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!

Tidd News II

I have found this half-term has flown by at an incredible rate. Our students at Gillingham School have worked tirelessly with so many achieiving top grades. Personally, it has been my aim this year to make our geography lessons as fun as possible. I hope my classes are enjoying my lessons as much as I am. We have completely re-written Key Stage 3 with a bigger emphasis on the ‘fun factor’.

With this in mind my brilliant (and inspiritional) Year 13 class have been taking their learning to the extreme. Everyone of them in the class are pushing for the highest grade they can obtain and are working at a very high level which I hope they are proud of. With this in mind another edition of Tidd News has been produced. Our ever expanding films of geography will be a great geography revision resource with a touch of humour. Thank you to Olly Cooper, Alex Ross and Will Horner for all their hard work producing these films!

School Zone

I have found a brilliant competition that many of you innovative teachers out there might want to enter.

Innov8 is an open innovation competition sponsored by Pearson, the world´s leading learning company. Innov8 is for learners, educators, games and app developers, innovators and anyone with a vision for how technology can open up new opportunities for learning. So, if you have a great idea for a learning application and want to win up to £6,000 to see your idea come alive then innov8 is for you.

Five entrants will win £1,000 to develop a pitch for their idea by working with the innov8 panel made up of young people, educationalists and innovators. The winner will be chosen by a mixture of votes from the panel and votes collected via the innov8 website and at the innov8 booth on the Pearson stand at BETT 2012. The winner will win an additional £5,000 to work in collaboration with Pearson to see their idea come to fruition. Click here for more information.

Maybe my idea of the virtual teacher might finally come to fruition…

Plus on a personal note, can anyone guess out there where this photo was taken in the world? Please leave a comment below or by twitter (tiddtalk) with your guesses.

Here we go again…

Well, here we are again, another term and another year down in sunny Dorset at Gillingham School. This will be my thrid year at Gillingham School, and I am starting to feel that the changes we started two years ago are starting to ripple through the school. As a very succesful department we have seen our GCSE and A Level results once again show us we have brilliant students who are thriving in Geography. This has not been easy by any means. We could rest on out laurels but that it not the ‘Gillingham Way’ nor the ‘Geography Way’. So as a department we have outlined five target areas we want to develop as the year progresses;

  • Teaching & Learning

The primary target for improvement this year revolves around teaching & learning once again 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.

  • Key Stage 3

With the new curriculum at Key Stage 4 and 5, Key Stage 3 must be a priority in the upcoming 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. The current Schemes of Work are good but are sometimes too long in length and do not always motivate and enthuse the students as much as we would like. 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. The topics we have discussed so far have been using some of the current  lessons and new ideas we are developing.

  • Technology

Geography has prided itself on using technology where possible to improve our lessons and the student experience. This needs to be further developed to further enhance our learning and the students. We would like to see additional Smart Boards across a further two classrooms in the next 1-3 years. This will enable us to develop materials (using Boardworks) to increase motivation across all Key Stages.

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. A member of the Department will require training and facilitate this into our schemes of work.

  • 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 raising 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.

  • Reflective Teaching

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.

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.

Year
7

Year
8

Year
9

  • 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!

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!

The Final Countdown

I have recently found out that I have been shortlisted for two Education Blog Awards; Teacher Blog of the Year and Most Influential Blog. These awards have been set up to award blogging in schools in the UK.

Thank you to everyone who nominated and voted for my blog for these two awards. As a fairly new blogger (since January 2010), I am extremely pleased with being shortlisted. My blog is now being judged by five judges; John Davitt, Paula Hubbard, Ollie Bray, Margaret Vaas and Tim Rylands. The blog winners will be announced on 1st Junegood luck to all the bloggers who have been shortlisted!