, and I think it could be used to great effect in many subjects. The plan is next lesson I will have had these printed out, and the class is going to arrange the quotes in the order they appear in the text. A nice way to make a very dense text visual, which I hope will assist in them learning the quotes.

Just a quick post, but I was really impressed with the work that they produced. What do you think, how else could you use this tool in your classroom?


Cross Posted from

Pedagoo needs you – Yes, You!

Pedagoo needs you! Yes, You classroom teacher!

We would like to invite all our followers to write a post for the Pedagoo website, to share your day-to-day classroom practice. We firmly believe that Pedagoo is a grassroots teaching movement, run by teachers for teachers. We can improve our own practice by learning from the wisdom and mistakes of others, and one way we can do this is by sharing.

Many teachers might feel they don’t have anything special to contribute, or that their practice isn’t interesting or special enough, but it is. We are over whelmed by the wealth of Pedagoo Friday tweets each week, and would love to see more of them explained a bit more fully as a blog post.

You might not have written about your teaching practice before, but the Pedagoo community is a welcoming and nurturing one, where we welcome submissions from any classroom practitioner focused on pedagogy, curriculum and assessment. Take the plunge- it is truly rewarding to see your ideas having impact beyond the four walls of your classroom, and receiving feedback from teachers all over the country.

Maybe start with a post that is a walk-through of a successful lesson, or anything else from your teaching practice that you feel is appropriate. It can be any length, and include images if you have them.

You can submit a post by creating an account on the Pedagoo website, and submitting your post for review, or if that sounds daunting just contact us by DM and one of our admin team can help you with the tech side.

Please think about writing for us. It’s a brilliant boost to receive feedback in a profession that often feels beleaguered and you will be helping other teachers at the same time. We don’t always have time to ask teachers individually, so this is an open invitation to you, yes you.

We look forward to reading about all the brilliant things that go on in your classroom, and sharing them with the wider teaching community.

Teachers- a thank you to confidence


Teacher Confidence

Teachers have to have confidence – to a certain extent; we stand in front of a critical audience every day for a living. No matter what the age group, it takes confidence to deliver decent quality lessons that have thoughtful planning that deliver successful outcomes for learners.

Yes – confidence.

Although, how many teachers have confidence to stand in front of their peers and talk about the work they do, which is often both amazing and inspiring? Many, many less. The list of ‘enthusiastic lurkers’ at TeachMeets is often much, much longer than the list of those willing to present their ideas.

Reading back over my ‘Nurture’ blog post, inspired by @chocotzar; I wrote in January that I was going to try and be brave enough to ‘go to a TeachMeet.’ GO! Just turn up. Not present. Since then I have presented at five and I have organised TMSoton, which is taking place this coming Friday. I wonder what has happened to my confidence between January and now for that change to occur? My self-confidence outside my own classroom has certainly improved – but I wonder if there is anything in my experience that I can share to encourage other teachers, who have not yet presented to come and share their ideas.

I have always been a confident teacher in my own classroom. I’ve always had a handle on behaviour, assessment, and planning. For as long as I can remember I have enjoyed my job, and relished trying new lesson ideas in the classroom. In January, the idea of even going to a TeachMeet was petrifying. I was worried no one would talk to me, that the ideas presented would be beyond me, that I would stick out as not good/interesting enough. After some serious encouragement I went to TMBett in February and had a total and utter blast! I was delighted to meet so many people I had been talking to for a while, and found many of the presentations really useful. I went back to work – I tried them out – and hey presto, my teaching practice evolved and improved. Being in an environment with like-minded individuals is inspiring. I guess that could sound silly, or a bit naff, but I couldn’t wait to try out some of the ideas – they were not beyond me – I learnt to have confidence in my own abilities as a learner.

I think that blogging has improved my confidence, but actually what really forced me to present for the first time was the desire to be part of this amazing community sharing ideas. I knew I had things I wanted to talk about, I just needed to overcome my self-doubts. I had to make myself. I was also motivated by many friends, gently (vigorously at times) nudging me to do so. Also, in no small way I wanted to address a rather male celebrity – teacher culture, which meant that to a certain extent, TeachMeets had turned into a traveling circus of the same folk agreeing with each other. That probably sounds more contentious than I mean it too – but I think it’s fair to say that some TeachMeets had become a bit self-congratulatory, and were not seeking out ideas from new people, but encouraging already well known bloggers to achieve a platform for their admirable work. It can be a daunting platform to approach, (a bit like platform 9 and 3/4 – sometimes you just have to run head on into it!) however I would say that my experiences have been positive. Other teachers have used my ideas, and made them better, so that next time I try them, my own practice will have been improved from sharing. It has encouraged me to be innovative in my approach to my profession, and know that I have a soundboard for ideas that often leads to further creativity and refinement of ideas.

So then, back to confidence. How to enable other teachers, new voices, to speak at TeachMeets? I wonder, in thinking about this, where the issues lie. People who are happy to stand in front of a class find presenting to their peers a really terrifying concept. I hear a lot of teachers say ‘my ideas aren’t interesting/innovative/exciting/new/original ‘ enough. Well, do you know what? This just isn’t true. I have been to plenty of TeachMeets where the ideas were none of the above, but those presenting were talking about really amazing practice or ideas that WORK. We can all learn from ideas that actually work and benefit our learners. Just because you don’t see your ideas as original/interesting doesn’t mean that someone else will not. I was actually almost speechless the first time this year that someone called my teaching practice ‘creative’ – it is what I have always done. I don’t know any different. To be honest, I have moments of self-doubt where I wonder if what I am doing is good enough – but I get a lot of validation from my students, and results. The endorsement of my peers, whose knowledge and experience in many cases massively outweighs my own, has been a massive confidence boost. Trust me- if you care about your learners and strive to do the best by them, you will have something to share with the wider teaching community.

Another barrier to presenting is if teachers are naturally introverted. Not everyone is happy dealing with potentially large audiences. Nerves kick in, which can be crippling. This I can sympathise with. I shook like a leaf for an hour before TMClevedon – and I don’t normally feel that nervous about speaking in front of people. It is a fear of being judged – a fear that you are not good enough, that can come from all sorts of roots. I wonder how many teachers fight to empower learners in their classrooms, yet, are afraid of the judgement of their peers? Maybe this is rooted in negative experiences of childhood, the fear of raising your hand in case you make a mistake. The great thing about presenting is it doesn’t have to be perfect. Your presentation isn’t a masterpiece, but a work in progress, and actually a pretty good time to cast off some of the demons of past experience. Nerves are good – it means you care about the outcomes, and in taking a risk in presenting, you are actually being a positive role model for your own learners – you are demonstrating how you would like them to be. You are taking risks! You are seeking peer assessment, you are showing intrinsic motivation. As a teacher it is a powerful message to your students that you are also a learner – and willing to share with a wider community in the way that so many teachers expect students to be comfortable with.

So, imagine you decide to present and your ideas fall flat. What would you do? What’s the worst thing that could happen? I will tell you. You would pick yourself up again, go back to work and reflect. You would personify the most important thing that our learners can be, you would be modelling resilience. I actually can’t think of any presentation at a TeachMeet that fell totally flat – the diversity of the audience ensures that all ideas receive a positive reception from someone. However, there is so much power in accepting that you may need to be resilient, and putting yourself in the place of your own learners. The most powerful teachers are those that model positive learner characteristics, and how powerful is it to be able to demonstrate that it is not only ok to try and fail, but actually can contribute to the learning process? Was it Ghandi that said ‘be the change you want to see in the world’, well I say don’t just be, live it and preach it to the kids. Show them that even teachers have to fight to get better, taking on board feedback and improving.

Part of judgment is feeling that you, as a professional, might be compared with others who you feel are better/more interesting or even will rebound better than you. Well, you know what, I have met a lot of twitter famous teachers and they have the same insecurities that you do. Many speak and present for the same reasons as everyone else, to improve their practice and to contribute to a wider teaching community. Yes – I know, they have a gazillion followers, but many, many of them are just lovely and more than willing to help, talk to you and encourage your practice to grow. Don’t be intimidated by these types, they are just the same as you and really, no one is drawing comparisons between you and them. Get up there and talk about your ideas, your practice, how you have made things better, because you are a force for change in the world – and that is something to be proud of.

For some the IT is an issue, as can be the live streaming of events. Know what? I’ve spoken at events where my IT was perfect, and *whispers.. No one noticed. They were too busy talking about my daft parachute. Once you are up there you don’t even notice the camera – and it actually feels like leading a really big lesson. You need to trust in yourself, that your teaching mojo, in whatever form it takes, will give you an autopilot and you will get through it just fine. As I said earlier, if you make a mistake, it really doesn’t matter, the community is nurturing, they won’t focus on the bad but the good in your ideas. I promise.

So, some top tips for being confident enough to present:

1- if you have the outcomes of the students at the heart of your practice, then you have an idea that would be valuable to share with others.
2- don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Mistakes are how everyone learns- not just those with impending exams.
3- don’t worry about being judged. The TM community is nurturing and anyone that might judge you isn’t worth your worry.
4- don’t compare yourself with anyone else. You would be mortified if a child in your class did this, so why do it to yourself?
5- Recognise that transformative potential that presenting might have in your own practice.

These tips are my pep talk that I run through every time I sign up to present. The impact of doing so has been invaluable for my own practice and I would love to see new people and hear new voices at each TeachMeet I go to. This one is a Dr Pepper moment – what’s the worst that can happen?

Thanks to @sidchip64, @gwenelope, @nicboardman and @gruntledlass for input about having the fear, and I hope to see them all present very soon.

Anymore ideas? Why might teachers be afraid of sharing ideas with other teachers? Please let me know. I don’t think that I’m anything special, but I know the impact that I can have is special – step up and be brave, you will be a better teacher for it.

Cross-posted from createinnovateexplore

Hacking positive learner characteristics

Not so much *actual hacking, but a post about how my
learners have developed positive learner characteristics and demonstrated them
this week, utilising the Hackasaurus website.

My AS Sociologists have now finished the first of
three public outcomes projects that they will undertake before the end of the
academic year. The purpose of these projects is to give my learners a taste of
A2 content, and make the work and lesson time after the AS exams as meaningful
as possible. Since I am no longer pushing the class for a January exam, I
decided that they would undertake three projects, all of which have public
outcomes – the point of which was to encourage them to strive for higher levels
of literacy as well as evaluation, as they know there was the potential for an
audience other than me to see their work. The three projects were:

1- Use Hackasaurus to publish their own primary
research on self-report crime studies.

2- Create a blog on primary research on victim surveys,
and then use FiSH feedback to comment on the work of others.

3- Use AppShed to create an information app on crime
statistics in the local area, again based on their own research.

It occurred to me when planning these tasks that I
have the luxury of some time here to really work on two core skill sets with my
students: literacy and ICT skills. Many of my learners have achieved level two
qualifications after GCSE retakes in college, and literacy is an issue across
college which we are working hard to address. ICT skills vary massively amongst
my learners, some are quite frankly better than me, and some cannot use email.
Both of these skill sets will be required after college; never mind the
importance of literacy to actually passing the exam. This helped me to decide
that the A2 crime content was going to be entirely student driven, via primary
research. Held within this, students would have to chose how and what to focus
on, as well as having creative control over the end product. The only area I
insisted on was that they use Hackasaurus, which is a truly brilliant website I
was introduced to at TeachMeet Pompey by @ianaddison- who uses this tool in
primary education. It is really versatile and with careful planning could be
used by most ages or subject areas.

During the first lesson my students devised a
self-report questionnaire. This is basically a survey that asks people what
crime they have committed. These are nearly *impossible to do well, without
leading questions or technical terminology. I let the students write the
questions with no interference. Some of the questions were, let’s say, provocative, and some were contentious in their wording. However,
I wanted the students to see the strengths and weakness of surveys as a
Sociological method and this allowed them to make mistakes in their research
and work these out for themselves. The students also decided on their sample
size and types of question asked, which again led to problems with reliability
and validity. Mistakes are part of the learning process, and it became apparent
when they were writing up the research that they had taken on board the issues
with survey design.

During the next lesson they rushed about all over
college getting their surveys filled in. Again they found problems. They reported


‘A lot of people said they committed no crime and I
know that’s not true.’

Or even better

‘Loads of people I surveyed said they had committed
all the crimes on my list!’

It turns out people lie – do bear this in mind the
next time you see a newspaper article about crime statistics. I have now
created a whole class of critical readers of newspapers, which I love. During
this task my students were able to work on their own, or in pairs, in order to
create the questions. When they had problems they would ask each other, look in
a text book or search for examples on their own devices before asking for my
help. During the course of the year they have become truly independent
learners, and they demonstrated this beautifully this lesson. I was struck by
their resilience in the face of a truly difficult task, and how they continued
to make revisions until they felt they had produced the best work possible.
Obviously this is something I insist on with tasks in class and homework, and a
year of practice has made them a very different class of learners to those they
had been at the beginning of the year.

Following this they then used Piktochart to make
infographics of their results – this was inspired by a post last week by
@ICTEvangelist, and I think demonstrates well how Humanities students can
utilise technology meaningfully to not only engage a wider audience in their
work, but also to become more engaged with the task itself.  These infographics were then later utilised
on the Hackasaurus page. In doing this my learners really enjoyed the chance to
try something new – they were not afraid of a challenge, and I was really proud
of them taking the plunge so readily. People that have read my other posts will
know that I often use quite unconventional tasks, and during the year my
learners have become totally accepting that the activity they are undertaking
will advance their knowledge. I actually have to work quite hard now to
surprise them, and this has led to them being quite adventurous learners. They
are more than willing to take risks and experience learning in new ways. It was
rewarding to see this translate to their project work – they demonstrated not
only a willingness to take risks but a real joy at creating and ‘playing’ to
reach the best possible outcome for their learning.


The final lesson of the week was magic. The learners
used the Hackasaurus website to modify what we decided to call ‘posh official’
type websites. So, they tinkered with the BBC, SKY News, and even the Daily
Mail sites. Whilst Hackasaurus is really easy and accessible to use, some of my
class had not seen HTML before and I left them to work out how to make the
changes on their own. It became apparent that members of the class with a
stronger skill set here were assisting those who needed it, and peer teaching
became the norm across the classroom. Peer teaching, and valuing peer feedback,
is also something they have been trained in during the course of this year. My
learners often use SOLO taxonomy, and the FiSH (Friendly, Specific and Helpful)
feedback that is the norm in the classroom flowed naturally into supportive
comments as well as practical help. Again, the learners demonstrated the
positive learner characteristics that have been developed this year.


Aside from trying and learning something new there was
a deliberate effort made to encourage proof reading as the work would be
public. During the lesson there were actual squeals of delight at how
convincing and professional the modified websites looked, and one young lady
even commented how amazing it was to see her name in print as an author, and
how she would like to really be published one day. Encouraging my learners to
dream big and have high aspirations is key to my role as a teacher, and this
really made me smile.


Some of the published Hackasaurus pages are here:


Please do have a look and if you have any comments for
the classes leave them on my blog and I will pass them on. I’m sure they would
love some feedback from other educators.

I really felt this week was successful, not only in
terms of encouraging the learners to attend meaningful transition lessons, but
also in that alongside subject content knowledge they also acquired/improved
ICT skills and encouraged habits that will have an effect on literacy levels
also. The real win for me was seeing the fruit of a year’s training. My learners are not only independent, but can demonstrate
resilience, high aspirations, motivation, and a willingness to take risks and
make mistakes. They certainly could not have undertaken such a difficult and
complex task with minimal teacher input at the beginning of the year. This is
real progress. Let’s hope next week is as successful!