Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Case Study Techniques for Geography

Here are the steps I teach Case Studies to my students.

the first step in books students make a big fact file usually on a double page or 4 page spread. This is full of different colours for different elements that an examiner could ask from the spec. So students colour code the spec so they acknowledge and grasp what this part of the case study is testing.

In the top left of the fact file students Map where the case study is scaling down from Global scale to national then to regional/local.

They then have to describe where as captions for each of the maps. Students usually play pin the donkey blind folded where a student using compass directions guides a partner to add a spot on their map for where it is they must use country names. I keep using iPads with apps like like Tap Quiz maps or Inter Atlas Pro to locate case study places to keep them fresh in their mind and I can see them using navigation tools. Some students who like using ICT make Google Earth Tours for homework to fly to locations and add place marks with written descriptions of the locations.

Next step the causes so a diagram and written explanation - this can often be a jig-saw where students piece together the features or a solo sequencing challenge timed for how long it takes each group to sequence the steps. Students at the end of a lesson will repeat this to see how much quicker and how accurately they can create a complete sequence. The student lap the room giving peer feedback.

Next a table of primary / secondary
effects - an activity for this could be a solo hexagon one where they classify the hexagons into either primary or secondary then try to connect specific primary that lead to specific secondary every time they make a connection they have to say out loud the word BECAUSE to show how using literacy they are connecting so in an exam paper they then include the word to connect it for L3 answers.

Back to the table in the books students colour code for severity and classification into social, economic and environmental.

Often link these with a diamond 9 ranking activity with mini clip art pictures as stimulus for them. I find by doing it this way and creating the rank system when they write an effects description and explanation they sequence it from the most important down to least with trigger for severity and they categorise paragraphs into social, economic and environmental. So simple tools but effective outcomes.

The following element to the fact file are the responses. We usually use a decision based exercise on how to save islanders for say Haiti, Kobe, Montserrat. The kids like that so they get a budget and list of options they rank sort them and in a table give advantages and disadvantages then plot on an open cross graph with 4 points. these can be use to the top of the page. Disregard at the bottom. Highly Impact to the right and low impact to the left.

Students then plot on a map where they would put say monitoring equipment, emergency shelters and then the class evaluate each groups and play through the scenario sometimes in a big fly on the wall documentary using a video camera for homework/lunch time. They love those!

Sometimes we build models like for Montserrat with playdoh and then use shaving foam to demonstrate pyro clastic flows or lahars using a wooden box structure melting some ice with mud and creating a flow down to a Lego village and watch it set by drying the mud out and it turns hard so students see the secondary effect of the secondary effect. We use the same box to demonstrate tsunami waves.

For revision / homework students make top trump cards for their case studies and revision cards such as a simple French flag to demonstrate France Ageing population so students make the flag look old then with the 3 colours that symbolises on the back of the card 3 years full pay; after 3 years job guaranteed; Child care at 3 and have 3 or more children and get additional benefits. This is my favourite weapon for students and it seems to have the biggest impact on memory retention.

For Montserrat they make a big rat card and add features like 17 whiskers for 17 deaths.

Both of this activities really work with them remembering the case study facts to get access to L3 answers.

Finally they sit an end of unit tests with lots of exam papers we give then a shorter period to answer them as I want them to write precise but concise littered with key case study facts but using command word prompts. So making sure students know the command words and what they mean are important.

In the Final stages of the case study the students critique mark each others work using green pen. So they are KIND, SPECIFIC and HELPFUL in learning advice on how to improve. It is an important skill that students seek out how marks will be given and consolidates this. I have found getting students use to the language examiners use and want for specific levels, extremely important. As a result I would recommend that all of you teachers of geography gain experience as an exam marker. Plus you get a lot of standardized answers with top L3 and lower so you can get specific students to focus on peer assessing and understanding of their written expectations. So very handy!

Finally Students write their re-drafts in the back of their book and flip it round so it seems like a different book. Makes their revision easier for the most important case studies. Then during the year skill sections will be added to the back of the book so they create their own revision book.

That is it my method for teaching about the case studies. I hope this helps.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Reflect, Find your Journey and Enlighten

I am currently on a massive journey through my mind and with my life. I am making huge efforts to improve my learning and teaching.

 This post has a wide range of thinking and strategies that have really taken me to the next level. There is nothing ground breaking here. Just many simple strategies that I find work for me. So how have they come about?

It is collection of thinking from a Buddhist perspective that I gained from a programme I watched on the BBC iplayer called;

'Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World'

This is a series of notes taken on my iPhone as I watched the programme. It is a series of things to think about from a Buddhist spiritual perspective for various ways of learning. I am currently really exploring my mind for one reason or another and am going through a real creativity patch I actually put it down to this way of thinking and am going to stick with it for a while and see where the journey takes me. I wouldn't call myself a religious person or a spiritual person but perhaps a reflective person.

Take it point by point rather than as an overall methodology as the flow could be better! (still working on my writing so bare with me)

The main aim is to Empower individual learning; collaboration; reflection, and passing on learning to others to enlighten.

Buddha created a radical change of thinking. My prompt for you is to mark out YOUR path to follow for self revelation. Make it a rigourous quest to avoid complacency and stale state.

Meditate - think deep on a problem. To enable Enlightenment state don't move from a problem until you have created or thought of a possible solution or range of solutions. Allow students this freedom as well.

Find a place to reflect it could be somewhere linked to nature such as sitting under a tree to reflect. Some of you might shake your head at that thought thinking it sounds silly or is a narrow minded negative stereotype of meditation, but I find the rustling of leaves and twigs quite helpful in focussing my mind so I often drive up to Kielder Reservoir to walk, think, plan, reflect. I've found that it is best to find a place that has no emotional connection, which can lead to a clouded mind and lead to many distractions from the focus.

Explore many of us get thinking block. This could be down to simply the place, so get out and about and find your place. It could be somewhere peaceful or somewhere busy and bustling for you to use triggers to connect your thinking to something you see to make parallels with.

Go back to that spot to remind you that you came up with an idea there to physiologically train the mind that this is a thinking spot where successes are born. Let students discover physical places that work for them. Let them explore. My place is virtual I find I am most creative on twitter between 6pm-3am (a big window to fuel my insomnia)

3 jewels of life:

1. Buddha founder - The Big Picture / Idol
2. Community - Learning community
3. Preaching - Spread Learning to peers, community the World. - twitter, blog, website, youtube, teachmeets, staff briefing/news, display

An idol - Try to have a trio found this has helped triangulate my thinking to a more solid and deeper depth of thinking. I have a learning trio currently of David Didau, Alex Quigley and Zoe Elder who I find have had the greatest impact on my teaching and learning.

They could equally be themed so Geographers for me would come from this list everyday of the week as my go to for inspiration. (The Geography Collective Dan Raven-Ellison, Tony Cassidy, Alan Parkinson, David Rogers, Richard Allaway.


It is important everyone is Responsible for their own learning. As a teacher I am not 'The Saviour'! Be critical and highlight this to students! They are someone to gain curiosity from, to ask for guidance of where to find help i.e resources, peers etc. I say this as many of us have students who rely on us and demand our attention to get an answer or reassurance from. It will enable them to be more independent. But naturally needs strategies to enable this transition. Hence my journey to provide a learning tool kit for students to access this type of self reflection, reassurance with examples that they can take success criteria / thinking guidance steps from and apply to their own problem.

Having a themed approach to your lesson can help. For example a task might be to describe an image. I ensure this is visually and verbally shared with students so they know exactly what it is I am wanting them to focus on. BUT Students may go to their safety net strategy and come straight to you, or their hand fires up and they say 'I can't do it' and as a result demand you feed them the strategy with the pained expression etched across their face pleading with you to put an end to this torture. NO NO NO DO NOT BEND TO THIS!

With the tool kit in place students now follow the following path. 'Ok so the theme is describing a picture. What does the tool kit say about describing a picture? Oh so to be successful I do x, y and z to a picture to describe it. Right now to have a go. I have found if they struggle with this to use the great strategy I got from @dandesignthink of before you ask me try these first display poster (ask him about it) It has had huge impact on resilience and resourcefulness of my students.


Create self evaluation learning plans. Be true to yourself of your strengths and weaknesses. Allow your class this opportunity to. It can be quite eye opening. Then inquire for the strategies the students use to cope when they have the problems. It can be even more of an eye opening as well! Give it a go!! (hint many of mine said it was why I was then naughty in your lesson)

Personal morality

Many Buddhist temples have faces as focal points.
Eyes - teacher role to watch/assess the learning, not do.
Ears - to listen. I want students to come up with strategies as a community to answer them and for me to lap my room to listen to this learning and then dropping in during a pause to praise good learning and get students to share that with others. I have been inspired by @RachelOrr to use my ears more and listen. She took time out of her busy schedule and made time for me and just listened. It really helped me. How often do we just sit and listen to students? I bet you learn more from it than preaching at them. So I am making sure I am lapping my room more and more and listening to students both passively (hearing for key words or commands that they use) and actively by sitting or kneeling next to them using good bosy language, a smile and responding to what they talk to me about and then implement some coaching language to help entice out more from them:)

I write down my thinking now and found it really helps. I got this from @Gwenelope (still dont know her real name!) off twitter a brilliant lady who has helped me hugely. I recently had some help on how to cope with the loss of my dear Father using CBT - Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. By writing a lot of things down I am finding it has untangled a lot of my thinking webs that I have in the past got trapped in. This is taking a lot more time, but I solve my problems much quicker because I am more focussed. Think of it like the Maths concept of show your workings - write your steps down to solving an equation to help train yourself how to apply that skill in the future.

Journey paths to enlightenment: 

Chanting - repeating strategies to gain enlightenment to one self's learning and progress.
Earth, water, wind, fire, space, mind into a plan. Is awareness that universe is ideal

Earth - solid aspects to own learning in geography and T&L. (Geography - using description, explanation, investigation, opinion and interdependence across various scales incorporating human interaction with the physical world at the forefront of my learning for geography. T&L - using solo, critique, questioning, collaboration.)

Water - what learning flows well for individuals?

Wind - what blows over you? What do you struggle to grasp / sense?

Fire - what frustrates you most about your learning? Key weakness target.

Space - goal - aspects of awe to you.

Key behaviours:

Karma - emphasis on consequence of actions. How we think and act. Twisted we should think and act (create) to bring about a consequence/product- to evaluate review.

My room in the past has been messy and still is to an extend I am working very hard on creating an 'awe of class should be full of wisdom and have decadence properties / respected by all who enter'. A place people are proud of and want to enter. So that it hopefully produces positive Karma. So My walls are filling up with breathtaking pieces of learning from students who have taken time and pride in their work.

I want to create this positive mindset in the room of excellence and not mess - It shows I don't care, take pride in my room, myself so why should the students? This is a huge push in my marginal gains for my learning in my classroom. No stone will go unturned to bring about excellence in my classroom from myself and my students. This I believe will lead to greater resilience of learners in my room. I am bringing this about hugely at the minute with my language of choice in describing tasks and expectations. The minimum is just not good enough. 

Allow for creativity. Artistic (This is a figure of speech it could be presented from any of the multiple intelligences) work for students to take time and pride and aim for the look at what we have created. Sharing moment that brings me so much pride and love of the job. It happened so many times yesterday from students who normally come into my room and say I can't or give me behaviour gripes. Perhaps the task wasn't outstanding but the learning was breathtaking to me and more importantly to the student who shared.

Large scale (interpret as you might) be big on creativity - take it to next level don't think small think of something that will make people sit up, observe and listen and act.

Sanghafocus on learning during lessons stay focussed to gain wisdom.
Dharma - to do what you do practically without doing any harm. To try to gain 'Purity of thought' u whilst not restricting others but aiding others as we're all the salt of knowledge.

Aim to reach enlightenment samsara.

Go through cycles of learning like - TEEP or the 7e's that @HThompson1982 introduced me to as a planning strategy, until for that specific learning objective you gain enlightenment and can be reborn to focus on the next learning objective.

This is very important in my view. WE MUST Allow students to escape Samsara. We shouldn't think like this:

'ok that lesson is over now, next lesson we are learning this, here are the next set of objectives' when students haven't achieved their last set of objectives! This will only create frustration and student behaviour of  'I can't do it' because the goals are 'too big' in the time frame for them to achieve and so they gain a defeatist attitude. We keep hearing it but PERSONALISATION of learning really is key. This could be targeted for specific students. But don't make them too easy, allow for that strive, that challenge that is achievable but only through real drive and ambition. But the most important aspect is that your planning allows the suitable TIME TO ACHIEVE. I have found having 4 core objectives over a number of lessons works for me where problems individual students have get posted on post it notes on a wall that during that objective cycle directly relates to that specific objective. Students write their name on the post it note and if I student is in a thinking and learning place to tutor that student out of their problem then they go and collect the post it, go over to the student and help. So objectives become problems to solve for all and become opportunities for people to collaborate, help and solve.

Samsara can also be thought of to examine the daily life around us. To review the passions, desires and destructions of everyday life. And reflect how these conflicts can come to Nirvana - peace.

This has been key to me. I have been so angry lately from those who I have told or have read about my past. I have been working on this hugely and I am making massive strides with it. A direct correlation with myself being more at peace with myself that my teaching is going to new and improved places. Mainly due to the great learning I am reading on twitter, blogs and books people mention.

The main message I would like you all to take away from this post is to:


The next bit will be ramble as I try and form it in my mind so bare with it:)

Cambodian Buddhism is to take a more human face. Be humble reflect look at different views / opinions, have different temples - seeds for thought. Reflect on destruction around us the fragile nature of the world around us reflected in the temples that are crumbling empty now like areas that are affected by war, natural disasters, poverty etc and see the liberation that occurs in the time after.

Areas that are good to meditate according to Parli Cannon:

'Mountain, hill side, open field, forest cave, root of tree' - this highlights as geographers we have to explore visit to meditate allow the human mind to explore and to transcend the world around us and not be happy to just read about these things.

Also from Ankor Wat explore drama (re-enact scenes, role-plays, future) the dramatic lives that exist around us and not to limit where we examine. Apply on a monumental scale. - pass on experiences to parents, friends, other schools the community, other countries through blogging etc. So the Power and wisdom of what we learn / experience is available to all.

Zen - Qualities are not just unique to me. Explore - Discover - Share - Teach - Coach - Pre-structural - Multi-Structural - Relational - Extended Abstract by seeing how others take the learning.

I hope this helps your thinking:)

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

PLTs cards for your Thinking Tool kits

PLTs cards to enable students to develop their literacy skills

The following set of cards I developed from a set that I saw in school. They are designed to drive students to acknowledge the skills that they are using day in and day out and selfishly another way in my room to work on literacy skills.

I have a set of cards with all the PLTs on them on each of my tables (double sided so students either side of the table are seeing what the other are) as a thinking tool kit. I have laminated the cards (see pictures of below) so when a student believes they are demonstrating a specific element of that aspect of PLTs, they mark it off with their initials (see for example Creative Thinkers can…). Students I’ve found like to show me and their table, ‘yes sir I am learning in your lesson this way’. But if they do mark their initials they have to justify with everyone on the table why their name should be connected with that skill by showing evidence or discussing evidence.

To aid students with this transition from believing to demonstrating they can use the language to the right of each card and connect it to their learning and the skill that they have marked off. So it shows good relational thinking from a solo perspective.

PLTs are a valuable tool in assisting students to being independent in our lessons and more importantly independent in ALL of their lessons and with life outside of school.

Give them a go! To consolidate your great tasks. I've found students get the links making statements like;

"Oh I didn't realise I do that skills". 

Think of it as training for when they have to write a CV and struggle to formulate what they are good at.

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Describing a photo 20 different connected ways

I love examining a good image. As a trained geographer I always examine an image in 20 different yet connected ways.

Sounds intense but it really is quick and can be an extended starter task or a collaborative task on the same image. I like this avenue best:)

I'll do it in numbered points so you can see the level of depth to the thinking that can be applied to a single photo.

1. Say what you see?
2. What could you hear?
3. What would you you smell?
4. How might people be feeling?
5. What would/wouldn't you touch?
6. What would your taste buds sense?

You can extend these even more by applying the question matrix to each of the 6 senses and vary the thinking required as a personalisation strategy.

As you can see this links to our senses. A simple skill to employ with a photo but one that the students finds stretches them.

This all applied to the NOW. A concept I have used lots and many will have read via the great David Didau 'The Learning Spy' with the concept of examining a photo from a variety of temporal avenues:

7. Before
8. Before, before
9. After
10. After, after

Thinking of a photo in these four ways is fascinating and gets students being creative and also reflective.

11. To the left of the image
12. To the right of the image

Add further strength to this and allows imaginations to run riot:)

The next few are geography categorising skills but can really focus students into specifics of an image or get them thinking of likely or possible issues:

13. Social
14. Economic
15. Environmental

I am putting this second last but if I am honest it should be 1st!

16. Scale - is there something or someone in the image that you can scale and therefore qualitatively make judgements on sizes of elements of the image? Say a fence. Most ones we walk past can approximately be 1m 20cm ish hence the qualitative judgment. As long as the student designates the scale value. A car height 1m 50cm ish a sheep 1m in length. Then apply that scale to other aspects of the image.

So far many of you will be thinking wow this is a lot and how on earth do students keep track of this and organise it?

17. Post it notes

This technique has transformed this method of examination of an image. I get students to stick 6 over the image. Students then lift each post it note up and then examine that specific aspect of the image. This helps to break down the image into manageable chunks. But more importantly actually stretches descriptions (other command terms) of the image. I find that many students limit their photo analysis to the big hook of the image that stands out and as a result marginal aspects are neglected or missed.

I like multiple coloured post it notes. Say yellow can be senses; oranges I use for before(s) (half a post it each); greens I use for afters splitting the post it for after and after after; pink social; lighter yellow economic and environmental.

This is then developed into a structure to write up at this stage.

18. Students review their analysis of the photos and they rank which section is the most important, second, third, fourth, fifth and then the least important section. This then became the paragraphs that students write up their photo analysis.

You could reduce it so that students examine the same image and one does senses; one before before, before; one after and after, after; one social, economic an environmental. Then students share their analysis with each other - team teaching. Then the others on the table collaborate by analysing the image and on the back of the post it notes green penning any additional thinking for that aspect as a feedback/ critique element by being Kind, Specific and Helpful.

19. A great extension and stretch and challenge activity is where you remove all of the post it notes and get students on other tables to predict what the image must look like from the descriptions, labels that are on the post it notes. One could be reading what it says on a post it and then another can draw what they say showing thinking for speaking and listening:) Then the other table evaluating what they created.

20. I often get students to use my Question grid against the image incorporating all the aspects above. It allows students to take greater control of the image and really gather its elements in their mind as they formalise the questions. A couple of excellent examples of how 2 people on twitter have used it @EmmaAbuDhabi and @Shaun_Allison

Some may see this next bit as a bit of a gimmick. Myself and @redhea79 were chatting last night about descriptions of an image and how students explore an image with detail as a marginal gains strategy. Think of it as a sniffer dog trying to pick up a scent. He mentioned Where's Wally and I though eee when I was young that was the best book for me studying a page and not leaving it till I had found what I wanted. I was intrigued by all the characters. Often all different in a specific environment. So change the CONTEXT. Great for a description using the 20 techniques, like social questions of what are the people wearing? why? What activities are they doing? How might the activities change if a tsunami hit? Some may say well the finding Wally is distracting from the actual activity the thinking as the student is simply just scanning the image not connecting that to this thinking. A method to over come this could be to have lots of Wally's easy to find and with the post it note technique describe social, economic, environmental interactions that those Wally's use. I will be giving it a go to find out.

Like my philosophy at the minute. Give it a go. I promise you, you'll be amazed at the greater thinking, analysis and evaluation that your students generate from it great for all you blooms lovers:) Even better for us Solo lovers by applying each 1-20 step and evaluating against the solo steps.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Be Precise Yet Concise

One of my goals this year as well as improving my own writing skills is to really push for improvements in each and every student in my geography lessons.

A core skill for 6th Form geography students is the ability to write descriptions and explanations in a concise yet precise way. 2 of my classes today wrote a paragraphs littered with 32 key geography words specific to a flood.

(This space will be filled with an example from Jess when I get in tomorrow morning. I'll just picture her work so you can see it and believe it:) )

This got me thinking about my year 8s and I decided to tweak my idea for there lesson to incorporate of of last week's successes of using Jenga blocks for writing key terms on them. But instead of using the key terms to test students understanding of them like last week via a game of Jenga (students pulled out a block related to their target and then described with as much detail as they could that term and then do 6 degrees of separation against the previously drawn brick) students used the bricks to structure their written answer.

First we need a platform to progress the lesson from. The starter task involved the students listening to a video audio, which described and explained the process of 'How a waterfall develops' I set the main focus for students to listen out for as many geography keywords that in their opinion were purely linked to the process of a waterfall. The video audio did have a couple of cheeky terms that could have deviated students. If that was to occur the collaborative nature of the next elements should remove the misinterpretation of what was or wasn't linked to a waterfall by students think, pair and sharing. I could have given students all the key terms and I could have said don't talk about the pot holes on this occasion. But you have to leave it for on occasions students to make these mistakes and decipher them in a team.

So we listened to the 1 minute 17 second clip and I watched students listening in silence no jotting down words just listening to keep entire focus on listening to the words mentioned. Students then wrote on a whiteboard how many they had counted. The highest at this first step was 16. I told the students I had picked out 29. Many we're shocked.

"No way did you get that many sir" my reply was simple "I challenge you to find more!" I bet I can as I'm sure I missed some. My choice of words was important here. I was highlighting to students that a) they shouldn't accept their first answer especially in a listening task as the job done. The term 'challenge' excited some as they like the thought of a competition especially against me:) 30 brains V 1 I keep telling them are a powerful beast! Also the fact I had set a high expectation AND more importantly hadn't phrased it as the ceiling by leaving students with the thought there were more terms there to be included.

So students began the process of listening again. It was amazing seeing the difference in how many listened to the audio. A sense of a more steely game face was evident. So why didn't I do this the 1st time round and set higher expectations? Well my thinking was for students to self identify with passive listening skills and identify the difference when they are fully focused word for word with what is said. I then relayed the message that I had identified another 4 terms and was now at 33. So the supposed expert had risen the bar AGAIN! (Setting high expectation).

This second time students applied some Kagan strategies. Think, pair and share. The groups were split. One group had identified 23, 2 had 25 and 4 groups 28 geography keywords that were specific to a waterfall.

"Sir we didn't beat you:(" said a disgruntled girl.

"Ahhhh not yet, not YET"

Now for some more Kagan grouping. I have my tables set out as 4s so for this class 7 groups of 4. During group work I use a group effectiveness tally chart I have blogged about this in a previous post. See the picture at the bottom. This tool is proving to be a behaviour for learning great management strategy where students see me bring it out and know these will be linked to the class Classdojo scores that the students are very competitive with.

(I'll add hyperlink here)

I did contemplate each student having a different letter and collecting all the words for their letter but some were not used and I thought this would lead to some not working. So I took the decision for grouping the students as followed:

Letters A-G 1s from each of the 7 tables; H-M 2s; N-S 3s and T-Z 4s.

Students wrote the words from their table for their group on their whiteboard. They then met with the other 1s from each group etc to identify if the other groups had identified any other words.

The students by the end of the process had identified 38! They wrote them on the board as a collective.

The girl who before felt a little deflated was a picture:) as we're the class.

Next the important bit could any of the terms be linked together. CORRECT now how many of the terms can you connect to specific stages of how a waterfall develops.

So the students watched the video with no audio identifying how many core stages they could identify.

This time the groups identified the core 8 I wanted.

This they were consolidated with by the 8 diagrams with no labels I distributed via my resource distributor team (one from each table haha).

Now over to the link with the previous lesson of using the Jenga (Tesco Stack Em) blocks. Students wrote the key terms onto the blocks and then use them as labels for the diagrams. I got students to take pictures of each diagram with blocks for a reference to them so they could create labelled sketches of the process as well as a written answer.

Now over to the concise yet precise element to the task.

Students could have written up an answer some 100 words others 2 pages 500+

So I set the ceiling of 150 words.

Students then sequenced the Jenga blocks in an order top down. Top the 1st part of the process down to the bottom and the 8th step. So students had to order the bricks in 3s per row and then once a step was complete they put a post it marker to divide the stack for each stage so they knew when to start a new paragraph. I have a wall display of terms to use as connectives and for sequencing writing for the students and I made it explicit that I wanted to see students using them.

Now over to the writing with the word limit. I have found boys seem to like numbers. If I said write the answer some would have struggled but by psychologically imprinting that number for some in this class it becomes manageable. I'm intrigued to find out if anyone else finds this???)

The students then fell silent and got cracking as time was ticking:)

Then the bit that thrilled me the most! A girl said to me,

"Sir I'm finished." my reply "wonderful so how many keywords have you used? Can you show me how you ordered?"

"well I was good with the key terms I used 31 of them, but Alex had to help me with the connections as I got muddled. She showed me using the Jenga blocks how I could start building my answer with the first 9 terms then I did the next set so I need to work on my linking sir as not quite ordered. I hope that is ok?" I replied "I wish I had recorded that" haha. When I read her work it was precise and concise with no waffle. I checked with each table what I call the Strongest link to check theirs and was again very happy with what I read. These would become mini managers for the critique the next lesson.

Then got her to go and be monitor for the rest of the class in the final minutes and she was a star checking how many key terms each student had used. So by the end of the lesson I had that as evidence, I had the group effectiveness chart as evidence, the sequenced diagrams labelled as evidence, the ordered blocks as evidence and then for peer assessment feedback using Critique next lesson the written answers.

Next lesson should be great and I will be interested to see if others struggled with the linking and what strategy I could have implemented to strengthen that.

Give it a go:)

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Stack Em - A solo activity for Keywords

At the weekend one of my best friends @redhea79 took me out for a walk. As always with us it didn't take long for the conversation to focus on teaching (I know, I know).

Andy have me a strategy that he has used and I LOVE IT!

Firstly you need a set of Jenga like bricks. Tesco do a set called 'Stack Em' and they cost £5.

These are the stimulus resource.

1. At the end of a topic or earlier get students to say not on each brick a keyword from the topic. This is a quick AfL task as you can see what they remember. I get mine to do it as a quick plenary or a quick starter.

2. These keywords could be checked against those have noted on the board. Next I get mine to colour the bricks. This can already be done by you but i get students to do it as a bit of success criteria development against level ability.

The more difficult terms naturally relate to higher level thinking down to the name of a landform as low level. I get students to do this on the outside of the brick. See pic students could then stack them related to significance, cost, creating a ranking sequence to the tower. They could evaluate each others blocks and students try to work out how they are ranked.

The block could be classified into human / physical or environmental. So before you even play the game you have thinking driving the learning:)

Now we have our keywords and they are connected to specific levels. Now it is time for a game! See pic. Students in tables of 4 in my room play to remove the bricks. They can do that related to their target so if they are a level 4 they go for pinks or if they are a 5 the orange. Or go a great up go for a challenge. When the student draws out a word they have to say what it is. the rest on the table could do a Kagan task with it to keep then active rather than passive. 1s draw it, 2s describe it, 3s associate or dissociate from it with another brick for 6 degrees of separation from it or say as many words that are connected to it and count. I use this as a quick timer for the others. All the connected words they are saying the others are describing, drawing, the 4 sides to the brick could link to categories such as economic, environmental, social; or the 2 opposite sides opposites or positives/negatives. And so it continues.... Each brick that comes out, students can try and think off an overall connection or a theme for later that they will use with that keyword as the focus (linked to brains on the table). Some of you may not agree with the use of levels against the key terms I feel I am getting some qualitative formative assessment from it later on from it by verbally checking students.

The game will play out till the block collapses. Then we move onto the next task of 'Brains on the Table' the idea is that students sort the bricks however they want to (or by the criteria you give them on the board. So that you have control if you feel you need it to then make a direct comparison between groups. Students could then cross to another groups brain on the table to get ideas, compare / contrast ask for help a hint etc. I got students to do solo connecting of a landform. Create a list of bricks for a specific landform say like in my example :

A Volcano

Do students know the 2 types they need to know for the exam? I can check so a hinge point question to start.

Do they know one thing about this type of volcano to make them a uni structural learner? They might know it has gentle slopes. See pic

Multistructural students bring in more bricks to surround it but they are not connected they are just associated with a shield volcano. See pic

Relational students are creating links between the key words so for example they are connecting gentle slopes with low viscosity basalt lava.

Students could then with all these key terms draw on paper or I prefer the table with a whiteboard pen a diagram to incorporate the key terms and to keep connected parts together.

Students could take one of the keyword and change the focus of it all or take of the key words and apply it to something else - extended abstract thinking:)

Each table of students could have different terms in their pack and so then you could create cross table bridges to connect terms together for the big picture:)

You could write differentiated terms around the brick so runny lava on simple term side becomes low viscosity basaltic lava on the Geography Key side:)

There are other ways of using the bricks but I will happily hand it over to you to post a comment on how else say in another subject or geography you could use this resource:)

This is one way I use it:)

Saturday, 2 February 2013

A week in 20 points of odd geography because I love odd!

A big quote from a student this week quickly turned into a poll daddy survey. So what did they say???

Initially when you hear this word you feel slightly bamboozled! Is it a good identity trait or a bad one? 'The girl said "Sir you are so ODD!" "Gee whizz don't mix your words" I replied. "I'm not! Don't get me wrong Sir it is a good thing you always stick something odd or memorable into my mind and I can't get rid of it because it is wacky and off this planet or emotionally charged or it is very inventive and makes me think, 'how does he think up these things!?' Our class do a prediction before each lesson on what stupid idea will we get trapped with!"

I have read in many blogs and listened to Ofsted inspectors saying they hate seeing performances! The teacher doing ALL the effort. I counter this by the quote above. Do students always get together to make predictions before a lesson on what it will be? I do speak for a limited time because yes I firmly agree that they must when they come into the room learn. Variety with rigour thrown in. BUT when I do speak I want to capture 'The Big Picture of create similes through a demonstration that they will remember for a life time. Geography is one of the most powerful for that. It is a subject where visual stimulus captures many.

This made me think am I really that odd!? I will be filming myself and posting next week for you to decide.

So this week I decided to do a little note book on what this particular student said was odd, plus a few reflective thoughts. I posted the majority on twitter yesterday morning a list of 18 learning events in my room. I have added 2 more from 'Take Over Day' where 2 students literally become me living my life for the day:)

@JOHNSAYERS: Highlights of week. 1. Shaking a bottle of tango and irn bru (it had extra carbonate put in) then releasing. Which erupted higher? This I repeated for another class because I wasn't happy with the colour visuals I want one to demonstrate lava flow eruptions and possible fissure eruptions so a more orange colour in students mind and then a grey eruption for an ash cloud one. So we refined to Irn Bru ( that was now flat after been used the day before as i left the cap off to link to the reduced pressure these eruptions are generated from, and Coke and then a Coke with additional carbonate to highlight the changes in chemical composition in a volcano can have a vast impact on the style of the eruption. 'Give it a go' Shake the bottles and open. What happens? What might happen if?.....

@JOHNSAYERS: 2. Pouring chilli dip, syrup, then mayo to get into my characteristics of diff lava flows. The characteristics of specific types of volcanoes is an important lesson for students to make connections between processes like convection which we demonstrated two weeks ago with a fish tank filled with room temperature water Students then filmed described, compared answers, then critiqued for what happened when I added to the left a cup of cold water with blue colour dye and then warm water with red colour dye > convection currents. So from this linked to a post I wrote a few weeks ago by getting students to use their hands to demonstrate flows and then friction, heat and melting they were now to connect the experiment above by describing what happened and then explaining with justification.

@JOHNSAYERS: 3. Erosion Kung Fu with superhero designs for erosion vs weathering battle off! You will see the picture at the bottom about Monsters vs Aliens I find this a very good analogy for explaining the differences between weathering and erosion. They are two separate entities often confused so making them clearly different help students to formulate this in their minds. The students created two separate superheroes for weathering and erosion. One pair even created a 'Rap Battle' the constant differences rapped out certainly helped students to hopefully not mix the two up or get them confused.

@JOHNSAYERS: 4. Custard and cinnamon challenge loss when ALL class got above target in an assessment so I had to do forfeits! Extra push to succeed;)

@JOHNSAYERS: 5. DME exercises for Montserrat (MONSTER RAT) and Chamonix (SHAMONEEEEE) with trigger terms for memory hooks;) this is part of my very silly series. There is a reason I go ODDER at times. These are for my GCSE students two case studies that if asked about in the exam will be for L3 higher marked questions so it can be the difference between a grade getting it right or wrong. I am not in the wrong camp so I want the students to access the L3 detailed answers by using specific case study relevant material. Students afterwards have begun to make revision cards for homework one is epic and I will photograph it as well the MONSTER RAT CARd for Montserrat As is the Bo Selecta SHAMONEEEE card!

6. EPIC Y9 assessments - I will photograph a few next week with FiSH <>< marking for you to see and read the quality.

@JOHNSAYERS: 7.The Iceland M:E booklets finished:) all I can say is GO TO ICELAND WITH DISCOVER THE WORLD and enjoy missions created by me:)

8. <>< feedback symbol evolution into book marking students love its visual:) I had Jess the student from Take over day use it and she loved it and found the fish head for where good learning was then a big fish head for where she had made connections very powerful then the > body to build upon it by giving specific and helpful feedback to feedforward and then the green tail < for where to make the additions to their learning. She commented on the clear ease it allowed for the boy who you will hear got sent into my room to identify in someone else's work what they had done well and what they needed to do to improve. BINGO!

9.Geog teach meet: I haven't asked her if I can blog about her but I took the time out this week to visit a fellow geographer in the area to offer some support and ideas. I don't think in teaching we are great at supporting others. Often a fresh approach often from someone at a different school with a different demographic of students can look at a problem or big picture from a completely different angle! This is where I offer my services to each and everyone of you particularly geographers in the North-East of England just tweet, email me and I will coach, mentor, share ideas with you:)

@JOHNSAYERS: 10. Creme Brûlée torch! Take snow and mud put in a wooden box made of MDF and create a slope. At bottom Lego town. Heat the snow which mixes with the snow this creates a-lahar. This moves down the slope as a mud flow and-floods the Lego settlement so the poor Lego men and houses- especially when with more heat and time the mud set-causing a concrete like texture making recovery work difficult! A simple experiment but as the - show lots of connections can be sequenced from it.

@JOHNSAYERS: 12. From 2 students was Erosion vs Weathering rap battle with some MCing was funny seeing students desperate to swear with it but hold back.

@JOHNSAYERS: 13. Discovering Wordfoto. A powerful app for describing images for unlocking the key to using key words connected to images. I have used this app all week and will blog about it when I do a post on photo/picture work.

@JOHNSAYERS: 14. Group effectiveness reflection/evaluation tool proved very effective for self regulating for each group:) Students were focused on the learning driven by a simple evaluative tool. Thank you Andy Day! http://t.co/3ltZqFEx

@JOHNSAYERS: 15. Self worth when people from other schools tell me they've used and loved my deeper Q matrix:) http://t.co/LHDiKdPH

@JOHNSAYERS: 16. Evolution of the Q matrix for a student self/peer assessment grid. Each traffic light split in 2. 1.self 2.peer http://t.co/wNJiiGhR

@JOHNSAYERS: 17. Incorporating AR into the learning in DeBono Thinking hat mat task:) http://t.co/BaUEOjA1

@JOHNSAYERS: 18. Using and sharing the #7eplan very effective for thinking through a lesson. See blog by @HThompson1982 or it:) http://t.co/mAH2PUdG I can't shout from the roof tops how much Hayley is inspiring me t the minute. I love someone who is thorough and wants to push thinking with a class. Hayley does that and she is willing to share. She is my learning crush as I LOVE her lesson plan!

19. A young lady that I teach called Jess came up to me this week and asked, "Sir can I take over you on Friday with Sophie?" This is a whole school day where students get to take over staff and become a teacher. I naturally had them doing all sorts from organising, display, marking using the <>< technique, planning their coming lessons so they can tutor students in the room on their take of the 'Big Picture', they tutored a student who was sent out from another class. So I have given them my copy of Mission Explore Food as a thank you and because they did so much when I get hold of the parents on the phone I will donate my daily salary to the two of them! Stupid some have said but they did 'Take Over' from me and do a brilliant job whilst I coasted!

20. Meeting up with fellow Geographers last night Nick Piercy and Andy Redhead my two best buddies. It is great musing over your subject and discussing life. Two of us are meeting up today to thrash out a set of job applications.

What about 11? This week I applied for a new job:) and hopefully I will become the Co-Leader of 'The Geography Collective' with the great and inspiring David Rodger. Fingers crossed as I think we will do a fantastic job in spreading geography to more people:)

I hope you have enjoyed reading my post today. 'Give it a go' trigger hooks for your learning. More importantly let students create them a great active learning journey.