Wednesday, 28 November 2012

What is the lesson about?

My current favourite starter activity is "What is the lesson about?". Best demonstrated by some examples in the images below:

Pinterest as a teaching tool

I saw an infographic, tweeted by @PookyH, about Pinterest. The link is here:

I like pinterest a lot. I use Delicious for social bookmarking, but I think that Pinterest has more potential. I like the idea of being able to group the images into categories. The organisation in folders means that it is much easier to find the resource.

I plan to use this resource with students so they can find links to help them if they miss lessons or need to recap aspects of topics.

However, to really make the most of pinterest I need to make my own infographics and videos to upload to ensure that all the areas are covered.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Improving your work in science

I haven't had a good experience with key stage 3 schemes of work in the past 5 years. (Until I came across Segue and Wikid from Upd8). I was happy to learn that at my new school, we use the QCA units in my department.

However, now that I am now teaching from the QCA schemes again I am not particularly happy about them. I am won over by the themes and how the UpD8 schemes allow progression of skills and thinking and do not cause the teacher (or me at least) to focus on knowlegde. I think that this helps the student develop into a scientific thinker during key stage 3.

We are not supposed to use levels at school. Dylan William has been listened to and levels are not to be given out. I rely on them see: "are-levels-my-crutch" I need the APP grid to help me give advice to help the students improve. I don't just want to teach content. Science changes, an analytical mind will be capable of working things out, if it is able to develop at school.

So how do I help my students go from "I want to remember lots of things" to "How can I explain this in a more detailed way"?

I have tried. The presentation below contains examples of level ladders that I asked the students to use. But they found it very difficult, and I am not entirely sure why.

I know that now I need to use my questioning and dare I say "academic mentoring" to move the students on towards more independence in their thinking.

I can't get away from using levels. Even those that use SOLO are assigning a level, it just isn't a number, to their students and/or their work. The levels are labels to help us as teachers, and it helps lad mark the progression.

My previous post shows the type of activity I am doing at the moment. I hope that by using APP explicitly I can help the students to realise that only be thinking and adding detail to their answers can they improve in science.

It worked before, can I get it to work again?

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Trying to develop thinking in the classroom

This is an activity I did with 9.1 on Monday and will try again with 9.1 tomorrow.

The idea is that they can write the answer to varying degrees of depth and I can use questioning to help them realise the thinking involved. This should have the desired effect of bringing on their metacognition and hopefully improve their approach to both learning and answering exam questions.

On Monday the class were very clingy and unwilling to give it a go without me checking their work every moment and reassuring them they were correct. I also had a handful that use the opportunity to not get on with the work whilst I was helping others. I think that their confidence levels need to be improved, but hopefully by doing these sorts of activities it will do just that.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

ASE West of England Conference 2012

On Saturday we ran our annual regional ASE conference.

The main discovery was the Eventbrite website. It is a fantastic resource, allowing delegates to automatically sign up and I would recommend it to anyone running an event where they want automatic replies and automatic collection of information to help with sign-in.

The day started with the lecture by Aude Alapini- Odunlade, Exeter University. We invited her because Allison and I from the committee had seen her talk before and were REALLY impressed, the description is here: Aude left a small selection of resources, all of them were snapped up quickly.

Then the delegates went into the first set of workshops. I stayed on the desk, ready to help anyone who arrived late.

As I walked around the workshops there was a great atmosphere as the people who had given up their time and money to get some CPD engaged fully with the workshops.

At break there were opportunities for networking and I witnessed a delegate make useful connections to the IoP and get some ideas of where to go for support for A-level physics. This made the morning for me as I believe that connecting people should be a main aim of the ASE.

The delegates went into their second set of workshops and back to learning.

Of the 100 people who signed up 31 didn't show up, which was dissapointing. I think that I will try to find out if the IoP have the same sorts of issues with their South West Physics conference, and again with the Chem Labs conference. I know that people get ill, but 30% seems quite high, especially when the conference was fully booked. I didn't want to risk adding more people as if they had all turned up then we would have had too many for the space to watch the key note.

Whether charging would make a difference is another question. I personally don't want to charge members, when we are able to cover the cost of the conference from the money we get from non-members. (Costs are tea and coffee and the travel expenses of the key note speaker).

Lastly we went to the planetarium for a very quick ABM, at which I was elected to chair-elect! Sarah has done it for 6 years so far, I don't see why she doesn't want to do it for a 7th. Then we watched the planetarium show aimed at key stage 3/key stage 4. I did learn something, as I didn't realise that black dwarf stars were purely theoretical and that the universe wasn't actually old enough to have produced any yet. I just read my Physics for You text book and accepted what it said.

We haven't yet had time to analyse the opinions of the delegates. I really hope that they liked it as it is quite an effort to put on.

We did have a few people decide to join the ASE that day, and I hope that is because the committee put on a good show for the association. The issue now is to provide those new members with the same support and community that was available on Saturday throughout their membership of the ASE.

Roll on 2013.

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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

What having a "supportive" SLT means

I had the "dreaded" exam analysis interview with our head of curriculum. It turned out to be a fantastic meeting with a lovely manager that I feel I can really learn from.

I asked if I can be candid and she said yes. I explained I am more of a glass half full sort of person, and that it meant that I wasn't happy with my teaching - I am doing OK, but I am a better teacher and once I know the students better I will prepare and teach better lessons.

In terms of managing the department I know that I need to look at certain areas and I am monitoring, but I am not making massive changes to move things forward. Yet.

Her questions were probing, she was very well versed in the issues in the science department, yet she was gentle. Most importantly she didn't use my lack in confidence or negativity against me. (Which I am used to). Instead she gave me somewhere to start and offered her time if I need it, then she told me that as far as the management were concerned they knew it would be difficult and would take time to move the department forward. I truly believe that my management want to development me and support the improvement in the department.

I know what it feels like to have a supportive SMT. Now I need to get used to it.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Direction for the ASE?

I am an assembly member for the ASE and have been thinking a lot lately about how best the ASE can support its members.

There are a lot of voices saying the ASE can't do this or that because others already are. But we have to do something to survive.

"Outstanding teaching and learning" is where ASE have to come in. Creating a community where members can support members and share practice. CSciTeach and RSci being a badge of quality and committed teachers and the start of a network - the register allows us to know where they are and who they are.

As teachers we have had the support network of advisors and consultants removed and there are a lot of new initiatives being put in place by the government. ASE members have to be there to collaborate and support with each other to see us through this difficult time.

It is sink or swim for the ASE, but we can only swim if we bring other science teachers along with us. Altogether we are strong and the association and science teachers can both benefit.

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Thursday, 8 November 2012

Glass half-full

I am definitely more of a pessimist than an optimist. It means my self-publicity is not fully operational.

I am constantly surprised when parents say things like "I am so glad you are my daughter's teacher".

All this means I don't believe my own hype. I don't ever believe I am a good teacher. I can't describe anything I do as being inspirational.  I had a meeting with a member of senior management today and she asked me how things were going. All I could say were the bad things. 

Is this a good thing? Or is it possible to change?

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Location:United Kingdom

Monday, 5 November 2012

Why tweet?

I don't usually like to write blogs posts about twitter. It all gets a bit circular when your main audience for the blog are people you connect with via twitter. However, over the weekend I have been gradually feeling the need to put something in writing.

Why are we tweeting? Really, honestly, deep down, why do we feel the need to go on to social media and make a comment?

I started with the TES forums. I was looking for a new job and miserable in my current role. I was also quite lonely. So I would read the job hunting forums and pay and conditions. I then grew to know members of the community and they became my "friends". Then I registered for a facebook account. This type of social media I do like; it helps connect me with my family (who are far away) and the friends I don't see very often.

I am not sure why I moved to twitter. I tried it because my partner was using it, but I didn't like it. Then I decided to have another go and found cleverfiend and teachingofsci, who I recognised from the TES forums as helpful people. The community of science teachers and other teachers grew.

The twitter community is on the whole very positive and it is full of teachers who want to improve their practice. But I am a glass half empty sort of person and I find it hard sometimes to deal with those who seem to self-congratulate and self-publicise.

But am I doing that too? Am I one of the twitter users who does it for personal gain?

I hope not.

My aim is to connect science teachers and make science teaching the best it can be. This is on a personal level, school level, regional level and national level. Because I am a science teacher and believe in teaching balanced science to all English school children.

It is bigger than me.

Twitter allows me to connect with the people I need to even be able to start to reach my aim, but it isn't the only thing I do because I am a member of the science teacher body the ASE and that is much more important that retweeting the thoughts of someone I believe will give me a "leg up".

So today I look at two sets of hashtags. The one that I feel part of #asechat and think that yes, I am making a difference and supporting science teachers (as they are definitely supporting me). The hash tag is a community. The people there are tweeting to share what they know and add to the knowledge floating in the ether, and in the knowledge that when they need support the community will give back.

And I look at another and think, why tweet? No community, no support, not adding anything new to the educational knowledge of followers, nothing but sound bites being put into a computer database, (adding to global warming). A lot of contributors tweeting for the sake of self-promotion.

But then, I am missing the point. Twitter is a microblogging site. It is there to allow you to say. "I am at a cafe drinking coffee", and the teachers collaborating was never the intention.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

When ideas and resources come back around...

Over the past few days I have been sorting my paper resources and last night I was doing some planning for the term ahead, thinking about what I would be teaching and looking through my "soft-copy" resources. I found quite a few that I like and posted them on twitter directly and via tumblr.

One reply that I received was from my partner. The conversation is above. This is true and I didn't mean to take credit for designing the resource, only physically printing and laminating it. Oops, sorry Richard.

I understand why Richard would be possessive of his resources. We have both been very happy to share our work with each other over the years. Between 2002 and 2005 his school (let's call it school B) re-wrote their key stage 3 units and between 2004 and 2007 a school I worked at (let's call it school D) re-wrote ours. A lot of Richard's resources ended up in my scheme of work.

In 2008 I moved to a new school (lets call that school C) with a different scheme, so I just shared my resources created in school D, with the department in the folder "Helen". So now three schools have access to Richard's resources. Although in school C they were only used by a few people as we had a far more "innovative" curriculum and resources. (For "innovative" read "poorly thought out and rushed").

Richard then didn't work in the science department of his school (B) for a couple years as the school cancelled key stage 3 science (and most other subjects) in favour of a whole school project based year 7 and 8. Richard's resources were no longer required and were lost.

In 2011 a teacher who was working with me at school C applied and was appointed as key stage 3 science coordinator at Richard's school. At the same time project based learning was scaled back and Richard was now required in the science department again to make up numbers for the timetable.

The teacher who moved from school C to school B was required to over-see the re-write of key stage 3 science and took with him the folder named "Helen" containing resources made by Richard. (As you can imagine as there was now a key stage 3 science course where there hadn't been one in the previous few years).

The first I know of it is when Richard is checking out the resources in the scheme of work written as an example by his new key stage 3 coordinator and he is being slightly rude about a resource made by me!

Then a colleague came to him asking for support with how to interpret and use a resource that has a great big code over the corner. (This code was added in school D by me, but in the corner not over the content of the resource - blame Word for that movement). The colleague did not realise that Richard was in fact the original author of this resource.

This whole post was inspired when I noticed that an ex-colleague from school C who had "favourited" one of my tweets with a photo of one of my resources from the aforementioned "Helen" folder.

While at school B they have and are re-using all the resources that Richard and I have created and collected over the years at school C they are not.

I think that the whole complicated blog post and story shows that you can never be sure where ideas come from and they might even just be there under your nose.

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Friday, 2 November 2012

Great, so now we all have to cheat!

I haven't read the ofqual report. I think that I will though!

However I am furious over the comments in the newspaper by the head of ofqual.

We did our controlled assessments under controlled conditions. Probably too controlled. But the work was 100% our students. The moderation report came back saying our marking was on target. Great!

But, when our results came back the controlled assessment grades were way down on the exam grades.

I noticed that the OCR gateway controlled assessment average grade was well below the average grade for the exams.

Reading Ms Stacey's comments: I am
deeply upset.

I seems that me and my students have been punished because Ms Stacey and her colleagues at ofqual believe all schools, or very nearly all schools, were cheating in their controlled assessment.

What about those of us who didn't?

Some advice for Ms Stacey: find evidence of centres cheating and punish them. Do not force those of us who didn't cheat to cheat by telling us we are a minority and punishing us because our raw marks were lower. (and breath).

To say I am furious is understating it.

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