Category Archives: Curricular Areas

What science knows vs what education does

What is the longest period of time you can focus your attention without your mind beginning to wander and your concentration plummeting off a cliff?

Wikipedia states that the maximum attention span for the average human is 5 minutes.  The longest time for healthy teenagers and adults is 20 minutes.

However, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the average attention span of a human being has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. This is one second less than the attention span of a goldfish.

Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show8 seconds to a maximum of 20 minutes is a startling difference, and worrying if you are an educator, but there are two key types of attention.  The 8 second attention span is known as ‘transient attention’ which is a short-term response to a stimulus that temporarily attracts or distracts attention.

Where educators need to focus their energy for learning is on selective sustained attention, also known as ‘focused attention’.  It is the level of attention that produces results on a task over time.  But if we only have a maximum of 20 minutes, why are most school lessons constructed around a 50 – 70 minute lesson structure, four to five times a day?  That means in the average school day there are around 20, twenty minute learning opportunities before breaks are considered.  If that seems like a lot, once you add in classroom transient distractions it’s possible that those opportunities for sustained concentration significantly decrease.

How do educators and schools address these lack of opportune moments for learning?  Shorter school days, more frequent lessons or breaks, the options are vast, but this is where we must focus our thought back on what science knows to be true.

Studies into the investigation of physical activity for learning reveal that:

“… breaks throughout the day can improve both student behaviour and learning (Trost, 2007)” (Reilly, Buskist, and Gross, 2012).

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Science also reveals that sustained movement-aided learning significantly improves learning rather than purely mental learning activities:

“Movement is an exterior stimulus, and as long as the learner is engaged in his or her learning task the movement indicates that the learner’s attention is directed toward what is being learned. When attention is purely mental (interior) the activity becomes very difficult to sustain, because the nerve and muscle systems are inactive” (Shoval, 2011).

If frequent breaks and connecting the mind and body for learning have been proven to work, why does our education system not evolve based on what science knows?

On episode 35 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, Rae Pica, host of Studentcentricity and founder of BAM Radio Network, discusses how connecting the mind and body is crucial for learning.  She reveals the ideal mind and body classroom for learning:

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INSPIRATION 4 TEACHERS

BRINGING YOU INTERVIEWS WITH INSPIRING PEOPLE WHO ARE CHANGING THE FACE OF EDUCATION!

The Elephant in the Classroom #FabEduBooks

My favourite edubook is The Elephant in the Classroom by Jo Boaler. In the book Boaler talks about the mathematical progress of thousands of students from the UK and USA whom she followed over a number of years from school into their adult life. She also gives some great suggestions of ways in which maths can be taught better in schools.

I remember being skeptical as I didn’t want to read a book which gave you lots of data about what was working in schools and what wasn’t: I didn’t want to read a textbook. However, The Elephant in the Classroom managed to give you the information needed to understand the theory and ways to put this into practice whilst being captivating and informative. I had the book finished within a few days and I read it again this time annotating parts and taking notes for things I wanted to do in the classroom.

Back in 2010 two chapters stood out for me. In “A vision for a better future” Boaler sets out two different ways we can make maths more engaging and meaningful for pupils: a project based approach and a communicative one. As someone who had just finished a PGDE where the approach was to introduce the topic, explain the rules and have students practice them multiple times, I was intrigued to try out something different.

The other chapter was “Making ‘low ability’ children” which in no uncertain terms told me the system “tell(s) children from a very young age, that they are no good at maths”. I was shocked by the bluntness but after thinking about how we ‘set’ pupils from S1 by ability I couldn’t disagree. This started a love/hate relationship with me around setting – something I still think about.

Having picked up the book again to write this post I rediscovered another chapter which I’m going to re-read: “Paying the price for sugar and spice: how girls and women are kept out of maths and science”. I’ve recently spent a bit of time researching the social constructs of gender and how we use these in schools as ways to control behaviour and sort young people into groups. I’m interested to find out what Boaler said…back soon *opens chapter*


#FabEduBooks is supported by Crown House Publishing

Everyone who shares a post on their favourite edubook this September on Pedagoo.org will be entered into a draw at the start of October. The lucky winner will receive a Big Bag of Books from Crown House Publishing.

To find out how to submit your post, click on the following link: Pedagoo.org/newpost

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Cross-curricular success

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“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” ~ Kofi Annan

Too often curriculum content is not liberating! Instead it can stifle creativity, limit progress and in some cases it is simply out of date!

Placing children at the centre of our curriculum models and asking BIG philosophical questions of them helps to liberate the learner. It provides them with the opportunity to autonomously seek knowledge, articulate, understand and then model it through their own journey of learning. Philosophical learning is not just for the high achievers. Debra Kidd, Education Consultant and former teacher, developed a cross-curricular model that placed the child at the centre of the learning, and discovered that it significantly added value to learners with low attainment levels in English.

On episode 34 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, Debra discusses how to develop cross-curricular assessment models that helps children with philosophical learning. She reveals her lessons learnt and ideas for curriculum and assessment improvements.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uELcOpyS8L8&w=560&h=315]

If you enjoyed this article please tweet the knowledge forward and share it with your community! If you’d like to share your ideas or contribute to the discussion on curriculum models, please connect via @Inspiration4T

PedaWooWoo – professional development

Pedagooers, here’s a spicy little mix of podcast workshops bursting with tried and tested pedagogical concepts that will add value to your professional toolkit this year!

Unlocking creativity in the classroom

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I NEED THIS

In this podcast workshop you’ll learn:

  • The problems associated with creating activities that challenge learners to think creatively
  • Ideas on developing problem solving activities in the classroom
  • How to improve what we already know and unlock the creativity that exists within our classrooms

Enhancing your teaching toolkit to boost learning

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I NEED THIS

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5GD42YqM9rU&w=560&h=315]

In this podcast workshop you’ll learn:

  • What is Mind Mapping and its power to aid learning
  • How to create a basic Mind Map
  • Using Mind Maps to enhance learning, improve revision and exam technique, improve feedback, assessment and classroom planning

 

Developing cross curricular lessons; snatching inspiration from other subjects

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I NEED THIS

In this podcast workshop you’ll learn:

  • A practical model for cross curricular lesson planning
  • Ideas on developing differentiated cross curricular learning pathways
  • Overcoming the challenges of cross curricular lesson integration
  • Extending cross curricular learning beyond the classroom

 

FedEx your Professional Development

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I NEED THIS

In this podcast workshop you’ll learn:

  • How autonomy based motivation models can drive professional learning sessions
  • How to launch your own FedEx professional development model
  • How to maximise the feedback delivery of your school’s professional development FedEx day to add value to the whole school

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Poetry By Heart Scotland: calling S4-S6 teachers and students

Poetry By Heart Scotland is a competition from the Scottish Poetry Library that gives students in S4-6 opportunities to learn by heart and perform poems from our specially curated database. Students compete at school, regional and national level, culminating in a final event in Edinburgh where they have the chance to perform in front of high profile poets such as Liz Lochhead, Rachel MCrum, Diana Hendry and Tom Pow.

Schools that participated in the pilot have told us that through the competition students improved their self-confidence and went on to engage with poetry on a deeper, more meaningful level in the classroom. It’s a great chance for the teachers too – an opportunity to run the school competitions and regional heats in a personalised way that responds to the needs and interests of their students. Registrations are currently open till the end of September and we’d love for as many schools as possible to participate this year, following our successful pilot in 2014-15. To date, schools have registered from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife, Aberdeen, Dunblane, Perth and Kinross; there is capacity for more schools in these regions and others throughout Scotland to join us.

The competition is completely free for all participants and the Scottish Poetry Library funds all related travel costs and prizes.

You can find out more about Poetry By Heart Scotland on the SPL website at http://www.scottishpoetrylibrary.org.uk/poetry-heart-scotland or email me at georgi.gill@spl.org.uk – I’d be delighted to explain more, answer any questions or engage in general poetry chat!

Georgi

EAL Keywords

Inspired by a post by @mrshumanities showing keyword cards, and in a bit of a dilemma as to how best support my EAL pupils, today I spent a double period, whilst expertly covering an Administration class creating these handy cards, with some of the keywords we use in humanities in S1.

I am hoping they will be there as an easier alternative to constantly looking up a dictionary although I am heavily relying on Google translate. I am looking for other new ways to help support these pupils and will try and test some other strategies. It did take a wee bit of a wrestle with a laminator, something I am famous in the school for breaking, notoriously going through three in one day.

Tomorrow I am excited to use my new revision station resources I’ve made.

Originally posted on my blog https://misscwoodrmps.wordpress.com/2015/09/01/eal-keywords/

Bloom’s Taxonomy

It’s safe to say, I love Blooms!

I think Blooms is a brilliant way for teachers to ensure they are helping pupils progress as well as students can identify their skills easily. I love blooms so much, one of the first things I did when I got my new classroom was paint a massive triangle on the wall, and get pupils to add “I can” statements on it when they can do something new.
I think the issue I have with blooms is and don’t think I am alone is, we are good at creating wonderful Schemes of Work and Units, but actually sign-posting our skills and how that links into Higher Order Thinking is our downfall. Also I know i have been guilty of focusing on the task and not the skills being used.

I have given myself 2 new term resolutions this year.

  1. Use less PowerPoint and look at other teaching and presentation methods.
  2. Highlight skills progression to the pupils.

My first task has been to create these posters.IMAG0592

These break down the skills, the types of activities and question stems that can be used – an amalgamation of several posters I could find on Pintrest. Here’s the file to download the posters yourself: blooms posters.

So now my aim is to get pupils to be able to self evaluate their own learning and skills at the end of a task/ unit/ lesson. I also made up cover sheets for my junior classes that will be stuck into their jotters with the intended skill progression of the current unit we are on- encouraging them to color in the triangle as they move up the thinking skills.

I think Blooms can be used in many different ways and it is important that we share resources and ideas in order to encourage pupils to be using their thinking skills in a variety of ways.

Originally posted on my own blog bxarmps.wordpress.com

Flipping

We’ve tried flipping lessons and we thought it didn’t work. There’s a bunch of research in favour of the idea, but also lots against it.

Essentially, as I understand it, a ‘flipped lesson’ is one where the students do the preparation by learning low order concepts (like basic knowledge) at home and come to the class ready and raring to discuss the higher order concepts (explaining, linking, ranking, coming to conclusions etc). Research suggests that students should do the difficult learning in school and the simple stuff can be done at home- in other words flipped from the traditional approach where a teacher might lecture in class and then set an essay to be done for homework.

The problem is that there is also plenty of research that in school settings rather than in universities ‘flipped learning’ may not work so well. In my school asking students to do regular homework is a challenge, and it doesn’t take many students who’ve not done their preparation to make the subsequent class go less well. Another problem is that for many students the ‘low order’ concepts are not really distinguishable from the higher order ones- lots of the knowledge for example requires explanation and support to understand.

However we have been trialling over the years in social subjects a variation on the ‘flipped lesson’ which we think  might have made a really significant difference to our exam results. Students were given lectures and knowledge questions in class, but what they did at home was the revision exercise- in this case planning for an essay. We then did the weekly essay homework in class. The students were allowed to use their revision plan sheet when they wrote their essay, but nothing else. This gave them a significant incentive to do their homework. This flipped approach to homework was done in one topic in both History and Geography Higher classes here- and the results in those papers were significantly higher than in the other papers where we didn’t do this.

Might this mean that flipping can work after all? Or is it more the sheer regularity of practice? What do people think?

Preparing learners to face the future with a SMILE

“Our task is to educate their (our students) whole being so they can face the future. We may not see the future, but they will and our job is to help them make something of it.” ~ Sir Ken Robinson

Smart kidsIf you agree with Sir Ken Robinson, then you’ll also agree that education serves a purpose bigger than a suite of academic outcomes that only capture part of a person’s ability at the end of the schooling process.  If you agree with that statement, you might also be inclined to agree that our learners need to know how to find their purpose in life, how to be successful but in a manner which ensures their happiness and gratitude.  But how do you squeeze these positive psychology messages into a curriculum that is already overburdened and where teachers lack the time to develop resources that focus on the learners’ well-being?

Gratitude trees are a visual representation of recognising acts of kindness.  They are easily implemented into a classroom environment and can be the first step in a process where our learners embark on a journey of well-being and self-discovery.

On episode 25 of the Inspiration 4 Teachers Podcast Show, Ashley Manuel, Head of PE & Sport at Immanuel Primary School, Adelaide, Australia and founder of Growing with Gratitude has developed a new revolutionary approach to help teachers and learners build positive habits.

Together Ashley and I discuss simple and effective strategies to implement positive habits of well-being into your classroom.

Episode take-aways:

  • Benefits of introducing habits of well-being, happiness and gratitude into your classroom
  • Classroom activities for promoting happiness, gratitude, mindfulness and service
  • How to develop positive and engaging habits
  • Modelling behaviours of service at school and in the community

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BRINGING YOU INTERVIEWS WITH INSPIRING PEOPLE WHO ARE CHANGING THE FACE OF EDUCATION!

The Best Lesson I Never Taught

As part of lesson study in my school (Soham Village College) I decided to try and develop a one off lesson which involved no teacher participation at all! Obviously careful preparation was paramount to success and the lesson did take several hours to put together. The activities were not as rigorous as I would usually plan for in a GCSE history lesson (some were pretty much there for fun) but it was a fascinating experiment and experience and demonstrated just how well students can work in collaboration (and independently) if we give them the opportunity.

Students came in – creepy music playing – tables set out with mixed ability group names on and an A4 envelope which stated – ‘Do not open until told to do so’. Groups were carefully selected in advance.

I handed a scroll to a quiet but able student which said – ‘You are the only person allowed to touch the computer this lesson – get up and open the folder called ‘start here’ – after the video has played ensure the screen with all of the folders on is visible’. Handing this student the note was the one and only teacher interaction for the whole lesson.

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The student opened the intro video and I appeared on screen dressed as a creepy clown – this set the ‘mystery/horror’ mood of the lesson – the clown tells the class that if they are ever to leave they need to solve the mysteries and riddles during the lesson.

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The clown tells the students to open the envelopes on the table. Inside they find a selection of sources, an A3 grid and an instruction sheet. Very quickly and efficiently the students worked out what to do. An interesting observation at this point was how natural leaders developed in groups and how groups took different approaches. Some choose to split the work amongst the group to speed up time. Others choose to work as one group with one member reading the sources to the rest. From my observations all students were involved in this first task.

3This task took them about 13 minutes and involved them trying to decide if the sources (9 in total) were for or against the statement on 19th century policing – at this point I was interested (and slightly nervous) as to what would happen next. They had no further instructions – all the clown had said was that the code would be revealed if they got it right. It was fascinating to watch as one student got up and started checking what other groups had got – the class worked together sharing thoughts until eventually they released that there were 5 sources for the statement and 4 against – this matched one of the folders on the screen ‘5F4A’ – the student chosen at the start moved to the PC opened the folder and this revealed the second clown video.

This video congratulated them and then told them to look under their chairs – which caused great excitement! Under selected chairs I had stuck words. There was no further instruction. The students who had words removed them – some students then took a lead and it was fascinating to see them organise themselves. They decided to use sellotape to pin the words onto the board – then they started rearranging them to make sense – it took no time at all for them to work out the message – ‘Look between the black and blue book on the shelf’. This then gave them the next batch of A4 envelopes.

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5These A4 envelopes contained an article on the police and a sheet with another statement – this time on the failure of the police to catch Jack the Ripper. They had to read the article and identify reasons as to why the murderer was never caught and how far this was the fault of the police force. They worked out fairly quickly that this would reveal another code. Again they worked well and shared their findings across groups. One problem was that they only completed one side of the table as they quickly realised there was only one folder with 4 agree (4A 5D). Although this showed good initiative it meant they did not fully consider the arguments against the statement. Once solved the allocated student opened the folder and the clown appeared again. He is getting more erratic and evil by this point! The clown tells them to look under the recycling bin where they find the envelopes for the next task.

6The penultimate task involved the class trying to break 4 different codes – some involved replacing numbers with letters others involved changing letters – they were given no instruction as to what the code might be. It was interesting to observe how groups worked again. Some groups worked as a four – one code at a time. Other groups split and took a code each. The natural leaders worked out that working as a class was the most efficient method some students starting asking the whole class if any were solved yet. They were looking for factors as to why the crime rate fell in the late 1800s. Once they solved all 4 riddles they worked out they needed to open the folder called – Police, living, prisons, tax.

On opening the final video the clown presented the class with a riddle to solve. They were told that once they had solved it they should open the cupboard at the back of the class. They played the video a couple of times and then one student solved it. This was a special moment as the person who solved the riddle is an FFT E grade prediction – for a moment there she became the class hero!

When they opening the cupboard they were presented with 5 envelopes – ‘The Maid’ – ‘The Gardener’ – ‘The Butler’ – ‘The Wife’ – ‘The Cook’. The answer to the riddle was the maid. On opening this envelope they got the final code.

The final video gave them the end silly message from the clown and concluded the lesson. The whole thing had lasted 55 minutes – timings could not have been more perfect! I had not spoken to the class for the whole lesson (just sat at the back largely ignored by the students) and the only action taken during the whole lesson was handing the note to the student at the very beginning!