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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Sticky Teaching

We all want our teaching to stick, and of course one of the best ways to achieve this is to carefully plan the learning that will take place in our lessons.  Inspired by the work of Chip and Dan Heath, various teachers have recently been sharing some great ideas on how to do this.

When planning your lessons, try to work in the six “sticking traits” nicely summarised by Shaun Allison as follows [click on image to enlarge]:

sticky teaching 1

If you’d like to understand this more fully, take a look at our page on Academia, which outlines the work of Chip and Dan Heath.

Another blogger, @MrOCallaghan_Edu, has created the following lesson planning template to support this approach [again, click on image to enlarge]:

sticky teaching 2

Back to Shaun Allison for an example of sticky lesson planning in action – his objective was to introduce a Year 11 Science class to the idea of nuclear radiation:

Simple – I anchored my lesson on to their existing knowledge of the atom by getting them to draw and explain the structure of the atom, which we then shared and discussed.  This would then lead on to two key concepts for the lesson – to describe and explain Rutherford’s scattering experiment, and then to describe and explain an isotope.  This is definitely not about dumbing down or lowering expectations.  It’s about distilling complex ideas into the key ideas and then using what they already know to build up to these complex ideas. In his article on explanation (see below) David makes the point of how important it is to use specialist academic language here – and insist that students do too.

Unexpected – In order to get them curious, we looked at photos of Chernobyl and posed the question, how could these tiny atoms cause such devastation? This is the gap in their knowledge that we were going to fill, having opened it.  They were curious!

Concrete – Rutherford’s scattering experiment is very conceptual, so I demonstrated it by throwing squash balls at footballs.  They bounced off, in the same way that early scientists expected the alpha particles to do when they hit the ‘plum pudding’ atoms. This led on to a discussion about what it meant when the alpha particles went straight through?

Credible – The photos of Chernobyl helped with this, as it made the issue very real. This can also be backed up by statistics e.g. claims that Chernobyl won’t be fit for human habitation for 20 000 years.   However, this will be returned to next lesson, when we get out the radioactive sources and the Geiger counter. Students will see that objects emit radiation.

Emotional – The photos of people who had been affected by Chernobyl (mutations) certainly made them feel for the people.  The ‘emotional’ trait can also be developed by making students feel aspirational.

Story – Science provides loads of opportunities to tell stories – and the story of Rutherford’s scattering experiment was no exception.  It also resulted in some great questions from the students about ‘How science works’ e.g. Why didn’t he just believe the plum pudding idea? What made him think of this experiment? Did he do any other experiments? Did people believe him? How do we know he’s right? Brilliant fodder for the science teacher!

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.

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.

Simple starters # 5 – Press Conference

This starter certainly lends itself to topics where specific events are important, but with a bit of imagination it can work in other areas too.

You are about to hold a press conference. As the pupils come in, give them their press passes, stating which media organisation they represent. Tell them to get their pencils ready as an important announcement is about to be made and their editors are expecting a full report from them.

press conference

Give the students a brief outline of the “event” – by no means the full story – and then ask if there are any questions. Initially they may be slow to get going, and you may need to drop a few “hooks” into the answers you give them.

This can be a surprisingly effective way to deliver a lot of content in a short space of time, and in a way which really engages the students.

An essay planning tool worth taking a look at

Are your pupils struggling to produce essays with clear arguments supported by suitable evidence? It might be worth getting them to try using the “Essay Map” website.  No sign up required. Check out this link.
Essay Map