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