It’s a fairly well known fact that I am now an TeachMeet addict, so following the success of TMSwansea two years ago, and in attempt to get another hit of TeachMeet goodness, my school has agreed to host another of the events, this time on the 16th May
If you’ve never been to a TeachMeet, the idea is simple. You get a bunch of teachers in a room together, give them tea and coffee, and a few of them who have agreed to get up and speak for either 2 or 7 minutes on something that’s had an impact in their classroom. That’s it. The events are free to attend. In the past I’ve tried to get sponsorship, although generally speaking most companies are happy to give you ‘stuff’, but less able to part with cold hard cash. Given that time is of the essence I’ve decided we could do without a raffle and so we won’t be seeking sponsors for this event. Instead the school will provide teas and coffees, and attendees will have the chance when they arrive to put in an order from the local chippy, which we will have delivered for half time!
So, what are you waiting for? Get yourself over to http://TMSwansea13 and get yourself signed up either to speak or just to come and listen to some great ideas. You can also like the event on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter or have the details of the event tattooed on your forehead
See you on the 16th!
Last year, I had my year 13 class create a revision wiki in the run up to their exams. It worked quite well, but it needed a bit of pump priming with some ICT room time that I just don’t have this year, and I wasn’t completely convinced that my current yr 13s would take to it in quite the same way.
So when, on Monday, we were talking through some options for revision sessions for them, I raised the idea of an evening online revision session. I was initially thinking some kind of revision version of a twitter chat, but it quickly became clear that wouldn’t work. So, after chewing a few ideas around with them, we settled on the ideas of using Google Docs. We’re a Google Apps school, so everyone has access, it’s a tool they’re all used to using now, and it has the advantage of the chat as well as the main document.
So, on Monday at 8pm I copied and pasted the first section of the syllabus into a Google Doc and sat back as 7 of my class started adding their notes and ideas, along with occasional argument in the chat. I joined in adding content for the first few minutes, when it became clear that my time would be better spent adding the links and tidying up behind the rush of content that was being added. After an hour we had most of the first three topics added. They went off to watch Game of Thrones or Broadchurch and I spend another half an hour or so finishing off the tidying up.
On Wednesday lunchtime we met to talk through the sections they had highlighted as areas they wanted to review or didn’t understand and after school I printed out two copies of our now 13 page long revision notes, and we used them to plan responses to some possible essay questions.
All in all, I’ve been really impressed. The real-time nature gives the activity more drive than had been the case last year, and it allowed me to quickly spot a couple of areas that I needed to go back and clarify with the rest of the class. The quality of the final resource, along with the fact that it’s been mostly authored by them means that the investment of my time is more than repaid Even those students who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) join in have access to the revision document that’s been created.
The only downside has been a couple of students whose computers / browsers just haven’t coped with several people editing the document at the same time, but I can’t think of a better tool for the job right now, so we’re going to stick with it for another week and see if a chance of browser (in one case) and borrowing another laptop from a family member (in another) might help that.
Back in October of last year I was honoured (and a little surprised) to be asked to be a member of a group established by Leighton Andrews tasked with reviewing the teaching of Welsh history, the story of Wales and the Curriculum Cymreig
We were asked to consider three questions:
- Whether the Curriculum Cymreig should be best delivered through the discipline of history and, if not, the best means of ensuring that the elements of Curriculum Cymreig are delivered across the curriculum;
- Whether there is sufficient emphasis on Welsh history and the stories of Wales in the teaching of history and the current programme of study; and,
- Whether the teaching of history, from the Foundation Phase through to the Welsh Baac, GCSE and A level sufficiently take account of the latest research and the new resources available about the historical development of Wales to the present day.
It’s worth noting that we haven’t been asked to comment on the current National Curriculum order for History beyond Q2. I’m assume that that will be part of the current and ongoing review of the whole of the National Curriculum.
After several months, and probably even more draft versions, our interim report has been published for consultation. The report is very detailed, and provides the setting and context for each question, as well as out comments and recommendations. The next stage is to seek the views of the wider community before we revise the report for submission to the Minister.
If you have a view on how ‘Welsh’ the Curriculum should (or shouldn’t) be, or how well represented the Histories of Wales are in the curriculum at the present time, then this is your chance to have your say.
You can view the report and complete the questionnaire from this page.
The report and it’s recommendations will be the subject of Tuesday night’s #addcym chat from 8-9pm.
#TLAB 13 – Rebooting my teaching: Stealing ideas from primary schools and shaking up my secondary classroom
On 16th March I was lucky enough to be the excellent Teaching, Learning and Assessment conference organised by Nick Dennis at Berkhamsted school. Much to my bemusement, not only was I asked to run a session, but several people actually came along! You can see the Prezi embedded below (or click here), but I thought I’d provide a brief overview as well.
I briefly talked through my background into teaching and the reasons for the time I’d spend volunteering with yr 6 at one of the local primary schools. I also posed a couple of questions for the audience to get them chatting, thinking and sharing some ideas. In this case:
If you could go anywhere to reinvigorate your teaching, where would it be?
What will you do on Monday morning (or sooner) to make that happen?
We had some great feedback, from international visits, to people reestablishing links with industry.
5 things I (re)learned
Relearned, because I think all of these things I knew when I started teaching, but the day to day grind, and the general secondary school culture had meant I’d either forgotten or ignored them.
I reflected on the way in which space is used more flexibly in primary, and how everything is arranged for group work rather than facing the front. I linked to some of the work done by Bianca Hewes based on the work of David Thornburg around the concepts of learning spaces as campfires, watering holes and caves. I mentioned that I would love to have individual desks, rather than double desks, which would make the potential for a flexible space even greater.
What did I change?
All my desks got arranged into groups. I try (although don’t always succeed) to move the tables around depending on the class and the activity.
2. Generating Questions
One of the things that struck me about the class I visited was the way in which their questions relating to various current topics were on permanent display around the classroom (in fact, the use of display was something else I changed as a result of my visit). The classroom was driven by their questions, rather than those imposed on them (much like Tait Coles had been mentioning in his excellent session on Punk Learning)
What did I change?
I started to encourage more student questions to be at the heart of activities, including building on a unit developed by others in the department where students have to develop questions about everyday life in a particular historic period and then go and find and present their answers. I also tried to incorporate KWL grids more and use activities like the excellent ‘Shall we join the Chartists‘ from Ian Dawson
Quick plug – There are loads of great ideas for this in Hywel Roberts’ book ‘Oops’
I was blown away by how much responsibility students were given in year 6, and how little we take note of that when they arrive in yr 7. I know they’ve gone from the top of the school to the bottom, and they need to learn a new set of norm and values, but I do think this is one area where we need to trust our students more.
What did I change?
Be willing to try more adventurous projects with students. With open-ended projects if the students asked the question ‘can I…?’ I do my very best to make sure the answer is ‘yes, of course!’
4. Cross Curricular
I’ve made no secret of the fact that one of the first things I’d change about secondary schools is the way that the curriculum is divided up into desrete little boxes and then we ring a bell every hour to move students to a new one.
Now, I’m not in charge, and there’s nothing I can really do about this, but I can do two things within my room…
What did I change?
Make sure that plenary questions from time to time focus on the links with other lessons and other topics. I also regularly ask students what they’re doing with other teachers, both in terms of topics and more importantly in activities so I can steal the best ones!
Another big structural difference between Primary and Secondary is the flexibility they seem to have over time. While I don’t have that (when the bell goes, it’s all over), I have been interested in using technology to try and bring some of that flexibility in.
What did I change?
More use of Edmodo to provide links and reminders to students
Use of Google Apps for students to create shared documents and presentations – this allows me to monitor and feedback in a more timely manner than if the first time I see it is when it arrives in my classroom on a bit of paper
I then threw out another question to the audience – What have you forgotten about how you want(ed) your classroom to be?
Project Based Learning
For part three of the workshop I introduced the audience to the ingredients of Project Based Learning (as defined by BIE) and gave some examples of how I’d tried to bring those into my classroom.
* Turning over part of the A Level Syllabus to groups of students to teach. The key part of this project was that they had to do their presentations twice, getting peer feedback after the first go.
* Having year 8s build a website on Stuart History so they could explore an area of interest to them.
* The open projects, where students can investigate any topic they want to within a given historical period, and present their findings any way they want
More questions: How could you use PBL to structure a unit of work?
Finally, given that many of the previous keynote speakers had tried to find an analogy for teaching, I threw in mine – a magpie. For me, the power both of the day, and of what I’ve been able to do over the last few years is picking the best ideas from other people and adapting them to my classroom and the learners there. In that spirit, I threw over three more ideas that I suggested people went to investigate:
Finally, inspired by Juliette Heppell at TMBett, we ended with a snowball fight – everyone wrote down one idea that they’d picked up from the day along with their twitter id if they had one, and lobbed it across the room. This meant they even if my session hadn’t been of much use, they left with one more idea and hopefully a contact to follow it up with!
I’m very grateful to everyone who came, and hope it was of some use to you.
Well, I blinked and half term vanished. There’s a pile of half finished posts here (along side the half finished lesson plans, powerpoints, marking and ironing), some of which I might get to soon. In the mean time I thought I might cheat and post an email I sent to one of our ex-PGCE students on the subject of trying to liven up some otherwise fairly dull A Level content. There might be an idea here that someone else can steal, and I can cross ‘blogging’ off my half term to do list!
I’ve been lucky enough to get a ticket for the TeachMeet at BETT on Friday, and I’ve put my name down for a 2 minutes presentation.
As we’ve been asked to provide materials in case we don’t get selected, I’m reserving this space now so I can pass the link on to the organisers. If I get drawn I’ll edit this to post either a video or a summary. If I don’t, I’ll add a brief summary of what I would have said.
You can keep an eye on events, including the link for the live stream, by searching for #tmbett2013 on Twitter.
It’s mid way through #tmbett2013 and I’ve just 2 minutes trying to encourage teachers to go for a ‘small parts loosely joined’ approach rather than looking for a single solution that offers everything they need.
There’s loads of great ideas floating around tonight, and in hindsight I think mine may have been a little out of step (check back tomorrow for the other thing maybe I should have spoken about…). It may have been taken as a rant against commercial products, and that wasn’t my intention. My point was simply that we should use the best tool for the job, just as we would in
our personal lives, be that Facebook, email, instgram, Dropbox etc etc.
If you’re a teacher, you should know that’s ok to head for that approach, and all the support you need is a tweet away.
If you’re a company, or a school elearning person, or an LEA PLEASE look at ways to make this as seamless as possible. We’re really lucky in Swansea to have a great team who’ve done some amazing work to get single sign on working, but even just using standard usernames or providing support and training can help make a big difference to teachers, who can go on and make a big difference to their students.
I’m pleased to announce that from this term I’ll be working with Portal Training to lead an inset course, from their base in Cardiff, exploring ways to get the most of digital opportunities.
The course I’ll be running is designed to be platform neutral (laptops, tablets, phones of any make and operating system are welcome) and practical. As I’ve said before, what teachers are really short on is the chance to experiment and play so we’re building a hefty dose of that, along with lots of choice to help people find solutions that work in their classrooms.
The first of these is running on 15th March and details are now online, along with a form to book your place.
If you think this sounds like the kind of course that might be of use to you, or to someone you know, please do think about signing up and joining us. And pass the link on!
I’m delighted to announce I’ll be speaking at the Teaching, Learning and Assessment Conference taking place at Berkhamsted School on Saturday 16th March.
The event has been organised by Nick Dennis, who has put together a line up of amazing speakers (and me) for the amazingly small sum of £40. It’s also on a Saturday, avoiding all those awkward conversations about the cost of cover for your classes. So you’ve got no good reason that I can see for not signing up right now!
As well as day packed with keynotes from Alistair Smith, Prof Bill Lucas and Dr Bill Rankin, there will be workshops let by some of the best classroom practitioners going, who will be sharing their experiences with you. All that, plus breakfast and lunch for £40.
It’s an early start, so if you’re going to go up the night before (as I will be) there’s also a Teachmeet planned for the Friday night.
My session will build on some of the stuff I’ve been writing about here over the last 18 months under the ‘rebooting my teaching’ tag – the ideas I got from volunteering in one of our feeder primary schools and how I’ve tried to embed some of those in the secondary classroom. I’ll be covering links to Project Based Learning, use of digital tools and I’ll share some concrete examples of both projects that worked, and some that didn’t.
There’s also so many workshops I want to go to, I suspect I shall get a headache just trying to choose!
Click here to sign up and I’ll see you there!
Happy New Year!
After two days of complete and utter shell shock I think I found my teaching feet today.
So I thought I’d put a quick blog post together highlighting a couple of things from the week in the vague hope that it might become a habit
1. In ICT we’ve introduced a checklist system before students hand in their ESW work. They have to check their work against a list of criteria and then get one of their friends to do the same before they upload their work. The hope is that it will cut down on the amount of work we have to return because it’s riddled with silly mistakes. We’ve also told everyone that when they act as a peer marker if we then reject a piece of work for not being up to standard, not only will we be noting it for the creator of the piece, but also for the person that signed off on it being ok. Hopefully this should make the standard of peer assessment a little better as well
2. I’ve started a new group project with my yr 10 History class involving two of my new favourite techniques
Bidding for a topic
I put up a list of all the available topics and gave the class a couple of minutes to disucss strategy. Then each group had to say which topic they’d like. If, once everyone had given their choice they were the only ones that wanted it then it was theres. But if another group also wanted that topic then we went into battle mode!
Each group had to put up the case for why I should give the topic to them and I would decide a winner based on the quality of the argument, making sure I explained not just who won but why. The losing teams then had the pick of any unclaimed topic
Collaborative and Limited Presentations.
My digital tool of choice for class presentations is now Google Docs. It’s completely cloud based, so I haven’t got to worry about pupils not having the software, and because they’re all editing the same document I can keep an eye on progress and track who’s doing all the work.
To this, I’ve now added a list of limits that I picked up from the feedback from a Literacy course that some of my colleagues have been on.
Each group has to produce a slideshow with:
No more than 5 words per slide,
with 4 slides in total (no more, no less)
containing 3 key facts for the class to learn,
a minimum of 2 pictures (but you’re welcome to many more)
and 1 mark out of ten for significance.
Building on evaluations of previous group presentations I’ve kept one topic back for myself and I’m going to kick off next lesson with mine, so they can borrow and adapt some of the strategies I use (or not as the case may be!)
Sometimes, if I get stuck on something, I’ll write out a blog post. They usually descend into stream of consciousness and I either find a solution or get a headache and stop. Either way I usually then delete the post.
This time I’m going to publish it. Partly because it fits in with the stuff I’ve been writing about rebooting my teaching and partly because Bianca just tweeted a link to this:
This sums up my last 2.5 years of teaching. #plsm13
“Unless the whole school is convinced this is the way to go, you’re fighting this huge uphill battle,” he says. “No one else has the students working together in teams. No one else asks students to make presentations or assesses them the way you do. Your class is significantly more rigorous and more challenging, even though you may assign less homework.”
and it chimes with what I’ve been thinking through this evening.
I’ve spent the last couple of years reinventing the way I teach to incorporate more technology and a more project based learning. I’ve been doing it with the blessing of the school and my Head of Dept, but I’ve largely been left to my own devices. I teach in a block away from the rest of the dept, and everyone in the dept is a very experienced teacher in their own rights. While I’ve mentioned what I’ve been doing, and people have been down to see the projects from time to time, I haven’t had to worry about writing it up for other people. In fact, I suspect it’s the freedom FROM that that has played a large part in being able to try out lots of new ideas without worrying to much about having to get other people to follow in my footsteps.
However, for a range of reasons, we’re now reconsidering not what we teach, but how we teach, especially at KS3, and the time has come to start sharing my experiences and starting to spread some of that practice across the department.
But I’m aware that where I am NOW, is in large part because of the experiences of the last two years. The time spent volunteering in one of our feeder primary schools, the connections I’ve made online, reading up on Project Based Learning and sharing ideas with people at conferences and teachmeets.
I’m worried that dumping these projects and these approaches on teachers who haven’t shared that journey with me might not work. Will they get the ‘why’? Will they make the investment in time and passion?
On the other hand, reading that last paragraph back, I sound like a complete idiot. Of course they’ll make them work – they’re professionals.
So why the nagging voice?
Ah, maybe this is it…
I think it’s because it’s not about the projects. It’s my view of ME in the class and in relation to the class that’s changed so much over the last two years. That’s one of the things that makes the projects work and I don’t know how to write that into a scheme of work, or deliver it in an inset.
I’ve written before that one of the biggest problems with the idea of ‘sharing best practice’ in education is the underlying misconception that you can something that works in one school (or one classroom) and put it into another school (or classroom) and will have the same positive effect. It doesn’t. And it’s partly because the people are different. Not that the second school or classroom has worse teachers in it, but it has teachers with a different view of themselves and education. So like taking a tube of deep heat because it made your back better, and applying to your haemorrhoids in the same hope, sometimes it’s just the wrong cure.
So, I’ll write up the projects, share them with my friends in the department and try and find some time (that most precious of teacher resources) to spend with them – just talking through how it’s gone, sending the odd link or video clip now and again and try and see if I can share the buzz that you get when something just works and the wall that you need to put up to block out the nagging voices about whether or not they know enough facts or if they have enough written in their books!
If I’ve been willing to try and fail and learn with my students for the last two years, I’m going to need to the same now with the staff.