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Showing posts from September, 2008

Particpatory Geography

How can we get pupils to design their own curriculum? Not for others but for themselves to follow. One simple technique is to get pupils to write questions, ideas and activities linked to a topic. Here, Year 9 students have said what they would like to know at the end of a unit called 'volcanoes'. Low tech, but it is surprising how many topics would appear in the SoW. Also allows children to point out some of the activities that the enjoy, e.g. maps from memory, games etc...

Teachers survival pack....

I attended the Portsmouth LA NQT welcome meeting during the week. One of the best presentations was given by two secondary school teachers who had just passed induction. In it they gave a survival pack fr the NQT year. Since the talk I've been trying to put together my essential list. In no particular order, here is the list of stuff I couldn't do without: R+R - the mountains, outdoors, mountain bike, beer or just leaving at 5 and not working at home. Sometimes I really need to switch off! And of course good quality single malt. iPhone - only had this device for 2 weeks but it has revolutionised my organisation. I have a photo of my timetable, using the calendar feature and just listening to music when I need to calm down! My own laptop with mobile broadband - no need to worry about blocked sites at work. I can take my lessons anywhere. A reality check - from family, girlfriend and colleagues. Always keep my feet on the ground and give me perspective. Memory stick Good qualit

Aims and concepts

Open evening is approaching. I also want to avoid work. Have put this together - will be forming posters in the department as well becoming the screensavers on the open night. May be useful to others. The aims of geography are targeted toward KS3 and 4 students. Have made extensive use of Creative Commons images from Flickr. Images that aren't credited are my own (well if the head of department can't put his own face up in school who can ;-) ) Aims View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

Geographical imaginations

1.1 Place Understanding the physical and human characteristics of real places. Developing ‘geographical imaginations’ of places. Taken from here . Just got back from a short ride on the MTB and avoiding packing away the tents for next weekend. The clip above will form a lesson idea designed to explore Year 7's geographical imaginations. Place as the National Curriculum sees it looks like this: From this it is clear that pupils should explore different places and interpret their imaginations of place as well as other peoples. Essentially, exploring places. But how can we communicate geographical imaginations? The youtube video is one of my favorite parts of Cool Runnings . I like this as it links to the Olympics and one of the main characters says something that I very strongly believe in: 'I didn't come all this way to forget who I am and where I come from'. How would we like to remember Portsmouth if we moved away? What images will we remember in 10 years time

ICT developments

Frustration. An exciting meeting and dialogue (well, heated debate!) between some pionier users of ICT and SLT occurred yesterday. We made some great progress: Agreement to get at least one teacher desktop in every classroom asap Online registration - this will reduce the cost of photocopying currently used to track internal truancy The possible move of the school email system to gmail Other topics were talked about also. To me the way to get teachers using ICT is to ensure that they have access to a computer and have to turn it on each and every day. Insisting on online registration will do this. Then, once the computer is logged on and on the desk a teacher may use the internet to search for resources, use a PPT to make life a bit easier.... One of the most frustrating parts of the discussion centered around the VLE / blog debate. We all have to use VLE's, the government expects it. However, it seems to me that the learning conversation isn't going on. I was told that my bl

Increasing productivilty

It's a busy month October. On top of current commitments, I also need to meet with an enthusiastic geography governor who is also head of Lifelong Learning for the local council. The problem was were we could fit each other in. He introduced me to Meet-O-Matic a free tool designed to find the best time to meet. Very quick and easy and now there is another meeting stored in the calendar!

New blogs

Have been playing around with Wordpress and considering migrating over... I have set up a couple of blogs for my new school. The aim is to tackle the Head's big bugbear: homework. In fact the main issue is one of communication between teachers, pupils and parents. The current system of providing rigid Schemes of Work with set homeworks is not flexible enough to respond to individual classes and teachers. The KS3 blog is an attempt to be more flexible. Parents can be directed there in order to support their children while pupils can use the site for support and as a virtual study diary. There are some issues: if every department were t take this step then the identity of the school is diluted. Also - how is the quality to be assured? I would prefer to use the school's VLE which is in the process of being set up - however will that be as flexible as a blog where I can update and provide support in the lesson? The KS4 blog will soon have an email update - this has been reque


A thought provoking post by Noel has made me think. Is one way to close the gap between secondary and tertiary education to use the terminology of higher institutions? A simple change could have a large impact....

Pints of tea!

I really enjoy heading to Pete's Eats at the end of a long day on the hills, or hiding from the Welsh weather! One of the highlights is always the pint mug of tea! I purchased a couple a few years back and usually hit the tea after getting home. I'm please to say that these are now available to buy from the website! Photo credit


To " improve the use of ICT to enhance teaching and students’ learning, including students’ use of geographical information systems especially in Key Stage 3". One of the targets given by Ofsted after the subject inspection in February. The situation then? Rolling blackboards and ICT meant video, tv, Brazil 2000 and an OHP. Today the final installations of ICT equipment has been installed in the department. This now makes geography the best equipped department ICT wise (after ICT). One suite of 20 machines, every teaching room now has access to a projector and at least one networked PC an speaker system (Year 11 found that these are very loud when I tested the equipment with the 'Where the Hell is Matt' video!) . No interactive whiteboards though but one step at a time. The next step is to ensure that the equipment is used effectively. This means training staff that have little experience of using ICT in the classroom and making sure that the Schemes of

Amazing Places

As mentioned in a previous post, the Year 7 baseline assessment has been a sucess. I've also uploaded some of the resources for our first unit - Amazing Places here . The unit's inspiration comes form the RGS scheme and ideas used from Tony, Alan and Noel. The idea is that Year 7 get a 'taster' of geography - lightly skimming the surface of issues before revisited them later on in KS3. One issue that has been a challenge is differentiating for the lower ability classes at Priory. Although these classes love discussion, some of the more open ended tasks (the Iceland film crew briefing document for example) need a lot of scaffold. However, early work is very pleasing and Year 7 seem engaged! I have also tried to stick to a number of key principles across the department. One is that pupils can choose how they present homework and projects. Pupils are sticking to their strong points early on and this allows them to focus on the geography rather than using a presentation t

Defining participatory geography

As part of my RGS(IBG) Innovative Teaching Grant I have attempted to define participatory geography. a. Pupils involved in creating and evaluating the curriculum i. At Priory this aspect proved to be very innovative and controversial! To meet this criteria, pupil voice has been gathered using on-line questionnaires. In addition, a small group of pupils has been formed whose role is to feed back to staff on the quality of the curriculum. During the project it became clear that although pupils are often involved in evaluating what has happened to them, they are rarely involved in creating their own curriculum. Geography on Tour aimed to create resources that will be used with pupils who chose the issues. b. Pupils making informed personal choices i. What do they buy? Changing behaviour such a turning off lights and using less water. c. Pupils informing and influencing their


Without me really noticing it seems that over 10,000 'reads' have happened! Still not sure how useful this blog is to other people, although I have received some favorable comments(both virtual and face-to-face) and emails from people. I do still find that, with my brain being quite unorganized, that writing a blog post does concentrate and order my thoughts even when I don't publish it. Photo credit

Spelling and assessment

An interesting feature on Breakfast this morning, followed up online in t his article . Reminds me of the range of different mehods that I use to assess pupils. The baseline assessment has been used by all 250 Year 7's and a quick evaluation has been made. As usual, some pupils aren't that great at writing. I found myself talking to pupils and asking questions and listening to their ideas. I then recorded the level of their oral answer at the top of their question sheet. So how do we assess our pupils? And is it important at KS3? When I talk to pupils assessment is very important to them. They value the chance to know how well they are doing. The main 'customer' of education: parents, also like assessment. They like to know how well their children are doing. I also value assessment - I can see the progression of pupils in a measurable way. I am a quantitative geographer by nature, and I like being able to measure pupil performance (although not in the SLT sense of t


My new toy has arrived. Straight away it has enabled me to get more organised! Being able to easily check my Google calendar means that I can now avoid getting double booked. A feature that also sold the idea to my other half! I have also downloaded Spore as an app after reading a couple of blogs ( Ollie and Alan ) about the game. I have to admit that I done know very much at all about the game so am looking forward to exploring! Ever since playing Colonization on my PC many years ago I thought that gaming could also be used for learning as I found out a huge amount about the development of the USA. Others are far further down the gaming/education track than myself. Having said this there may be an opportunity at my establishment to explore some of the potential, especially for transition work. Maybe based on Ollie's work. Another good feature is the (albeit power hungry) GPS and geotagging feature. I'm not sure whether this will replace my hand help GPS and camera as the c
Mmmm, on the train again. I enjoyed recent post by Doug Belshaw about increasing productivity and I have today that using mobile broadband and the train has increased my production! And it needs to! One of the issues of taking over a department with an inadequate curriculum is that everything (well almost everything) has to change at once. This means that the department is around 1-2 weeks ahead of the pupils. We are also evaluating the curriculum as we go - making changes and consulting pupils. We have also set up pupil groups, their job is to advise us on how the curriculum can meet their needs more effectively. Participatory Geography in action! I have created some 4shared folders containing the Schemes of Work and some resources that are being used in the department.

FSC Eco Challenge

Just on the train home from a parents meeting facilitated by the FSC. Our department is taking part in the Eco-Schools Challenge . For anyone not familiar with this project I would strongly reconmend reading up! In October 30 Year 8 students will travel to the FSC's center Juniper Hall for a 4 day residential. The focus will be on environmenal issues and adventure activities. The project also provides 3 follow up sessions at local areas. For some of our urban dwelling pupils the adventure will be a real eyeopener. Planned activities include shelter building, mountain biking, a river study and team challenges. The best part: it's all free. NO cost to either the school or parents.

Locating places

It seems that pupils are not great at locating places so this year each exercise book will have a world map glued to the inside cover. Every place studied will be located on this map. Hopefully that will allow pupils to know where places are. I have also put an OS map of the local area on my classroom wall. It will be used to create a display centered around students' favorite places creating a living map. The plan is to build on students' personal geographies as I hope to locate case studies that link into the units. Photo credit

Back to it!

Greater effort means better rewards. The more effort put into getting somewhere, the better the view. The greater the risk taken the greater the reward? Heading into work today in order to get various bits organised. The projectors promised over the summer are not yet in place - disappointing. However, I'm hoping that patience and persistence will be rewarded. Does mean that in the sort termthough I need to reconfigure the start of term for the department - out goes the all singing all dancing ICT and in comes the singing and dancing teacher! Also this year I will be kicking off our INSET day on Wednesday with an outline of a new rewards system. We'll see how that goes!