Winter Review: Busy term…again!

The past term has flown at such an accelerated rate .– I have found that every year seems to go faster and faster – no slowing down in the world of geography! At Gillingham School we always endeavor to do the best for our students and are always willing to try out new ideas to improve their knowledge and independent learning.

  • Key Stage 3

We have looked at all our Key Stage 3 lessons seeing where we can make improvements and implementing new teaching strategies. We have been trying to make the teaching experience more personal for the students and improve their independent study skills. This is being developed from KS3 onwards and carried on into KS4 and KS5.

The curriculum map we have designed, seen below, is set in a specific way. Most importantly it allows students to follow a natural progression building up skills and using them in a number of different ways. The progression also leads through to Key Stage 5. We are aiming to promote progression in a number of ways;

  • Depth of knowledge
  • Breadth of study
  • Complexity of concepts
  • Independent learning and research
  • An increase in spatial scale

Year
7

Year
8

Year
9

  • Rainforest
  • Mapwork
  • Hazards 1 – volcanoes & earthquakes
  • Crime
  • Olympics
  • Tribes & Cultures
  • Population
  • Geographical research
  • Deserts
  • Shanty towns
  • Rivers
  • Feeding the world
  • Hazards 2 – extreme weather
  • Energy
  • Ice Age
  • Geographical research
  • Hazards        3 – tsunami
  • Why is Africa disconnected?
  • Climate change
  • Chindia
  • Coral reefs
  • Waste
  • Coasts
  • Geographical research
  • Stourhead
  • School based fieldwork
  • Disaster Management Day
  • School based fieldwork
  •  Brecon Beacons
  •  School based fieldwork

We must not forget that KS3 is 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.

  • Barcelona Fieldtrip

The Barcelona AS Geography Fieldtrip took place between Monday 28th November – Friday 2nd December. The students gained a great deal from this fieldwork and the experiences and lessons learned from it are now examined in a unit worth 40% of their final AS grade. In total we took 57 Year 12 students who worked brilliantly throughout the five days out there – well done to all of you!

The trip focused on two topics – Extreme Weather and Rebranding. For extreme weather we looked at a dry river valley that experiences flash flooding in the Riera de Ribes region outside Sitges, thirty minutes south of Barcelona. For the past three years I have never seen any rain in this region but three weeks before we left they did have an extreme flash flood go through the area.

For rebranding we looked at two locations; El Ravel in Barcelona and the Priorat region. El Ravel is an area that is being rebranded with some flagship projects; the Rambla del El Ravel, the Barcelo 4* hotel, the Museum of Contemporary Arts and the university. Our student were investigating whether or not these flagship development projects had been a success of not.

The Priorat region is 120km south of Barcelona, a place depopulation due to tourism and an economic downturn in agriculture has afflicted the area. In recent years the region has been a world known wine growing part of Spain where many international wine awards have been won. Once again our students where looking at the success of this project on a poor area of Spain.

One again I would like to congratulate the students for their hard work and dedication this term – and especially to Andy, Lizzy, Mike, Adam and Emma who helped run the trip.

  • A’ Level Geography Blog

In the past week my fellow geographer, Adam Bettiss, has developed and put together two blogs for our A’Level classes; one focusing on the Year 13 unit of Life on the Margins and a case study blog for our Year 12 students. The great thing with both is that the students have control of what goes on the blog from their findings. This has been a great success and introduced students and staff (!) to the world of blogging – great stuff!

There has of course been the general day-to-day teaching which is where the real learning takes place – I have thoroughly enjoyed this term and the great work that the Geography Department have produced, well done to you all and have a fantastic Christmas.

Teaching with Movies

With the Christmas holidays approaching and the cold nights by the fire, I was going through my DVD library at home and it got me thinking about the importance and usefulness of films in education. I do use films in my lessons as I find the footage and content can convey a message that can help a students understanding.

Back in January 2010 I wrote about this very issue on my blog and for Sec-Ed in April 2009.

I have always been using documentaries and footage from DVDs and videos in my lessons but I had not realised what films could offer. It got my mind racing on different aspects of films that could be shown to pupils within different subject areas. I soon realised that films could enhance and develop a pupils learning and encourage them to be life long learners.

Films can enhance a lesson and excite a young mind with their powerful and thought-provoking subject matter. My good friend from my Southampton University days, Dr. Pietari Kaapa of the  University of Helsinki, has stated that, ‘cinema as both a popular form of entertainment and a means of artistic and political expression, is a crucial area of classroom teaching. The pedagogical potential of film provides an immediate and invigorating addition to established lesson plans, while the history of the medium and its contextual socio-cultural relevance function as sources of study in their own right.’

As a Geography Teacher I have used a wide variety of different films to help show and back up key terminology or sometimes complex geographical features. The world today has created a generation of young people with very active minds. The days of a teacher in a classroom talking for 50 minutes are long gone and would not generate much enthusiasm from today’s young learners. Interaction and variety is what is needed to engage learners and film is one medium that can grip a young person’s attention. Film can enthuse and generate much debate and help a learner.

Pupils are requested to use and take part in different types of media within their learning from the National Curriculum. Films like music should be encouraged to be used within the classroom. My good friend and former flatmate, Nick Hargreaves, of Radipole Primary School in Weymouth, Dorset, believes that ‘films are a really valid text as much as books. With the National Curriculum we have to look at various types of media within a child’s learning and film is one way.’

‘Films are not always easy to understand and it does take time sometimes for a young learner to fully understand the complexities of a film like the music changing in relation to the mood of the film.’ As we are aware there are three types of learners; visual, auditory and kinesthetic. A film is one medium that incorporates all three learning styles and can hold the attention and pass on knowledge and understanding to all three main learning styles.  Nick Hargreaves says ‘film takes into account how a learner learns…it attracts the three main types of learners and engages all of them in one sitting. It reaches out to all target levels especially boys’.

I remember reading Great Expectations at school and found watching the David Lean adaption a much-needed guiding hand when it came to revising for the GCSE. A film may not always be true or correct, but in the right hands, us as teachers, we can filter out the bad and use the great pieces of film there is out there waiting to be used. I would really like to know what films you use in the classroom – do you have a ‘Top Ten Movie List’? Please send in your comments via the comment box below or by twitter @tiddtalk – I look forward to reading your choices!

Choose teaching – be a teacher

‘It isn’t what you say that defines you but what you do’

These are the wise words of Batman that every aspirational teacher should know.

Teaching is a popular profession for many graduates. Last year 16, 845 people completed a secondary PGCE. The number of graduates completing PGCE’s has steadily risen over the last few years. It is a role that people find exciting, challenging and extremely stimulating. It is a profession where we are able to move people forward in their aspirations and assist their learning.

Unfortunately, I was sad to read earlier this year that the number of teacher training places at universities and colleges is to be cut by one fifth. The Coalition wants more teachers to learn their skills on the job in schools rather than in training colleges. Now I agree that we should have more on the job training – it’s where I learnt my skills and it was where I did most of my learning– but fewer teachers and training opportunities? Universities and teaching colleges offer fantastic teaching expertise and facilities that should be further funded. This maybe in response to subject demand but I am sure we will need teachers in the future and these cuts maybe putting off hundreds of potential brilliant teachers.

Nicholas Hargreaves of Radipole School, Weymouth says, ‘teaching is a wonderful career choice for anyone. From a young age several teachers and friends helped and encouraged me to aspire to become a teacher. To provide young minds with the knowledge, skills and passion to take control of their lives and become the experts of tomorrow. Personally it has given me the chance to inspire young people with my knowledge and expertise. Working with a group of like-minded teachers and young people is extremely inspirational. It is a role I have always been determined to succeed in and work hard for.’

The role teachers’ play in their local community is also central to a student’s development. Schools’ and communities must work collaboratively together for an area to benefit. Economic investment is a necessity with schools. Schools are the training ground for our future generations and they need to be at the forefront of technology for our young learners with the very best facilities for them to achieve their potential. The local community and schools’ must be incorporated into working together to create an ethos of self belief and to achieving their personal best. The community must be involved in their local schools creating community centres, so local people can benefit from the facilities and technology a school has. A community that sees the benefit of an education can help generate our leaders of tomorrow but they must work in partnership with the local schools. We as teachers are the facilitator of this role and can help enrich a wide variety of lives in the process. Working with the local community to enhance the school ethos and help an area develop.

Russell Wait, Curriculum Leader of Global Studies at Cove School, Hampshire; ‘I was inspired by my secondary school Headteacher who encouraged me from the tender age of 12 to reach my aspirations and goals. I find that teaching is an ever-changing occupation that keeps you on your toes. To teach the future generation of Britain with a passionate voice can create change and can only be a benefit for the country’.

Many professionals from industry are turning to a career in teaching because of the many benefits the role brings. They bring with them a vast range of experiences from industry that can only enhance the profession. Experience from outside the classroom and shared with the students is vital. Young people do need to have role models and even though they sometimes might not want to admit it, teachers are a very important one. It is very clear that many people want to train as teachers but cannot afford to take a whole year off for training. With the recent credit crisis it is understandable, but it does show that people do want to be teachers.

With this in mind, young people choosing to become a teacher may not get a job at the end of their training. If the government get their way we will all be working till at least sixty-eight – where is the opportunity for the young, fresh and talented teachers? We need teachers, inspirational teachers with new ideas and outlooks. Choose teaching – be a teacher!

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.

Geography Resources for Primary Teachers: the next step

Earlier this year in February, a damning Ofsted report concluded that the teaching of geography was not good enough in more than half of English state schools; how the subject had practically “disappeared” in one-in-10 primaries and how many teachers lacked specialist geographical knowledge. On the surface this is worrying news for geography as a leading subject.

What was not investigated in the Ofsted report was how teaching resources might improve the standards of the subject.

A new report called ‘Geography Resources for Primary Teachers: the next step’ surveyed primary school teachers across the UK, and was conducted by Oddizzi, a new online teaching resource with geography at its core.

The report concludes that the correct type of resources e.g. those that are inspiring, relevant and interactive, are key to help to facilitate the teaching of geography and improve standards in the subject among primary schools. This is great news for geography – as a versatile subject technology can be applied brilliantly.

In support of the Ofsted report, ‘Geography Resources for Primary Teachers: the next step’ concludes that 47% of primary teachers said that their own lack of confidence in teaching geography had a great impact on the subject in schools.

One vital aspect, which was not mentioned in the Ofsted report, was the extent to which teachers feel that the quality and relevance of resources currently available to them are impacting the teaching of geography. 45% of primary school teachers in the ‘Geography Resources for Primary Teachers: the next step’ report said that this had a great impact on their current teaching. When looking at how teaching resources for geography compared with other subjects, 68% said that geography materials are significantly worse or not quite as good as materials available for other subjects.

When it came to the type of teaching resources one area that stood out was the desire for more interactivity; 67% of primary teachers say that they are not or only somewhat satisfied with the level of interactivity of current materials whilst 81% said that child friendly interactive maps would be a very interesting or essential feature of any new teaching resource (28% say it is essential).

Beyond interactive teaching resources 70% say that the inclusion of cross curricular project ideas would be very interesting or essential as a feature of a new teaching resource (27% say it is essential).

These are very interesting comments as geography could very easily be a leading subject where technology is applied in the correct manner. It seems the demand for technology and good resources are what our primary schools need. Oddizzi is one solution and I am sure there are many other resources out there that need to be supplied to our primary schools – otherwise we are going to have a future generation lacking the skills and interest in geography. We only have one planet to live and learn from – let’s make sure we are not doing our students a disservice.

The Tools of my Toolbox (2 of 2)

This is part 2 of the tools of my toolbox. ‘It’s not about the tools but the toolbox’. This was a statement Dave Rogers posed on his blog last week. It is quite tricky as every teacher has different views on what they need to be successful and to help their everyday lives. Here are my remaining tools of the trade:

  • Thinking Outside the Box

Being innovative and brave within a classroom can bring enjoyment, success and respect. I admit not every idea I have tried has worked but those that do can enhance the student’s experience of your subject. Trialling new ideas improve your lessons and enjoyment as a teacher. It is not always easy trying out new ideas. It is very easy to stay in the comfort zone but without trying out new ideas we do not develop ourselves as teachers and will not improve. Idris Mootee, of  the innovation playground blog,  has said, ‘innovation is hard, it is not about getting the ideas at all, it is about managing ideas. So you have a few great ideas, so what? The future is never about the future but now.’

  • Reflecting

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. I always try evaluate my lessons on a daily basis – you should be aware if you have taught a good lesson or not – and more importantly how could it be improved.

  • Teaching is Fun

As teachers we work long hours and spend many lessons preparing and planning work. We have the aim of teaching the National Curriculum and working with our students on achieving their personal best and gaining the grades they deserve. But…we must enjoy our working life. There are many pressures in the education industry and targets to achieve. Teaching in my opinion is the greatest role in life that someone can do. To actually see the look of wonder and understanding on someone’s face is something that cannot be bought. To pass on knowledge and see where it takes a young person in life is amazing. To actually help young people in life choose a path in the life with your encouragement and guidance is breathtaking. There is much to enjoy from teaching, just don’t forget the positives!

  • The Mighty Board Marker

Where would any teacher be without a board marker? Sometimes this little tool can be forgotten with the overkill of Powerpoint. Remember, simple ideas can make learning easy.

The Tools of my Toolbox (1 of 2)

‘It’s not about the tools but the toolbox’. This was a statement Dave Rogers posed on his blog last week. It is quite tricky as every teacher has different views on what they need to be successful and to help their everyday lives. Dave was clever to state that no matter how many tools we have – it all depends how good the toolbox is. In other words, how good the teacher is at using the appropriate tools! As a very keen guitarist I used to get annoyed with fellow musicians who would be picky about what equipment they used – if you are a good musician the talent will always shine through no matter what you use. Of course a better guitar does have a better sound but essentially the key to the sound is the player! This is part one of two on the tools that I would have in my teacher toolbox.

So, what tools would my toolbox hold:

  • Working Together

Teaching can sometimes be a lonely job, with yourself up against thirty students challenging you. It can sometimes feel you are the Lone Ranger but that is not so. Using people around you can make your life much easier especially when you need help or guidance. For a young teacher this is possibly the best tip I can pass on…talk to those around you. I have worked in some great departments where working together and sharing ideas/work loads makes everybody feel important and better about themselves. The success of a department should improve too with more minds working together then one. The work – life balance is very important and should never be forgotten! 

  • Blogs

For the last few years I have found blogs a great source to further my understanding and learn new skills as a teacher. I have always said that a teacher never stops learning. Just like our students we as teaching practitioners are constantly learning new techniques on improving our methods we use in the classroom. This is part of the reason why I love teaching, it is never dull and is a challenge I relish on a daily basis. Out on the ‘Blogosphere’ are some brilliant writers who share their teaching experiences, daily routines, ideas, schemes of work, lessons…you name it and teachers are writing about it! Reading about someone else’s experience can create and add to your armoury of activities.

  • Technology

Geography has prided itself on using technology where possible to improve our lessons and the student experience. I am never too far away from my laptop as I find it a great help with many of my lessons. As a geographer Google Earth and Google Maps have the best free Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software available. For students who need to include GIS in their coursework at Key Stage 4 and 5, this is the best start and easiest solution. Most students have access in some format to a computer and Google Earth/Google Maps can be used from a very early age giving them the skills and presentation techniques they need later on in their school career. Simple activities like spinning the globe round or locating places in the world from your location can make a young person make a sense of their place in the world.

  • Variety of Activities

We must keep teaching exciting for ourselves and learning fun for our students. The aim of all teachers should be the students doing 70% of the teaching – we just need to be the conductors of an orchestra. A variety of activities with a clear objective and learning outcome will help. Lets get planning!

Oddizzi

I received an email this week from Harry Cymbler, Director of Hot Cherry, the independent, award winning digital PR and social media agency in London who are promoting Oddizzi. I was very excited by this email and clicked straight away onto their website. I was instantly amazed by the resources made available by Oddizzi for primary schools.

What is Oddizzi?

Oddizzi is an exciting new website (just launched!) for primary schools that instantly brings the world to life in the classroom. It is a bright and refreshing resource full of clever features and games that encourage children to want to learn about their world.

The clip below is part of their online promotion; it is an amusing take on the popular 80’s game show Child’s Play hosted by Michael Aspel which challenged members of the public and a celebrity to work out what primary school children were describing. Sadly, I am old enough to remember Child’s Play!

In the Oddizzi clip, geography knowledge is tested among primary students from Holy Trinity School Richmond, London with some amusing responses: ‘Falafel is some sort of Anteater’, ‘In Greenland they eat Green grass,’ ‘Dead Sea is black and mouldy’ and ‘a Yurt is an upper class person saying the word ‘yoghurt’.

Created by former primary schoolteacher Jenny Cooke, Oddizzi is an online teaching resource that supports cross-curricular learning at stages EYFS, KS1 and KS2 and features a free child-friendly interactive map and news feed. In addition, there are 500+ pages of interactive content, over 1000 images, online ‘ClassPals’ that enables classes to link with each other nationally and internationally, geography games that test global knowledge, and a bank of creative lesson ideas and activities for teachers to use that take geography across the curriculum.

Personally, Oddizzi looks to be a flexible resource that offers many different activities and topics promoting geography within the classroom. It is a very well thought out resource where your comments as a teacher seem to be encourged to improve their site. Oddizzi is an innovative and interactive online resource that is using todays technology brilliantly but teaching the National Curriculum at the same time – not an easy task! Oddizzi provides an affordable online resource and will be funded by a subscription model with a launch price £155 a year. It is also available for a free 21 day trial. A bargain if I have ever seen one.

I would be very keen to hear from any schools that are currently or are going to use Oddizzi to learn more about the benefits it offers. Great stuff is happening out there online – keep it up geographers, together we can all work together to improve, develop and make sure geography deserves its place in the curriculum.

The Importance of Teaching

The Importance of Teaching – this is the name the Government chose for the White Paper underpinning the Education Bill.

Teaching is a popular profession for many graduates. The number of graduates completing PGCE’s has steadily risen over the last few years. It is a role that people find exciting, challenging and extremely stimulating. It is a profession where we are able to move people forward in their aspirations and assist their learning. Education does sometimes get too much bad press and the papers gloss over the successes and achievements that teaching has bought to so many thousands of pupils and students.

Unfortunately, I was sad to read that the number of teacher training places at universities and colleges is to be cut by one fifth. The Coalition wants more teachers to learn their skills on the job in schools rather than in training colleges. Now I agree that we should have more on the job training – it’s where I learnt my skills and it was where I did most of my learning– but fewer teachers and training opportunities? Universities and teaching colleges offer fantastic teaching expertise and facilities that should be further funded. 

Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, is also taking an axe to the bursary packages currently enjoyed by trainees. I received £6,000 for a year of training for my PGCE. Without this funding I would have been unable to have trained as a teacher. Being a student is expensive and even more so today. Travel, accommodation and food is not cheap. Funding has gone for subjects such as English, history, geography and art.

Instead, those who want to train as physics, chemistry, engineering and maths teachers will receive bursaries of £9,000 a year. Trainees who want to be biology, general science or foreign language teachers will receive £6,000 a year. This maybe in response to subject demand but I am sure we will need teachers in english, history, geography and art in the future and these cuts maybe putting off hundreds of potential brilliant teachers.

Michael Gove has also outlined plans to only accept trainee teachers with 2.2 degree or above. Yes, we do need qualified teachers with good knowledge but isn’t the ability to teach and inspire important too? There are thousands of teachers who are fantastic at their job, inspiring and motivating everyday but may not necessary have a 2.2 or above. I think Michael Gove has got his agenda wrong on this point. What degree you hold should not define or hold you back from teaching.

I do agree that we need competent, dedicated and enthusiastic teachers in our schools. But, we must work together and I just wished the Government had involved more teachers in their decisions.

As Batman once said, ‘it isn’t what you say that defines you but what you do’ (Batman Begins, 2005).