Personal, Learning & Thinking Skills

I am slowly catching up with my blogs at the moment as it seems to be a very busy term so far. Recently I went on a course run by Dorset County Council. This was my first course in my new county having previously worked in Hampshire and Surrey. The course itself was based on ‘Focusing on Skills in Foundation Subjects’ particularly personal, learning and thinking skills and run by Katie Ashcroft, Foundation Subjects Consultant. Personal learning and thinking skills (PLTS), together with functional English, mathematics, and ICT, cover the areas of competence that are most often demanded by employers. Integrating these skills into the curriculum and qualifications will provide learners with a platform for employability and further learning. PLTS involve:

  • team working
  • independent enquiry
  • self-management
  • reflective learning
  • effective participation
  • creative thinking.

The course itself was split into three sessions;

  • Session 1 – Developing pupils’ independent enquiry skills
  • Session 2 – Developing pupils’ team work skills
  • Session 3 – Developing a cross-curricular approach in foundation subjects

It is was a very informative and enjoyable course. It was great that they re-emphasised the importance of PLTS in lessons. PLTS help prepare pupils for the future, in and out of school. They develop the essential skills and qualities for to be a life long learner, life and future employment. They also provide a common focus for learning across subjects and provides great opportunities for cross curricular collaboration. PLTS use functional, transferable and creative skills which can be applied to real life scenarios.

It was pleasing to be given the opportunity during the course to identify the skills our department might want to develop in geography and reflect. With the new GCSEs and A’Level syallbus’ this course has come at a good time for reviewing the schemes of work we have developed so far and want to develop in the future. As teachers we sometimes forget about the skills the pupils require and focus on the content we need to teach. It has to be a balance of both and is something we feel at Gillingham we are achieving. It is also vitally very important that the pupils are clear about the skills they need to be successful in your subject area.

There was particular emphasis on cross curricular links and their importance within schools. This is a requirement within the new Secondary Curriculum for all subjects to explore connections with other subjects. Cross-curricular links provide a more coherent and relevant experience for the learner. It enables all pupils to understand the importance of different subjects and in helping them make a sense of the world. It provides pupils with the opportunity to apply the knowledge, understanding and skills they have acquired in one subject to a different context. For those of you investigating to develop cross-curricular links I recommend looking at the subject comparison web-page provided by the National Curriculum, which can be accessed here.  

The course linked the theory of skills to what Ofsted are looking for within schools. This is key for any school to have an awareness of what Ofsted expect from us as practitioners. I have quoted below Ofsted’s expectations;

‘The school’s curriculum provides memorable experiences and rich opportunities for high-quality learning…The school may be at the forefront of successful, innovative curriculum design in some areas…A curriculum with overall breath and balance provides pupils with their full entitlement and is customised to meet the changing needs of individuals and groups…Cross-curricular provision…is mainly outstanding and there is nothing less than good. As a result, all groups of pupils benefit from a highly coherent and relevant curriculum which promotes outstanding outcomes.’

These are skills I feel all schools’ are trying to achieve. Unfortunately, they do not happen over night and they do take time to develop and integrate in the school community. By sharing good practice, an understanding of what we want to achieve and hard work these skills will start to appear in all schools.

Blue Marble

Above is an astonishing photograph of the Earth. It is the most detailed and accurate images of Earth taken yet. The photograph is truly amazing and shows the planet in all its beauty. It is such a wonderful image that words do not do it justice. 

Astronomers at the Goddard Space Flight Centre produced the series, called “Blue Marble”, using the Terra satellite more than 435 miles (700km) above the Earth’s surface. They also produced an accurate example of the Earth’s topography, ocean depths and Arctic and Antarctic ice. After capturing images every eight days – to compensate for clouds that might block the sensor’s view – the composition has even left Nasa experts astonished.

“These images are the most detailed images of Earth to date and which shows the beauty of our small planet,” a Nasa spokesman said.

The Apple Revolution

Over the last twelve months I have read and reviewed the merits of the Apple iPhone. Yesterday, after several hours (!) of decision making I finally gave in and signed up. Already I have seen the benefits this could potentially bring to my teaching and the students learning.

Apple themselves state that ‘technology shapes the way students interact with the world. So it only makes sense to teach them with the tools and media they’re already using. Creating digital content is truly simple, web research is quick and secure, and virtual collaboration is safe for young learners.’

The applications that the iPhone can offer is changing daily with an ever increasing amount of choice. Many education blogs have been written about the positive and negative factors mobile phones can offer education. Ollie Bray, National Adviser for Learning and Technology Futures at Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS), has been backing the use of mobile technology for some time in Scotland and has written several blogs and articles on this very subject. Back in January Dave Rogers, Curriculum Leader for Geography at the Priory School in Portsmouth, wrote a great blog about all the features the iPhone offers education. He clearly explains each app and its merits in teaching.

I Education Apps Review (IEAR) is a dedicated website for educational bloggers who contribute reviews of current educational apps available in the iTunes store. This is a great way to find out which apps are available for your subject area and what works for you.

The technology available to us as teachers is immense and is changing at a rate faster than we are able to keep up with. Students and pupils are far and away ahead of us as teachers when it comes to technology. As a teacher we are forever changing our teaching methods and resources. Mobile phones could help enrich a subject and make it more widely available for all students to participate. They have so much potential for the classroom. Mobile phones will enhance a pupils/students learning. They will give students skills that they will use in the wider world. They will bring benefits that will develop our own teaching. I am very much looking forward to working with my new piece of technology and improving my teaching.

Severn Bore Wonder!

I love geography! No matter what happens in the world human nature and the environment itself continue to amaze me. A once-in-a-decade tidal wave surged down the River Severn this morning carrying a horde of surfers relishing the rare natural phenomenon. Hundreds of people from all over the country have lined the river bank to witness the spectacle. The huge wave, caused by the incoming tide being funnelled up the narrowing Severn Estuary, was expected to reach more than 5.4 metres (17.7ft) high. Scores of surfers tried to ride the five-star bore as it headed upstream earlier.

The Severn Estuary experiences the second highest tide anywhere in the world and the bore’s average speed is 10 mph. Bores can range between one star, measuring 4.5 metres (14.8ft) to 4.6 metres (15ft), and five-star, measuring 5.4 metres (17.7ft) and above.

Joanne Hillman, of the British Surfing Association, said board enthusiasts had been competing to take the longest ride on the Severn Bore since the 1960s. “It’s pretty dangerous with trees and debris in the water so only skilled surfers take on the Bore”.

This sounds like a mighty challenge I might have to do one day!

Sports Relief 2010

I am very excited about this years Sports Relief. This year it is from Friday 19th to Sunday 21st March. The whole of the UK will come together to get active, raise cash and change lives.

The challenge is to take part in a 1, 3 or 6 mile run at designated places around the UK. It also has a unique history of dedicated people doing extraordinary things to make a difference – from David Walliams’ swim across the English Channel, to Eddie Izzard’s amazing marathon a day around the UK.

All the money raised by the public is spent by Comic Relief to help transform the lives of poor and vulnerable people, both at home and across the world’s poorest countries. For Sport Relief 2010, they are highlighting three issues your cash will help to tackle – children who live on the streets or work in dangerous conditions, people affected by malaria and local UK projects.

I will be running on the day to raise some money for Sport Relief!

Rockin’ All Over the World

In my lessons I always plan to include a variety of activities, different learning approaches and trialling out new ideas to help the students’ understanding and enjoyment of the subject. Music can entice a young person’s mind and start to make them think. Thinking skills are vital in education. Young people need to develop their thinking skills. Music works on many levels and can attract many different types of learners. It can spark their interest or reinforce their learning and make them more inquisitive. Music appeals to the auditory learner. Sections, lines or quotes could all be used to help a young person gain an understanding of a story, case study or theory. It is also a great cross-curricular way of working with another department. For example, your music department might be teaching South American music whilst in geography you teach Brazil. Simple, but effective!

I remember one of my geography teachers playing Dire Straits’ ‘Telegraph Road’ to us to help us with settlement change. As a guitarist I love Dire Straits and was immediately hooked by the lesson. My geography teacher at the time, Mr. Leach, started to explain the song lyrics. We listened again and wrote down what we heard and applied it to our topic we were studying – settlement.  He had used it as a lesson starter on settlement change. This was my first introduction into the use of music within geography. Thank you Mr Leach!

What would be your top ten music starters be? 

My Top Ten Geography Music Starters

  • Telegraph Road – Dire Straits (Settlement)
  • Paradise City – Gun ‘N’ Roses (City Change)
  • Why does it always rain on me – Travis (Weather)
  • Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash (Plate-tectonics)
  • Rocks – Primal Scream (Geology)
  • The Sea – Morcheeba (Coasts)
  • Starsky & Hutch Theme – The James Taylor Quartet (Crime)
  • Mas Que Nada – Tamba Trio (Brazil)
  • Magical Mystery Tour – The Beatles (General Geography)
  • The End of the World as we know it – REM (Climate Change)

Fairtrade Fortnight 2010

Fairtrade Fortnight will be taking place during 22nd February to 7th March. For this year’s Fairtrade Fortnight they are asking the nation to join The Big Swap. For two whole weeks you will be asked to swap your usual stuff for Fairtrade stuff.

Swapping your usual stuff for Fairtrade stuff is a fantastic small step to making the world a fairer place. It means that you get to show your support for developing world producers through what you buy. For more information follow the link to the Fairtrade Fortnight website.