Teaching Challenge (5/5)

As teachers we must be more reflective of our own practice and make amendments where we need to. We must utilise our strengths and work on our areas of development. Observations are vitally important to watch other teachers and how students learn. This would be ideally done within the department and with other departments once a term where possible. This should therefore improve our own teaching and benefit the students. Working with other colleagues will help develop cross curricular opportunities to raise achievement throughout the school.

Teaching Challenge (4/5)

4. Assessment for Learning (AFL)

AFL is a very important skill and is an area where we could develop within Geography. As teachers we are sometimes too controlling and we must put the onus back on the students for them to achieve. Investigating methods and ways of implementing this into our schemes of work must be one of our priorities. This will encourage student learning and raise achievement across all year groups.

AFL will also help improve the student’s knowledge of using a mark scheme and what to include in a good answer. This will reduce our marking and in the long-term our workload.

Teaching Challenge (3/5)

3. Technology

Geography has prided itself on using technology where possible to improve our lessons and the student experience. We would like to incorporate electronically submitted assessments, Podcasts and revision tools into our schemes of work. The VLE is a huge potential as revision resource. This has the opportunity to encourage our disaffected boys at KS4 and KS5 who are underachieving compared with the girls.

With the new syllabus changes at GCSE and A level a key skill that needs to be developed is the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS). GIS must be developed within the Department across all year groups. Along with these ideas should be the development and use of mobile phones.

The intrusive ringing and sounds of a mobile phone maybe the future of education. This is a very bold statement for a teacher to make. In the majority of schools, mobile phones are banned, but that maybe changing across the country. Mobile phones are an untouched resource that could be more of a help then a hinderance.

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. Mobile phones have so much potential for the classroom. They will enhance a students learning. They will give students skills that they will use in the wider world. They will bring benefits that will develop our teaching.

Teaching Challenge (2/5)

2. Developing Key Stage 3

With an ever-changing world, it is time for our Geography curriculum to change. Since joining Gillingham School in September 2009, we have rewritten the GCSE course and made amendments to the A Level course. Now that they are finally in place we can turn our attention to Key Stage 3.

Key Stage 3 is the building block of geography within every secondary school. It is where some students are only just learning the subject for the first time and building upon the foundations of their learning at KS2. We are turning KS3 upside down on its head at Gillingham and shaking it for the first time in several years. We already have a large uptake at GCSE and the students enjoy their lessons. We it is time for a change, to gain the skills and knowledge required at KS4 and beyond, a new layout must be put in place.

Currently we teach five/six topics across each year group. With students becoming more interactive and demanding more knowledge, we have decided to go for a format of eight separate topics of eight lessons each. We currently teach four lessons over a two-week timetable. This means topics will interchange at a fast rate, we won’t get bogged down in one topics and it keeps it exciting for the students.

We do seem to be on a continuous cycle of rewriting, but we must not forget the building blocks of a successful education. Key Stage 3 can be sometimes be forgotten about in this world of examinations at KS4 and 5. The young students at KS3 need the skills and knowledge to help them in their later geography education. It also means we can dip out of the curriculum when we need to – eight topics x four weeks = 32 weeks out of 39 teaching weeks. This would enable free time for us to look at world events that take place i.e. Geography Awareness Week, Fairtrade Fortnight, Japanese earthquake etc. The topics we have discussed so far have been using some of the current lessons and new ideas we are developing.

Teaching Challenge (1/5)

With the financial year ending last month it is that time in the year when many of us are writing our plans for the next year and bidding for funds! Over the next few days I will be outlining my five objectives for the next year within the Geography department. Happy reading!

1. Teaching & Learning

The primary target for improvement this year revolves around teaching & learning within Geography. We are proud of Geography’s achievements over the years but we do not want to be complacent and we must focus on our own teaching and how the students learn. As a department we want to teach the best we can and we are looking at our lessons and seeing where we can make improvements and implementing new teaching strategies. We must make our teaching experience more personal for the students and improve their independent study skills. This must be developed from KS3 onwards and carried on within the school.

Curriculum Changes

With an ever changing world, it is time for our geography curriculum to change. Since joining Gillingham School in September 2009, we have rewritten the GCSE course and made amendments to our A’Level course. Now that they are finally written, we have turned our attention to Key Stage 3.

Key Stage 3 is the building block of geography in every secondary school. It is where some students are only just learning the subject for the first time and building upon the foundations of their learning at KS2. We are turning KS3 upside down on its head at Gillingham School and shaking it for the first time in several years. We already have a very large uptake at GCSE and the students enjoy their lessons. We feel that it is time for a change, to gain the skills and knowledge required at KS4 and beyond, a new layout must be put in place.

Currently we teach five/six topics across each year. With students being more interactive and demand for knowledge, we have decided to go for a format of eight separate topics of eight lessons each. We currently teach four lessons over a two week timetable. This means topics will interchange at a fast rate, we won’t get bogged down in one topic and it keeps it exciting for students.

It also means we can dip out of the curriculum when we need to – eight topics x four weeks = 32 weeks out of 39 teaching weeks. When there are world events like the current crisis in Japan we can take time out to look at them and improve the students’ knowledge.

The only problem is, what topics do we teach?

This week we have been looking at our current topics and deciding on what we each would like individually to teach if we had a clean slate. Our next meeting together we will be looking at all our choices and formulating a new curriculum – exciting times! The themes have ranged from traditional geography like settlement and population to new ideas like tribes, cultures and why Africa is disconnected?

The new system will also allow us to look at events such Fairtrade Fortnight, World Aids Day, Geography Awareness Week without the worry of time. I will keep you all up to date with our progress and choices. All suggestions greatly received.

Grappling with Geography

Recent press coverage has put geography, my subject, under the spotlight. According to Hannah Richardson of the BBC; ‘geography is declining in many of England’s schools as pupils turn away from a subject they find “boring and irrelevant”, Ofsted Inspectors have said in their report “Learning to make a world of difference’’.

‘Ofsted said that in one in 10 primary schools visited by Ofsted, geography was said to be disappearing. The report also points out shrinking numbers of secondary pupils are taking the subject at GCSE and A-level. The number of students taking geography GCSE fell from 173,800 in 2008-9 to 169,800 in 2009-10, official figures show. The report found the number of state secondaries schools not entering pupils for the subject has been rising steadily, increasing from 97 in 2007 to 137 in 2009. However, this is a tiny minority in the context of more than 3,000 secondary schools across England.’

It is apparent that geography has entered into the fight for its very survival as a curriculum subject. As a Head of Geography in Dorset, I am extremely passionate about a subject that has always been close to my heart.

Geography is more important today than ever before in today’s uncertain times. When I was at school I was taught by some inspirational teachers like my old Geography teacher Graham Currie. I was transfixed by the awe and wonder of our planet from the amazing landforms of glaciation, the climatic changes on the earth; how people brace themselves against a sometimes cruel world…Geography has always been a fascinating subject.

Young people need to become global citizens and encouraged to learn about their local area, their county, their country and about the world. Geography has for sometime been losing its position of importance. In KS3, 4 and 5 elements of geography are taught in other subject areas especially science.  With science as a core subject where is geography’s place? We need to define geography as a subject in its own right. The importance of geography needs to be made clear by the Department of Education. We need to reclaim our topics and rebrand ourselves as a twenty-first century subject.

With an ever-changing world geography must be at the forefront of educational thought. Being versatile, experimental, and very much of today it should be leading the future of education. As a teacher I have worked in several forward thinking schools where opportunities to attempt new ideas were welcomed. I am very lucky in this respect. I have been fortunate to have witnessed great teaching in my eight years as a teacher.

According to David Lambert, chief executive of the Geographical Association, ‘geography is not just important on its own account. It is a linking discipline, connecting to science, to the arts, to history and languages. In primary schools where geography in strong, the subject can help to knit the curriculum together as well as satisfy pupils’ curiosity about people and places. In senior schools, geography offers the opportunity to develop a broader and very contemporary skill-set. It also helps many students to keep their options open, rather than having to narrow their courses down to either the sciences or the arts. Geography straddles both, using diverse sources and data, and asking challenging and engaging questions about the change pupils can see in the world around them.’

‘Given the vast ambition of the topic, it is easy to see how it can be badly taught. But it would be a betrayal of young people to give up on what geography can contribute to their education, just because it is hard to teach well.’

Last year I wrote an article for Sec-Ed. Sec-Ed is the UK’s only free national teaching paper that is sent to every UK Headteacher and staffroom. The article is titled  ‘Where now for geography?’, it focuses on geography’s fight for survival as a curriculum taught subject. The article can be accessed here for your perusal.

Geography deserves its place on the curriculum and it is the subject of the 21st Century.

Global Giants

I had a lovely email from Steve Brace, Head of Education at the Royal Geographical Society, last week. He had found my blog and wrote a lovely email to me. I did very much his comment about geography at my school; ‘how heartening it is to see how well geography is doing at Gillingham School.’

Steve wrote about the Chartered Geographer (CGeog) accreditation offered by the RGS. I have read bits and pieces of this accreditation in the past, but it wasn’t till Steve got in contact that I did further reading about it.

The RGS website states the  ‘Chartered Geographer (CGeog) is the only internationally recognised professional accreditation for those with competence, experience and professionalism in the use of geographical knowledge, understanding and skills in the workplace.’What are the benefits of being a Chartered Geographer?

  • Recognition
  • Personal Development
  • Chartered Geographer
  • Benefits to Employers and
  • Fellowship (FRGS) of a Prestigious Learned Society

As Alan Parkinson says, ‘the CGeog is a qualification which spurs you on to improve your own professional development, and maintain the curiosity about the subject. Teachers should also be learners, and the CGeog provides a framework for that process, as well as recognition when it is achieved.’

With this in mind, I have decided that I will apply for the accreditation this year. It sounds a worthwhile professional accreditation that recognises our hard work as teachers fits perfectly with my CPD. Thanks Steve, my application is coming your way. Fingers cross I get it!

Tricks of the trade

Today I have an article printed in Sec-Ed. Sec-Ed is the UK’s only free national education paper that is sent to every school every week. I am a massive fan of this paper and love to read the stories and articles that appear every week. I have been lucky to have had some articles printed by Sec-Ed over the last two years. The article was based on the idea of ‘what tools does a teacher need?’ This was quite tricky as we all have different ideas but I hope you get the idea!

I really enjoy sharing ideas with other practitioners and learning a new technique or way of doing something. Sometimes we are left to our own devices and perhaps we should be talking and sharing resources more often.

The main tools I focused on were;

  • Blogs
  • Working as a team
  • Thinking outside the box
  • Enjoy your lessons
  • Assessment for Learning (Afl)
  • Reflective teaching

The full article can be accessed here. I hope you enjoy the read! Many thanks to Pete Henshaw, Editor of Sec-Ed, once again for printing my article – cheers!

Goodbye 2010, and hello 2011

Wow! A new term and a new year, 2011, bring it on! 

For those of you who have not read my blog, my name is Mike Tidd. I am the Head of Geography at Gillingham School in Dorset. I have been a teacher for most of my working life and I immensely enjoy my role as a teacher. I have a deep interest in education developments and I am motivated to help my fellow practitioners and students to achieve their potential.

Over the past two weeks I have had a chance to reflect back on a very eventful year. As I get older I seem to find the years do get faster and I sometimes find it hard to pack everything in I would like to. 2010 was my first year as a blogger on the blogosphere. I started one year ago as a new writer in a cyber world I was not always sure about. Creating my own web site has given me the chance to improve my IT skills and look at the wealth of knowledge out there. This has helped improve my knowledge, understanding and my teaching.

I started my second year at Gillingham School in Dorset in September as Head of Geography. I have been lucky enough to work with a very dedicated department whose enthusiasm remains high. They have been a great bunch of geographers to work with (yes, all seven of you!). Our results last summer were exceptional and is a reflection of the hard work of the geography teachers and the students efforts – well done to everyone!

2010 was also a year of field trips. Fieldtrips, in my opinion, are an integral part of geography. We are very lucky at Gillingham School that we have a Senior Management Team that also see the benefits of field trips. The year 7’s went to Stourhead as part of the Lavlantic Cup Challenge developing their map skills through orienteering. The Year 8’s had the opportunity to go the Brecon Beacons for some glacial geography and GIS fieldwork techniques. The year 9’s went to Marwell Zoo for sustainable and ecological learning. The year 11’s went to Lyme Regis for coastal erosion, deposition and management as part of their controlled assessment. And finally, year 12 went to Barcelona looking at urban and rural rebranding and extreme weather. Lots of planning but it’s what makes geography so special!

Now that 2010 is gone, what will 2011 bring Mike Tidd?

Controlled Assessments

 

With a new curriculum and syllabus I will be taking much interest in the results of our controlled assessments. I have written previously about my thoughts and feelings towards this type of assessment. From doing our first controlled assessment last term we have learnt many things we would better next time to improve the student’s experience. With other subject areas doing controlled assessments there has been a huge pressure on the students. They do seem to be on an endless cycle of exams over four years if they continue into A’Level. The jury, in my opinion, is still out on the changes that have been made with the syllabus changes. 

Fieldtrips

This year my Department will be creating and developing a trial controlled assessment for Year 9. We feel the students need to develop the skills we require at KS4 and beyond. A GCSE style field trip would offer the students the skills needed and the experience of completing a GCSE piece of work.  As a geography teacher I am very much in favor of field trips. Firstly, they enhance the student’s experience fo the subject by reinforcing their learning and understanding within the classroom. Secondly, it further develops the students as young adults. Fieldtrips do offer students an experience where they can develop their individual and team work skills. 

Key Stage 4 Changes 

Now that we are going into the second year of the new GCSE, we shall continue to tweak and make changes to our curriculum. Now that we are completing our second year of the GCSE curriculum we have a much better understanding the requirements of the exam and what our students need to achieve to gain their grades.

Development and whole scale overhaul of KS3

With the new curriculum at Key Stage 4 and 5, Key Stage 3 must be a priority in the up coming year. We do seem to be on a continuous cycle of rewriting, but we must not forget the building blocks of a successful education. Key Stage 3 can be sometimes be forgotten about in this world of examinations at KS4 and 5. The young students at KS3 need the skills and knowledge to help them in their later geography education. 

Mentoring New Teachers

 

I would like to see the department become a centre for new geography teachers to learn their craft. I feel we have a wide variety of teachers and expertise that would help any new teacher. This is an area I would really like to start occurring this year at some point.

Personally, I would like to continue to develop as a geography teacher. I know my strengths and weaknesses and appreciate I am far from the finished article. Teaching is a career where you can always continue to develop as a practitioner. I will continue to write about my experiences along with my thoughts and feelings on the education developments that occur as the year goes on.

Geography is the subject of the 21st century and I hope to hear from you all at some point during the year.