Thursday, 10 November 2016

New role, new school. new GCSE....

It has been a long time since my last blog post. This September, I moved schools and became Head of Geography. It has been a whirlwind but one that I have loved. My colleagues have been warm, supportive and always greet me with a smile in the corridor.

On the days that have been difficult, as the students test the boundaries with me as a new member of staff, I have been grateful for my every growing support network of teacher friends. As much as my husband understands my job, the support of my teacher friends has been invaluable, particularly in a new role as a middle leader where you can find yourself stuck between SLT and your department.

There have been challenges. I have joined a department who did not have a head last year so understandably some things were left by the wayside. We spent the summer holidays clearing out resources from 20-30 years ago. We are starting a new GCSE specification with only two teachers planning the lessons and at the same time updating each KS3 scheme of work. Oh, and most of my department have other responsibilities so are not always around for meetings.

But I have relished the opportunity to tackle these challenges and love my job. My department have been so open to change and have been up for the challenge too. It helps too that the students have been receptive to the new schemes of work.

We are working on new KS3 sows that include lessons on the migration crisis in Syria, climate change and international development. Lessons that have become all the more poignant and important this week. The students are full of questions and opinions that should be explored in geography lessons. This week alone I have been bombarded with questions about the election and the impact on the UK and our future.

So I will try not to leave it too long before I share some more ideas but bear with me as I settle into my new role!

Sunday, 24 January 2016


Trying to motivate Year 11 students to revise for their mocks can be challenging. However, in the past few weeks my Year 11s have become increasingly engaged and competitive thanks to a website that a colleague introduced me to. Kahoot! is a website where you can create your own quizzes or use quizzes created by others. The students type '' into their web browsers and enter a code to join the quiz that you have chosen. You have the power to delete any inappropriate names as they join and at the end of the quiz you are able to download the results so that you can track their progress and highlight any areas for improvement.

To play the quiz a question appears and students are then given an allotted amount of time (usually 20 seconds) to choose the correct answer from 4 options. The quicker they respond, the more points they are given. After each question the students are shown their place on the leader board and the top 5 students are shown on the board.

To sign up as a teacher go to and create an account. It is simple and free to use but more importantly the students love it. I regularly get asked now when we can do the next Kahoot quiz. There are also other options to create discussions or surveys that I hope to use in future lessons to collect opinions.

Monday, 4 January 2016

Why did more people die in Nepal compared to New Zealand?

The Nepal (2015) and New Zealand (2011) earthquakes offer two contrasting case studies. With so many news stories about these two examples, I planned a Year 8 lesson that asks students to investigate the effects of the two earthquakes and then explain why more people died in Nepal compared to New Zealand.

The first task asks the students to become detectives who need to find evidence to complete case study files (image below) from information sheets. One half of the class works on the Nepal earthquake whilst the other half works on the New Zealand earthquake before switching and teaching someone else the half that they have studied.

Once they have completed their files, they then plan an answer to the main enquiry question in the form of a mind map. To stretch and challenge the most able students encourage them to include statistics as evidence or even manipulate their data.

Next I ask the students to choose a task (in comfort zone/stepping out of comfort zone/out of comfort zone) which all instruct the students to compare Nepal to New Zealand. It was interesting to see which students chose to step out of their comfort zones (not necessarily the most able) and it did take some encouraging to persuade students to not just take the easy road. Perhaps with more practice the students would become more confident to step out of their comfort zones.

Finally, the students assess their own work by using assessment sheets with ideas of WWW/EBI description phrases. When marking their work it became apparent that many students had not used evidence in their answers and that they needed to improve their 'PEEL' technique. This was then improved during their 'green pen time' when they respond to feedback.