May 232012

I admit to having been pretty harsh on oxbow lakes in the past…

C Lake

They’re unfortunately still on the GCSE syllabus so require something more than a “meh” response. I’ve just spent an hour planning a lesson in which I’ll introduce them to Year 7. The class has done very little to deserve this imposition, especially as I’ll be taking the opportunity to have my first dabble with SOLO taxonomies, first introduced to me by David Didau at Clevedon Teachmeet (using a geography exemplar!)

The class has completed varied work on rivers and meanders; running around the playground, flume modelling and more traditional activities. Maybe there will be an opportunity for some mime if we follow one student’s suggestion. Being able to describe and explain how a meander can evolve into an oxbow lake requires that a number of geographical concepts are grasped (though at what NC level I couldn’t say) I’m more interested in whether the students and I can agree on how meaningful their learning is, and where to take it next.

First I need to explain the rather lumpy terminology to the students. I created a visual aid by shamelessly stealing James Atherton’s brilliant analogy and ideas from Tait Coles and David Didau ( I hope they’ll forgive me)

I have a simple PowerPoint with which to entertain and inform…

and a worksheet stimulus:
Oxbow lakes

The final resource comprises an interactive version of the keywords from the worksheet above. Using David Riley’s Think Link resource and the accompanying file for the IWB, weaker students should be able to manipulate the keywords to make progressively more complex links between landform and process. The “so what” hexagon is a challenge to confident students to demonstrate Extended Abstract thinking.
Above all I’m hoping to get away from the “all will / some will be able to” kind of thinking which, along with target grades, seems to me to achieve little more than to encourage students and teachers towards adopting a fixed view of potential. it would be great if every student in the class could demonstrate the highest level of thinking by the end of the lesson.

In the interests of full disclosure, I’d like to emphasize the complete lack of original thought in this post on my part. I’ve referenced ideas from the following sources:

John Biggs:

David Didau:

James Atherton:

Tait Coles: and

My thanks to you all.

update: 24/5/12
I taught the lesson today and found that for a couple of students, the concepts were very difficult to grasp initially. One or two could not get past the house analogy “I thought we were learning about rivers”, though many others had no problems and helped out by relating the SOLO progression to various other simple topics like trees. One student came to life when he appreciated that his understanding of the X Box was at Extended Abstract level. (Thanks Mrs Austin!)

The Think Link hexagons were very successful with most students suggesting ideas for links, and at the end of the lesson many pronounced themselves learning at Relational level, and some were even more confident.

The nest stage is to get a SOLO display up in the room. I might get younger students to come up with their own terminology to replace the unfriendly structural-speak, that I think was to blame for some early bafflement.