Jan 292014

We’ve had a bit of a wall-based revolution in recent months as we’ve emerged from the spectre of Special Measures. Student work seems to have been deprecated in favour of attractive and colourful but rather uniform creations that focus on achievement and motivational photos of kids at work. This isn’t a criticism at all, but I thought it would be nice to take the initiative back in my own room at least and hand responsibility for display over to the students. Suspecting that too much independence wasn’t likely to achieve the new corporate standards, I got the students to commission the media resources officer to make the display to their specifications. This is the result…


The finished display incorporates a variety of contributions from every student in the class. The Wordle element aggregates a homework task, and other items include haiku poems, creative writing and Google Earth 3D modelling. Some volunteered additional work in the form of extended writing and poems that were  of exceptional standard. The display was completed with the addition of miniature photographs of the student’s heads which they placed on their favourite part of the work.


The overall result is a display of really high quality work to which the students feel a real sense of attachment. There is no mention of levels, or indeed any written feedback from me at all.
I used the slides below in a short teach meet type presentation about the display for staff.

Apr 282013

Year 8 have begun a unit of work on economic geography. We began with the topic of coal mining and followed a SOLO approach to the development of the learning. Starting with simple audio visual resources we created a Wordle of adjectives to describe conditions for coal miners. We then used excellent resources from UK coal to understand exactly how a modern mine works, recreating the longwall mining process with tables and chairs. A subsequent lesson looked at the rise and fall of the industry with a living graph forming the outcome. In the final lesson I briefly outlined some of the social and environmental issues surrounding the industry and then invited students to do some extended abstract thinking on a related topic of their choosing. They came up with some really good ideas – from looking at how old mines are made safe, debating the merits of coal vs nuclear electricity and the economics of whether it is possible to re-open old mines. My favourite piece of work was from Sam, whose poem touches on the politics of the 8o’s in a thoughtful and considered way.

Was Margaret Thatcher right to close down the coal mines?

MinerIt was back in the 80′s when Maggie closed the mines,

But was she right, or was just right at the time?

Britain needed coal for  electricity,

Nowadays we use other sources to power our cities,

People use coal less and less now,

How did this slide happen, how?



We managed to use other ways to get our power,

So in a way, did the industry turn sour?

It cost too much much, Britain needed the money,

Or did Maggie find the miners strikes just a bit funny?

Closing down the mines made some of the public unemployed,

So in reality people got annoyed.

Closing the mines may have been clever,

But today, perhaps it was a stupid thing, however

Many may argue, many a different way

But all we know for certain is that coal is still important today.

Edible Geography

 Student work  Comments Off
Mar 122013

There’s been some brilliant outcomes from the somewhat vague homework instruction to sum up recent learning about coastal landforms and processes as a plate of food.

Kai went down the traditional cake route, we ate Matt’s tasty  rotational slumping Victoria Sponge in the lesson and Laura demonstrated many variations of Coast Toast.

Here’s Emma’s brilliant idea… from her new blog.

Georgia was a little more forthright with her plate of baked potato and sausage

sausage stack
I’ll add a link with some other examples as they appear online. The students are currently switching over to WordPress from Posterous.

I think it would be right and proper to credit Tony Cassidy who’s pioneering work with Angel Cake laid the mashed potato foundation for sausage stacks. Anarchic home educator friend, Mark Tanner took things even further with electrically conductive, edible circuit boards (part of his masterplan to teach 4 year olds to eat the rich?)

Feb 152013

I’m currently seeing some excellent work by Year 11 students who used Google Street View to identify and comment on different features of the flood prevention scheme at Boscastle. With almost ubiquitous coverage of the UK, there’s lots of opportunities to set students off on similar virtual voyages of discovery.

The original task was set on my GCSE Posterous. Here’s a really excellent example of a finished piece of work by Rowan…

Jan 192013

Year 7 have completed their landscapes in boxes. The creations ranged from amazing models of the local area to distant urban and rural scenes from diverse countries including Turkey Finland and Egypt. Look out for brilliant recreations of the Burj Dubai, the Glastonbury Festival and Pamukkale. The most innovative idea this year incorporated blancmange to represent glacial ice.

Work from 2012 and the background to this activity







Jan 102013

Over the holiday I happened across a super blog post from US educator Paul Bogush describing a sequence of lessons where his 8th grade students created RSA animate style videos to tell the story of the Louisiana Purchase. It seemed like a great idea, but I felt the planning and logistics were a little ambitious for my own circumstances.

Roll on to the new term and the majority of my GCSE class were completing their coursework projects.  Three students finished unexpectedly early and required a task that would lead them into the next topic. I considered for a moment what esteemed Lazy Teacher Jim Smith would do, given that I wasn’t in the position to be able to give any time at all to the students, what with assessment having to be Controlled these days. The idea of an RSA Animate style video sprung to mind; but circumstances dictated the most minimal of instructions…

  1. Discover what an RSA Animate style video looks like.
  2. Find out how meanders and oxbow lakes form. (The students hadn’t studied river landforms before.
  3. Work out how to replicate the RSA Animate style  using a Flip, a whiteboard and some dry pens.

No other instructions were given, and I didn’t see the students at all until their allowed time (2 1/2 hours) had elapsed. They made two 30 second films which I edited together. This is the result…

I’m really pleased with the video which will make a nice teaching resource. There’s obviously plenty of scope for improvement, but that in itself makes the video compelling.

May 202012

Year 7 were set the task of creating brand new Missions for Mission Explore. Here are some examples:

Selfless Bunny 3164: Crop Dancing 

Dew Drop Wishes

Find a field with very long grass or tall crops. Dance for a minute or longer.

Verbal Walrus 3176 ”Back to Childhood”


Ask your mum / dad / carer if you can go out on the weekend with them. Tell them you want to go to a place that you have never been to before, somewhere that they went as a child. Explore the new place. Well done. You have just turned Space into Place!

Reliable Burro 3174 and Positive Ibex 3150 both suggested  going out for a short walk and keep a list of all the different trees you see.

Gentle Dog 3138 had a specific place in mind when she suggested “Learn to read rocks” It’s easy to forget that fossils and geology can have a powerful influence on the imagination…

Ladram Bay

Go to Ladram Bay to see the cliffs. See if you can find the fault lines and think about what might have caused them.

Cheerful Rabbit 3131, a potential member of the Cloud Appreciation Society suggested “Daydreamer”

Spring is Here....

Look up at the sky and try and find shapes in the clouds. Take a picture and make a cloud booklet of 20 pictures you have taken.

Good Peccary 3143 volunteered “Mime a river”  We haven’t done any work on erosion yet, but I would normally do a spot of erosion kung fu, so her suggestion is somewhat prescient…

River Stones 3

Go to a river and mime what is happening under the water.

We’ve looked at waterfalls in a recent lesson and watched some video footage from Angel Falls. Logical Marten 3149 thought it would be fun to  ”Find the smallest waterfall in the world” and take a picture. I agree.

Loyal Mink 3152′s suggestion “Bug Life” is inspired by recycling…


Create a bug house after finding 5 woodlice. The house must use sticks, leaves earth and an item you have recycled.

This is just a sample of the early suggestions and I’m hoping that some may make it to the public Mission Explore site. In the meantime…

‘But where are your lesson objectives?’

‘I don’t know Mr Lesson Inspector. We were trying to grasp at things we couldn’t possibly ever understand.’

Phil Beadle,  Dancing About Architecture (Independent Thinking) Amazon UK (not a sponsored link!)