Thursday, 30 June 2011

Primary literacy - Make a documentary

Sticking with the theme of news, here's an activity around documentary-making.

There is often a local, national or international news article which poses questions or demands further research to ‘fill out’ the picture. In real life, this often takes the form of quickly put together documentaries.

By putting together a documentary, children practise many of the skills we teach in English and Drama such as script writing, acting, writing in a particular style, speaking and listening etc.

Ask the children to choose a subject. It could be something to do with the school, their community or a national or international item.

They will need to gather facts on it and pictures to support their information. They can then write and practice a script, being mindful of the style needed. Finally, they can film the documentary and edit it using simple free software such as Windows Movie Maker. We suggested that the documentary be between six and ten minutes long. Many of the children thought this was too short but then found sometimes it was a struggle to fill the time. Adjust it according the ability of the groups and topics chosen.

When we did the activity we found that the interactive whiteboard made for an excellent background or for displaying pictures. The children saved their pictures or backgrounds on a PowerPoint slide show and noted the order and changes of slides alongside their script. If you get the position of the child correct in relation to the camera and board their shadow won’t spoil the image.

We held a special ‘Newsnight’ evening for children to present their work on the news and showed a selection of the documentaries at it, then uploaded our finished documentaries to our website for parents to see.

Dave Lewis
Portsmouth High School Junior Dept

GCSE Maths - Fractions activity to bridge the gap to A Level

Download a free chapter of the Bridging GCSE and A Level Maths book here to practice fractions for A Level with your GCSE students.  This activity revisits areas that may not have been studied recently to fill gaps in knowledge and make links.

This free sample chapter, including exam questions, covers Fractions:

What you should already know:
• how to add, subtract, multiply and divide by fractions.
• how to convert between mixed numbers and top-heavy fractions.
In this section you will learn:
• how to substitute a fraction into a formula

Download the student pages, teacher notes and the accompanying activity 1 and activity 2. 

Collins Education blog

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

All A Level - Have your say!

Have your say and help influence our new A Level publishing by answering our short questionnaire in one of these subjects. To say thank you for your time, we’ll send you a free copy of...

For Maths: Bridging GCSE and A Level Maths
For Biology, Chemistry or Physics: Collins Student Support Materials
For English: War Horse
For History: Letts Revise AS and A2
Psychology: Collins Student Support Materials
Sociology: Collins Student Support Materials
Business Studies: Letts Revise AS and A2

Thanks in anticipation! 

Collins Education Blog

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Primary cross-curricular - Part 3 of fun ways to use the news

Part 3 in our fun with the news series...

Activity 3: Headlines

Another activity the children liked as a filler was trying to write succinct headlines.

If we had a spare five minutes at the end of the day, I’d read out a brief news story and the children would have to write a headline for it in six words or less. This got very competitive, both in terms of time taken to do it and quality of answer but the children loved it. It got them thinking about summarising information succinctly and helped with note taking exercises in other subjects.

We found that we had to prepare them the first time by starting off with headlines and asking the children if they could guess what the story behind it would be. We then went on to identify the key features of the news article and looked at how headlines are often a play on words for less serious items or that they miss out some unnecessary words in more serious ones. They soon got the idea and we often had a laugh at some of the more bizarre ones they came up with. 

Dave Lewis
Portsmouth High School Junior Dept

Friday, 17 June 2011

GCSE English - How to Succeed at Studying Spoken Language

Like many of us, I was surprised and a little bit scared to see the inclusion of a Spoken Language element to the Controlled Assessments for the new specifications. Having taught AS and A2 English Language for many years, the terminology didn’t daunt me and I had a plentiful supply of transcripts, but I was dreading the outcomes. I had a vision of some of my comedy favourites reduced to a shopping list of terminology. I feared for the great orators of the last century  - their landmark speeches recognised only for the fact that they didn’t contain an adjacency pair or a tag question!

I decided to take a different tack and opt into the study of idiolect instead. My class this year, a pilot group for the new specification, were all male, re sitters, who had all ‘failed’ GCSE in High School or at least that’s how they perceive it.  They are an eclectic bunch. For many of them, English is an additional language and one or two members of the group have only learned English within the last few years. Others speak English in college, but a different language at home and others speak English as a first language, but with a regional accent. Now we had something to go on.

Our Spoken Language Controlled Assessment evolved from a whole class discussion – a discussion that went so well and generated so much material that I ended up writing it up as a Speaking and Listening activity. That was a bonus for a start. In addition, I learned fascinating things about my students that helped me to understand a great deal more about how they write. I learned about the grammar and syntax of two West African languages compared to English, how difficult it is to learn a different alphabet with different sounds and how many students blend the English Language with their first language at home with their families.

Our next step was a ‘cutting and sticking’ lesson. The class made collages to illustrate their own idiolect or ‘Language Fingerprints’ as we termed them. Starting from a central photograph of themselves, we considered different avenues of our idiolect: the influence of place, family, education, friends and peers, the media/music/new technology. We wrote mini paragraphs about each aspect (if they were applicable to the individual) and illustrated them with images and cut out phrases and words. Secretly, what I was doing was embedding a plan for the Spoken Language Controlled Assessment.

When we were all safely ensconced in the ICT suite with our official plans, writing up the assignments, it was lovely to look over their shoulders and see them engaging with the task, because it was about them and their spoken language. The factors that have, at times, held them back in English became the material they could use. And the outcomes? Not dreadful shopping lists of terms, with limited analysis, but individual pieces about spoken voices that taught me a lot about what success in English really means.

Jo Heathcote
Loreto College, Manchester

Thursday, 16 June 2011

GCSE English - using the wordle

In case you haven’t yet explored it, Wordle is a programme which creates ‘word-clouds’ from text you provide. The clouds give greatest prominence to the words used most often in the text and the programme allows you to edit the layout, font and colour. At first I thought this would be a novelty for my classes to see the text in a different way but, after I began to play around with the editing tool, I realised that this could open up an exciting range of possibilities for my students.

And so it was my year 10 class who were first presented with Wordle. As we were studying ‘A Christmas Carol’, I inserted a short extract about Scrooge from Stave One into Wordle and played around with the font, layout and colour until I felt that it looked suitably ‘cold’ and ‘miserly’.

I began the lesson by displaying the Wordle and asking the students to consider which words stood out and why. This led them to think about the most prominent words and therefore the frequency with which Dickens had used specific vocabulary choices. We then were able to consider which words they thought should be the most prominent and why. I was really impressed by how quickly this focussed the students’ on the effects of language choices and the writer’s craft-skills which I can often despair they never seem to get the hang of! The use of colour and font also enabled the students to quickly enter into a discussion about mood and atmosphere. It wasn’t long before they were creating their own Wordles and making these choices for themselves.

Show us your wordles!  How are you using these in class?

Naomi Hursthouse
Advance Skills Teacher
Steyning Grammar School

Primary cross-curricular - More fun ways to use the news

Next in our set of 'Use the news' activities, here's an idea for every day that can be easily implemented and used to help speaking and listening skills.

Activity 2: Reporting the News

Fresh from their TV station exploits during the Have I Got News for You activity, some children wanted the chance to give the news in assembly so we decided that if someone had heard or read something on the news that morning, they could sit behind a desk with a spotlight on them and ‘Read the News’.

It sometimes meant a quick rewrite with the teacher but it worked really well and the assembled children loved having the ‘Nine O’clock News’ each day.

Following a spate of bizarre ties and outfits on the TV news they decided that they’d like the chance to dress up for it and so we had presenters in suits, dresses and even fancy dress. It was a fantastic way to help foster speaking skills.

Dave Lewis
Portsmouth High School Junior Dept

GCSE English - teaching Non-fiction text with Gaga!

Have a go at this exercise that takes students through analysing a book extract, including opportunities to develop reading and writing non-fiction.  This one is about Lady Gaga's book, Extreme Style and is suitable for students working towards a Grade C.  Here's the first bit and then you can download the complete resource below.

This text begins with two direct quotations from the pop star Lady Gaga.

‘I would rather die than have my fans not see me in a pair of high heels.’
‘You see legendary people taking out their trash. I think it’s destroying show business.’

1) Think carefully about these opinions. What does Lady Gaga mean when she refers to ‘legendary people taking out their trash’? What is her point of view on the world of celebrity?

The writer uses the quotations as a starting point and then develops her argument in her own words, using statement sentences. Think about how useful the quotations are in helping the argument get underway.

Download the complete resource here to use in your classroom:
Source document
Student activities
Teacher notes

Collins Education Blog
Activity from Jo Heathcote's Non-fiction for GCSE Teacher Pack

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

KS3 English - War Horse Scheme of Work

War Horse was the runaway star at the 2011 Tony Awards last night, with the stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s bestselling novel scooping 5 awards, including Best Play. What’s more, the story is set to become even more popular as filming has already begun on a cinematic version directed by Steven Spielberg, due for release in early 2012. In light of this spectacular success you may want to think about reading this thrilling novel with your Key Stage 3 classes now (before they find out what happens at the end!)

Set at the outbreak of the First World War, Joey, young Albert's beloved horse, is sold to the cavalry and shipped to France. He's soon caught up in enemy fire, and fate takes him on an extraordinary odyssey, serving on both sides before finding himself alone in no man’s land. But Albert cannot forget Joey and, although still not old enough to enlist, he embarks on a treacherous mission to the trenches to find him and bring him home. Narrated from an unusual perspective, Morpurgo’s classic novel vividly brings to life the sufferings of animals caught up in human warfare.

This month, Collins have published a brand new edition of War Horse as part of Collins Readers – our series durable, student editions of well-known classic and award-winning contemporary fiction. We’ve also created a complete (and completely free!) War Horse scheme of work to accompany your study of the text, including lesson plans, activities and worksheets, a PowerPoint presentation and more! Let us know if it's helpful and share your experiences of teaching War Horse here.

Collins Education Blog

Friday, 10 June 2011

Secondary Maths - Booster revision with a difference

A booster revision conference with a difference;  utilising untapped innovation.

For the past few years the mathematics team have gone the extra mile to support GCSE, ‘AS’ and ‘A’ level students  both within mathematics lessons and increasingly importantly supporting students outside of lessons through material on the VLE and recommending use of bespoke revision resources such as the MathsWatch revision CD and the Collins Revision Guides.

Within a framework of support and in the context of a need to drive standards still further especially at Key Stage 4, carefully managed revision conferences have been successfully run during half-term and Easter break;  the key factor in their success has been a relentless focus on past exam questions and exam technique and a qualitatively different experience to a mathematics lesson in normal school time. 

During the Easter break, I instinctively believed that the time was right to progress something very different in the revision paradigm.  Although didactic presentations had been successful in recent years, a new model emerged which moved closer towards the AfL agenda and away from the subject teacher being the font of key information for the forthcoming exams.

Articulate, professional and forward thinking  year 12 students offered to give up two days of their Easter break to be coaches and mentors to year 11 students on the C/D borderline.  Personal letters of invitation were sent to parents of the key group and packs of questions were duly photocopied (with solutions for the coaches should they need to check an answer).   It was a privilege to take a supportive role and see the many ‘aha’ moments as 12 post-16 students used their natural talents and ideas to help 35 students with working successfully through past papers.  The unique aspect to this project was that year 12 students had gone through similar experiences nearly a year earlier, albeit at a higher conceptual level;  they could relate to students from their generation and the year 11 students were enormously appreciative.  Teaching staff managed the booster revision rooms and took care of refreshments but the key winning strategy came from the innovation of the post-16 students as coaches and mentors combined with the hard work and dedication of the year 11 GCSE students.

Year 12 student Victoria Scudamore taking revision sessions  (Picture by PT Charlton of Frome Community College)
After the two day conference which ran from 10.00 to 1.00 on successive days I recalled reading an interview with Sir Richard Branson when he talked about the unique flair and natural insight that we sometimes have before University life has an impact on our lives.  Clearly university life enriches us in infinite ways but I was also circumspect about what it can take out of our lives both from a financial perspective and in terms of natural curiosity for the world around us.   I was amazed by the mentoring ability of year 12 students who wished to put something back into their community.  I was particularly struck by a moment when a year 11 student was stuck on a Pythagoras question;  with perfect timing, a year 12 helper said ‘let me turn the page this way – now what do you see?  - suddenly a right-angled triangle seemed the’ right way up’ and the student recognised that she had to use the ‘formula, substitute, work out and check’ procedures applying Pythagoras’ Theorem.  I am sure Pythagoras himself would have been impressed had he been there! 

We were able to thank post-16 students using Amazon vouchers and were pleased that this was something extra that could enhance a UCAS personal statement in the following year.  Driving home after a two day conference with lots of energy left in me was also a new experience.   I am confident this model of ‘just post-16 students coaching just  year 11 students for just two days’ during a half term or Easter break before an important exam can be applied across a variety of subject areas and areas of the curriculum.  It would be terrific if this blog helps to lead to the planning, implementation and evaluation of similar ventures across the country.

Chris Curtis
Head of Mathematics
Frome Community College

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Secondary Science - YouTube Science

Science teachers - what are your favourite Science YouTube clips?

I'm sure lots of you are already using YouTube clips in the classroom to illustrate Science concepts; there are so many out there worth making use of.   Here are some that we like, including this great one of Nitrogen Triiodide Contact Explosive at 3000 frames per second and Ball Lightning In A Microwave, both from the Chemistry team at the University of Southampton.

This one shows the Extraction of limonene using liquid carbon dioxide and we have a KS4 activity worksheet and teacher's notes to go with it, written by Dr David Read, University of Southampton.
 Why not post links to your favourites here to share with other teachers?  There's more in this article on the popularisation of Science via YouTube.

Collins Education Blog

Primary cross-curricular - Fun ways to use the news

Primary schools are very good at reacting to news events. If there’s a disaster of some kind, somewhere in the world, the school will feel the children need to know about it and in return the children’s natural compassion makes them want to help. The charity events which come about from them often involve the children finding out about the country, the people, living conditions and many other ideas. Good examples of such activities where learning, global awareness and charity come together are the ‘Hat’s on for Haiti’ campaign, ‘Remembrance Day’ and the ‘Shoebox Appeal’

I firmly believe that there’s a place for global issues awareness in the primary curriculum. Whether it is in geography, history, citizenship or English, there needs to be regular encouragement of interest in what’s happening locally, nationally and internationally.

I have planned a series of ongoing activities that encourage global awareness and will share them on this blog over the next few weeks. If you are worried about curriculum time then many of them can be thought of as cross curricular, forming a vehicle through which to teach the curriculum.  Here's the first...

Activity 1: Have I Got News For You?

Many people love the TV show ‘Have I Got News For You?’ but I was surprised how many of my class were watching it – partly because of some of the content and partly because of the time it is aired.  Some of the children – and a couple of the parents - suggested that we do a similar idea at the end of term and so for our assembly we planned a version of the show.

We asked for team members to be drawn from other classes whilst we did the research and preparation for the show. Because the news had to be current we had to work hard in the week before the ‘show’ but had a couple of practice sessions with the class which were hilarious.

The children decided on four different rounds:

-    Filling in the missing word from the headline
-    Finding the odd one out from four photos
-    Doing a ‘Who am I’ from the week’s news
-    Guess which country?

For the first category, they found headlines from newspapers and deleted an important word. They made text boxes in the style of the headline and left a white box where the word should go. These were then presented in PowerPoint format for the assembled children to guess the missing word. Points were given, as per the show, for originality as well as the correct answer.

The second category was more difficult. They had to find a list of at least three people, places or objects that had been in the news and add an odd one out. We had examples like three leaders who’d attended a climate talks summit plus an odd one out that didn’t and in a week when celebrities announced their separation, three that did and an odd couple out that hadn’t. The children in the assembly had to guess which was the odd one out and why. Again points were awarded for originality as well as the correct answer.

The third category tested how well the children knew people in the news. They would pick a small selection of people from that week’s news and display a photo of them asking who they were and why they were in the news. This was an important category because it helps them put a face to a name they would have encountered in the news.

The fourth category was a lot of fun. The children would find out a bizarre piece of news and the assembly would have to decide which country the news came from. We had things like the person who had taught their dog to ride a scooter or a woman whose five year old found a metre long alligator behind the sofa.

Watch this space for more news based ideas to follow and let me know if you have tried any of them or share your own activities here.

Dave Lewis
Portsmouth High School Junior Dept

Secondary English - Deleting the text

A colleague recently put me onto a fantastic book called 'Humument'.  Inspired by William Burroughs to ‘cut-up’ texts, in 1966 Tom Phillips found a three-pence copy of the 1892 text ‘The Human Document’ by W.H Mallock and then began to score out unwanted words from the text to create a new piece of literature. After a while, he then saw the possibility of making a ‘better unity of word and image’ and incorporated his own illustrations on the pages. The results are stunning and if you do nothing else, please visit the website to have a look at the gallery of pages from the book.

This intriguing text could be used in the classroom in various ways. Photocopies of pages from an original text could be given to students and then they could be asked to delete the unwanted words to create their own piece of writing, based on a relevant theme/genre etc.

Another way that ‘Humument’ could be used is as a stimulus for textual analysis. Again, photocopies of a passage of page from a studies text could be given to students, a question could be set (e.g. ‘How does Conan Doyle use language to create a sense of mystery?’) and then students could delete the text until they are left with the most relevant words on the page. Once students have their deleted texts, they could then illustrate around the words to demonstrate the layers of meaning, denotations and connotations in the language.  As well as providing some wonderful display work for Open Evening, this exercise could be expanded by asking students to write a commentary about their choices or to present this orally to the class. This task could also be differentiated by giving students pages with parts of the text already deleted and then asking them to continue by completing the illustrations. Any students, who shudder at the thought of drawing, could work on the computer, selecting found images, or use collage to complete their work.

I think that these exercises could work with students from Key Stage 3 right through to 5. The analysis task would be a perfect assignment to force my Year 12 students to engage with how Shakespeare manipulates the genre of Tragedy in Hamlet, or for my Year 8 students to consider how tension is create by Morpurgo in ‘Private Peaceful.’ And hopefully all those students with writer’s block can unleash their creativity by deleting someone else’s text rather than writing their own.

Naomi Hursthouse
Advance Skills Teacher
Steyning Grammar School

Thursday, 2 June 2011

MFL all - Britain's most multilingual student

Do you have Britain’s most multilingual child in your class?

Collins and Livemocha, the world’s largest online language-learning community, are looking for the UK’s most multilingual children and students in an exciting and unique competition that celebrates languages.

The competition takes place in November 2011 via a relaxed and fun judging process that will include nominees chatting to the judges fluent in their individual languages over webcam.

In two age groups, the child and the student shown to be conversant in the most number of languages will each receive an iPad2 loaded with a selection of Collins’ e-books and apps, and their schools or universities will receive a selection of dictionaries and language learning resources.

The competition is open to all ages up to 22 – find out more about how your students can enter.

Collins Education Blog