Tuesday, 30 June 2009
This involves keeping a speaker's list and deciding how long each person will speak for:
Students also have time to negotiate individually and convince others of their propositions. This bit involves a free-for all of discussion and debate:
It's one of the most exciting parts of the year and students LOVE being given an adult way of discussing things. While some subjects might not find this exact format suitable I would encourage you to think about other settings you can simuate. Maths at a model stock exchange? Scientists at a science policy debate? Usually teachers are only limited by their imagination....
Monday, 29 June 2009
Helping students make revision board games is a fun end-of-year activity that helps consolidate learning from the past year. I use a powerpoint presentation to introduce the concept to students along with a letter explaining the activity purpose.
Online there are plenty of templates to support student imagination- for example I found this racing car example at Jeff Ertzberger's website.
At the end of the project I laminate a few of the best ones to use the following year with disengaged students. One student even managed to create a 'poker style' revision game with a card table that became quite a hit during the final revision weeks!
Friday, 26 June 2009
To be alternative get hold of a video camera and get them to make their own films. I had one video camera for an entire class of Year 9 boys. I gave them one hour, the camera and told them to make an educational video about STIs (we'd been covering sex ed). They came back with the most incredible - already edited on the camera - movie. Some parts are factually inaccurate but the narrative is there and they are savvy with their use of shots and editing. I now use the movie in other lessons to see if students can spot the mistakes.
Another example is from a few years ago when students made a video about knife crime. This took slightly longer but this one is allowed to be on youtube so you can see their work.
Thursday, 25 June 2009
I build up to creating our museum exhibition over a few lessons. (The full Scheme of Work can be found here - this one is environment themed)
We start brainstorming what a good exhibition looks like, by showing students some examples from past lessons and online. We then brainstorm possible questions and pick the ones we will investigate. I also add in the most important part here: each display must have a display board with words and pictures AND each team must create an interactive model that explains some part of the answer to their question.
Lessons 2 & 3:
Students research and prepare for 'creation' day. I give each group ONE lesson only to complete the visual parts of their display. On the day they may bring ready-made items in, e.g. written displays or pictures, to stick onto their card, but they will only have 50 minutes. To prepare students for this I give them decision cards. On the cards each team makes decisions about the team member responsible for the model, pictures, writing, etc. [This lesson was observed during our OFSTED and the inspectors loved it because it gave 'structured independence' to the students].
Lesson 5: The museum bit. So, on the day, students have 10 minutes to set up. Each stand leaves one pupil at the display, ready to explain to passers-by. The rest of us go out into the corridor - with bags and coats if necessary - and we line up. I explain that we are on 'a trip' and that students have worksheets to fill in. "You must treat the museum with respect as you are representing our school and I don't want visitors going away thinking badly of school" I say (cue much good-natured groaning here...). Students go into the classroom, look at each other's exhibitions, ask questions and complete their worksheet. Because every student must complete their worksheet fully, students rotate who stays with the display and who is moving around.
As long as it is set-up properly with good instruction, I have never had this lesson go wrong. Everyone is on-task and enjoying themselves.
Final note: Make sure you have time to pack away or let the next teacher know that you will be late!
Wednesday, 24 June 2009
Over the last few years I've trialled various end-of-year projects with students and will be sharing 'How To' guides for the most successful over the next 7 days. Starting tomorrow with: Make a museum in your classroom.
The Dustball Plagiarism Checker is a brilliant tool for doing this. On the first page you copy and paste student work into the box. It seems to carry any amount of text and even if the original document has pictures it works around them.
After this, hit the 'check' button and a new page will pop up with a selection of sentences and the verdict - 'ok' or 'suspected plagiarism'
Finally, and this is my favourite bit, by clicking on the 'possible plagiarism' bit you get taken to a google page showing the websites. You are then able to present the sudent with the website that the text was taken from. It's also worth checking these as sometimes there are a LOT of hits with the same sentence - in this case, it's simply that the topic means a student is likely to write that combination of words. If there's only one hit returned, and it matches a lot of the work, then it's likely to be plagiarism.
* A quick note: All of the websites I write about are genuinely ones I use in my classroom - they are not sponsored links or anything like that. I write about them mostly so I have a quick place to get the link from. This does mean that some weeks I won't write about websites because I don't have any new ones.
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
I create small pre-printed cards with information pertinent to students studies that I can give to parents. At the top it has the topics we covered this year (this helps get over the: "So what is citizenship?" question but also gives a structure to topic and helps parents feel secure in their knowledge of the subject). I then put a tick-list of things that people can do well - e.g. active participation, evaluation of topics, questioning skills and I will tick the one the student did best and explain why I ticked this to the parent.
Finally, there is a space at the bottom. I ask the student what they think went well and we write this in. I then add anything I want them to work on next year, along with some encouragement, before signing and passing over.
A slightly more 'serious' version was made by a fantastic colleague of mine, Louise Baldwin. She created a 'science' card inclduing space for various module grades. She then talked through the system with parents - many of whom did not speak English well and appreciated the simplicity of the card and the fact they were given something to read and follow in their own time.
This system works for three reasons. 1. Parents get a lot of information over an evening so it's helpful for them to have something to reflect on when they get home - especially if English is a second language. 2. It means every kid has a record of what they did best which makes them more likely to feel efficacious about the subject. And, finally, 3. Because the slips are printed on coloured card they look like certificates and everyone likes being given a certificate - it's human nature!
Monday, 22 June 2009
We need to take our own advice sometimes.
Friday, 19 June 2009
" If we wanted to design a learning environment, without ever having seen one, what would we come up with?" -- and he credits this to 'Tom Carroll at PT3 Grants'
It's a brilliant question. As I begin preparing for next year I find myself falling into habits. It will be my fourth year of teaching and gradually I've figured out what works for me and, hopefully, my students. I also find myself guilty of occasional groupthink or being swayed by a 'majority' view of education. This question has got me thinking about what I really believe learning should be about and what this means for my classroom layout and planning.
Today's Tip? Ponder this questio for a little while. Ask some colleagues what they think. And see if you can plan next year's classroom to be a little bit closer to the environment you would want.
* The powerpoint is called Learning Communities: Laboritories of Innovation for Teaching and Learning,
Thursday, 18 June 2009
I told this story to a colleague who said she often did the same thing. When she gave the item to the student she would say: "I saw this and thought of you." It was then down to the student to respond. Sometimes they dismiss the item, othertimes they beam and place it somewhere carefully. In all cases I do believe it makes the student feel more valued and more liked as long as it is given from a genuine belief that it is something they are interested in.
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
In this case I usually suggest students look at an online dictionary. However this usually results in their being confused about words in the definition. Alternatively students look in a thesaurus and then end up with words in their essays with completely different meanings than the ones originally intended.
Wordsift is a visual dictionary that gives pictures and a 'mind-map' of related words to get around this. It was particularly helpful for Evolution, producing the following screen:
The pictures on the left, taken from google, gave an image that students immediately identified with ("Ah, monkey into men!") and the box on the right gives a series of words. Hold your mouse over them and a plain english definition appears. Click on the other words and a whole new word constellation begins. The map clearly shows how closely related the synonyms are and gives students a chance to find out their meaning by holding the mouse over them.
Great for showing the whole class when stuck with a concept.
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Monday, 15 June 2009
As a teacher these words echo in my ear each day. In 3 years of teaching I have only raised my voice or told a child off in front of others a handful of times. I always make the effort to take the child aside and speak to them privately. Even when I've had children screaming, swearing and throwing things I try to remain calm and only speak to them about their behaviour once in private.
On Thursday last week I forget my rule and sniped, uneccesarily, at a student. She was asking for help on a subject I had explained, in some detail, two days earlier but she had lost the notes. Tired and exasperated I sniped at her. She actually took it well and sat down again, cheeks enflamed but still calm. I felt dreadful. Keeping 'face' is so important to students and what had I taught this young person? That questions may lead to embarrassment? Although I did not agree with her irresponsibility with the notes, being mean was not going to lead to a change in her behaviour. More likely she was going to decide that I was unreasonable and give up on her work.
At the end of the lesson I held her back and apologised for my behaviour. Calmer now I could explain why I became exasperated and gave her some strategies for getting answers to questions which didn't involve haranguing me yet again. We both left happy.
Today's tip? "Praise in public, reprimand in private". If you can. Trust me, sometimes it's hard.
Friday, 12 June 2009
Realising this was bad for my mental health, and that of other concerned commuters, I decided to try something new. Each Friday, as I climbed onto the DLR, I would plug into my music and pick a beautiful track. At first, I couldn't go for anything too upbeat. Pachelbel's Canon in D was great. As the music played I forced myself to visualise the week like a movie montage. It would start off with all the bad things and then, as the music built, I would think about the good moments. The occasional smile, a flash of teaching magic, laughter in the staffroom with other teachers and it would start to make everything a little bit better. Even now, when I feel low, I use this technique to remind me how important -- and amazing -- our job can be.
Should you need inspiration, here's one of my favourite 'teacher-movie' clips to help. The Bon Jovi song played over it is now a favourite Friday Movie Tune:
Thursday, 11 June 2009
Given that it was a sex ed lesson there were plenty of crude answers but my favourite is still the kid that, so excited he could barely get the words out, shouted: "Have legs! 87% of people have legs." Ah, the wonders of a teenager's mind.
The real answer? "Get married" It's really not that exciting but it proved a great way to start our discussions.
Wednesday, 10 June 2009
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
Awesome. It's the "all about" that makes it for me.
I feel that I have changed since starting sixth form because i used to watch TV but since starting Ms Mc's class my life has become all about health and social care."
She, and colleague Sophia Snow, gave adults a series of tasks to do. With one group Langer referred to the tasks as 'work' throughout her instructions; with the other group she presented the task as 'playing a game'. The adults then started their tasks. The harder the tasks became the more the work group reported not enjoying the task. They also reported higher levels of 'mind wandering'. This did not happen with the 'play' group.
By the end of the experiment, when participants were completing the hardest task, the 'play' group were twice as likely to enjoy the task and stay focused on it.
Surely there's a tip in there somewhere??
Monday, 8 June 2009
Friday, 5 June 2009
However, my new school doesn't have parent's evening -- in fact, we have very limited communication with parents. Given that I teach mostly sixth-formers aged 16-19 I can see why it is less relevant, but I do feel we're missing out.
I therefore try, each week, to ring at least one student's parents to give some positive news on their progress. Each term I also photocopy the work of the best student and send it in a package to their parents with a personal letter explaining what I thought was so impressive.
All of this is welcomed, but nothing has been commented on more than the fact I say "thank you" to parents. I thank them for sending their children to us, for being a guiding influence and for caring about their children so much. Doing so makes our job so much easier. Often parents react by saying: "Oh no, I didn't do anything..." or "Well, that's what parents are for". Sometimes they even act confused. But 9/10 times I can hear the pride in their voice or I see their shoulders raise a few inches - just the same way that students do when complimenting their work. Thing is, we all need to be told that our efforts in life are being noticed. Simply because we hit adulthood it doesn't mean we stop needing positive feedback.
So...my simple tip would be thank parents as often as you have an excuse. It may brighten everyone's day!
Thursday, 4 June 2009
Carol Dweck's important research looked at students who, having succesfully completed a task, were rewarded differently. One group were praised for their intelligence ("Wow. You got a high score. You must be smart at this."). One group were praised for effort ("You must have worked really hard). And a final group were praised for their performance only ("You did a good job").
Here's the scary bit... Dweck then asked students to choose a task to do next. They had two choices. One task was challenging but students would learn a lot (regardless of whether they succeeded); the other task was easier with sure success but, crucially, less learning. 90% of children praised for effort went for the challenging task, whereas the majority of children praised for intelligence took the easy option. This scientific experiment concluded that praising intelligence rather than effort limited student's willingness to challenge themselves in the future. Instead, students became used to taking an 'easier option
Of course, science is not the real world. This is a fairly contrived test. But logic would suggest the same thing. Praise for intelligence praises what you are meaning students start to believe their success is outside of their control - it was down to an innate ability or, perhaps, a fluke. Praising students for what they do enables students to feel positive about taking on challenges and focuses their mind on process rather than outcomes.
As Dweck says:
their intelligence,we are telling them that this is the name
of the game: Look smart ; d o n ’t risk making mistake s . O n
the other hand,when we praise children for the effort and
hard work that leads to achievement, they want to keep
engaging in that process.They are not diverted from the
task of learning by a concern with how smart they
might—or might not—look.
Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Tuesday, 2 June 2009
When students get to class he is able to either assess where they are in terms of energy and pick the most suitable activity. Or, and here in lies the genius, he will explain to the students about the two prepared lessons and genuinely ask which one they prefer. They have to think through which lesson will provide the most learning and give reasons justifying their answer. In doing so students invest in the planning process, realise what needs to happen for them to learn and - generally - they are much better behaved.
Of coure, planning TWO lessons is a lot of work and I'm not suggesting this as a long-term strategy. But in the short-term, if a class are a little off-task, it really can help.