Category Archives: example work

GA conference 2015 materials #GAConf15

Well it’s been a long time coming but I’ve been a wee bit distracted with leading an Iceland trip and getting back to school mode! The Geography Association conference this year was ace. Really enjoyable. Thank you so much to all of you who came to my Revision Games workshop! I was truly surprised to have standing room only and flattered by the lovely comments you gave in feedback. I really hope that you can find one tiny thing that is useful and then take it and make your own.

Below is the presentation from the Revision Games session. If you download the file you can see in the comments box in powerpoint which explain each section.

I was also privileged to help with delivering a Discover the World workshop alongside Simon Ross sharing the website resources from Discover Geography . This excellent site shares teacher resources for Key Stage 3 – 5 for a range of locations including Iceland, Norway, Azores, etc. that have been created by teachers from experiences in the field and can be used before, during and after trips or as virtual fieldwork and just great case studies. I shared some materials from the website that had been created from a teacher inspection trip to the Azores, and just explained how I have modified and used these materials for myself in the classroom. If you want to have details on the different sites and what we saw in the Azores, then check through my posts from the visit in April 2014.

Finally, this year’s GA conference saw the first ever TeachMeet courtesy of David Rogers‘ badgering which was an epic success. Lucy Oxley and the GA team organised a fantastic event, and it was thanks to sponsorship from Discover the World. When we first stepped into the venue I got nervous – worried we wouldn’t pull it off, that nobody would come, that it was such a big room and I would muck up, all sorts! But it was so so good. The reason it was good? Purely down to the range of presenters in the room, the Twitterati interacting online (thanks to Rich Allaway for live streaming it), and the networking and rapport going on in the room itself. Particular credit has to go to Alan Parkinson for sharing some great ideas in a hilarious way (‘who is David Rogers anyway?’!) and to Paul Berry for closing the show in style. I had known Paul as a fairly quiet, unassuming, gentle kinda chap with a cheeky smile and penchant for vino…but he blew me away with his presentation at the end. Coming up to retirement in a few months he bounced all over the stage squawking blow-up parrots, throwing inflatable globes around, sharing all sorts of whacky and brilliant ideas, and showing that he is a brilliant educator. Loved it. All the other presentations were fantastic as well, and great to see new people who haven’t spoken before too – I merely mention Alan and Paul because they made me laugh so much. Epic evening so thank you all. David has a full run down of the event and the Google Hangout video archive on his blog here. Cannot wait for next year’s!

My own TeachMeet 6 minutes was based on a title thrown on me: ‘Bill Shakespeare was a Geographer’ and just has a few ideas with quotes from text for how to embed good old Bill and literacy in general into geography lessons. Ticks the boxes of ‘literacy in every lesson’ and ‘we are all teachers of English’ as well as just being good fun, useful, enlightening, and ultimately improving literacy and writing analysis which good geographers have to be able to do. If you want to know what I was rambling on about during each slide then look at the video on David’s blog, scroll to about 44mins and you’ll be able to hear some waffle.

All in all, GA Conf 2015 was great. Really enjoyable sessions attended and great to take part in. Roll on Derby 2016.

Moments of Wonder: spine tingly times

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At school students in Key Stage 3 (just year 7 & 8 for us) have scheduled ‘project style homeworks’ in non-core subjects which are extended pieces of work designed to encourage more independence, pride and creativity. We can set optional homework at other times of course should we wish to, but the idea is to ease workload for staff and students so that what is produced is of much higher quality and takes more effort. Rather than setting something for the sake of it. I know there are always arguments and dilemmas about homework: what to set, when, how often, etc. . Personally I see no point in homework unless it has real purpose and you do something meaningful with it, so generally this means consolidating / testing what was done in class or preparing for the next lesson. But the project homeworks are different in a way. They are still meant to summarise learning, but are mainly for developing independent enquirimagey and celebrating learning. The projects are effort graded and rewarded with prizes and house points as well.

Today was hand-in day for Year 7. They have been studying Amazing Places and their project is one based on the excellent ‘How to be an Explorer of the World’ book which provides quirky interesting activities to do to encourage fieldwork, curiosity and seeing the world through different means. The three tasks were first chosen and developed by Sam Atkins and have tiers of Gold, Silver, Bronze to choose from for challenge. Kids can ‘pick’n’mix’ the challenges so long as they do something for each task: 1) distinctive features of a place, 2) your favourite street, 3) sound mapping that favourite street.

imageWhen we introduced the project I emphasised that we wanted students to just experience the outside, get curious, explore, and just have a go. The emphasis was on being unique and creative. Although I recommended certain presentation / submission styles if they wanted them I set the challenge that they each do something different from others. I think many would probably think the task is a bit mad and hippy but I just wanted to encourage children to have moments of exploration and spend time appreciating their environment and being creative, rather than always doing the same type of activity or it always having an ‘assessment’ element. Just doing something to be proud of and celebrate is enough at times.

So today was showcase day. And wow. Just wow. I was honestly blown away with the effort they had put in. Everything had a unique slant. They all wandered round interrogating each other about where they had been, why they chose that place, the unique features, and we just celebrated everything. I was buzzing. They were buzzing. They were so proud of their work. We had a giant board game, videos, miniature museums in a box, Lego models, even a Minecraft world of their local area. In every class I visited of my colleagues as well there was a real feeling of pride in what had been accomplished, and some truly impressive individual efforts. All credit to the team for encouraging the students so well. It was such a spine tingly day, just celebrating awesomeness. Good times.


Thinking about formative assessment

Mathematical Bridge, CambridgeStory has it that originally the Mathematical Bridge (in the picture) was built without bolts through geometrical genius, but that when later generations had to renovate it they couldn’t reassemble and had to add bolts in. The legend isn’t true, it’s just that the original iron spikes would have been unseen by the eye as you passed. My point? Wouldn’t it be sweet if students could have their knowledge and understanding all held seamlessly together with everything connected?

Last year David Rogers showed me an example of a Skills Web that his art department had been working on, as I was working through some changes at my place. I’d seen similar elsewhere and really liked the idea as a simple visual way for students to see what skills they require to make progress, to check their confidence and self-assess, and see how skills cross-correlate between different units and subjects. I lose track of how many times we remind students that what they do in Geography correlates to skills in other subjects, and that I know full well that they can do graphs! Anyway, I like simple things and so this year introduced the skills web to trial it.

Below is a GCSE skills web based on the new themes of ‘think like’, ‘know like’, ‘apply like’, ‘study like’. I really like those strands in themselves for building a curriculum around ‘thinking (or knowing) like a geographer’ and make a nice explicit focus on terminology / literacy / numeracy that students need in order to make progress not just in Geog but in essential English and Maths.


web web2


Usage: students are given the colour version as above with a tracing overlay that has scores on it like the second image. This would be to stay with them for a whole year perhaps and the idea behind having the tracing overlay is that over time you might need to replace the overlay if it becomes too full / overused. You don’t have to do the tracing paper version (bit of a faff maybe) – instead just ask them to use symbols and a legend that dates each symbol so you can track over time.

Students then self-assess confidence from 0-10 along each strand. I wouldn’t get them to assess each strand at once, but at the start of a particular topic and then revisit periodically. Get them to date each time they self-assess then you can track over time. I make it a focal point by displaying on screen and highlighting which spoke of the wheel we are looking at then. Great for them and for you at identifying weaknesses to then work on.

We’ve also dabbled with topic specific skills webs for GCSE. Same principle of marking confidence along the line but this is just for one topic and I would revisit more frequently.

The Key Stage 3 example is below:



I’d be interested to have feedback on what colleagues think and what is being tried elsewhere. I’m running with this in my current school and will introduce to the new place in September as our department AfL most likely. It’s not a replacement for summative assessment, this is still needed too (and hopefully the path here with tracking student progress in life after levels will become clearer soon!) But maybe it can help hold the strands of learning together.

Getting messy to get to grips with rivers

I don’t know about yours, but sometimes my students struggle with visualising what features and processes look like in real life. Mention a cross-section or long profile of a river and you’re likely to see a mass of blank faces. Having checked through my year 10 books at the weekend I noticed a lot were struggling with the concept of river transportation, how sediment varies along the course, and how the river profile changes. So I decided to get a bit messy.

After a nice walk with the dog, I collected a load of different material from a nearby river (with some substitutes from my garden to top it up!). When students came in to the class they were working in groups. Each group had:

1 x A2 sugar paper

A Selection of felt pens / glue / sellotape

1 x bag of likely river materials (a mixture of sand, mud, silt, shingle, different sized pebbles, twigs)

1 x plastic wallet filled with selection of keywords (e.g. traction, suspension, river cliff, meander, deposition, etc,.)

1 x image of large boulders with a scale (I wasn’t going to carry any boulders in now was I?!)

I set students the challenge of using the materials and resources to create a 3d cross-section of a river, showing how sediment varies along the profile of a river. They had to annotate the cross-section with keywords and describe what happens in the different courses. They then went around and evaluated each other’s work. The follow-up after the messiness was a piece of extended writing with a bingo element.

Some images of their work are below:

‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.’ (Benjamin Franklin)

Celebrating European Day of Languages 2013

Room 18 for languages day

So Thursday was the European Day of Languages and I wanted to make sure that Geography supported the events going on in school. The MFL department had been busy making and displaying different flags and bits of information about other countries around the school, every department was meant to be meeting and greeting kids with a chosen language for the day, and we even had a more varied multicultural menu in the dining room for the day which was delicious. Naturally this is all geography really, so we needed to get involved.

I decided to draw on the work of Sam Atkins, and the work he produced last year for the mobile@priory project with his upside down map of the world linking to a lesson with EAL (English as Additional Language) – this project can be seen on the mobile@priory ‘cookbook’ here. The lesson slideshow for this week is below:

This is how I ran the lesson, the others may have done differently.

Slide 1) students were greeted at the door with the Icelandic for ‘welcome to Geography’ and had to guess what the phrase meant

Slide 2) I took a suggestions poll for how many languages the students thought were spoken at Priory. The answer is over 37. We then had a quick discussion about their surprise at this, and that 300 languages are spoken in London. Then students discussed in table groups how many languages they could speak fluently or conversationally, and which languages these were. I asked them to decide if there were any patterns to where these languages came from, i.e. are they from a predominant continent / group of countries, from a similar cultural background, etc,. Geography is all about people in the world, and about patterns, so we really hyped this up.

Slide 3) Priory is a Rights Respecting School, with the Level 1 award and working towards Level 2. We routinely link to the Unicef charter in lesson and it’s part of everyday conversation in school, so this came as no surprise to the kids. Article 30 states that each has the right to ‘use your own language’ – so we had a quick chat about this and what it means, linking to responsibility for attempting to learn other languages in order to make communications easier (they were well aware of reputation the English have; the classic example of going abroad and then assuming everyone will speak English and if they don’t we just speak louder English and use gestures!).

upside down world mapSlide 4) The main part of the lesson using the upside down map of the world superimposed over the school site map. I introduced students who hadn’t seen it before (I ran this lesson with year 7-9) and explained how to worked, we did some simple orientation exercises and practised some grid refs to acquaint them.

Slides 5-7) Students worked in pairs for the challenge. Each had a copy of the map, and a copy of the table sheet to complete. They could use an atlas, or a Win8 device, or their mobile to complete the enquiry. There were two versions to the challenge: years 7 & 8 used the first table, and I just wanted them to spend the time becoming familiar with comparing resources (i.e. which is quicker / more accurate / simpler to use – a device or an atlas), to become comfortable with locating places and finding information out about them – basic geographic skills; whereas year 9 had the second grid which links to their current topic on Development, so I wanted them researching whether a place qualified as an MEDC or LEDC and to source date to prove it, I told them I was pushing for GCSE skills of using evidence to support answers, of linking to fact, of comparing resources, etc,.

Slide 8) bit of a plenary pit stop, discussed some of their answers and talked about the reliability of data and which resource was best to use for the purpose of the enquiry (interestingly, most preferred a paper atlas for locating countries and found that using the internet was more time consuming for this, though they did pick up that the data in the atlas will be out of date too quickly and so they chose to use more up-to-date information from places such as CIA factbook, etc,.)

languages day activitySlide 9) discussion time, linking back to the original Rights, Respect, Responsibility and the Article 30. We talked about the implications of language in terms of school signage (all in English – if there are even any signs at all!), about problems and fears navigating, about language barriers in class, barriers to learning, the right to an education, etc,. I was thoroughly impressed with their suggestions and their ability to empathise, with how they could consider sensitive issues.

Slide 10) translation = What have you learnt? Asking them to guess first.

Slide 11) an exit plenary was a simple ‘what have you learnt’. Students had to demonstrate an increased awareness of languages and places across the world, to be able to express links to the Unicef charter and to language – education barriers. With some classes I did this as a simple ‘3 things I have learnt’ written activity, for others I went through the register and each had to articulate something, one class I asked for a simple 3 facts about the ‘countries visited on the map’, and with 9a1 I wanted 100 words to explain the links between language and the right to learn and to development. A myriad of activities would work, but basically each student had to earn their ‘visa’ stamp in order to leave the room – in this case they got their work stamped with a ‘mobile@priory’ or ‘guerilla geography’ stamp. They do love stamps 🙂

Slide 12) means Goodbye in Icelandic! One group in 9a1 stayed behind afterwards chatting to me and arguing with each other about how they felt the image represented a divided and diverging world, just like Iceland, that the gap between rich & poor was getting bigger and that education and language barriers they felt were one of the main reasons for this. Quite impressed. Each week that group seems to have a debate about something – I just light the fire and enjoy! Love it.

Slide 13-14) extension if needed, a card sort with Icelandic and Swahili phrases for students to attempt to match up and sort.

9a1 languagesNote: while students were on task in their pairs completing the world map challenge, I asked each member to come and tell me what languages they could speak in order to complete a class wordle of languages spoken. At the very end of the lesson I would show them their wordle and ask them if they could spot any patterns from it. The premise, if you are unaware, is that the larger the word is the more common it is. Over the course of the day I was able to compare these wordles with other classes, and then we could talk about that and whether there was a pattern with languages spoken and age range. We tweeted a couple of wordles out via @priorygeography and you can see in the gallery below two of them from 7b4 and 9a1 – it was interesting for me seeing the differences in the patterns with two years difference, and very different ability classes. Some students in 7a1 Friday actually afternoon picked this up and asked whether students in lower ability classes who didn’t have English as a first language would be having their right to education taken away, whether they would be able to succeed as easily or whether language was a barrier for them. They weren’t saying it in a negative ‘they can’t speak English so must not be clever’ way, they were genuinely concerned whether these students were being catered for and whether they would be able to make progress. All interesting.

7b4 langaugesSo there you have it. I thoroughly enjoyed these lessons and ran them as floating topicality with KS3 for Thursday & Friday. I intend to link them into our schemes of work to run with in future. @priorygeography is taking part in the Global Learning Programme this year as an Expert Centre and part of this work involves considering global dimensions of language, barriers to learning, education access, human rights, etc,. so this kind of activity could be run simply in any school, perhaps then being compared. It would be interesting to see if there are patterns within the UK for how many languages are spoken by students in a school, or to perhaps link to schools in other parts of the world and see what patterns exist there? Something to think about. If you are interested in sharing about your school then let me know!

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If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.
‒Nelson Mandela

Coastal cake craft challenge

We kick off GCSE Geography with the Coasts unit and study the OCR B course. Although doing this unit first gives us the opportunity to get out in the field and practise fieldwork skills, students (and maybe teachers!) can sometimes find it quite dry and repetitive. Not much chance maybe for different activities, more just learning a lot of processes and landforms and keywords? I would always class myself as a physical Geographer first, but I can see that it might seem repetitive or dull just learning step-by-step how something is created. Maybe more interesting once you can put all that background theory into context when visiting real places, or by doing decision making exercises about coastal management. Anyway.

We’ve always done the tried and tested (and tasty) Angel Cake wave cut platforms suggested by Tony Cassidy which works a treat. Model the step-by-step erosion and creation of a wave cut notch / platform with cake and show this under a visualiser to the class. Then if you’re feeling kind let them have some cake. Works!

This year we thought we’d let students have a go themselves. Classes worked through the theory as a class first, following traditional exam questions / discussion / explanation from teacher and group enquiry (see lesson powerpoint below – NB, this isn’t all done in one lesson!). When we got to the wave cut platforms part we just discussed the process as a class briefly, showed an animation and then I set the challenge.

Students had at their disposal the following resources: cake (ideally layered cake like angel cake or mini slices cakes), a selection of sweets, paper, pens, mini whiteboards and pens, a flip camera or tablet or mobile, and textbooks. The challenge was to create a resource that demonstrated the creation of a wave cut platform and evolution of a headland to then be recorded somehow and shared. Students were not allowed to eat anything until they had completed the resource, shared, and completed a follow-up exam question. Mean I know.

Two classes were doing this activity in parallel so myself and Sam Atkins were flitting in between, cajoling and cheering students on, adding an element of competition as to which group would produce the best resource and checking on knowledge.

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Some examples of videos produced are here (apologies for the sideways angle!) :

Once the students had completed and shared their resources they had to be able to explain the process step-by-step and complete an exam question. This will also be followed up again with a starter exam question next lesson asking for an annotated diagram to explain the process. We did note that the lower ability children in particular seemed to grasp the overall process better following the making of their resource, whereas we had to push higher ability learners to remember to still use keyterms even though they were playing with cake! Overall, some great results and better quality answers.

NB – it was pointed out that I forgot the customary quote…so, far be it from me to not learn from constructive feedback! Here goes:

“Learning is more effective when it is an active rather than passive process” (Euripides)

or, if we feel less cerebral…

“My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it” (Boris Johnson)