Geography Revolution

The primary target for improvement this year revolves around teaching & learning within Geography. We are proud of Geography’s achievements over the years at Gillingham School but we do not want to be complacent. 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 Key Stage 3 lessons seeing where we can make improvements and implementing new teaching strategies. We must 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

Progression is mainly achieved through deeper understanding and increasing complexity of tasks.  There is also a broadening of the breadth of study.  More explicitly we are looking at increasing spatial scale, increasing awareness of society, economy and the environment. Work is currently being undertaken to ensure that there is smooth progression from KS2 to KS3 and also from KS4 to KS 5.




  • Rainforest
  • Map work
  • 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
  • Brecon Beacons


With the new curriculum at Key Stage 4 and 5, Key Stage 3 is a priority this year. 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. We are currently devising eight topics containing eight lessons for each year group. 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. This new format and the topics decided upon can be seen in the table above.

We are entering a very exciting time at Gillingham School where we are creating an innovative and inspirational curriculum for our students. I will keep you all posted how our plans, successes and failures go as the year goes on. My department has been working really hard on these lessons and I am 100% happy with what has been planned so far – well done team, you have been brilliant!

Outstanding Teaching

Discovery is the new way of learning

Last week I had the pleasure and opportunity to attend an Outstanding Teaching course run by Osiris Educational. The course itself was put together and led by Andy Griffith, a highly acclaimed writer, trainer and teacher who specialises in Learning to Learn, thinking skills, creativity and learning. He is also the director of MALIT Ltd, a Merseyside-based education training company which aims to help teachers and schools to raise the quality of teaching and learning through high quality INSET, training and consultancy.

The course aims were to:

  • understand how outstanding teaching works
  • the new Ofsted criteria
  • raise standards of learning
  • increase teacher confidence
  • improve pupil enjoyment and engagement in lessons
  • develop independent learners
  • challenge learners
  • leave a sustainable impact across the school

Teaching can be a very lonely and difficult profession. Like the Lone Ranger though, you fight back and try to engage your classes. Teaching is a brilliant challenge for anyone. I always feel that I have never cracked the profession of being a teacher and I am always striving to improve. Courses are essential for any teacher and in these difficult financial times they are sometimes forgotten about.

It was a very interesting and thought-provoking course where we were reminded that teaching is a craft where we creatively use different techniques to help people learn. Andy Griffith used a variety of techniques to show us how to engage a wide variety of personalities. I found the ideas that Andy had put together extremely stimulating as I am currently with my department rewriting our Key Stage 3 curriculum. Many of these techniques will be coming in very handy as the summer term goes on. From a personal point of view I found that Andy encouraged us to bring the fun back into teaching. We do seem to be on a rollercoaster of exams and reports and the system has forgotten that learning is fun. I came away from the day with lots of great resources and inspiring ideas, a day worthwhile attending.

I was pleased to see that I was not alone in the merits of the 30:70 lesson plan split, where the lessons are more controlled by the students where we play more of a conductor role. It is also our strength and weakness as teachers that we talk too much in the classroom. We must try to put the onus of learning back on the students where they are discovering information and knowledge. Q. Is the struggle to discover knowledge or listening to your teacher the most effective teaching method?

Overall it was a brilliant day and a course I thoroughly recommend to any aspiring teacher. Thanks Andy and I look forward to catching up with you in the future!

@tiddtalk on Twitter

After many months of deliberating I have joined Twitter. I have been in two minds about Twitter for a long time trying to see its value in today’s society. Two weeks ago I took the plunge and I have so far been very impressed.

Twitter is brilliant for networking – linking up with fellow practitioners across the globe. This can enable you to spread information very quickly on what is happening now or a particular moment. It is an excellent resource to spread information especially if you have updated your blog and are looking for instant readership.

My good friend Ollie Bray, National Adviser for Learning and Technology Futures at Learning & Teaching Scotland (LTS),  is a huge fan and has been a major persuading factor in me joining Twitter. It is a useful tool for when you are looking for ideas or wanting to pick someone’s brain – and it doesn’t have to be someone you know.

Paul Ainsworth, a Vice Principle of a school in Leicestershire, wrote a brilliant article on the day I joined Twitter in Sec-Ed. It was very thought provoking and backed up my decision to join Twitter, thanks Paul! Paul explained that Twitter is a virtual staffroom where upon you can draw information and advice from a wide pool of practitioners across the globe. This is a very useful tool as we do need to share knowledge and advice. I recommend anyone thinking about joining a social networking site to read this article.

My Twitter account username is @tiddtalk – join me sharing information about education and geography. PLS RT

Education Blog Award Winners


And the winner is…?

Yes, today we find out who are the winners of the UK Education Blog Awards. The awards are split between four categories;

Last month we found out who were the ten shortlisted blogs for each category from over three hundred nominated. I was extremely proud to be nominated and then shortlisted for two awards; Most Influential Blog of the Year and Teacher Blog of the Year.

Thank you to Scholastic Education, Creative Blogs and Primary Blogger for sponsoring the awards this year.

Every edublogger has been blogging away in anticipation. But who has won? Click here to find out! Well done to all the education bloggers in the blogosphere – keep up the good work!

Teaching is Cool

‘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 recently 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 facilitators 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.

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.

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.

comicbrush: A Tool for the Classroom

Comic Brush is an online comic maker that I have recently found and used. Comic Brush is a very versatile and easy tool to use and seems well suited to the classroom. Rather than drawing a comic from scratch, Comic Brush lets you mix stock artwork from their fun collection of comic backgrounds, characters and props with photos of your friends, neighbourhood or school.You can add speech balloons, text, your own artwork and more, before printing or publishing your comic to the Web, social networking sites like Flickr, Facebook and MySpace, or a friend’s iPhone/Touch.

I have used Comic Brush for my Year 7 Settlement assessment on shanty towns. I have used the tool as a way of getting the pupils to start thinking about the push/pull factors involved in migration within developing countries. It is a different way of getting information put across to pupils or for them to present their work. For those who find literacy difficult or are visual learners, this is an ideal tool. It could be very useful as a data presentation method for controlled assessments using images the students had taken on their fieldtrip and explaining their findings. My first adventure into Comic Brush is below, enjoy!