Creating a library to encourage library use!

Happy holidays all!

Seeing as though tomorrow will ensure my head is in an education mindset, at least for a week, thought I would egt some work done today.

The library in my school is small and underused, particularly by those in key stage 4 and 5. This is partly because it is always teeming with smaller children. Therefore I am trying to create a small library in my room from which pupils can lend items. I am hoping that this will encourage them to engage with Geography on a day to day basis and to get on board with actual books, with a potential knock on effect that more than one person would have read the same book so could share ideas, even debate a few issues.

The secondary part of the library is going to be a dvd part. I am well aware that most pupils today will not actually watch that many dvds but the idea with the library is that they can borrow ( age specific) dvds, watch them at lunchtimes in my room, take them home, even watch them with family members, get some discussion going about the Geography behind the films.

I have a reasonably nice collection with the focus, especially with the books, being on difficult texts that may be tricky to get hold of for school age pupils.

Does anyone have any good ideas for them?

Many thanks,



Reflections on a year 8 project #1

We are mere days away from the end of our Brownfield development project with year 8 and I have come to a couple of conclusions about it.

1. IMAG0094[1]These have worked splendidly, the pupils have got really into a little bit of covert operations and the photo shows the last one that remains ( the final one to be found by the premises management team). I even found some other pupils reading one the other day and then telling me that it would be awesome if they did make the old huts into a playground for older pupils, complete with tunnels, swings and slides!

2. Sheep syndrome in projects is a pain. I now have 4 websites being built in one class and 3 guided tours in another. I may get them to randomly select next year and keep to that format.

3. The role of cross curricular learning has been crucial in this project and something which I think I should be working on more. This project has seen me embed a task, starter or teacher talk in various lessons. For example, RMT have talked about the costs of different building materials in their lamp project and directly referenced my project, enrichment have been focusing on teamwork skills and made explicit links to our project, drama have looked at voice projection and how useful that would be in addressing a whole hall (where we present) and maths have looked at budgeting, embedding the actual data from their costings into their work.

This has taken a lot of work and I hope when I see the presentations in the lessons on Thursday and Tuesday, all the hard work will pay off. Now I just need some prizes! Any ideas?

I will add a second post once I have some footage of the actual presentations.


Creating a spectacle in school

I have issues with presentations. They remind me of sad, middle management meetings in grey offices all over the world, where lots of people nod and look pleased with themselves. My year 8 classes have just finished a small presentation task around limiting water usage in the UK. They were not bad, if a little far fetched. But the most annoying part was the lack of spectacle so for their end of term assessment ( a pitch for a brownfield development of the school site) I have chosen something different.

To enhance the idea of spectacle and the fact that we have had some practice on public speaking, I have booked the hall for the final lesson. Now there are no exams and PE are outside, we are going to crank up the sound system ( each group has to have a theme tune to walk on to), turn the spotlights on and focus in for the razzledazzle of redeveloping our school. To heighten the tension, SLT members have filmed the design brief to start the task and will decide on the best pitch.

To add a bit of guerrilla Geography ( shout out to Dan Raven-Ellison)  to the task, once the pupils have decided on how to redevelop the school, they have to complete the attached planning permission sheet and post it in the correct location in the school. This is without telling the caretakers, so that could be interesting, but has meant they are quite excited about where they are developing.

I am hoping that exposing the pupils to this kind of environment will help them build confidence in their public speaking, really think about how to present their information and hone their talents of presentation. I will post some photos once they are done, but I am thoroughly looking forward to it!

year 8 brownfield development fieldwork

year 8 Planning permission


Wham sand!

The eternal battle. What makes the best ‘sand’ in a classroom? Actual sand surely. But is actual sand the most fun way of having ‘sand’ in the classroom?

For 4 years, I have been experimenting with different options for a lesson on spit formation with year 7. I used sand the first year and was disappointed about how worried pupils were about touching it, apparently, it looked dirty 🙂 then I tried the popular sweet Millions. Massive fan of these and the perks of having some left over at the end was nice, but creating depositional landforms was not their forte, they tended to roll away! Then I tried old school sherbet dip daps, cheap, sand like and ideal for the smaller little spits I was after. I was happy with these until a discussion with my head of department about differentiation got me thinking. Every pupil was making effectively the same spit with very little extension possibilities.

So I scoured the land and stumbled upon Wham sherbet, sherbet all the same but with larger pieces of popping candy embedded with it. These varied pieces, when given to the more able pupils, allowed them to look at sorting the size of material, depending on where in the spit they think longshore drift would have taken it. This allowed a little bit of challenge for those who had studied Coasts at Primary school but still enabled the fun element of the lesson to happen.

In the lesson, we watched a clip of how spits forms, photo analysed a few images, looked at how longshore drift created them, then, with the Wham sand, each pupil created images for a flip book showing how spits form. They took pictures of the images and their homework is to use the photos to create a 6 slide flip book of spit formation along with labels, description and explanation.

Just to clarify, why use sherbet rather than real sand? The pupils can eat the spit. Winners all round.

Wham sand!

Here is one pupil’s attempts at the flip book images.

Wham fountain

And here is the Wham sherbet itself, 30p a fountain and one of them gives enough for 4 pupils to make spits.


Engaging key stage 3 with competitions

At the moment, subsequent year 7 cohorts have arrived with little knowledge of ever studying Geography and if they have, they have all started with the idea that History is the best option of the Humanities. This annoyed me. Fair enough, telling a talented pupil in year 6 to read about a historical event as an extension activity is easier than telling them to go explore a food web in the school grounds but it does meant that some younger pupils see Geographical extension as basically reading a map!

To counter this and subtlety perpetuate traditional notions of Geographers, I have set up a competition on my door.

One A2 piece of card (free from reprographics), a roll of sticky name tags (free from reprographics), a roll of masking tape(3 for £1 in poundland)and as many inflatable globes(5 for £2 from Amazon) as you can find!

Each week ( or until someone gets it right), I create the outline of a country in masking tape on the door, the first person to guess it correctly wins an inflatable globe ( these have superseded badges as the must-have geographical item this year).

Person who got it, their form and the country go on the sticky labels and stuck to the door for the duration of the next country.

4 weeks in, 3 different year groups have won, teachers are getting involved in the game and people are actively spending more time in the Geography department. Most importantly of all, it is encouraging year 7 pupils to think about Geography and look at where places are in the world!


Pop Ups!

I found a nice little mark scheme for developing an ecotourist resort ( developed by rbt) and rather than just get the pupils to draw it, I set the parameters that the resort, whilst following the features of the success criteria and elminating non essential features, had to have a pop up element to it!.

It was at this point I realised that a good 75% of the class had never made any sort of pop up work before. And the only time the other 25% had was in my class in year 7 making a pop up coastal headland ( thanks Tony Cassidy) !

What they created, and this was a lesson and homework task, was very varied. Some pupils just gave up, I had a chat with them about resilience! I told pupils to get their parents to help if they were struggling as I have been trying to foster more parental integrated work over the last year and thankfully some did, and then some pupils created the most wonderful pieces which had clearly had a large amount of time spent on them!

For those who not just excelled but had clearly put a shed load of effort in, I sent postcards home, which were thoroughly appreciated it seems!

Photos for some of the best ones to follow!


Fieldwork across the years

Fieldwork is crucially important. At this point in time, where many activities for children exist indoors, it is more important than ever that pupils are allowed to explore and interact with the environment around them. People like Dan Raven Ellison and his London National Park concept are at the forefront of this nationally but as Geography teachers we must offer as many chances to interact as we possibly can do.

This year, we have had a real focus on combining the exploration nature of fieldwork with a series of guided building blocks to create a piece of Geographical fieldwork.

In year 7, a little bit of doorstep Geography looking at pollution levels on the school site and fully scaffolded report structure. Trip to the Dorset coast to explore and marvel at some features they had not seen before and undertake 1 A3 sheet of reporting using the guided headings and data collection methods from previous work. Cross curricular with English by creating a documentary style piece of filmmaking.

Year 8 has a focus on not just exploring but gaining knowledge from a fieldtrip. Off to RHS Wisley to explore rainforest like conditions and feed back on plant adaptations with a focus on creating  plants. Cross curricular with Biology to allow pupils to understand links between subjects.

Year 9 off to the New Forest to look at Tourism, Honeypot Sites and impacts. GCSE style and content but heavily guided with regards to data presentation, complex methods and conclusions linked to hypotheses. Ideally, some linkage with Art/Graphics as the level of sketching and mapping may require cross curricular skill.

A residential trip to Somerset/Exmoor in year 10 with a focus on data collection methodologies and independent methods- allowing challenge for the more able and hopefully a chance for pupils to move put of their comfort zones to structure their own work and time.

Year 11 has a day trip for controlled assessment ( although this will be gone in the near future) to a tourist hotspot for pupils to create their own work with very limited guidance and scaffold. A chance for them to show off and hopefully engage with a different location!

Sixth Form get a week in Snowdonia, seeing the features that their Cold Environments work tells them about. This is more about bonding as a group and refreshing the fieldwork skills that have been used in the previous years!

All in all, fieldwork NEEDS to be integral to each year group and particularly in areas where fieldwork opportunities are limited outside of school!


Getting outside with key stage 3

I have been running a small experiment with one of my year 7 classes. I have been looking at whether practical demonstrations of geographical concepts improve their understanding. Against this, I have introduced some concepts with a far more textual based approach.

The most recent was longshore drift whilst studying coasts. The whole class came outside and one pupil was given an inflatable globe, I explained where the sea was and where the beach was and told everyone to have a sunbathe  and listent on the ‘beach’ whilst we went through the ideas.

The first pupil was a wave and the globe a piece of sand. We walked through the prevailing wind ( luckily it was windy that day so we built that in), where the materials goes and the notion of the backwash being at 90 degrees.

Then the class had to all pretend to be sand particles and get from one end of the ‘beach’ to the other, whilst being fired differentiated, directed questions about the process.

Normally, I may have just used David Rogers’ excellent dream teachers clip to walk the class through it, so the summary of the demonstration was to draw a perfect longshore drift diagram. 90% of the class produced a diagram of GCSE standard and those who didn’t only had the angle of the backwash or swash/backwash the wrong way round!

Even though this worked perfectly, it is clear that all of one type of task is not the answer as this practical approach was not great with the Burgess Model, so I am going to keep going to see exactly which tasks it works brilliantly with!