Word Cloud Generators

Nothing new here: just a few links to various online word cloud generators.

Wordle is the best-known and most widely used application.

Tagul Clouds allows you to put your words into a custom shape, to use a variety of fonts, and to orientate the words in a variety of ways.  Here is an example drawn from my recent article about the Times Festival of Education:

Tagul

Tagxedo is a similar package, but has a different variety of shapes on offer: it would lend itself well to Biology and the Humanities as it includes the outlines of countries, plants and animals.

VocabGrabber takes a all this a step further by analysing the text you want to feature in your word cloud.

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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

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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.

BBC Learning Zone

BBC

The BBC has created an online library of short video clips specifically for secondary school teachers to use in their lessons, covering a vast range of topics.  If you haven’t yet discovered it, click here.

Mentor Mats

Mark Miller recommends “Mentor Mats” as a way of helping students to appreciate and emulate certain styles of writing.  He has English in mind, but the idea could work with any subject where extended writing is required. Click here for more details.

Mentor Mat 1

Simple Starters # 8 – Mystery Guest

A little competition is always good for warming the class up.  In this activity pupils are given clues to help them identify a “mystery guest”.  The first clue should be deliberately vague or ambiguous, and each subsequent clue should be a little more precise, with the final clue being a dead giveaway. If pupils get the answer on the last clue, they should score one point, if they get it on the second to last clue then they score 2 points, and so on.

This starter could just be used as a quick recap activity, but it can also provide a good introduction to exploring key themes.  For example, in English literature the first clue for one guest could be “somebody who has fallen out with a close relative”, and then the same clue could be used for an entirely different guest, thereby highlighting just how often family strife is central to tragic events.

For those who don’t teach English literature or subjects where “mystery guests” are easy to come up with, it is worth bearing in mind that it doesn’t actually have to be a person – it could just as easily be an “item”, a “theme” or a “topic”, though these might require a little more imagination!