Friday, 16 December 2011

Secondary RE - Engaging teens in the 'God' question...?

“But Miss, I don’t want to be a priest, so why do I have to learn about God?”

A familiar question I’m sure. I find within my subject there is often a flurry of such statements from students, particularly when they start the course in Year 9. As a department we have trialled various ‘strategies’ to engage them, and to make them see how important RE is!

The first change we implemented when I joined the department in 2005 was a re-brand to ‘Philosophy and Ethics’ as we felt this better matched not only our Year 9 curriculum, but the exam specifications we use for GCSE and A Level.  This name change received a very positive response, and helped to avoid the stigma of ‘RE’ without compromising delivery of the subject. However, I wonder whether we have almost become afraid to call our subject RE or RS for fear that the students won’t opt for GCSE, or will have a negative perception before their first lesson. Surely if we strive to truly engage them the name won’t matter?

Despite the new title, most tend to ‘click’ by about October half term that I am in fact delivering RE under a new guise, but by then the majority are on board. The secret I think is to grab them with the BIG questions – ‘Does God Exist’, ‘What happens when we die’, ‘The problem of suffering’ et al - to really show how RE is concerned with the things that matter. An open minded, un-shockable, and somewhat argumentative approach works really well – especially with the Dawkins fans (usually boys!). Of course, we’re never going to convince the entirety to see the value, especially when their parents (and in fact other staff), still view RE as reading parables and memorising the 66 biblical books. There is also growing concern about the E-Bacc, where RE is not one of the ‘Humanities’ (ludicrous!), only promoting a further negative energy.

However, as RE teachers, we can at least get students thinking in a reflective way about human experience and the world around them – which is crucial!

A few ideas to get started:

  • ‘Look into each others eyes’ and ‘Hold hands’ is a fun way of starting the design argument.
  • Good old Bruce Almighty is always a nice one for challenging stereotypes of what God is like and leads to discussing God’s attributes well (Dogma is an option for a female God character, but it’s harder to find a suitable clip here!).
  • If death was….a sound, colour, animal place – is a good imagination exercise that gets to the concept of our interpretations of life after death.
  • Near Death Experience gets them talking – try
  • If you could ask God one question, what would it be? A good bell work task, followed by some teacher drama….”Because I have connections, God has granted us 5 mins of his time” etc, usually works well in triggering questions about The Problem of Evil!

We know RE gets to the heart of what is important – we just need to convince everyone else! And, in my experience so far, the Big Questions are a cracking way to engage young people from the start!

Esther Zarifi
Religious Studies, Philosophy & Ethics Teacher
Prudhoe Community High School

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Secondary Psychology - How to learn studies

“Not another study to learn Miss…”

Many students complain about the number of studies they have to learn for the examination. There are things they can do to ease the process of prioritising and memorising. Here are some activities/ strategies to answer those FAQs…

FAQ Number 1 :Which ones do I need Miss?
Some boards specify which studies students need, some boards don’t. If you are teaching one that leaves it to you, then students find it easier if they have a minimum studies list provided. I do this in the form of a mind map that specifies the name of the study, what it can be used as support for and, if I’m feeling kind, a page reference. I usually set a homework for them to complete the sheet. Testing them on the details in a quick quiz ensures they learn it fully too

FAQ Number 2 : What’s the name of that man that did... again Miss?
Names are another issue for students. They are not vital, but save valuable time in an exam so less detail is needed to identify the study. They can however prove to be a nightmare to recall. I find using dingbats or a visual cue helps. It’s a great revision class activity to get them to come up with cues in pairs.

FAQ Number 3 : What did they do again Miss?
A way to ensure they understand and process the procedure in an experiment or study is to get the students to become cartoonists and draw a cartoon of what happened in the experiment. They may resist initially but when they realise that stick men are sufficient they are happy to give it a go. This method works equally well for any processes such as treatments or therapies (Stress Inoculation therapy, systematic desensitisation etc)

FAQ Number 4 : But what did they find Miss? 
Good old repetition works for the findings. Incorporating the figures into the final stage of the cartoon (on the t-shirts of the stick men for example) can also work well. The figures need to be close to the actual figure to be credited so the students are aiming to remember a ‘ball park’ figure. Examiners don’t quibble generally if the percentage varies by one or two percent.

Try these strategies out in class as plenaries or in those pre exam revision sessions. There’s an extra bonus in none of them require marking. Always good news!

Eleanor Hills
Subject Leader Psychology and Sociology
Roundhay School

Secondary Business - News Quiz 15/12/11

This week saw a report into the high street, saying town centres should be more like businesses! It will be interesting to see who comes out on top for sales this festive period the high street or the out of town malls? As unemployment grows once again, will this affect consumer spending?

The winner of Lord Alan Sugar's Young Apprentice was also crowned winning a huge £25 000 for their investment ideas, how will the winner fair in the future business world?

  1. Sainsbury have worked with Jamie Oliver for the last 11 years, with him fronting their TV campaigns, who is taking over from him in 2012?
    David Beckham ( )
    Victoria Beckham ( )
    Jamie Rednapp ( )
    Harry Rednapp ( )

  2. LMFAO track Party Rock Anthem was the best-selling song on the UK version of iTunes this year, what was in second place?
    Maroon 5's Moves Like Jagger ( )
    Pitbull’s Give Me Everything. ( )
    Adele's Someone Like You ( )
    Jessie J’s Price Tag ( )

  3. Complaints to which energy company have risen by 91% in a year, with most of the major suppliers seeing customer gripes increase?
    N Power ( )  
    EDF Energy ( )
    Scottish Power ( )
    E.on( )

  4. Little Mix won the X Factor this weekend, who is the only X Factor winner to not have got the Christmas Number one spot- due to a Facebook campaign supporting ‘Rage against the machine’?
    Shane Ward ( )
    Steve Brookstein ( )
    Leon Jackson ( )
    Joe McElderry ( )

  5. A report into how to revive the High Street by a retail expert recommends getting town centres to run more like businesses, who was the retail expert?
    Sir Phillip Green ( )
    Sir Richard Branson ( )
    Gok Wan ( )
    Mary Portas ( )

  6. What is going to be investigated by the Office of Fair trading, it was reported this week?
    Marks & Spencer dine in for £10 ( )
    Motor insurance costs ( )
    ASDA’s New price watch scheme ( )
    Tesco’s new venture into a law firm ( )

  7. Thomas Cook has said it will close 200 UK stores over the next two years with the loss of around 661 jobs, what loss did the company report for the year at the end of September ?
    £2.98m ( )
    £5.48m ( )
    £4.58m ( )
    £3.98m ( )

  8. Who has won The Young Apprentice this year winning a £25 000 fund for their enterprise ideas?
    Haya Al Dlame ( )
    Zara Brownless ( )
    Lewis Roman ( )
    James McCullagh ( )

  9. The rate of Consumer Prices Index (CPI) inflation in the UK fell to what level during November, down from 5% the month before, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS)?
    4.8% ( )
    4.5% ( )
    4.3% ( )
    4.1% ( )

  10. UK unemployment rose by 128,000 in the three months to October to, what level, as youth unemployment hits a new record high?
    3.12 million ( )
    3.25 million ( )
    2.64 million ( )
    2.86 million ( ) 
Donna Jestin
Teacher of Business Studies Notre Dame College & Senior Examiner for AQA

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

All Secondary - Using Twitter and Prezi as Teaching Tools

The idea of using microblogging and social networking in the classroom seems strange, but by leveraging Twitter as a tool for teaching Business and Economics (though these tips apply for almost every subject) you can really inspire some fantastic discussions and take advantage of real time economic data.

Collins Education's twitter page @freedomtoteach
I recently set up an account and have used it in a number of different ways. These have included collaborative home study discussions on economic opportunities for the BRICS and the online issue of web links for reference prior to a lesson. Twitter is also an excellent tool for getting students to sum up an article or case study in no more than 140 letters or simply just to put the BBC and Guardian emerging business news at their fingertips. If your school has not banned Twitter from its network, then it is fantastic as a collaboration tool.
Professionally, it’s an excellent sounding board for discussing topics with prominent economists or business professionals. Many of my lesson plan ideas have come from discussions and simple conversations. I have often been able to work these ideas into the scheme of work for the department to make it that little more interesting.  Some ideas, thoughts, articles can be found in this PDF.

Another excellent resource that I have been using recently is the Prezi presentation software available at PowerPoint can be incredibly boring for students, but this software really allows you to develop a good looking and intuitive presentation that builds in links and video incredibly easy. Its also another great collaborative tool for students should your school purchase the Enjoy or Pro versions. It’s IWB friendly, non-linear and above all interesting. I have been continually developing one Prezi on the ‘Rise of China’ and have integrated data, images and video that I have actually sourced from Twitter.

Take a look at this completed presentation here by Andrew McCarthy:

In addition a great example of why using Prezi in the classroom can be beneficial through Paul Hills Prezi:

Daniel Baker
Business and Economics Department, Trinity Catholic High School

Monday, 12 December 2011

Secondary Business - News Quiz 12/12/11

Any student sitting the AQA Unit 4 exam in January will know the need to understand what is happening in the current business environment; use these quizzes as a revision tool and as discussion points for your students.

For example, the question on South Korean interest rates at 3.25% - you could ask students to compare this rate to that of the UK at 0.5% or even America  at 0.25%, this could give a good compare and contrast point. The question will also allow you to discuss what is currently happening with the Eurozone crisis and the wider affect it has on countries around the world.

Another good question to discuss would be, considering the dominance of Apple & Google Android in the download market, Google and its Android system are very quickly catching up with Apple, why is this, what competitive advantage do they have? You could also apply Porter’s % forces here to look at the level of competition in this market.

Here is the latest ‘Business News Quiz’. Download the Word version (with answers) to print off and use with your classes here!

  1. Apple announced in July that 15 billion app’s had been downloaded from their store how many have been downloaded from Google's Android Market?
    5 billion ( )
    10 billion( )
    20 billion ( )
    15billion ( )

  2. Tesco said it is seeing the impact on consumers of rising unemployment and rising living costs, by how much have sales at Tesco's UK stores fallen in recent weeks?
    1.5%( )
    0.5 %( )
    1.3%( )
    0.9%( )

  3. US banking giant, Citigroup, has said it is to cut how many jobs around the world in an effort to reduce its costs?
    1500 ( )  
    2500 ( )
    4500 ( )
    3000 ( )

  4. Australia's economy grew more than expected in the third quarter, at 2.5% what is it claimed is the reason for this growth?
    Tourism ( )
    Increased retail spending( )
    Building and mining ( )
    The hot weather( )

  5. Central banks in New Zealand and South Korea have kept interest rates on hold, citing fears of the impact of the debt crisis in Europe.New Zealand kept rates unchanged at 2.5%, while South Korea held its cost of borrowing at what level?
    1.25% ( )
    3.25%( )
    0.25%( )
    2.5% ( )

  6. A series of private pictures of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg have been posted online by "hackers" to highlight a bug in the social network, how many users does Facebook have?
    950 million( )
    750 million ( )
    650 million ( )
    850 million ( )

  7. Food giant Kraft Foods is to cut 200 jobs despite planning to spend £50m on chocolate and biscuit manufacturing, which UK Company did they buy in 2010?
    Cadbury ( )
    Innocent ( )
    Morrison’s ( )
    Arla Foods( )

  8. Who is the last girl left in The Young Apprentice final this year?
    Haya Al Dlame ( )
    Zara Brownless ( )
    Hayley Forrester ( )
    GbemiOkunlola( )

  9. Economic growth in the UK "remains subdued" and output will not reach 2008 levels until what year? The National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) has said.
    2012 ( )
    2013 ( )
    2014( )
    2015( )

  10. Basic bank account holders at which bank could face more frequent charges of up to £28 a day, if they fail to have sufficient funds in their accounts?
    Barclays ( )
    HSBC ( )
    Natwest ( )
    Santander( ) 
Donna Jestin
Teacher of Business Studies Notre Dame College & Senior Examiner for AQA

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Secondary ICT - The Importance of Freedom

When setting assessment tasks there are many criteria to consider. Certainly the most important is the relationship between the assessment task and the specification of the course. This, set by the examination board, is central to our thinking, but there are of course many other criteria which we have to bear in mind.  Can the task be tackled? Are the students ready for the assessment and are the resources available, notably time being one of these?

Perhaps we need to recognise our differences
I wonder if we sufficiently rate freedom. What I have in mind is both freedom of expression in an aesthetic sense, but also freedom to develop academically, to be able as a student to try to push out from the cosy set of skills and ideas into something new. If we are to value this type of approach then we have to accept the risk that the final “product” may be handicapped by unrealisable dreams.  Students are young and, when motivated, often want to produce software solutions well beyond of what they are capable. Ah, the idealism of youth! How risky it is for us, how much safer and assessable it feels to prescribe the tasks and hope that the moderator misses signs that the “cookbook” has been used.

It’s pretty obvious though isn’t it; just consider the moderator’s view for a moment. He or she will have seen not just our school’s offerings, but those of another half dozen or so schools this year and for an experienced moderator many more than this. Won’t it be plain that the scenarios used are the same? No problem with that, but if the solutions to the problems set by the scenario are all very similar, here’s the problem. If the solutions look the same on paper or electronically, then it’s going to be difficult to discriminate between work submitted by the students. Even more difficulty will be found in proving values ascribed to the work.

How do we get round the problem? We could rely on nuances between the students’ work such as better layout, better font size, better design of GUI, but do we feel this really reflects the differences that we know there are between the students over the last two years?

There is another side to this and it relates to the students’ responsibility for their own learning, a respected aim of the National Curriculum no less! Just as a practical issue, this must be worth considering: ministering to every need of everyone in the class is an impossible task and cannot be expected to deliver high quality aid for each of the students. Taking control of an ICT project is not the same as accepting responsibility for one’s own education, but it surely is part of the culture. Whose project is it?  If it’s yours teacher, then you can do it; or if I have to, then the brain is elsewhere – it doesn’t come with this package, sorry.

John Giles
John has taught in various secondary schools for over 30 years, including roles as ICT coordinator and Head of ICT. He is also an established author and has worked as an examiner and moderator for a number of exam boards.

Secondary History - Taking a Second Look

Sometimes you know a topic really well, you’ve taught it many times, you are familiar with the key ideas and subject knowledge. You know which text book has the best images, the best activities, or which clip of film to show to engage your students. But sometimes, going back to original documents can make you – and your students – see a topic in a different light.
Take for instance, this extract from a monthly report from Leicester, November 1940:

‘We fed 100 men with a hot meal at an hour’s notice one day, and the next day 30 turned up without any warning...
...During the fortnight 17th to 30th [November] we served over 268,800 cups of tea and have used over 6 cwt of tea, (305 kilos) 15 cwt of sugar, (762 kilos) 270 lbs margarine, (122 kilos) 351 x 3lb (1.4 kilos) slabs of cake and [more than] 300  loaves. Buying this has been a very difficult problem, especially tinned milk. We are still very short of tinned milk... The food office have helped us all they could and granted us extra permits for sugar and margarine, and also released three whole cheeses for us. The bakers came to an end of their fruit ration, so we got a case of currants and sultanas and these they made into cakes...’
[Women’s Voluntary Services for Civil Defence Leicester report for the month of November 1940]

We are all familiar with the image of a canteen van after an air raid, serving tea. But how long would it take to make 268,000 cups of tea, or to drink it? In a time of rationing how on earth do you get hold of 6 cwt of tea, or 15 cwt of sugar? Or serve dinner for 100 men at one hour’s notice? What impression does it give you of the Women’s Voluntary Service, and the volunteers providing this service? By going back to original sources like this you do get a different perspective, and a clearer understanding, of the difficulties of ordinary everyday life on the Home Front during World War Two.

You can find lots more original sources about the Home Front during WW2 – and activities to go with them for Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 – on the website ‘The Army That Hitler Forgot’ at

Alf Wilkinson
CPD Manager for the Historical Association and previously National Strategist for Key Stage 3 History. Alf has over 30 years history teaching experience and was lead author for Collins Key Stage 3 History resources.

Secondary Maths - Simply take a set of white cards

Simply take … A set of white cards

This is an activity that could be used to improve students understanding of types of number.
Students could work in pairs initially, checking the problems that they write for each other before passing them on to other students to solve. 

Using mini whiteboards ask each student to write a number in the centre of their board. 
• Around the number write four facts about their number then...ask them to delete the number they have chosen.

To focus on specific types of numbers you could ask them to
- include key words
- use any particular description only once

• Students can then pass their board to their partner and ask them to identify what number
could go in the centre. 
• Their partner may well find more than one possible solution.
They could work together to find as many solutions as possible to each of their problems
• The level of challenge could be increased by asking them to find a set of four  descriptions so that there is a unique solution to their problem
• Once the students are ready they can exchange boards with other pairs, and solve each other’s problems

GCSE Science - What future for vocational science?

Vocational science at KS4 has long had a rocky ride – even its title has been questionable.  We went through a period a few years back of openly referring to some qualifications as vocational GCSEs. Then the v-word became seen as negative baggage with connotations of being second rate.  More importantly, it wasn’t accurate; courses that focus on the applications of science aren’t necessarily any more vocational.  (If you want to see a vocational course look at a high attaining group of A level chemists hell bent on becoming doctors.)

Such courses have had a twilight existence of being loved by some and mistrusted by others.  GNVQ Science came and went, as did GCSE double award Applied Science.  Its half brother, GCSE Additional Applied Science, last year found itself cold shouldered by the English Baccalaureate. 

Yet there has long been a call in many schools for a course that provides a viable alternative to “academic” GCSEs.  Some students have said that whilst following a course such as BTEC Extended Certificate or OCR Nationals that “it’s the first time they’ve experienced success in science”.

Now there’s rapid reinvention following the DfE’s acceptance of the Wolf Report.  These courses are being modified to comply with the DfE’s seven criteria, including at least 20% of the assessment being external, a degree of synoptic assessment and proven progression to Level 3 courses.  The glittering prize is recognition in the 2014 Performance Tables, though even that comes with conditions – no more than two such courses per student will be allowable.  We should know by the end of January what has been accepted.

Such developments aren’t necessarily wrong of course.  Synoptic assessment discourages a fragmented or atomised view of science and an external exam may well serve to raise the status of the qualification. A tightrope is being walked by the developers – too different to a GCSE questions the rigour and status, too similar questions the function and purpose. 

In fact, the impact of the changes may go further than that.  Successfully restructured non-GCSE courses may enable schools to offer a meaningful range of alternative curriculum pathways at KS4; these pathways may have a stronger common core of skills including the processes of enquiry, numeracy, literacy and the conducting of practical investigations.

Is this the point where vocational science emerges from the twilight?  And does the agenda then become clearer for the skills, processes and concepts that need to be developed in KS3 to act as an effective foundation?

Ed Walsh
Science Advisor for Cornwall Learning

Secondary Science - Salt

Some of us like to put a little salt on our food to enhance the flavour.  While there is no doubt that many of us have too much salt in our diets there is a lot more to salt.   Salt is truly one of the chemical “superstuffs” that makes an appearance in many aspects of the KS3 and KS4 science curriculum.   The topics below could be used as projects and research ideas in specific areas of the curriculum, or the questions developed into starter or plenary discussions.

Salt and diet
Salt or to be precise, the sodium in the sodium chloride is an essential element for all living things and is involved in transport across cell membranes and the function of muscle and nerve cells.
• How are sodium (and potassium) ions moved across cell membranes?
• Why do nerves and muscles depend on sodium ions?
• What effect does too little or too much salt have on health?

Salt and food
Salt is used for flavouring and as a preservative.  Before canning, refrigeration and vacuum packing became common, salting was an important way of keeping food for long periods.
• What foods have been preserved using salt?
• How does salt preserve food?  (investigate osmosis)

Salt and trade
Prehistoric people living away from the sea found it difficult to get enough salt so it became one of the earliest traded commodities reflected in the names of places where salt was found and traded.
• Where is salt found in the UK?  (look for place-names with “-wich” in their name)
• Why does the city of Salzburg in Austria have salt in its name?
• What places are named after salt?  (look for “sal” and “hal” in names)

Salt in words
Salt was such an important and useful commodity that it has had a big impact on language.
• What words are derived from salt?
• How are words like “salary” and “salad” linked to salt?

Salt and geology
The presence of salt deposits tells us a lot about past climates and earth movements.
• How did the sea become salty?
• How did rock salt deposits come to be buried underground?

Salt and climate
Ocean currents have a big effect on our climate and weather.  Some scientists worry that the warming effect of the Gulf Stream could be affected by the melting of arctic ice.
• How does the density of salt water compare to pure water?
• What causes the ocean currents to circulate around the world?

Salt and roads
Every year thousands of tonnes of rock salt are spread on roads to keep them free of ice.
• Where does the rock salt used on icy roads come from?
• How does salt reduce the amount of ice on roads?

Salt and water
Salt is extracted from seawater and rock salt by driving off the water from salt solutions.  Other salts in sea water have a bitter taste and must not be mixed with table salt.  Table salt has other substances added to keep it dry and free-flowing.
• What happens if pure salt is left in the air?
• How is salt extracted from sea water?
• What substances are added to table salt and why are they added?

Salt and elements
In the Middle Ages salt was thought to be one of the three “principles” or elements (along with sulfur and mercury) from which other substances were derived.  Lavoisier suspected that salt contained a metallic element, but it was Davy who isolated sodium.
• Who was Paracelsus and why did he think that salt was a special substance?
• Who was Lavoisier and how did he revolutionise chemistry?
• Why did Lavoisier think that salt contained oxygen?
• How did Davy isolate sodium?

Salt and crystals
The cubic shape of sodium chloride crystals has intrigued people for centuries but it took the discovery of X rays to work out how the sodium and chloride ions were arranged. 
• What is the arrangement of sodium and chloride ions in salt crystals and why are they arranged in this pattern?
• How did W.H.Bragg and W.L.Bragg discover the structure of salt?
• How has X ray crystallography proved useful?

Salt and industry
Salt has found many uses apart from in food, for example in making glass and soap.  In the nineteenth century the use of salt in manufacturing processes led to the growth of the chemical industry.
• How is salt used to make soap?
• How did the Leblanc process cause the development of the chemical industry? (for example in the north-west of England)
• What are the industrial uses of salt today?

Peter Ellis

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Secondary Business - Using adverts to teach strategic theory

A Level AQA BUSS3 and BUSS4

For both Units 3 & 4 at A2 level, students need to have a good understanding of strategy and the theories surrounding them. They then need to be able to apply & analyse these strategies, to either the case study for Unit 3, or to the essay question for Unit 4 to be able to gain ‘good’ level marks in the exam.

Ansoff’s Matrix & Porter's Generic Strategy are two very important strategies for students to consider when analysing businesses, and instead of teaching the theory first, a good way to get students to be thinking about what business can do, would be to ask them to consider businesses first and to think about how they can stand out, gain a USP, get competitive advantage and to also hopefully improve their financial position.

Activity Part One
An activity that I have used with my students to look at this, is to consider both Virgin & British Airways - the airline industry has been hit hard due to the recession, and British Airways in particular has struggled to make profit. I first split my students into groups of around 4 (depending on your class size) and I then ask them to watch the 2 adverts that are hyperlinked below.
Official Virgin Atlantic Advert 2011 - HD 'Your airline's either got it or it hasn't' - YouTube
British Airways - Our advert 2011: To Fly. To Serve. - YouTube
One thing that students should pick up on, are that both of the adverts are focused around customer service, and high level service! Then ask students in their groups to think about the Marketing Mix for both of the businesses - download the activity sheet for this here. From this they should be thinking that both of the businesses are very similar…. Maybe considering Porter's issue of ‘being stuck in the middle’, you can be reinforcing this link to the theory - maybe on the whiteboard.

Activity Part Two
Next ask students in their groups to think about WHAT the 2 businesses could do to (again thinking of Porter) ‘differentiate’ themselves from each other - again see the sheet here.

My students came up with: they could offer new products, they could fly different routes, they could change their prices, or they could go into a completely different market and do something other than flights. All of these ideas can be fitted into Ansoff’s matrix without the students having knowingly studied the theory.  Give students the second handout from the activity sheet, and ask them to place their ideas into the matrix, and select the strategy that they think would be the most important for the business. They should in their groups be taking into consideration the level of risk, cost and impact on resources.

Finally, you can input some theory, to reiterate the strategies for both Ansoff’s Matrix & Porter's Generic Strategy, but this tutor led input will be minimal as students have already thought of and decided upon the strategies for the business!

The activity above, builds on what students have learnt at AS - the Marketing Mix - and gets them to use this to consider theory and strategy for A2.  The activity also covers the important skill areas that examiners will assess in both Unit’s this year – Knowledge, Application, Analysis & Evaluation.

Donna Jestin
Teacher of Business Studies Notre Dame College & Senior Examiner for AQA

Monday, 5 December 2011

All Secondary - The Real Meaning of Christmas

So, Christmas is fast approaching and all the students want to do is watch a video or make Christmas cards, and frankly, you’re tempted to give in as it you’ve worked ridiculously hard and your thoughts are now turned towards your own lie-ins and recuperation… but what if you could have a Christmas based lesson that kept the students engaged and learning and was still fun? Here is an idea that can be used both in and out of the RE classroom!

Resources: A variety of old Christmas cards (just the fronts)

Step 1: In pairs/ small groups students imagine that they have never encountered or experienced Christmas before, perhaps they are aliens from another planet who have received these cards in the post. Students then identify as many different features about Christmas from the cards (Gifts, snow, robins, trees, stars, perhaps some people on a camel?!)

Step 2: In their groups, students can either try to piece together the meaning of Christmas only from the evidence they have gathered from the cards. They must try to include and explain the reasons for all of the features they have identified into a story about the festival and its meaning (they must not use any prior knowledge).

Step 3: Students feed their stories/ meanings of Christmas back to the class

Step 4: Discuss - What do students believe is the true meaning of Christmas? Did any of their presentations show any of this?


Step 1: As above

Step 2: Students research the meanings of the different features/ symbolisms associated with Christmas from their cards.

Step 3: Create a leaflet to other ‘aliens’ who do not know about Christmas, where the festival originated from, what its symbolisms mean and what Christmas means to both Christians and non-Christians.

To make this a more meaningful RE-focussed lesson, students can compare the similarities and differences between the Christian and non-Christian elements, and explore whether there is a common link between the two (i.e the hope and promise of the new-born baby Jesus for Christians and the hope and promise of the return of light in the depth of winter for Pagans).

Wishing you all a relaxing end of term...!

Teresa Langler
Head of Beliefs and Values
Clyst Vale Community College

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Secondary English - Linking Assessment Objectives

Regardless of whether we are teaching a combined or single-entry GCSE curriculum, the presence of the Assessment Objectives should, we know, be at the forefront of our minds as teachers when planning our courses and schemes of work.

This can, in some cases, be more tricky at Key Stage 3 than Key Stage 4. After all, at GCSE, the awarding body has done the job for us; it is their role to devise the ways and means, the assessment points and the outcomes. They decide the relative weightings of each assessment objective and put in place a curriculum which we, to all intents and purposes, follow.

However, it can still be tricky to know what these assessment objectives actually mean. For colleagues new to the profession, without the experience of taking examination classes through to the end point, without having seen exemplar materials and been part of moderation and standardisation sessions, it can be hard to get our heads around what these rather nebulous descriptors of achievement look like in practice.

For example, two of the GCSE English Literature objectives are:
AO1: respond to texts critically and imaginatively; select and evaluate relevant textual detail to illustrate and support interpretations

AO2: explain how language, structure and form contribute to writers’ presentation of ideas, themes and settings

In the best responses, these two objectives are linked. Candidates present a response which demonstrates their clear understanding of ideas and themes, with direct reference to how the writer has used language, or structure, or form, to present these ideas and themes.

In Section Three of Of Mice and Men, for example, George and Lennie are left alone in the bunk house. George lays out his solitaire hand using ‘a deliberate, thoughtful, slowness’. Lennie, however, ‘drummed on the table with his fingers’.

Candidates at all levels can say something about this. We all know about Steinbeck’s use of hands as metaphor in the novella as a whole: how he consistently uses this image to demonstrate his theme:  the plight of the working man. The use of the punctuation in the description of George’s behaviour, if students commented on it, the extra use of comma which intensifies the ‘deliberate, thoughtful, slowness’,  might be a means to accessing higher mark bands.  And then this description could be very successfully contrasted with Lennie’s childlike impatience – just like his impatience to ‘get the little place’.

A passage such as this lends itself very effectively to ‘responding to texts critically and imaginatively’, as well as ‘explaining how language / structure / form contribute to writer’s presentation of ideas, themes and settings’.

Sarah Darragh
English Teacher and author of A Bridge to GCSE English

Secondary Business - News Quiz 1/12/11

An interesting week in the business news, with the UK strike on November 30th, the biggest action since the 1970's, we will have to wait to see if this has had any affect. Also, a new internet search engine has been launched to rival Google & Yahoo, American Airlines shares fell by 81% and are now worth just 25cents and has China finally been affected by the global downturn?

Below is this weeks Business News Quiz. Click here for a printable version along with the answers and web links so that you can discuss some of the news stories with your classes.

  1. It opened to the public on November 28th 2011, so what is YaCy?
    A new designer store in London ( )
    A new e-reader tablet ( )
    A new internet search engine ( )

    A new brand of sportswear from the USA ( )

  2. The USA national debt has just risen above what figure this week?
    $10 trillion ( )
    $15 trillion ( )
    $25 trillion ( )
    $20trillion ( )

  3. Hilton, the international hotel chain, is to open more than 20 new hotels in the UK, creating how many jobs?
    1500 ( )  
    2000 ( )
    2500 ( )
    3000 ( )

  4. Which two car manufacturers are to work together on environmental-friendly motoring technology?
    BMW & Toyota ( )
    BMW & Ford ( )
    Toyota & Ford ( )
    Ford & Peugeot ( )

  5. Samsung has won a major battle in its ongoing tussle with Apple, after an Australia court overturned a ban on the sale of its what in the country?
    Samsung Tocco Icon ( )
    Galaxy Tablet ( )
    Galaxy S 11 ( )
    Its new 16.1 mega pixel camera ( )

  6. Australian Brewer Foster’s has been taken over by SAB Millar worth how much in Australian Dollars?
    $9.9bn ( )
    $10.5bn ( )
    $11.9bn ( )
    $8.9bn ( )

  7. The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says George Osborne's economic plans will mean a sharp drop in household income, by how much has it been predicted they fall?
    7.3% ( )
    3.3% ( )
    7.4% ( )
    10.4%( )

  8. Which Young Apprentice candidate was fired this week after a buying task?
    Ben Fowler ( )
    Lewis Roman ( )
    Hayley Forrester ( )
    Gbemi Okunlola( )

  9. China's manufacturing activity fell to a low in November, hurt by a slowdown in the global economy; this was the lowest output in how long?
    12 months ( )
    32 months ( )
    24 months( )
    18 months( )

  10. American Airlines' parent company AMR Corporation has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection are what happened to its share this week?
    Fell by 81% ( )
    Fell by 51% ( )
    Fell by 25% ( )
    Fell by 31%( ) 
Donna Jestin
Teacher of Business Studies Notre Dame College & Senior Examiner for AQA

Monday, 28 November 2011

All Secondary - Improving essay feedback in the classroom!

Anyone who teaches an essay based subject will know how frustrating it is to spend hours writing comments on students’ work, only for them to look at the grade and then crumple the work up in their bag. There it will often stay along with the model answer which they will eventually lose. Although time is limited to get through the specification, I am trying to spend more time on useful essay feedback in class.

I share assessment objectives with my classes and sometimes get the students to peer assess each other’s work based on the mark schemes. However, for the longer essay questions, I find that the mark schemes are rather too vague for students to do this effectively. Instead I have listed below some very simple, but practical techniques which have worked for my students.

  1. When I give out model answers (either written by myself or a student) I ask the students to use different colour pens to highlight names; concepts and evaluation points. Sometimes I get the students to do this on their own or a classmate’s essay.

  2. While model answers can be very useful, they put too much focus on the teacher doing the work not the student. I will therefore often give out a model answer with an introduction, conclusion or paragraph missing, which the students then have to write themselves.

  3. Sometimes I give out excellent student essays to whole classes. I only do this with the student’s permission. It can give them a confidence boost, but otherwise I feel that they don’t get much in return for their hard work. In classes where there are only a small number of students working on the highest grades, I photocopy their essays and swap them with students on a similar level. This enables those on the top grades to learn from each other.

  4. While marking essays, I note down examples of students who have written good points and ask those students to read the relevant section of the essay out in whole class feedback. This works particularly well when a student has not been happy with their overall essay mark, but has done a very good introduction, conclusion, evaluative comment etc. I try to include a range of different students when doing this.

  5. When I hand back students' essays I ask them to read what they have written again, not just my comments. Often they spot mistakes quickly for themselves and it becomes apparent that they are reading the essay for the first time! I then reinforce the suggestion that they get someone else to read their essay before they hand it in, (preferably somebody who is not studying the subject). They need to hide the question from the reader. If the reader can more or less guess the wording of the question, they can feel confident that they have answered it. If the reader knows only the topic area, the student needs to look at their essay again before submitting it. 

Emily Painter
Sociology Teacher, Cadbury Sixth Form College

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Secondary English - Why is English spelling so difficult?

English has 44 sounds and only 26 letters to represent them. That means that there is no one-to-one matching of sounds and letters and some letters are used for more than one sound.

For instance, the letter G can be used for the hard ‘g’ in rug and the soft ‘j’ in germ. 
The letter S can be used for the hissing sound in sit and the buzzing sound in pheasant.

Some sounds can be shown by more than one letter, or letter combination:
The sound ‘ai’ can be shown as eye, aisle, I, guy and might, while the sound ‘f’ can be shown as in feel and photograph.

However, some words that sound the same can be written differently:
their/there/they’re     tide/tied    hare/hair air/heir

Some letters have become silent over the centuries as the pronunciation of words has become simplified, but the spelling of these words has remained the same:
G is silent in gnome
K is silent in knight
H is silent at the beginning of most words, as in honest

Some letters can be doubled, but there may be no difference in pronunciation: robin  rabbit

These oddities in English spelling were demonstrated in the nineteenth century when someone realized that the word ghoti could be pronounced as fish.  This made-up word, although it looks nothing like fish, can be given that pronunciation when you break it down into three parts:
gh as in rough
o as in women
ti as in condition ghoti = fish!

Although there is something rather fishy about this spelling it shows rather well some of the strange spelling rules in English that come from using just 26 letters to show 44 sounds.

Secondary Business - News Quiz 24/11/11

Again, a busy week in the business world, with the economy and the eurozone again dominating many of the headlines, we also saw the dramatic fall in Thomas Cook shares at the start of the week.

Below is this weeks Business News Quiz, for your students to complete and see if they have really been watching the business news this week! Click here for a printable version along with the answers.

  1. Why have Labour criticised the sale of Northern Rock to Virgin money?
    They think it should’ve been sold to Lord Alan Sugar ( )
    They claim in was a poor deal for taxpayers( )
    They think HSBC should have bought it ( )
    They think Virgin Money could now monopolise the banking sector ( )

  2. Shares in Thomas Cook fell by how much at the start of the week, before they began to recover a day later?
    75% ( )
    80% ( )
    85% ( )
    90% ( )

  3. Arcadia, the group that is owned by Sir Philip Green, and includes brands such as Topshop, Miss Selfridge & Burton is to close up to how many stores?
    150 ( )  
    200 ( )
    260 ( )
    320 ( )

  4. China has become the world's largest smartphone market by volume after it overtook who in the 3rd quarter of the year?
    America ( )
    Australia ( )
    Japan ( )
    Russia ( )

  5. Which patent row has Apple won this week?
    HTC patents ( )
    Blackberry tablet patents( )
    Sony mobile phone patents( )
    Google search engine patents ( )

  6. The struggling telecoms equipment maker Nokia Siemens Networks is cutting how many jobs, which equates to 23% of its total workforce?
    10 000 ( )
    17 000 ( )
    20 000 ( )
    27 000 ( )

  7. Who this week has resigned as director of the companies that publish The Times, The Sunday Times, and the Sun.?
    Rebekah Brookes ( )
    Rupert Murdoch ( )
    James Murdoch ( )
    Tim Mockridge( )

  8. Which Young Apprentice candidate was fired this week after designing a TV advert for deodorant?
    Ben Fowler ( )
    Lewis Roman ( )
    Hannah Richards ( )
    Gbemi Okunlola( )

  9. Who is the new presenter of Channel 4’s countdown programme?
    Arthur Levinson ( )
    Lord Alan Sugar ( )
    Nick Hewer( )
    Andrea Jung( )

  10. Dixons, who own Curry’s have seenlosses increase to what level this week?
    £91.5m ( )
    £52.4m ( )
    £66.7m ( )
    £25.3m ( )

Donna Jestin
Teacher of Business Studies Notre Dame College & Senior Examiner for AQA

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Secondary RE - How to Debate and Evaluate

Active Learning Strategies for Debating and Evaluating

I want to encourage my students to consider different opinions and views towards a social or moral issue, but I also want them to start developing evaluation skills too. At KS4, students must demonstrate the ability to evaluate which is more than just saying what different people think. It is much more about comparing views and exploring why some reasons are better than others. The GCSE changes a couple of years ago saw a shift in the weighting of the evaluation questions in the religious studies exams, but how can we help our students to develop this skill in an interactive way?

The following are some active learning strategies that I have found useful, not only in the actual discussing and debating of a topic but in helping young people to evaluate properly.

Conscience Alley
Give the class a moral dilemma, e.g. Imagine that you are a full time parent to your 2 children. You have no money left for the week and your children are screaming and crying because they are hungry. You walk into town and see the supermarket with all of its food. Would you steal some food for your children?

The students in the class have to decide whether they would or wouldn’t, and arrange themselves into 2 lines (one line which would steal, and one line which wouldn’t), facing each other with a gap between them big enough for someone to walk down – this is conscience alley. You will need a couple of students to slowly walk down conscience alley, and listen to the reasons that the other students give to try and persuade the individuals that they should or should not ‘steal’. The students in the lines should try to be as persuasive as possible. When the students have reached the end of conscience alley they will need to make their decisions and relay these to the class, explaining which arguments persuaded them and which reasons they did not think were good enough and why.

“Stay Standing if…”
All students must stand up. The teacher will have a number of statements relating to the topic/ issue being explored that students must either agree or disagree with. These will then be said with the starter “Stay standing if… you think the death penalty should be brought back into UK law”. Students make their decisions and either stay standing or sit down. The teacher circulates the classroom asking students to give their reasons for staying standing or sitting down, and asking students to say why they think that their reason/ opinion is stronger than that of someone with the opposite opinion to them.

Value Lines
This activity can be used in a variety of different ways. I have used this when reflecting upon the impact of the Holocaust on Jewish faith; when considering what age could be considered ‘old’ when looking at ageism; and when exploring class opinions towards a social or moral issue.

Give students a dilemma or statement that they need to make a decision on e.g. If you were Jewish and had survived the Holocaust do you think that you would be a theist, agnostic or atheist? Inform students that one side of the room is one view e.g. ‘atheist’, the other side of the room is the opposite opinion e.g. theist and the centre of the room is the middle decision e.g. agnostic. Students should get themselves into a line depending on what their view is. If your statement is based on an ethical or social dilemma e.g. “Capital punishment should be reintroduced to the UK” then the value line will be ‘agree’ at one end, ‘disagree’ at the other end and undecided in the centre.

Students are encouraged to explain and argue the reasons why they have placed themselves in their position along the value line. If a student explains their reasons and this changes the opinions of others, they are entitled to move, but they must explain why they found these reasons convincing or persuasive. You can also encourage students to explain why they disagree with other’s views and reasons.

All of these activities could be carried out as an introduction to a topic or even before the completion of a practice evaluation question for GCSE religious studies, as a way of encouraging students not just to consider other views, but to actively evaluate them as well.

Teresa Langler
Head of Beliefs and Values
Clyst Vale Community College

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Secondary English - Any Questions?

I sometimes wonder what my students really think about my lessons. No, let me correct that. I sometimes wonder what my students really understand in my lessons. Unfortunately I think that too often there is a gap between my assumptions of what they ‘get’ and what they don’t. So, last week I, rather bravely, decided to get inside my Year 11 students’ heads.

It was a simple exercise. At the beginning of our lesson, on ‘Romeo and Juliet’, I asked them to write down three sentences on a piece of paper. These could be: an observation about the scene we were studying; a question to test another student’s understanding; a question that they would like to ask me. During the lesson, every student had to contribute one point from their sheet and when any observations were made or questions answered satisfactorily they crossed them off. At the end of the lesson, the students handed in their sheets so that I could look at any questions left unanswered. In the following lesson, I was then able to address these questions and go through any points of confusion in the scene.

This was a fascinating activity.  There were an overwhelming number of questions that focussed on ‘What does X word mean?’ that seemed to trouble even the most able students. As much as I think that I have explained the important words or bleat on about getting the ‘gist’ of certain passages, I found that my students wanted to understand it all- they wanted to join the missing links so they could solve the puzzle of Shakespeare’s language. I had not always predicted which words would tie up which students in knots and until we completed this exercise, many of them seemed to view the text as incomprehensible, even if it turned out there were only two words out of twenty that they did not really understand. I found that by unravelling these knots, it enabled many students to then start to unpack the layers of meaning in the language choices in a more meaningful way than before.

This exercise has real possibilities and I am excited about trying it out in other areas. We will be preparing for their Mocks next and I think it could be illuminating to find out what my students really understand about the non-fiction exam. Who knows, now that I have found out that what is inside my students’ heads is not so frightening, I might even dare to ask what they actually think about my lessons!

Naomi Hursthouse
Advance Skills Teacher 
Steyning Grammar School

Monday, 21 November 2011

Secondary Geography - Demonstrating Progress

Using Continuum lines to Demonstrate Progress
(Note - This post refers to ideas from Geography lessons but could be adapted for many other subjects)

There is always that worry about different ways to demonstrate progress at the end of the lesson. If you are being observed it is obviously a key element. Even when I am not being observed I like to use the plenary to check on my student’s progress. Self-reflection is an important aspect of any lesson – was the lesson a success? Did students enjoy it? Have they achieved the objectives / outcomes? As a Head of Humanities with a large team, I observe lessons frequently and I am frequently surprised at how often teachers fail to show that students have made progress. The rest of lesson may be good but it is important to allow students to clearly understand the progress they have made and also to reflect on their understanding.

One way to this is by using continuum lines at the end of the lesson. Continuum lines allow students to choose a point of view based on what they have learnt during the lesson, reflecting on their learning and it allows me to question them about that choice – allowing me to assess their progress and understanding

Continuum lines work in any lesson that is issue based and work particularly well where there are two points of view. The basic idea is that you write two viewpoints up on a piece of paper and stick each viewpoint either end of the classroom. Students then have to line up where they stand on the imaginary line in terms of their own view based on the evidence / learning from the lesson. This activity takes no more than 5 minutes of lesson time but achieves so much. You just need an unobstructed stretch across a classroom where students can line up. Failing this a corridor also works.

Below are a couple of examples:

Y10 GCSE Tourism (AQA A) – students spent the lesson learning about the impacts of tourism on Antarctica. At the end of the lesson, on one side of the classroom I put “Tourism should be allowed to continue in Antarctica” and on the other “Tourists should not be allowed to visit Antarctica”. Students then lined up according to their viewpoint. It was interesting that there was a real mix of where students stood - with only a very few choosing the extreme ends. I then asked all students to write a justification of their position on a post-it which they stuck on the desk in the rough position they were stood. Students and I then read these post-it notes and discussed some of the viewpoints.

Y12 AS level Population Change (AQA) – Population theorists. I stuck a picture of Malthus at one end of room and a picture of Boserup at the other. Students then lined up according to who they agreed with most. I then asked them to justify their decision. This lesson was observed by my Headteacher and he was really impressed with their responses and the fact that they actually spent a few minutes working out where to stand. Students not only justified their decision by referring to the theories but some also had thought of present day examples.

This idea can easily be extended. In a KS3 lesson on the Haiti Earthquake, where the students were investigating the question “why did so many people die in the Haiti earthquake”, I used the continuum line idea. This time though I had 4 points in the room: Poverty, Buildings collapsing, Population density and Aid taking too long to arrive. I asked them to decide which they thought was the most important factor and stand at that point. It was interesting that some of the most able students stood between two points (despite me telling them to stand at one point) and then justified this by saying that there wasn’t a most important factor because they were linked! I was so pleased that they had determined this point themselves and obviously thought long and hard about where to stand.

This is only one suggestion for demonstrating progress and there are many others but I believe that this activity ticks a lot of boxes for what we want to achieve and best of all it take no time to set up and takes very little time to conduct at the end of the lesson!

Tania Grigg
Head of Humanities & Senior AQA examiner
Clyst Vale Community College

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Secondary Business - News Quiz 17/11/11

From a new Apple Chairman - replacing Steve Jobs, to a worsening outlook for the UK economy and UK hostages held on a plane, it has been a very busy week in the business world!!

Below is this weeks Business News Quiz. Click here for a printable version along with the answers and web links so that you can discuss some of the news stories with your classes.

  1. Why were passenger’s held ‘hostage’ in Vienna, on a Comtel Air flight from India to the UK?
    It was demanded they pay £20 000 in fuel tax ( )
    The food & drink hadn’t been loaded onto the plane ( )
    There was a technical fault with the wing ( )
    There was a missing passenger who really wanted to get on the flight ( )

  2. Inflation in India has stayed high in October at what level?
    9.73% ( )
    10.73% ( )
    11.73% ( )
    12.73% ( )

  3. Dubai based airline, Emirates have placed an order for 50 Boeing 777s worth how much?
    $15bn ( )  
    $18bn ( )
    $25bn ( )
    $28bn ( )

  4. How has the UK job’s market been described this week? There will be a….
    "Sharp rise in the number of jobs available” ( )
    “Small increase in available jobs“( ) 
    “Painful decrease in the number of vacancies" ( )

    “Slow painful contraction, with firms delaying recruitment" ( )

  5. Easyjet’s pre-tax profits have risen in the year to September 30th from £154m to £248m, what are they claiming is the reason for this increase?
    The new special seating plan they offer ( )
    A major change in marketing strategy ( )
    Ryanair’s decrease in passenger numbers ( )
    The increase in business travel numbers ( )

  6. The UK’s unemployment figure has risen to what all time high level this week?
    2.62m ( )
    3.55m ( )
    4.32m ( )
    5.13m ( )

  7. Google have just announced that they are to launch what?
    An android based online music store ( )
    A new tablet computer ( )
    A new PC to challenge the at home market ( )
    Branded cuddly toys in time for Christmas ( )

  8. Which of the Young Apprentice candidates was fired this week after a ‘selling to the over 50’s’ task?
    Ben Fowler ( )
    Lewis Roman ( )
    Hannah Richards ( )
    Lizzie Magee ( )
  9. After the departure of Steve Jobs, who has replaced him as Chairman of the Board at the world’s most valuable company: Apple?
    Arthur Levinson ( )
    Robert Iger ( )
    Ronald Sugar ( )
    Andrea Jung( )

  10. Manchester United’s revenues have risen in the 3 months to September to what level?
    £91.5m ( )
    £52.4m ( )
    £66.7m ( )
    £73.8m ( ) 

Donna Jestin
Teacher of Business Studies Notre Dame College & Senior Examiner for AQA

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Secondary English - Board games as a revision tool

You know that point when you’ve finished teaching a novel and know you have to go back over key events, themes and characters before a controlled task or exam? The point where your pupils groan that ‘we already know this’ and turn off? I was trying to think of fun ways to engage pupils in revision, as well as having lessons where I wasn’t leading and the pupils could get on by themselves, and lo and behold ‘board game revision’ was born!

My two GCSE sets had just finished To Kill a Mockingbird, a novel with a fair amount of context. The weekend before the lessons I popped to a pound shop and stocked up on cardboard, glitter pens and snazzy paper, you may have these things ready in the stock cupboard. You’ll also need glue and scissors.

As the pupils entered the room they had a selection of resources on their tables, their set texts and their exercise books, I then pitched the idea. They were going to make a board game for the novel we had just read. They could make any kind of board game they liked but it must involve questions on the novel, they have 2 lessons before we play the games.

I was delighted with their responses. Most groups chose to make a monopoly style game which meant that there was heated discussion about characters and social class to determine which properties would cost the most, The Ewell’s shack was brown (Old Kent Road) and rent was paid in cobnuts whereas the Judge’s house was purple (Mayfair) with rent at $500 or a spell in jail. The markers displayed main themes in the novel, a cross for religion, a tiny mockingbird for injustice, a ball for childhood, a knife for violence and book for morals. Question cards asked us about Mayella’s motives for kissing Tom and who we felt most sorry for in the novel and why. I was especially pleased with my EAL pupils’ responses, they enjoyed the visual aspects and revised key words and phrases. The class were also interested to learn new games and it helped them all to bond with each other.

Not only did the pupils have to revise the novel in detail, they also played each others games which meant they had to remember additional details. The games themselves were beautiful and were ideal to use as a plenary or reward on a rainy Friday afternoon. When we had finished with them I used them as wall displays which prompted other classes asking questions and wanting to make board games when we’d finished their class readers. We now have an entire wall of games, including Top Trumps for Holes, Snakes and Spells for The Witches and Mouse Trap for Stone Cold.

Joanna Fliski
Teacher of English, Media and Drama, Lliswerry High School

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Secondary Social Sciences - Recap lesson carousel

Information served six ways (or five)...

This lesson evolved from a discussion with a colleague about how we can ask students to recap their knowledge thoroughly, but without endless exam questions and essays. What emerged was so successful that I did it to death that week with my other Sociology and Psychology classes.

The basic premise of the lesson is that you have a topic or some key sociological issues, arguments or a perspective that you need to recap. I used it to recapture the key arguments and evidence for secularisation in the UK, a topic within Beliefs in Society (A2).

Armed with pieces of paper – each featuring a different issue - I arrange six stations in the room and place on them said pieces of paper. Then, I get the students into six groups (or five, depends on what you’ve got to cover) and seat them at a table. Their aim is to recount everything they know about that topic via a particular medium, which you present nice and clear on the interactive whiteboard. After the allotted time and suitable feedback, they rotate and go to a different table where they have to present a different issue in a different way. This way, they are revising all the key ideas/concepts, but through different means.  It’s student led and it gives you an opportunity to further question the understanding of your students and present them with some higher order questions. Best of all, it can make memorable some often long-forgotten key theories and concepts.

Here are some of the six ways that students can present, with some suggestions about how long for each.  Have these on the board at all times for focus. So, put simply: Students present different information in the same way, then they rotate to a new table, you flip the page and give them a new medium through which to feedback.

  1. A frozen image (2 minutes):  Hello Year 7 Drama. Students create a freeze frame that depicts the issue/theory.

  2. A picture or sketch that embodies a theory (3-4 minutes):  Some students get really abstract, others are more literal. One pair took a difficult concept like structural differentiation and drew a picture of a large church, with another, much smaller church underneath it. Surrounding the smaller church were schools, counselling surgeries, a registry office and family planning clinic. Simple, but so effective.

  3. A summary in no more than 30 words (3-4 minutes):  Because sometimes it’s important to get to the point.

  4. A song, rhyme or rap (6-7 minutes):  I have been frequently astounded by both the quality and ingenuity of these (see below).

  5. A role play (6-7 minutes):  This is perhaps the one that students find most embarrassing, but successful ones hammer home the key ideas well. Two boys in one class acted out ‘rationalisation’ by performing a doctor/patient sketch (“Thank you Doctor Weber, now I realise that my heart attack was of course caused by poor diet and smoking and not a demon inhabiting my body”).

  6. An example (2-3 minutes):  Important for those AO2 skills of interpretation and analysis, ask students to provide an example of this theory in action. One girl made a solid link between Bruce’s idea of cultural defence and the Iranian revolution of 1979; others linked rationalisation to Darwinism and Dawkins.

  7. An evaluation of the theory/concept (5-6 minutes):  This is a good one to finish on. You could specify strengths or weaknesses, or ask for both. An important AO2 skill.

At the end of the activity, ask students to vote for the groups which they thought were the most inventive or detailed, give them a round of applause and collate their work as a mini-recap guide that you can photocopy for students. Obviously you can’t photocopy a role-play, but you could take a picture of the frozen images and use them for visual revision aids.

Aside from being used as recap, this approach has also worked particularly well for evaluating research or key theories.  In this case, each table might feature a different evaluation point. It’s worked especially well in Psychology lessons as a collaborative activity that enables students to assess a key study. In this case, get five or six groups of students (pairs is ok too for smaller classes) and arrange the zones – each with different evaluative issues this time. For example: Generalisability; Reliability; Application and Usefulness; Validity, Ethics and the Research Method. Using their knowledge of the key study, students must focus on that one particular issue and apply it to the study at hand.  You use the same methods as listed above and feedback and rotate in exactly the same way.

I’ll leave you with perhaps one of my favourite moments as a teacher that emerged from one of these tasks last year. One Y12 group were examining a study and were criticising the methodology, which happened to be a quantitative measure. They decided to present their critique as an R&B love ballad in the style of Mariah Carey. Tears of laughter streamed down my face as they warbled, with backing vocals and utter sincerity, the final lines below:

"The truth isn’t always revealed,
validity is lacked
data can be unwieldy, hard to keep to keep track.
Good for statistics, 
but otherwise inept,
not enough detail, not enough depth."

Christopher Stump
Sociology and Psychology teacher
Park High School, Harrow

Monday, 14 November 2011

Secondary History - From Cause to Consequence

Cause and consequence appears as the fourth key concept on the QCDA KS3 National Curriculum, and underpins much of our study of history as a discipline. Come GCSE and A Level it’s still key as students begin to make a distinction between conditional and contingent causes, immediate and delayed consequences.  Whilst I have found my students handle the idea of a cause followed by an event leading to a consequence well, they often find it more difficult to really explain how the cause caused the event, and why the consequence is a consequence. Chronological ordering is one thing, supported historical analysis another!

The idea behind this activity is to get students to explain causation from one event to the next.  I have used it with Year 7 explaining the collapse of the Roman Empire, Year 10 searching for the causes of the October 1917 Revolution and Year 12 analysing Mussolini’s rise to power.  What I have seen in all is both how students are constructively critical of each other’s arguments, and how they offer help and suggestions of explanation to a peer teetering perilously on a stepping stone in the middle of the ‘stream’.

The activity

Using the stepping stone template, the students write each cause and consequence on individual stones.  I usually photocopy the template up so that each stone is A4.  They also need one central stone called ‘EVENT’ on which they write details of the event whose causes and consequences they are analysing, this can be done individually or in small groups.

I get students to make their notes on the templates in bullet points, or single prompt words, rather than continuous prose. The reason being they place the stones on the floor and need to be able to read them easily whilst standing!

Students then lay their stones across the floor, which becomes a stream, in chronological order – causes -> event -> consequences.  In order to step onto each stone they must explain either how it is a cause, or why it is a consequence. This also allows for the construction of a continuous argument.

If their teammates think the explanation is adequate they are able to step onto the stone, and then explain the next in order to step, one at a time, right across the stream. The ‘event’ stone can either be a temporary respite, or students can narrate the event as part of their ongoing explanation. Should any student fail to match up to their teammates expectations, they risk slipping off the stone into the stream and either have to start again, or become a soggy spectator as the next member of the team takes their chances!

The quality of explanation and ensuing discussions were really pleasing; Year 7 were able to make links between the causes of the fall of Rome and the ensuing consequences.  At A Level the activity highlights the conditional or contingent status of causes, and demonstrates the interrelation of consequences.
Example PowerPoint slide using stepping stones to explain Mussolini’s rise to power as AS level

Download the stepping stone template for yourself here to try this activity out with your own classes!

Charlotte Grove
History Teacher, Dame Alice Owen's School

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Secondary Business - News Quiz

A2 AQA Business Studies

The challenge of the A2 year and how it significantly differs from AS is that students need to be aware of what is happening in the real business world; this is a huge challenge for us as teachers.

I ask all of my A2 students to read the BBC business news every week, and actively encourage them to download the BBC App to their smartphones if they have one, but they don’t always need to use technology for the news. They could even just read the Metro on the way into college.

My A2 students have a “Business Studies News Quiz” every Thursday to complete on their own, the scores are then added up and I record these every week for each half term. After that a ‘winner’ is announced and given a small token to recognise this achievement. In addition to this, I ask all my groups to participate in ‘News Story of the week’ whereby one student out of each group is asked each week to produce a newspaper front cover with a hot topic from that week’s news; I have had stories ranging from the state of the economy, Steve Job’s death, the Blackberry internet failure & the bankers' bonuses. These stories then go on the notice board for all to see in the main Business corridor.

I was surprised how much my students became interested in the news, discussing stories with me as they entered the classroom, and asking for the Business Studies News Quiz each week - I think the element of competition helped as well!

Each week I will provide a quiz with answers all sourced from that you can use with your groups and hopefully help their preparation for Unit 4.

Business News Quiz - 10th November 2011

  1. How much are Anglo-French electrical goods retailer Kesa to sell Comet for?
    £2 ( )
    £5 ( )
    £10 ( )
    £12 ( )

  2. Which of the following major airlines was forced to ground its flights after a major industrial dispute?
    Lufthansa ( )
    Virgin ( )
    British Airways ( )
    Quantas ( )

  3. By how much have Ryanair's half-year profits risen?
    20% ( )
    53% ( )
    33% ( )
    13% ( )

  4. What from Steve Jobs famous quotes below, did he say he would spend his dying breath doing?
    "Make sure you destroy Android" ( )
    " Apple is going to reinvent the phone “ ( )
    "And one more thing" ( )
    " Be a yardstick of quality" ( )

  5. What profit was made by Marks & Spencer in the 6 months to October 1st?
    £320.5m ( )
    £250.5m ( )
    £720.5m ( )
    £950.5m ( )

  6. Following on from Question 5 – how did that figure differ from the same period last year?
    +10% ( )
    -10% ( )
    +8% ( )
    -8% ( )

  7. Why are Ford UK’s workers threatening strike action, for the first time since the 1970’s?
    Changes to their working hours ( )
    Changes to their pension scheme ( )
    Changes to the plant they work at ( )
    Changes in break times ( )

  8. Which of the Young Apprentice candidates was fired this week after bring the wrong candidates into the boardroom after a flower arranging task?
    Ben Fowler ( )
    Harry Maxwell ( )
    Hannah Richards ( )
    Lizzie Magee ( )

  9. What happened to the Eurozone’s retail sales in September ?
    They were 1.5% lower than the same period last year ( )
    They were 1.5% higher than the same time last year ( )
    They were 2.5% lower than the same period last year ( )
    They were 5% higher than the same period last year ( )

  10. The CBI has forecast that the unemployment rate will increase from 8.1% currently to what level next year?
    8.9% ( )
    10.5% ( )
    8.5% ( )
    10.9% ( ) 

Bonus point if you can tell me who the CBI are? Add up your scores and give me the total out of 11…

Donna Jestin
Business Studies Teacher Notre Dame Catholic 6th Form College & Senior Examiner for AQA