Sunday, 30 September 2012

Reading Journals for the Lazy Student and the Busy Teacher

I am determined to do Reading Journals properly this year. Every year I start with enthusiastic fervour and ask my students to keep journals of their personal reading. I then give out exercise books, talk about various ways of keeping track of and depicting their reading and then promise to check up on them. And by around October they have disappeared quietly into the Great Educational Abyss of Good Intentions. So, I have decided this year that I need to keep them simple, manageable and easy to track.

My ‘revolutionary yet simple idea’ (ahem) is that my students need to record one quotation a week from their reading. They then need to do something with it e.g. analyse the language; illustrate it;  write about what they learn from it; write about its significance in the text as a whole; write about how it has ignited their own thinking about life etc.

By taking out the aim of mapping their reading of a whole text and zooming in on a few details, I want to force my students to do two things: 1.To engage with what the writer is actually saying and how they are saying it; 2. To reflect on their personal engagement with what they are reading. This type of journal will not (necessarily) track a student’s reading of whole texts but it will hopefully make them start to read with inference and reflect on what a writer’s words mean to them. It will also hopefully be less onerous and more manageable for them to complete each week.

The next step is how to keep track of this. I intend to set aside one starter a week (5-10 minutes)in which students will swap books and read through each other’s work. Students need t o then award each other a mark out of 5 for creativity, effort and analysis. The journal-keeper will then need to write a brief sentence saying what they want to try out in the following week that they haven’t done before. I might even add in a competitive element (for the sake of the boys in my class) and introduce a prize at the end of each term for the student with the most points.

What I am really hoping to do is to get my students thinking about their personal response to their reading. It is an incredibly difficult area to teach but it is becoming more and more necessary if we want students to succeed (at GCSE and A level). But more importantly, it is surely we are all in this business in the first place- to help students become reflective, engaged readers.

Naomi Hursthouse

A Planning Activity for Extended Writing

I don’t know about you but I can’t count the number of times when I have told my students that they MUST plan in the exam. And now their plans have become an essential step in the Controlled Assessment process, it has become even more important. We all know that planning will produce a better structured piece of writing but convincing our students can be another matter entirely.  Part of the problem lies in the fact that many of us don’t teach students how to plan. And maybe that stems from the fact that we weren’t taught ourselves. When it comes to planning, we have all been expected to ‘just get on with it’.

But that just isn’t good enough. If we are finding this a problem in English, then it is sure to be a problem elsewhere in the school, which means that bad planning or lack of planning could be affecting our students’ chances in a variety of subjects. If we are looking to tackle Literacy across the Curriculum, then I think this is an excellent place to start. What follows is an activity that I have used to start students thinking about how they plan and how that affects the end product of their writing.

The attachment contains three examples of planning: the pizza plan, the list and the mind map. I start by giving my students a piece of writing to read (usually an exam or controlled assessment essay).  I then give them the ‘Example Planning’ sheets and ask them to choose one and use it to write the plan for the essay they have just read. We are then able to discuss the merits and demerits of each plan (e.g. the pizza plan forces them to think about the cyclical nature of their writing; the mind map allows them to get their ideas down quickly on paper but without numbering can lack direction or cohesion). We then move on to talk about how well planned the piece of writing was (e.g. Are there any gaps in the argument? Is it too repetitive? Do the introduction and conclusion link together?). The final step is to give them a topic and get them to choose their preferred method of planning. A lot of my students have opted for a combination of the mind-map (to collate ideas) and then either the list or pizza (to refine them).

What I really like about this activity is that it opens up a discussion on planning and the impact of how we plan. Once students begin to see how planning affects structure then it becomes easier for them to see a reason for doing it. And the more practice they get then the easier it becomes for them to ‘just get on with it’.

Naomi Hursthouse

Secondary ICT - Developing the shape of ICT

With the new academic year upon us, I wonder what troubles lurk ahead and in particular the developing shape of the ICT/Computing curriculum.   As indicators of progress in alternative designs to the computing curriculum, I’ve just been reading reports of progress which have been written by the “Computing at School” group (a spin off from the BCS) and the report from The Royal Society.  It’s gratifying when the views of respected organisations are aligned with one’s own of course, but more importantly, here are major players in the academic and industrial fields finding the current curricular offerings to lack challenge and significance for the more able students.  If you haven’t read it, it’s a thought provoking read at:

and also, the report from The Royal Society “Shut down or restart?”:

I guess we already knew, but this spells it out.  We really do need to take the medicine and recognise the contribution we could make to the employment potential of those in education and of course the future prosperity of the country.

Continuing down the Computing at School route, the results of the working group for the design of a KS 1-4 curriculum are worth looking at (you can download the current curriculum document).  It is interesting that the group have used the title “Computer Science”, presumably to put some distance between themselves and the existing/extinct National Curriculum for ICT though whether it represents a “science” is a an arguable point.  It is clear that some thought and fine principles have gone into drafting the document: the notion of inclusivity by virtue of all pupils having “opportunities”, for example to learn and to take a GCSE in Computer Science.  I think this is a good standpoint in that the authors imply that they do not imagine all pupils to be marched into examination in the subject; the idea that the curriculum should be its own recruiter by being engaging to study and perceived as rewarding is morally correct in my view.  No reliance on coercion to fill classrooms and examination entries!  It’s also interesting that the authors avoid current examples of software and hardware by relying on “enduring principles rather than current hot topics” with the hope that the curriculum should be enduring.  I imagine that, if this means relatively stable, it will meet with some welcome.

Looking at the curriculum, teaching it is going to be the key.  A determination to establish overarching principles is evident, even at KS 1 abstract ideas are present.  No bad thing; it’s inexcusable to talk down to anyone but, on reading the “Range and content” of the new curriculum, I wondered whether the curriculum would thin down appreciably in KS 1 and for lower ability pupils at all key stages;.  This would be a pity, because without a range of substance I can see this welcome curriculum being self selecting and only make an appearance in academic hot-houses.  There is perhaps, the intention to spread the curriculum with more examples of how it can be taught, in which case I think the working group could be profitably augmented with contributors from junior and less academic secondary schools, there is no point in high intentions if they are cannot be taught to a good part of the intellectual range. Then there’s the issue of teaching it, here’s a problem and one that someone else will have to fix!


Friday, 28 September 2012

Secondary Business- Analysing Finanical information

When getting students to discuss and apply financial information, I often use the example of a ‘Bowling Alley’ (Worksheet 1) . This part of the course is crucial as students often remember how to calculate ratios and other financial calculations but struggle to comment on them. This example is fun and can be a golden revision technique. The 3 main points are:

• Previous Years- The results from previous games!

• Industry average- The average scores of all players in your lane (Industry)

• Competitors- Watching the other players in your lane!  

Once students understand this, they can move onto real examples from past papers or case studies.

Andrew Dean

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Secondary History- Old Newspapers- they’re only good for wrapping up fish and chips, right?

Many of us have used adverts from old newspapers to illustrate various aspects of history – early C20th adverts for, for example, Fry’s Chocolate or Palmolive Soap suggest both continuity and change, but why not use some of the stories too? They can help to round out our studies of people and events which can often appear two-dimensional or ‘flat’. They provide students with the ‘human’ side of life that they find so fascinating, but often struggle to get to grips with.

Take for example this story, from the Birmingham Daily Post, Friday January 2nd 1880:

Petty and opportunist crime was rife in Victorian times as well as today. The image of a hairdresser buying a revolver and showing off, blowing away part of his own hand, is priceless!

Or this story from the same issue of the paper:

The image of Victorian life, and crime and punishment, projected by cases such as these in nearly every newspaper you look at, suggests that life was tough in Victorian times too, and that plenty of people were on the lookout for the opportunity to make some money quickly and easily. You can also compare stories such as these with stories from your own local newspaper today to see if our attitudes to crime and punishment have changed all that much.

Copies of old local newspapers are available freely in most libraries – try the Local Studies Collection – or in County Records Offices. Many local papers publish facsimile issues from time to time and it is worth approaching the publisher to see if they have ‘back copies’ lying around in their offices. Don’t just use the adverts, however fascinating –there are plenty of stories to enliven your study of Victorian and C20th Britain.

If you are in Further or Higher Education you can access the British Library newspaper collection free via JISC:

Alf Wilkinson, May 2012

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Secondary Business- "Why is Manchester United selling shares?"

A very interesting example to use with A-level students, as Manchester United owners prepare to sell 10% of the club on the New York stock exchange. But why would they do this? This article can be used for a whole range of aspects included in the course as outlined below.

Brief outline:

So why are they selling the shares? With the purchase of the club financed by large borrowing, the Glazers are now looking to pay off some of the estimated £425 million debt. The sale of the estimated 16.7 million shares will hardly dent the power of the glazer family, with them retaining over 80% of the company. Having tried and failed to offer stock on in Singapore, the Glazers need to reduce the club debts. If the sale goes as planned, Manchester United will be valued around £3.3 Billion.

Aside from the footballing aspect, this story is both interesting and adaptable for a whole range of areas within the AS/A2 syllabus. Below are just some areas it could be used:-

Unit 1:

- Enterprise/entrepreneurs: Are the Glazers good examples of entrepreneurs?

- Risk vs. reward: The purchase of Manchester United using borrowed money was a huge risk, but will it reap rewards?

- Understanding markets: How have the Glazers used their knowledge of markets to make their businesses successful?

- Raising finance: The selling of shares is one way of raising finance, but the Glazers have used many others to get to this point.

- Costs, revenue and profit: Basic business terms put into context.

Unit 2:

- Improving cash flow: The share sale will help generate extra cash to reduce debt and improve cash flow.

- ROCE: What is the return on the investment?

- Marketing; Is this just a marketing ploy?

Unit 3:

- Financial objectives: How will this help achieve their objectives?

- Financial data to measure and assess performance; By looking at the clubs financial information, their performance can be investigated,

- Making investment decisions: With the previous flotation scrapped, is this going to be a worthwhile investment.

Unit 4:

- Business and economic environment: Has the economic climate had a impact on this decision?

- Relationship between business and the competition: Have the Glazers had to respond to changes by competitors?

- Internal causes of change: What has caused this change?

- Mergers and takeovers: Is the takeover a success yet?

- Leadership: Is the leadership of the business helping or hindering?

Below are links to various articles written on the story. These can be given to students to give them a little more information on the sale.

Website links

Andrew Dean


Thursday, 20 September 2012

Secondary Business News Quiz - 20/09/2012

Test your students knowledge of what is happening in the business world with this week's news quiz.

Download the Word version of the quiz! (with answers and weblinks)

1. Which twins, famed for their legal dispute with Facebook, are reported to have invested $1m (£620,000) in a new social network?

Mahadevia ( )
Winklevoss ( )
Narendra ( )
Zuckerberg ( )

2. Which football club has reported a 3.3% fall in revenue to £320.3m for the year to 30 June, after its early elimination from the Champions League last season?

Manchester United ( )
Chelsea ( )
Everton ( )
Liverpool ( )

3. The owners of which Racecourse have sold part of the land to property developers who intend to build 1,500 homes over the next 10 years?

Chester ( )
Epsom ( )
Newbury ( )
York ( )

4. The pace of price rises slowed in August compared with the previous month, official figures have shown, UK inflation now stands at what figure?

1.5% ( )
2% ( )
2.5% ( )
3% ( )

5. Apple shares closed at a record high of almost $700 on Monday as the firm received how many pre-orders for its newly unveiled iPhone 5?

4 million ( )
2 million ( )
3 million ( )
5 million ( )

6. Which money lender has announced a sharp jump in profits, thanks to strong demand for credit during the downturn. Net profit more than trebled to £45.8m in 2011, from £12.4m in 2010?

Wonga ( )
Payday UK ( )
QuickQuid ( )
Uncle Buck ( )

7. Which major European airline says it will merge many of its European and domestic routes under a new low cost brand as it seeks to boost profits?

KLM ( )
British Airways ( )
Lufthansa ( )
Swiss Air( )

8. The world's largest clothing retailer, Inditex, which owns which high street chain, has posted a jump in first-half profit after opening new stores and gaining new customers?

Republic ( )
Zara ( )
Mango ( )
Bank ( )

9. Which Japanese airlines shares rose modestly on its re-listing on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, more than two years after it filed for bankruptcy in one of Japan's biggest corporate failures?

Japan Airlines ( )
Skymark Airlines ( )
All Nippon Airways ( )
Tianjin Airlines ( )

10. The government has announced how it will share the money promised to 10 UK cities to allow them to create superfast broadband networks. Which city is not on the list to get this?

Leeds ( )
London ( )
Newcastle ( )
Chester ( )

Donna Jestin,
Teacher of business studies and senior examiner for AQA

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Primary Maths - The Paralympics

The London 2012 Olympics were the highlight of the sporting year with new world records achieved, new faces bursting onto the sports scene, joy for many and despair for others. But then at the end of the day, the important thing for all was just being a part of it.

Whilst all the hype was over the main games, the Paralympics give us the chance in schools to continue the citizenship work we began with the Olympics.

In this set of Maths activities you’ll find the chance to work across the curriculum and enrich the learning of your pupils.

Activity One – Units of Measurement

LO: Be able to understand the concept of standard units
       To develop a standard unit of measure they can use

Units of measurement are vital to us to ensure we do a job accurately, to get what we pay for in shops and to compare things and of course, in the Olympics they are used to help decide the winners in events but how did we get them?

Many of our units of measurement come from ancient times when parts of the body were used; so a thumb’s width gave us an inch, a yard was the distance from our nose to the end of our outstretched arm whilst a foot, well that’s obvious. Metric measurements are more scientifically calculated with a metre being 1/10,000,000 of the distance from the equator to the North Pole.

The difficulty with all of these is that they can differ between people and even the geographical measurement can vary as the North Pole is moveable. This activity helps children to understand measure and why it needs to be standardised.

Get the children to draw around their feet and cut out four examples of their own foot shape. Now ask them to use the ‘feet’ to measure the width of their desks.

Talking Point: Are the measurements the same and if not, why?

Now get the children into groups and get them to use the ‘feet’ to measure the width of the classroom.

Talking Point: Compare answers from the groups. What do the children notice and why do they think it’s happened? How could we ensure we all get the same answers?

Tell the children that we use standardised units of measurement to avoid these problems.

Talking Point:  If we were to decide on our own standard unit of measure, how could we do it?

The children may decide on one person’s foot or decide to do an average of all the children’s feet sizes. Duplicate the chosen measure and use it now to recalculate the measurements done previously.

At Home: Invent your own unit of measurement and measure different objects with it. In school, swap your homework with a partner and ask them to work out how long your unit of measurement is in cm or m.

Activity Two – Measuring Time

LO: Understand that time is divided up into units which we use to measure its passing
       Be able to convert between different units of measurement

Some years ago there was an April Fool’s Day joke that time was going to be made metric. Imagine the day split into ten portions and each ‘hour’ portion divided into 100 minutes with each minute having 100 seconds.

This activity allows the children to use calculators to work out equivalent periods by comparing metric time with our usual time and to work out a timetable of daily events based on the metric time.

Talking Point:  How can we work out how many normal hours are in a metric hour?

Using a calculator, the children should be able to divide 24 hours by 10 metric ones and suggest that there would be 2.4 hours or 144 minutes in a metric hour. They can then progress to working out how many minutes in a metric minute (be careful, you can’t just divide 60 by 100) and onto seconds.

Talking Point: How would you make a year metric?
Talking Point: Is metric time a good idea?

At Home: Using the ‘new clock’ draw up a timetable of your day with the new times so breakfast might be at 3.0 am in metric time, you may go to school at 3.3 am and school may start at 3.6 am. You could illustrate your work with a new watch or clock face.

Activity Three - Simple Algebra

LO:  Be able to represent sums with equations where the letters represent variables
         Be able to solve problems using algebraic equations

The Paralympics can be used to practise simple algebra, by simply looking at news reports of the events. For example:
‘Oscar Pistorius won the 100m in 10.91 seconds, improving on his previous time by 0.3 seconds’.

To find out his previous best we can simply do 10.91 + 0.3 = 11.21 but we can write out the sum as an algebraic equation thus:
P = 10.91 +0.3 or even p = t + d where p = previous time, t = new time and d = difference.

This formula can then be used to remind children of how to do similar questions.

Other examples will include perhaps:
‘Janez Roskar’s 90m javelin throw was twice as far as that thrown by the last placed competitor’.

This time the algebra looks like this:
90 = 2c
So from this we can calculate that the last place threw 45m

Use these examples to get you started then look for examples from daily reports on the games
1. In the 200m the margin between first and last place was 0.52s with the winner coming home in 21.49s
2. The discus event saw the winner throw one and a half times the distance that won the event in 2008. His throw of 33.3m was the best this year.
3. In the 50m pool, the leaders were already half a pool ahead by the third length.
4. The gold medallist in the fencing event scored 12 points more than the silver medallist and 34 more than the bronze with the medal positions racking up 95 points between them. (a tricky one!)

Dave Lewis
Primary Teacher

Primary Maths - The Cultural Olympiad

The Cultural Olympiad which has run parallel to the 2012 Olympics comes to an end on the 9th September as the 2012 London Paralympics draws to a close. This summer’s finale was the end of four years of cultural events that went hand in hand with the preparations for the Olympics. Through art, music, theatre and literature, the Olympiad has sought to exercise our brains and emotions in the same way the sporting events exercised our bodies.

You might think it strange that we can include maths in activities related to the Cultural Olympiad but then maths does pop its head up in the strangest environments.

Activity One – Maths and Music

LO: To be able to recognise the link between maths and music in terms of counting
       Recognise how changing the length of notes can change a piece of music

It’s long been recognised that good musicians make good mathematicians and vice versa and this activity seeks to make the link between the two disciplines clearer. In fact the Old English word for number was ‘rim’ from where it is thought the words rhyme and rhythm come.

Music is all about timing – you need to count beats to play a piece as the composer wrote it, then there are the number of beats each note is held for which sets the overall tone of the piece.

This activity lets the children see how counting is linked with the playing of a piece of music.

Use the score from a recorder book and annotate the notes as to the number of beats it has. Play the piece and count the beats as you play.
Talking Point: How many beats are there in a bar? Does it vary with the style of music?

Now change the piece to all notes being the same duration and play it again.
Talking Point: What difference did it make? Can we recognise the piece still? Is it better or worse?

Ask the children to look at the number of beats that each style of note has
Talking Point: What do you notice about the sequence?

Now ask the children to compose a simple piece themselves that they can play on a recorder. Ask them to consider the length of each note they write and then get a partner to play it.
Talking Point: Did it sound like they intended it to?

At Home: Change the duration of the notes in your composition and play it again. Keep experimenting until you find an alternative you like.

Activity Two – Maths and Poetry

LO:  Be able to understand how poetry and rhyme depends on number sequences and patterns
         Experiment with different number patterns in the syllable count of poems to produce effect

Just like in music, poetry relies on maths through counting to help it rhyme, flow and have structure. This activity helps the children to see the importance of counting syllables to help a poem work.

Read the following poem to the children:
Today I wrote this poem,    (7 syllables)
but I'm not sure if it's good. (7)
It doesn't have the things (6)
my teacher says it should. (6)

It doesn't share the feelings (7)
I have deep inside of me.   (7)
There are no metaphors     (6)
and not one simile.     (6)

At this point the metre of the poem changes.
Talking Point: Get the children to count the syllables and then to say if they think the rhythm still sounds right.

It's missing some narrative.
Alliteration too.
It isn't an acrostic,
diamante, or haiku.

There's nothing that's personified.
It doesn't have a plot.
I'm pretty sure that rhyming
is the only thing it's got.

It sure was fun to write it,
and I think it's long enough.
It's just too bad it's missing
all that great poetic stuff.

I put it on my teacher's desk
and, wow, she made a fuss.
She handed back my poem
with an A++++!

Now try this one…

I went out to tea with my friend James today
He lives far away
He lives in a big caravan
With his pretty mum called Terri and his clever dad called Dan

Talking Point: Ask the children if they think this is a poem and how they came to their decision.

Some will say that it rhymes so it’s a poem whilst others will notice that the metre is awkward and despite rhyming words, it can hardly be called a poem.

Now investigate the syllable count of Haikus, sonnets, limericks and diamante poems. Do all of them follow the same syllable count? Do you think they all work? Which is your favourite?

At Home: Experiment with your own poem using a number pattern of your own. A simple one is similar to the diamante in doubling the syllables each time or alternate in a pattern such as 4,1,4,1 etc.

Activity Three – Maths and Art – the Golden Ratio

LO:  Understand how ratios are calculated
        Be able to identify where the golden ratio has been used in art and nature

The Golden Ratio has been talked about now for over 2,400 years and appears in many aspects of our daily lives. The ratio or approximations of it are used for architecture, postcard size, widescreen TVs and more whilst it is believed it’s also seen in nature, most prominently in the spiral of a nautilus shell. For the layman, it’s the measures used to make sure something looks aesthetically pleasing, be it buildings or paintings and is linked to perspective. Its use in art, despite being a mathematical expression, is a hot topic still today with academics arguing whether it was used deliberately in the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Dali and Mondrian or whether their keen artistic eye simply found the best proportions anyway.

If you want the explanation of how to get the Golden Ratio, imagine two numbers. If the ratio of the bigger to the smaller is the same at the ratio of the sum of the two numbers to the bigger one then they said to be in the Golden Ratio.

Now for the activity…
Show the children a picture of a nautilus shell and trace the spiral with a thick pen. The picture the children are going to draw will imitate it using a mathematical sequence. 

Give each child a piece of cm2 paper and ask them to draw a square in the middle, 1cm x 1cm adding another above it. Then draw a 2cm x 2cm square alongside it then a 3cm x 3cm square underneath it. Continue drawing squares whose sides are that of the next numbers in the Fibonacci sequence so next they will draw a 5cm x 5cm square alongside it.

There’s no need to draw in the diagonals but instead use the measurements with a compass to make a quadrant where the quarter circles touch each other. Keep going and soon you’ll discover the picture is the same as the spiral of the nautilus shell. 

Now get the children to use a calculator to work out the ratio of each of the numbers in the Fibonacci series to each other. 
Talking Point: What do they notice about their answers?

They should find that the numbers begin to approach the Golden Ratio of 1.618.

You can follow up this activity with a look at the paintings which use the Golden Ratio in them such as Dali’s sacrament of the Last Supper and Mondrian’s Composition with Grey and Light Brown and ask the children to identify where the ratio has been used.
At Home: How many examples of the golden ratio can you find in your daily lives?
Encourage the children to look at buildings, playing cards, postcards, TV screens etc.

Dave Lewis
Primary Teacher

Monday, 17 September 2012

Pass it on - a literary analysis activity for groups

Trying to find new ways to get my students to (a). Analyse texts and (b). Work together is a constant struggle. But then I remembered the ‘Pass it on’ game. This game usually involves drawing a picture- one person draws a head, passes it on, the next draws the body and so on. What usually results is a weird and wonderful monster of different ideas and linked parts. This sounded like a winning combination for literary analysis to me so I decided to give it a whirl in the classroom.

You need:

•         to put your students into groups of four
•         four different coloured pens for each group
•         a photocopy of the same passage for every student.

Begin by reading the passage together and discussing it. Then each student (with a different coloured pen) underlines what they think is the most important word in each sentence/line. The passage is then passed on to the next student. They then annotate the underlined words, explaining why they are important, the layers of meaning etc. The passage is then passed on to the third student. They annotate any remaining words and add to the previous annotations. Pass it on. The fourth student adds points about anything they disagree about on the page (e.g. why an underlined word is not really important or a misreading in the layers of meaning). Finally the passage is passed back to the ‘owner’, who reads the annotations and writes a paragraph summing up the significance of the word choices in the passage.

What I really like about this activity is that it makes the students engage with the text but also with each other’s ideas. It forces them to make choices about what they think is important in the text but also to try to justify another person’s choices. It is a great way to start exploring alternative interpretations in the classroom which will hopefully lead to the creation of some weird and wonderful monsters in your students’ essays.

Naomi Hursthouse

Teaching The Basics Of Computer Networking

Computer networking is something which many ICT teachers shy away from and even some of the most knowledgeable computing teachers have only covered the subject briefly during their degrees, often only covering the theory. There are various places which networking comes into at both GCSE and A level, with various expectations of the students being set. One of the most enjoyable units I have taught at A level is assessed by a ten hour exam, with students designing and costing a network to fit a given problem. This may sound very daunting, but approached in the right way, it leaves students inspired and more importantly with some life skills and knowledge for the future.

When a subject is so different from anything covered before, you have to find an angle to get through to your class. The good thing about networking is they are doing it all the time, hopefully not when they should be listening to you! Mobile phones are the most accessible networking device you have and work in a way that everyone understands, this is a good place to start as the students are the experts.

Networking computers is well documented and many exam boards will point you to either the Seven Layer OSI Model or the TCP/IP Model or indeed both.

The fundamental principle you will need to get across is that, to communicate everyone in the network needs an identity. Mobile phones are not much use if you don’t know someone else’s number, which is unique to that phone (or SIM card). All phone networks have different numbers at the start, this is significant because the system needs to know where to send it (this will become important later in your term when you talk about routing). When you call a number it will only ever call that number and as long as the phone is on and they have a signal the call should go through. So having numbers is an easy way to identify someone, in computing the numbers are called IP addresses and consist of four sets of numbers separated by dots, at this point they don’t need to know about the structure, other than how the numbers are separated into a network identity and a host. In a mobile phone number the first four digits identify the network, this is how the system has been set up, whether for mobile numbers or area codes on the landline structure. In computer networking the computers have to be told which part is the network identity by applying a Subnet Mask. This is another set of numbers which tells the computers to separate off part of the IP Address, again the actual numbers will complicate this so just think of a mask separating off the first three of the four sets (this is the easiest class of network to start with). At this point I like to make it practical, if you have some stickers or sheets to identify different groups this makes it very visual.It would be easy to start at the bottom and work your way through the layers, but the class will probably switch off half way through your explanation of UTP cabling and RJ45s. The excitement of networking comes when things happen, mobile phones become interesting when you get a call, text or BBM and computers are no different. Before the Internet, computers had their uses but they weren’t as exciting as they are now. They will all accept that there are many ways of connecting devices, including wired and wireless. So to grab your students, start at the exciting layer – Network (or Internet in TCP/IP).

The objective you have is to introduce IP addresses, Subnet Mask and Default Gateway.
Either split the team into groups or use some students as examples, I wouldn’t go for more than four or five. Give each group a sticker with an IP address on, making sure you have masked off the network portion.


The yellow parts identify the network, leaving a unique number for each group. Now get yourself some envelopes and organise a set of messages to be sent to certain addresses. A message can only be sent in a sealed envelope, with the address of the recipient and the address of who it was sent by labelled on the front and back. Set a strict time limit and let them get on with it. If the activity is successful each group should have a full set of messages, which perhaps make up a whole story (or set of notes). You can also put in spoof messages with incorrect network addresses, which should end up going to no one. As the envelopes are opened teams either get a full set or something goes wrong, in which case you can trouble shoot who sent the wrong messages. The envelopes can actually be referred to as ‘Packets’, which again will be useful later on in the topic.

Hopefully by the end of your session the class should have an idea about network addresses and how this is used to network computers together, the only thing you haven’t covered is the default gateway, which is the door out of your local network. This can be tied up with the envelopes which have the addresses which don’t belong to your groups. You become the default gateway, give yourself the last IP address (if you are using the examples given this would be and say you will deal with those packets as you can contact networks outside the group – walking out of the classroom door often raises an eyebrow!

As an absolute starter for students who have no knowledge of how networking actually happens, this provides lots of different examples for visual, audio and Kinetic learners.

Rob Wilks,

August 2012.

Secondary English- Short Story: I am G.O'D!

Gerald O’Driscoll snatched a rather tired looking sandwich from the canteen vending machine and raced back to his desk.  ‘Let there be light!’ he wryly muttered to himself as he entered his office – and there was.  His laptop instantaneously projected a gently pulsating lipstick pink halo onto the huge plasma screen which covered the full length of one wall. This was accompanied by the simultaneous streaming of ethereal music subtly combined with a soothing undercurrent of shy, girlish laughter - and all synced to greet him each and every time he made a reappearance. It was a divine touch!  

Of course, this complete and utter self-glorification was merely the machine obeying Gerald’s pre-programmed commands to simulate a gesture of obsequious adoration as soon as its facial recognition software registered his remarkably unprepossessing figure shambling in through the door. Still, given his desperation for approval, this gross piece of synthetic self-worship temporarily satisfied a deep-seated desire by turning itself on with all the heartfelt animation of a lover’s smile … which was, after all, highly appropriate, there being no other lover in his life.

Now aged thirty three, Gerald was a programming genius beyond compare who could work miracles with a just a single line of code.  He had been obsessed with computers since childhood and, for the past decade, had been employed as one of a host of experimental programmers for Universal International, a global conglomerate and world leader in the increasingly controversial field of cyber reality … and yet he had remained profoundly unfulfilled.  The anonymity galled.

However, during the past three years, he had finally found his mission and his life had suddenly radiated with meaning.  He had been summoned forth from the bitter wilderness of obscurity and elevated to overall responsibility for an ultra-top-secret project – the development of a revolutionary games console which employed a processor so advanced that it would take gaming into a realm in which the current Triple 6D innovations of Universal’s chief rival would become obsolete overnight.  Gerald’s role was to oversee the evolution of operating software so powerful that it would practically breathe life into this super-sophisticated piece of kit.  Although he couldn’t entirely predict the outcome once the prototype was activated, ten or even eleven dimensions seemed entirely probable … at least, according to the maths.

Such was the brilliance of Gerald’s vision, and such was the extent of the company’s financial investment, that the project had expanded to encompass the combined talents of approximately twelve hundred of the industry’s top programmers, all working on discrete units of code in various far flung corners of the globe.  Nobody but Gerald, and one other colleague, had any idea what the assembled design would produce. Secrecy was imperative. The stakes were so enormous that Universal would either dominate all aspects of the cyber reality industry for decades to come … or else go bust in the attempt.

Gerald nonchalantly swallowed the final mouthful of the lifeless canteen sandwich, barely registering the mingled blandness of the low fat filling encased within the unsalted bread.  Health and Safety had become so predominant that its influence could be felt deep within the bowels.  Still, now wasn’t the time for idle lamentation. The clock was ticking and the moment of creation would soon be upon them. He hastily typed an email to the one other person who was fully aware of the history they were about to make:

To: Zeus
From: Gerald O’Driscoll
Subject: Urgent

The final algorithm deployed six days ago is about to unify the trillions of lines of separately developed computer code from all of our programmers across the entire globe.  In a matter of minutes, we will be ready to go live. Get up here at once!

G. O’D

Click, and the summons was sent.  That should bring the big lug running!

As he waited for Zeus to make his way up to the seventh floor, Gerald allowed himself a few moments of smug satisfaction. The revolutionary new console with its even more revolutionary software may well be light years ahead of anything ever previously created, but the basic concept was as old as time itself - that familiar (but guaranteed) recipe for success, Good versus Evil.  How many times had that old chestnut been used? But this time, it was going to be given a spin unlike anything that had ever been witnessed before.

They were about to unleash a cyber universe into which Gerald had pre-programmed a seemingly impossible set of evolutionary jumps and some very elusive laws of physics that would keep the more intelligent of the hapless inhabitants periodically believing that they were on the verge of a great scientific breakthrough ... but, frustratingly, never quite able to crack the code. The irony amused him.

Furthermore, he was going to fill this simulated parallel universe with all the misery that his twisted genius could devise. If people thought things could be tough in this one, wait till they saw what he had in store for the deluded self-believing inhabitants of this new cyber reality. And the masterstroke, which would sell the whole thing in truck loads, was the facility for the consumer to send lightning bolts of arbitrary injustice on these unsuspecting creatures with just the click of a mouse!

Gerald sighed with immense satisfaction.  It had been an exhilarating, but exhausting week – he’d even had to come in on the weekend just to finish the job off.  Still, tomorrow was Sunday and so he could take a well-deserved break and enjoy a complete day of rest.  Gerald’s self-satisfied musings were cut short as the athletic Zeus suddenly loomed large in the doorway, having just effortlessly sprinted up a mountain of stairs. 
‘This is it,’ said Gerald eagerly reaching for the on-switch.

 Zeus drew an impressively deep breath, then abruptly halted Gerald with an imperious raising of his hand.  ‘Such a momentous occasion … Before we start, we should give it a name.’  He took a crumpled piece of notepaper out of his pocket and solemnly read aloud: ‘The Live Interactive Freewill Experience!’
Gerald looked doubtful.  It was too much of a mouthful and could detrimentally affect sales.  Also, he had to make it perfectly clear who was ultimately in charge.  ‘I’m thinking something more snappy; perhaps just a single word.’  He pondered for a moment.  ‘What about L.I.F.E.?’

‘An acronym? Very clever.  I like it.  Yes, let’s call it Life!’  It was perfect; all existence summed up in just one word. Zeus grinned. It was an excellent beginning.

The two men exchanged one last long and very meaningful look, then Gerald pressed the switch.  There was a sudden surge of power, a mighty hum, swiftly followed by an array of lights which encompassed all the visible colours of the spectrum and which sent vertical bars of heavenly glory shimmering along the full length of the room. The gigantic plasma screen momentarily turned black.  And then, without warning, there was a sudden blinding flash followed by an almighty explosion.

‘Wow,’ said  Zeus. ‘Quite a bang!’

‘The bigger the better!’ retorted Gerald with a genuine sense of awe. ‘But there’s something missing … it lacks opening credits.’

Even at a moment like this, his enormous ego doggedly came to the fore. Hastily, he jotted down the title which needed to be synchronised with that initial explosion, all to be enshrined in towering pillars of flame:
LIFE       …     by        …        G.O’D!

 ‘Another acronym,’ mused Zeus. ‘Well, it’s got a certain ring.’

There was a second gigantic flash, much larger than the first, which bathed the entire room in a celestial golden glow and which took Zeus quite by surprise.

G.O’D smiled.  It was just the First Phase of a pre-programmed universal expansion. Contentedly, He watched the screen … He noted the light and, with much satisfaction, He saw that it was good.  

Peter Morrisson

Friday, 14 September 2012

Squaring the circle

Early in August my wife and I went to the Isles of Scilly.  Now, living in Cornwall, this isn’t exactly an adventurous holiday, but it works for us; the weather was great and it was both peaceful and beautiful.  We’d booked to go over on the helicopter from Penzance but the flights were cancelled on the day of departure and we were transferred to a flight from Lands End.  The aircraft was an eight seat Britten-Norman Islander; when you check in your luggage gets weighed and then so do you.  You’re told where to sit (the weight shouldn’t be in the tail); the aircraft has four double seats and is the width of a car.  We were told to sit at the front (well, behind the pilot); read into this what you will, though I’ll point out that another couple weren’t allowed on (even though there was room) as they would have overloaded it.  However, the approach isn’t completely inflexible.  The other passengers were a young couple with their two small children; each adult sat with one of the children as it wouldn’t be great to have two young children sharing a seat in an aircraft with no gangway.  The flight was amazing, viewed entirely through the windscreen and with all the instruments visible (we flew at 100 mph at a height of 950 feet).  Most of the approach to the runway at St Marys is over the water (and then cliffs).  The whole experience is, as they say, the business.

Two days earlier I’d been in London at a meeting about the revisions to A level science courses.  There’s an expectation now that universities (and especially Russell Group members) will have a key role in developing and approving specifications.  Now, this isn’t in itself a bad idea.  Students studying science at A level will want, in some cases, to be able to follow one or two of their subjects through to degree level and the courses should be designed to provide an effective basis for progression.  Why shouldn’t they?

What I think we should also be mindful of is that whereas A levels should be a basis for undergraduate study, that isn’t the only thing they should be.  We’re headed for a situation in which everyone to the age of 18 is expected to be in education or training.  That’s good, but it means we have to be able to offer a comprehensive curriculum in schools and colleges.  Just as GCSEs function as a precursor for A levels but have to work in lots of other ways too, so we have to be careful that A levels don’t have too narrow a remit.  If they are to provide an academic education for a broad range of students they need to be designed to support a range of outcomes.

By all means involve representatives of Russell Group universities in the development programme but for my money there are others who should be involved as well.  My list of nominees would include employers (both of A level school leavers and of science graduates), teachers and students (both ones for whom the existing courses worked well and those for whom they didn’t).

Like the loading of the aircraft it has to be got right, but that doesn’t mean that a single objective is pursued to the exclusion of all other considerations.

Ed Walsh,

August 2012.

Chemistry: Superstuffs – calcium carbonate

Is calcium carbonate really a superstuff?  We meet it in chemistry lessons as a white powder that fizzes in acids giving off carbon dioxide.  It doesn’t seem special and yet it is closely involved with the evolution  of life, the changing Earth and the history of mankind.

Calcium compounds in the Earth’s crust slowly dissolved as oceans began to condense.  At the same time carbon dioxide in the air dissolved in the water.   The salty oceans acquired small concentrations of calcium ions (Ca2+)  and hydrogen carbonate ion (HCO3-).   Single-celled life-forms took in these ions and, converting the hydrogen carbonate to carbonate (CO32-), precipitated out calcium carbonate (CaCO¬3 ) as a protective coating.  Later, multi-celled creatures performed the same feat becoming shell-fish. When all these creatures died they fell to the bottom of the ocean.  Over millions of years the sediment of calcium carbonate was compressed into thick layers of limestone and chalk.   Sometimes heat and pressure deep in the crust partially melted the calcium carbonate and when it cooled it became marble. Occasionally the calcium carbonate melted completely and solidified as clear crystals of calcite.

Today about 10% of the rocks on the Earth’s surface are forms of calcium carbonate; almost all of it made by living creatures over hundreds of millions of years.  The landscapes we see around us from the white cliffs of Dover to the limestone pavements of Yorkshire are a result of the combination of calcium ions and carbonate ions in living cells.

You might think of rocks as being insoluble but water only needs to be slightly acidic and calcium carbonate will start to dissolve.   Rainwater containing dissolved carbon dioxide dissolves limestone and chalk to make potholes and caves, some of which formed the homes of early humans.  When the water evaporates the calcium carbonate precipitates forming stalactites and stalagmites.

In the 1750s the Scottish scientist, Joseph Black, investigated the reactions of calcium carbonate.  His discoveries, which included the gas carbon dioxide, led to a new understanding of gases and the birth of modern chemistry

Mankind has found uses for calcium carbonate since the earliest civilisations.  The pyramids of Egypt were built over four thousand years ago from blocks of limestone and covered with a hard, white, polished surface of a rock halfway to becoming marble.  Great buildings across the world were built from limestone or marble right up to the present.

Today we are more familiar with concrete as the building material of choice.  Concrete is made from pieces of rock and cement.  Cement is a mixture of clay and limestone heated together in a kiln.   Almost 3 billion tonnes of cement are produced worldwide each year.  Unfortunately the process releases almost the same mass of carbon dioxide and is a major contributor to global warming.

Calcium carbonate has other uses.  Farmers spread it on fields to neutralise acidic soil and coal-fired power stations react it with sulfur dioxide  to prevent the formation of acid rain.  It is also used as an anti-acid in indigestion remedies.  In fact calcium carbonate is used in many foods to neutralise acidic ingredients, as a raising agent (giving off carbon dioxide when mixed with a weak acid), to add bulk to foods, but most importantly it is a source of calcium, an essential element for cells and for building bones.

Perhaps you will agree that calcium carbonate is pretty super but as a final example of its special properties, have a look through a calcite crystal.  It has the property called “birefringence”.  This means it produces a double image.


  1. As well as sea creatures, birds also use calcium carbonate to make shells.  Investigate the reactions of egg shells with an acid such as vinegar.  (Wear goggles when doing experiments.)
  2. Find out about Joseph Black and his experiments with chalk (calcium carbonate), lime (calcium oxide) and “fixed air” (carbon dioxide).  How important do you think his work was?
  3. Make a list of foods that contain calcium carbonate (chalk) and find out the reason for it being added. 
  4. Explore the optical properties of calcite crystals.  If you can’t get a crystal yourself you can search for images using the terms birefringence and calcite. 
  5. Hardly any calcium carbonate existed on Earth before life evolved.  Discuss how life has contributed to changes on the Earth.
  6. Many of the uses of calcium carbonate result in the release of carbon dioxide gas. Discuss the contribution of these processes to global warming and suggest solutions.
  7. (Advanced level).  (a) Find out the structure and bonding of calcium carbonate and how the atoms are arranged in calcite crystals. (b) The chance of shells of sea creatures reaching the bottom of the sea depends on the pH of the water.  Find out how pH affects the solubility of calcium carbonate and the consequences of increasing acidity of the oceans caused by carbon dioxide emissions.
Peter Ellis,

August 2012.

Olympic Follow Up

There have been many activities related to the Olympics made available over the past few years, and especially in the final lead up to the events this summer.  However I thought that I would include here some thoughts from events that I attended and also an activity that I have used in the past.

The Cycle Road Race

It was the first day and I was staying with friends along the route of the Cycle Road Race. I knew nothing about cycling before the event but those in the know around us were happy to explain what was going on. We needed to plan our day and this depended on a little mathematics.  We planned to see the race first in Twickenham, and then to make our way to Richmond park to catch them again after their nine laps of Box Hill.

So the problem was would we be able to make it to Richmond Park from Twickenham in the time it took them to do nine laps of Box Hill, or how long would we have for lunch? (Yes we found out later that there was a map with the estimated time of arrival at key points, but we did not know that at the time).  It seemed to me an ideal problem
- What information would we need
- At what speed do they cycle on average (Average speed)
- When would the fastest groups get to the park and when would they be clear for us to be able to
  cross the road again (Maximum and minimum values)
- How does their speed change over the race (Graphs)?

Olympic Fencing

Unlike national competitions the Olympic event was run as a direct elimination competition, with one event on each day. For other competitions there are often rounds with fencers fighting each of the others in their group (poule).  The bigger the group the more fights.  The smaller the groups the more pistes (strips on which a fight takes place) are needed.  I used to organise regional competitions.  And having set out the rules about how the competition had to be organised I simply set the problem

‘If I start at 10:00 with 100 entries, how should I organise the competition and 
at what time should we have the gala final of eight fencers?’

I would answer questions that they asked (such as the time limit for a bout in a poule and in the direct elimination) but left them to decide how to organise it, including:

The size of the poules
When to switch from poules to direct elimination

You could try this for a school competition, or a sport with which you/they are familiar.

Sue Briggs,

August 2012.

Secondary English- Using the power of the "mind's eye" to help students to write more creatively

‘Picture a scene’ – often the opening gambit from the accomplished raconteur to an enrapt audience or, indeed, from the skilful hypnotherapist to the troubled mind in search of peace … it’s a good starting point for a creative writing exercise. There is much that could happen within a single scene which could form the foundation for a first-rate short story.  The trick is to make the concerted mental effort to actually ‘picture’ the scene you intend to write about before embarking upon the potentially wondrous transformation of translating that set of images into words.

Of course, it is difficult to precisely define the ideal length of a short story, but one useful definition is that it should be able to be read in a single sitting.  For classroom purposes, 600 – 1,000 words would seem ideal.  However, in the hands of an unskilled writer, a narrative of this length often looks more like a synopsis, a blurred outline of racing events which could in reality have been evolved over many chapters in the hands of a much more astute author.  Students would be well advised to make a close study of a couple of quality short stories before beginning to write.

Having thus encouraged your charges to gain an insight into the importance of depth over breadth, you might then explain to them that their first task is to plan out in detail the specific features of the scene that they wish to develop.  So, before ‘putting pen to paper’, they should:

• envisage a powerfully dramatic single event

• break down this one event into the many small facets which will ultimately combine to make it so climactic

• create an in-depth character study of the main character, or characters, but just as a short story should not be overloaded with events, neither should it be overloaded with too many personalities all jostling for close-up

• understand that they may only be able to reveal a fraction of the overall complexity of their main character(s) in so few words, but can still make these revelations potent by allowing them to hint at hidden depths which could later be developed were the short story ever to expand into something more substantial

• visualise a setting which will add considerable force, meaning and atmosphere to the singular event which is to be depicted

At this juncture, it might be both enlightening and entertaining to play a powerfully dramatic scene from a film of your choice and ask your students to use the ideas above to ‘reverse’ plan it. If done well, they should have a substantial series of bullet points.  After all, before the scene that you have just shown them was filmed, it was initially story boarded and then premiered inside someone else’s head.   Once the initial planning exercise for their own short story has been completed, each student should then take the enormously personal imaginative leap of streaming it through his or her own mind as if actually editing the rough cut, perhaps even re-running it several more times from various angles, or from different perspectives.   A few flashbacks are, of course, entirely permissible.   

Your students are almost ready to begin.  But before unleashing their by now tightly pent-up creative energy upon the page, it would be well worth reminding them that the art of short story writing also involves being able to use words in such a precise and vivid fashion that the film rolling on the inner screen of their own minds will also play with the same HD quality in the minds of their readers.  A judicious use of adverbs and adjectives will definitely help to create the required number of pixels per square inch but, equally, do warn them not to overdo it or else they run the risk of slowing up the narrative, thus causing the picture to judder.

Finally, you might usefully replay your own personally selected video clip one last time in order to highlight the impact that can be created by a few lines of well written dialogue.  Then, hopefully, readers will not only be able to visualise your students’ creations, but will also be able to hear the sounds of their voices as they burst into life on that marvellously illuminated silver screen which exists within us all … the mind’s eye!

Included downloads:
Exemplar short story: I am G.O’D!

• S.O.W (attached) which translates all of the above ideas into a series of preparatory lessons.  

Peter Morrisson,

July 2012.

Secondary Business- BTEC level 2 Unit 2

"Cash Flow" part 2  


The second part of the specification asks the students to look at a cash flow and identify the benefits of using it.

1.) The first step is for students to identify the elements that need to go into the cash flow, putting them in the correct place.

2.) They need to then come up with suggest benefits of using the cash flow forecast.

3.) Finally they should suggest what the business may do based upon the results.

These are tackled in the attached spread sheet activity! This can be altered depending on the student’s interests. Students should complete all 5 questions.

The next step is for students to draw up their own cash flow forecast using the spread sheet as a template. This is partially set up on tab 2.

Cash flow forecasting – learners should: (Achieved)

● be able to identify inflows and outflows

● explain the purpose of a cash flow forecast, including that it identifies the flow of cash through a business over a period of time

● understand the sources of cash coming into the business (inflows)

● understand the sources and destination of cash leaving the business (outflows)

● identify the impact of timings of inflows and outflows

● understand the benefits of using a cash flow forecast to plan for success in a business

(e.g. to produce new goods/services, invest in new resources, expand/reduce activities) and explain the associated risks to businesses of not completing a cash flow forecast

● complete a cash flow forecast from given information, showing individual and total inflows, individual and total outflows, net inflows and outflows, and opening and closing balances

● analyse a business’ finances based on cash flow information and identify possible issues for the business from any cash surplus or deficit

For the attached spreadsheet activity click on the following link:

Andrew Dean

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Outstanding ICT Lessons

As the Olympics becomes a memory of an amazing summer in Great Britain one word has been brought to the fore, Legacy. You might be wondering how this relates to ICT, but a lot of what has been on display in the games is synonymous with outstanding achievement in many areas of life including your lessons. To be the best you are going to need more than a little Olympic value.

When you read the descriptor of an outstanding ICT lesson you may be forgiven for seeing it as unachievable, but if this is how our athletes thought then we would never have achieved Gold in any event. The wording is not very helpful and if you haven’t had it explained by an Ofsted inspector or someone ‘in the know’ you could interpret it in so many ways that you run the risk of playing outside the ‘unwritten’ rules.

The legacy of the Olympics is your stimulus for teaching an outstanding lesson, taking the same values that win medals. The start point is you need good knowledge and a passion for your subject, which I assume is why you are teaching others. The more ahead of the game the better, just like a gymnast or diver, judges give extra marks for new ideas which are executed well, so keep reading and looking into new techniques.

The start of your lesson is crucial, just like any of the sprint events you need to get out of the blocks quick. As the pupils step through the door the learning experience needs to begin, (I have lost the will to live when it comes to different lesson models with everything from three part to eight part or eight P’s to name but a few). My favorite term for this ‘pre-starter’ is a bell activity and you can have some real fun here. Simple is the best and if an activity can be completed in several different ways, with or without equipment even better. This is what the pupils are doing whilst they are logging on and is not the starter. One of my bell activities for a creative lesson is ‘Draw your favorite window – use your imagination – complete on paper or computer’. The results are amazing, from hand drawn window frames, no more than four squares, to down-loaded pictures of tropical beaches framed with drawn windows complete with curtains!

The starter activity is key to your success under the new criteria and it must set the scene for the rest of the lesson. Let the pupils decide their own success criteria for the task set, making the lesson pupil-led. There are numerous ways this can be achieved, but you must come up with guidelines, ‘rules of the event’ which will be based around levels and what is required to get them. A good starter involves everyone giving ideas or feeling their way into a topic at the level, which is appropriate for them. Once the theme is set for the lesson the main activity can begin.

To get back to the analogy of the Olympics there has to be pace, this can be created with timers and mini-goals throughout the lesson, one thing my classes hate is to be broken off just when they are getting somewhere. Many distance runners team up with someone they feel is at their pace, sometimes a pacemaker is required to drive the race on. The teacher is always acting as a pace maker and wants rapid progress, particularly when pupils opt to stay within their comfort zones. To achieve this you have to target individuals and groups throughout the activity, this means you don’t have to break off the whole class all at the same time. If you organise your class to optimise peer support as well, you won’t be the only help available in the room.

Any good athlete has to be strong right to the end of the race and your lesson must finish well. The plenary needs to reach a solid conclusion and pupils must have a sense of what they have achieved and why they have been doing this particular activity. I like to bring in as many ‘Real World’ examples as I can here as there is nothing worse than that feeling of ‘doing something for the sake of it’. If the class leaves with a sense of why they have done something they are more likely to remember it.

As with many of the more artistic Olympic sports you have to make things obvious to the judges, in our case the inspector in the room. Saying things out loud is important and having systems in place is no good if you haven’t a way of telling the inspector (most easily with an information sheet for that class). If you have peer support systems tell them, if you have a method behind your seating plan tell them.

There is nowhere to hide with the new system and regardless of how well your lesson goes on the day the key factor will be your consistency everyday. The harshest critics are those who see you every lesson and they will be questioned by the inspector. If they can’t talk the talk you are fighting a losing battle, so sadly you need to train them to know how to answer questions asked of them. Your data is important but if the pupils don’t understand it or know where they stand, you will fall short of what is expected. Here’s to legacy and aiming to be the best.

R Wilks,

August 2012.

Secondary Business News Quiz - 13/09/12

1. The Bank of England has kept interest rates at the same historic low level for 3 years, what is the current interest rate?

1.5% ( )
2% ( )
1% ( )
0.5% ( )

2. Which fast food is opening a vegetarian version of their restaurant in India?

Burger King ( )
KFC ( )
McDonalds ( )
Subway ( )

3. Shares in which fashion house have slumped 18% after the company issued a surprise profit warning?

Burberry ( )
Vivienne Westwood ( )
D&G ( )
Versace ( )

4. There are now only 2 countries in the world where Coca Cola cannot be bought or sold, where are they?

Cuba and North Korea ( )
Burma and Vietnam ( )
India and China ( )
USSR and East Germany ( )

5. Which Hollywood film star has said that big Hollywood salaries 'don't work now' due to the state that Hollywood and the movie industry is currently in?

Christian Bale ( )
Tom Cruise ( )
Brad Pitt ( )
Johnny Depp ( )

6. Amazon has announced they will launch what in the UK?

A Kindle mobile phone ( )
A new MP3 player ( )
A new faster website ( )
A Kindle Fire tablet ( )

7. Which company has been forced to apologise for a 'faked' Lumia smartphone advert?

Nokia ( )
Blackberry ( )
Apple ( )
Samsung ( )

8. Andy Murray's earnings are set to soar after his US Open win, but what item from his sponsors was he looking for to wear before he held the trophy?

A Royal Bank of Scotland cap ( )
An Adidas wristband ( )
A Rado watch ( )
A Fred Perry t-shirt ( )

9. Apple has unveiled a taller, 4G-enabled iPhone at an event in San Francisco. The firm said it was 18% thinner and 20% lighter than the iPhone 4S. How much will it cost to buy outright in the UK?

£529 ( )
£629 ( )
£329 ( )
£229 ( )

10. The number of people out of work fell by how much to 2.59 million in the three months to July, compared with the previous three month period?

15,000 ( )
17,000 ( )
5,000 ( )
7,000 ( )


1 – 0.5% 

2- McDonalds

3 – Burberry 

4 – Cuba and North Korea 

5 – Brad Pitt 

6 – A Kindle Fire tablet

7 – Nokia

8 – A rado watch

9 – £529

10 – 7,000

Friday, 7 September 2012

Secondary History - Evidence

Look at the evidence! When examining cartoons, pictures or drawings, students often find it difficult to see beyond the obvious, which is usually staring them right in the face. How do you train them to search for all the evidence in the picture? I always remember as a pupil being shown a photograph of Emily Pankhurst, dressed in furs and a swanky coat, walking smiling towards the camera. Why was she smiling? Why dressed up? Where was she going? Pulling back from the close up showed she was being led away by two burly policemen, after breaking windows at a London department store. Who says the camera never lies? Here are a few ideas.
If you have an Interactive White Board the ‘hide’ or ‘highlight’ features are invaluable. Choose your piece of evidence carefully and move the ‘highlight’ around the evidence bit by bit. You can make the highlighted area as large or as small as you wish. Get your students to carefully examine each and every bit of the evidence, explaining clearly what they can see. A variation of this is to use one of the ‘Jigsaw’ types of software freely available on the web. Choose a suitable image and chop it into as many pieces as you wish, then ask students to reassemble it. They will have to look closely at the evidence to do that!
Equally, you can do the same kind of activity on paper, either A3 or A4. Copy your piece of evidence then cut it up into several pieces. Give each group in your class one piece to explore. Ask them to describe what they can see, then suggest what might be in the rest of the evidence. Finally, project the complete image on your board and feed back.

Finally, of course, is our old favourite ‘Powerpoint.’  Project an image, perhaps like this one:

It is instantly recognisable as a German stamp, with the image of Hitler on it. But we can learn so much more from a close scrutiny. Using the ‘arrow’ function and textbox questions, students can be directed to look at very specific parts of the stamp. Add one arrow per ‘Powerpoint’ slide, until finally your slide will look something like this:
They are exploring all of the image, and are then in a position to deduce information from it. The stamp, of course, was overprinted ‘Ukraine’ after the Nazi invasion of Russia, and thus can be clearly dated. It also opens up a discussion on all the ‘normal’ aspects of life that need to be catered for by an invading power!
By carefully choosing the most appropriate images you can easily train your students to look beyond the obvious, and thereby enhance their skill at evidence work. Have fun!
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.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

All Secondary - Empathy

We’re quite used to hearing the fact that we, as teachers, are not good enough and the only way we will ever be able to ‘catch up’ with other countries is to attract a better ‘class of graduates’ to the profession. These calls are of course well meaning but they overlook two things – why do we need to be the best in the world? (Daily Telegraph readers still hark back to a ‘better age’ when we dominated the world – forgetting that ‘we’ only dominated the world through threats, violence and unfair trade) Secondly, and no offence here to ‘high flying graduates’, but the best graduates don’t necessarily make the best teachers. Having done some work in an Academy in London in January where hiring Oxbridge graduates was seen as a panacea I can certainly see what people are trying to do, but it doesn’t guarantee success. It’s a theory that hasn’t really been tested and I am sure it is born out of snobbery, another idea from ‘educationalists’ who have never been in a classroom in their life.

Perhaps the need for ‘a better class of graduate’ should stretch to our politicians. Baroness Warsi’s latest behaviour has got me thinking that. However, anytime criticism is thrown at politicians, they will retort that they need their pay, its well earned and the fact they can be voted out at the next election means they are on a form of ‘performance related pay’ (although its tricky to vote someone out of the House of Lords!)  It’s of course something that is always mooted for teachers and I suspect it will not be long until Michael ‘I hate the public sector’ Gove brings it in, because in his mind anyone who works for the public sector is lazy and incompetent and will only respond to capitalist competition. After all, before league tables I never bothered teaching – I didn’t care about the kids, it was only the competition of the league tables that got me to be a good teacher… (heavy sarcasm here of course, but you get my point.)

Anyway, performance related pay doesn’t work. Mike Griffiths, a teacher writing in The Guardian on the 1st May 2012, raises some excellent points one of them being the most fundamental question, how can we measure performance? This is something the government does not like – education, and health for that matter, are not ‘measurable’ and do not fit into policy think tank business models. Griffiths also makes the point that the irony of being seen as successful as a teacher is that you are moved into management thus depriving the classroom of another good teacher! Even in ‘measurable’ industries, the whole performance-related pay lark is ignored anyway - John Hourican, head of RBS’s investment banking arm, caused a stir in January when it was announced that he will get his £4.3m bonus despite 5,000 job cuts being announced and a decrease in the share price of almost 40%. Can you imagine the outcry from the Daily Mail if a Headteacher received even a minor bonus against a backdrop of falling examination results and students leaving the school in disgust?

Anyway, I digress! So teacher becomes a dirty word, but we live in hope that one day it might return to former glories. Another word in a similar situation that I want to say a few quick words about is empathy. And I don’t mean it in the context of Michael Gove needing some with us teachers! In recent years it has been much maligned – denigrated as a pointless ‘write a diary entry of a Roman soldier’ exercise, which more often than not becomes a creative writing task. Maybe I’m old fashioned but I would stay stick with it – if done correctly it can be a very powerful tool. For students to fully understand History they need to understand WHY people have done what they have done in the past. I’ve always been interested in human behaviour and one of the many reasons I love history is because it tells us a great deal about this topic. At a recent interview lesson, where I am pleased to say I was successful, I was trying to get students to think about why the Black Death spread so quickly. It is easy for our generation to look back at this topic and almost laugh at their stupidity for not knowing fleas on the backs of rats caused the plague. One student played into my hands in the starter by asking ‘why people were so stupid at that time’ -  but thanks to an empathy task by the plenary that very same student could sympathise with a deeply scared population who felt they were being punished by God. Through this we learn a lot about human behaviour too.

So stick with empathy. Some of my most successful lessons have been empathy lessons where students start to see why something happened and how people felt at the time – why the Suffragettes wanted the vote, why the ‘Peasants’ revolted. Its easy with hindsight to criticise or misunderstand, but effective lessons – Ian Luff’s Historical Association article ‘I’ve Been In The Reichstag’, August 2000 will attest to this – can really get your students interested in the subject because they see why these events were important and how they affected people at the time – this will eradicate your bored year 10s who chirp up with ‘who cares if the League abandoned Haile Selassie in Abyssinia?’ The best way to understand why so many people voted for Hitler, or why Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881 (when after all, it was he who emancipated the Serfs – surely a ‘good’ thing?) is to take your students back to the past with you. Believe me, it’s extremely powerful stuff!

Joe Wilkinson