But, because, so

If you’re teaching English writing skills, or looking for plenary ideas in any subject, then take a look at Doug Lemov’s excellent summary of an idea in Judith Hochman’s Teaching Basic Writing Skills

As a teaser, here’s an example of but, because, so in action.  You simply take a key idea from your lesson and then ask the pupils to extend it in three different ways:

Eva killed herself … BUTmany people are to blame for her death.

Eva killed herself … BECAUSE  … she had fallen victim to an unpleasant chain of events.

Eva killed herself … SOthat she wouldn’t have to suffer any longer.

As a plenary activity, this would work with any subject, and it might well lead to some interesting revelations about the pupils’ thinking.   If this idea sounds interesting, you might also want to check out this popular article on exit tickets.

 

Advertisements

A step towards better student presentations?

voki

Voki is an online app which allows users to create an avatar to deliver presentations for them (like the example on the right).  You could use this yourself as part of an approach to flipped learning, for example by getting the avatar to explain a task.  Alternatively, you could get the students to create avatars which deliver presentations on their behalf.

Potential benefits:

  • It might encourage students to think more carefully about the oral delivery of presentations.
  • It may help them to build their confidence in writing the oral part of their presentation, and to become more confident about delivering this themselves in due course.
  • It’s a bit of fun.

Potential drawback:

  • The students may well spend far longer choosing the face, hair, etc for their avatar than thinking about what it actually needs to say.

This app was designed with educational use in mind and is entirely free to use – provided you don’t mind there being significant limitations on what you can do.  As always, to really get the best out of anything claiming to be free, you need to pay for an upgrade.  To find out more about it, and maybe give it a go, click here.

 

 

Theme mats

Teaching within a fixed timetable, we inevitably have to deliver information in manageable chunks.  Given that this is the case, how do we help pupils to see the bigger picture?  Do we try to gradually build this up as we go, or do we wait until all the information is in place, then take a step back from it?  I am most acutely aware of this problem when teaching literature, and I have tried all sorts of different approaches.  The one I’m about to outline is a recent addition to the repertoire, and I was pleased with how well it got the students to start talking about the whole text, rather than just specific episodes within it …

We read the play Antigone fairly quickly, pausing only to confirm basic understanding or to clarify important background information.  Once we had finished, I asked the pupils to get into groups of three or four and discuss the images below.  Their aim was to discuss what ideas the image seemed to convey, and then think of a way of linking these ideas to the play.  I had chosen some of the images in the hope of eliciting certain points from the class, and others at random, just to see where they took the students.

As with all new ideas, I was worried this might be a total flop, and was reassured to see the students become quite animated in their discussions of the images, and of how they might relate to the play.  Before long, they were talking about key themes such as death, relationships, power, pride and pain and realising for themselves just how complex Sophocles’ exploration of these was.

I will certainly be repeating this idea.  Perhaps the next step will be to get the pupils creating “theme mats” of their own …

theme map

Creative ideas for teaching English

Here are some creative ideas shared on twitter in recent weeks:

1. A tube map of connectives created by @JamieClark85 and inspired by @LauraLolder.  For more details, and instructions on how to create your own tube maps, click here.

tube map

2. “Said is dead” – so peg something different, created by @Ellabumblebee:

said

3. Make your writing more colourful by @murphiegirl:

colourful writing

If you liked those, you might also like this pervious post about a “mood wheel”.

Remember this? # 3 – Living graphs

Another old favourite from the Leading in Learning initiative.  The idea of living graphs is that pupils track ups and downs in a very rough manner just to help them get a feel for something. 

This can work well in a number of subjects. In English, for example, they could create a graph which tracks tension in a certain story, with “level of tension” on one axis and time, page number, episodes or similar on the other axis.  After completing this exercise, they will have provided themselves with a simple visual record of how the author is operating – and a potential springboard for more detailed analysis.  In Geography this idea might be used to track how environmentally-friendly somebody is during the course of a day.  In History a living graph could be used to track the popularity of a certain monarch, or the success of a certain side in a war, as in this example from Class Tools [click to enlarge]:

living graph example

If you’d like your students to complete this activity on a PC, take a look at this app.

GCSE and A-level reform: latest news

dfe

More details relating to the reform of GCSEs and A-levels have been released today.

A-level

To be taught from September 2015:

  • Science There must be at least 12 practical experiments in chemistry, biology and physics, but they will be assessed as a pass or fail separately from the main A-level grade.  More mathematical knowledge will be expected in physics.  Exams will be 100% of final grade.
  • History Topics will need to cover at least 200 years rather than 100 years.  There will also be a specific theme to be studied with a 100-year period.  Exams will be 80% of final grade.
  • English literature This will now feature an “unseen text” in a bid to promote wider and more critical reading.  Pupils will be expected to study three pre-1900 works – including one Shakespeare play – and one post-2000 work.  Exams will count towards 80% of final grade.
  • Economics There will be more maths and students must study the role of central banks and financial regulation.  Exams 100% of final grade.
  • Computer science More focus on programming, algorithms and problem-solving.  Exams will make up 80% of final grade

Full details of  AS and A level content for the following subjects (teaching from 2015) can be found here.

  • Business
  • Sociology
  • Economics
  • English Language
  • English Literature
  • Science
  • Art & Design
  • Computer Science
  • History

To be taught from September 2016:

New A-levels in maths, further maths, languages, geography, music, drama, dance, design and technology, PE and religious studies will be introduced.  Apparently “these new A-levels will ensure that students have the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in demanding undergraduate courses”.  For A-level language courses, marks will be equally weighted for the four skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening, which puts more emphasis on speaking skills than at present.  More details relating to this and others subjects will follow in due course.

Here is the timeline for the A-level reforms:

A-level reform summary

GCSE

To be taught from September 2015:

Details have previously been released for the new GCSEs in English language and English literature and maths.  In GCSE English language, the marks awarded for spelling, punctuation and grammar will go up from 13 per cent to 20 per cent.  In GCSE Maths there will be tiered papers with more taxing questions for brightest pupils.  Grade C will be the highest grade available to those sitting the foundation paper.

To be taught from September 2016:

GCSEs to be taught from September 2016 will include the following measures:

  • Sciences “Cutting-edge content” such as human genome in biology, nanoparticles in chemistry, and energy and space in physics.  More maths in all sciences.  No decision yet on how practical experiments should be assessed.
  • History A wider range of historical periods to be studied, with three eras – medieval (500-1500), early modern (1450-1750) and modern (1700-present day).  More emphasis on UK history – weight given to this will increase from 25 per cent to 40 per cent.  Exams 100% of final grade.
  • Geography Schools will have to confirm that students have completed two pieces of fieldwork.  Exams 100% of grade, but will include questions about fieldwork topics.  More maths and more emphasis on UK geography.
  • Modern languages More translating from English into the foreign language.   All questions will be asked in the respective foreign language.

Five other subjects – citizenship, computer science, design and technology, PE and religious studies – will also be reformed on this timetable.

More details relating to the new GCSEs in ancient languages, modern languages, geography, history and science can all be found here.

Here is the timeline for the GCSE reforms:

GCSE reform summary

A fuller timeline from OFQUAL can be found here.

Further relevant information from OFQUAL can be read here.

Gove’s parliamentary statement on these reforms can be read here.