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A year ago, I attended a deep learning weekend, hosted by Cramlington LV. Alongside a group of like minded teaching and learning geeks, I was up for a weekend of collaboration and self development. At the end of the weekend we were asked to present: “Six Brilliant ways I Teach My Subject.” After listening to the great Darren Mead and his work on SOLO, followed by Mark Lovatt’s exploration of effective teacher/ learner behaviours, I felt that my presentation was weak to say the least.

What did I have to say that these teaching and learning gurus had not already heard? How could I dare to stand in front of such brilliant minds and declare that I taught my subject in a brilliant way? Unfortunately, it was too late to back out so I took a deep breath and went for it. My final thoughts being that the group had hopefully switched off after the long weekend and wouldn’t listen anyway. One of the six points on my presentation was an explanation of how I use the outside space of my classroom. I like to have tasks outside so that pupils can begin thinking about their learning before they walk through the classroom door.

Popular Culture is something I have always wanted to integrate into my classroom. I have approached this in various ways during my time in the classroom. Primarily I focused on deep integration of popular culture through themes and digital technologies in projects. I have also tied together units of work under the banner of topics. I will write about these over the coming months but I want to write today about another way I spread themes of popular culture across the whole year. This approach is probably more relevant to Early Years and Key Stage 1 classrooms but can be adapted to Key Stage 2 classrooms too.

Thematic Contexts

During my visit to a Disney theme park in 2010, I realised that every time I had visited a Disney Park there was some sort of year-long ‘celebration’ happening. I realised that in the current state of education we don’t celebrate a great deal (well I always had within my classroom), so thought about developing this idea. Last year I developed a ‘Dream’s context where the children celebrated their dreams for the future, this linked primarily with a project we were involved in linked to Enterprise and living healthy and productive lifestyles. We transformed our messy cloakroom into a ‘Theatre of Dreams’ and linked other areas of curricula subjects to dreams:

Technology, why bother?

By Kathryn McGilvray on Monday, 25 June 2012 10:28

Have you ever been to a lecture that was so interesting that you hadn't noticed that an hour had gone by? There are some very talented individuals who can engage students purely on their skill as on orator. I stand back and admire the skill of these people and their gift. However, as a visual learner I would find this hard to sustain for a long period.

With an aging population we find that there are many teachers who may retire in the next 5-10 years. With the fast pace of technology, how can older teachers and new teachers keep up with the changes when for many years the same methods have worked? This is a question I find myself often engaging in with teachers and I am always met with a variety of responses.

Here is a list of ways for students to become active participants in the learning process:

Speed dating. Students sit in a line, in a row of desks. They each have a piece of information. Other students sit opposite them. The first row of students then have to teach the student opposite them the piece of information they have. The second row of students then all move along one and receive new information. At the end, they share all of their new knowledge.

Tag team questions. Teacher has sets of envelopes with questions in them, written on strips of paper. Teams of students are given one question that they have to take back to their team to answer. Once they have answered it, they come back to the teacher to get it checked, before picking up another question strip. The team that has collected the most question strips after a set period of time wins.

Are we preventing our students from being productive users of computers by not teaching touch typing? I think perhaps we are.

The question is: who teaches it and when will it be taught?

My thoughts are that it should not be taught in ICT lessons. Being able to touch type goes beyond ICT and is for many, a requirement for everyday life. But then, who does teach it? I don’t have an answer I am afraid, but would love to hear people’s opinions.

Should students have this skill before secondary school? Do we need to teach it at primary level, and can we expect students to be able to adopt these skills so early on? I see touch typing as asking students to write, without actually teaching them how to use a pen.

Blogging in the classroom

By Ross Wickens on Tuesday, 29 May 2012 15:01

Technology is constantly evolving and schools are struggling to keep up with new I.C.T developments - the cost of new I.C.T equipment being one of the main reasons for this.

Nevertheless the internet has unlocked hundreds of avenues for schools to pursue; from Social Media and email to an endless source for resources and shared ideas. As already discussed in previous blog posts, Twitter and blogging is being utilised by teachers to improve pedagogy across the globe. Can this same effect be seen in education if young people start blogging?

Sometimes it feels as if teachers are constantly being measured. It’s as if the focus is so directed toward the measurements, judgements and tools for accountability that the bigger picture, better teaching and learning, becomes blurred. This is a barrier to better learning, better attainment, better teaching and enjoyment.

One of the most important functions that I perform as a middle leader is to act as a filter or buffer zone between the external politics (Gove, Ofsted, Speeches, Agendas-that-help-other-people, SLT) and the young people in our care. It’s the role of middle leaders to monitor the quality of teaching and learning so that it improves, or at least stays stable, and that it matches our vision for the department. Let’s be honest, it’s great to play around with naughty learning and awesome new pedagogies but we can’t do that until we keep the wolf (Ofsted) from the door by ensuring that results are at least Good. In saying that, I should stress that I put Gove, Ofsted et al quite low down on the agenda. In other words, if we are going to monitor, let’s do it with the right focus, which is on the big picture of young people and building their foundations for lifelong learning.

"Right then Rogers, how?" I hear you say. Here I can only speak from experience.

The reflective practitioner

By José Picardo on Tuesday, 08 May 2012 11:55

What kind of teacher are you? Have you ever asked yourself that question? It’s trickier than you think. In his book The Good Teacher, Alex Moore offers a critique of the three dominant categorisations of teachers, on which the three descriptions below are based:

The charismatic subject – These teachers are born, not made. They do things their own way and don’t play by the rules. They are institutional rebels who rely on their natural ability to lead and engage their pupils. They only put together a lesson plan if there is an inspection, and that if they can be bothered. Think Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society effortless inspiring his students to a love of poetry.

How do senior leaders get their jobs?

By Ross McGill on Thursday, 26 April 2012 19:22

The reason I write 'this post' is to share my experiences with other colleagues. It is certainly not an exemplary model of any leadership interview, just my story. In the short amount of time I have been working in school leadership, the application and interview process still remains an unknown quantity for many of us. At each of the stages we climb higher, we relish the challenge but would also acknowledge that, for the vast majority, we are stepping into the unknown.

In the past few years, I have experienced a total of four leadership interviews. Three of these have been for assistant headteacher positions and the other, a deputy headteacher role. This blog goes into detail about three of the interviews.

The basic premise – students watch video lesson at home and work through problems in class. This allows the educator to advise and challenge the students inside the classroom safe in the knowledge content is delivered elsewhere.

Of course, this is not a new concept, students have always been asked to prepare for the next class. Technology has just made it more stimulating to learn at home. Educators can edit their videos to provoke thought and assign work to be collected electronically and annotated before the next contact time. More importantly it can be tailored to their particular students and not just follow generic material.

So what to do in the classroom?

After an engaging and circular conversation via Twitter the other day, this post aims to provide some context to the title statement. It’s not here as the definitive answer, but some thoughts and reflections. You may find that this is more of a semantic argument than one of real substance and it not presented as the definitive view, just the working one on which Priory Geography’s Schemes of Work are based.

My thoughts on this are defined by working within a National Curriculum and GCSE examination specification system. To me, the curriculum tells me what we should be teaching. Here, specification and curriculum are the same and are set by an outside body. I have no real issue with being told what to teach within a national framework, it’s being told how to teach. In our context, the National Curriculum for England and OCR’s Spec B Geography GCSE Specification sets out most of our content.  Everything that we do links to one of these documents.

Helping to find passions

By Innovate My School on Thursday, 12 April 2012 14:05

I have been trying to put my finger on what it is that makes many of my students successful and what it is that is preventing a large number of them from achieving. We are constantly exploring all of the tried and tested strategies which are having positive impacts, but is there something else? I also read a book by Sir Ken Robinson called ‘Finding Your Passion Changes Everything’ and that’s when the penny dropped.

While staring at the photographs of the students in year 10 who are not making expected levels of progress I noticed a pattern. The majority had no hobbies, no passions or at least non they wished to share. I interviewed a number of them and I discovered that they didn’t know where to look for this hobby or passion.

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