Rewind the Film

 Teaching resources, video  Comments Off on Rewind the Film
Jan 272015

I’ve been teaching Year 8’s about coal mining.
To find out how coal is extracted, the class recreated modern long wall mining techniques, summarised in this illustration from UK Coal (who produce some excellent resources by the way)


Props included all the tables in the classroom, most of the chairs and deployment of the students in various roles as development tunnellers, coal face workers and some extremely scary recreations of the collapse of the roof behind the coal face which can’t really be mentioned in public. Apparently our department isn’t doing enough active learning (whatever that is) or group work – yeah? well we were all underground when you “dropped in” weren’t we?

Students also drew “living graphs” to describe the rise and fall of the coal industry. One objective was to get students to consider the social and economic impact of pit closures. I found that the video to Rewind the Film by the Manic Street Preachers fitted the lesson perfectly. The narrative is both simple, and haunting and led to some really good discussion questions. The video would work well for illustrating a variety of post-industrial geography issues at GCSE and A level as well.

Here’s to former colleague and Manics fan Dave Harris who got a number of mentions during the lesson. Hope things are going well back at the coal face 😉

What’s that? More you say??

You win some, lose some Tube

 video  Comments Off on You win some, lose some Tube
Feb 172013

I’d lost a video I made several years ago to introduce my Safer City GIS activity. I’ve just rewritten this but probably won’t be sharing the new version to prevent more of this kind of thing… (though at last a credit has been added.) Anyway it’s good to see the video back again in all it’s embarrassing, Kenny Loggins enhanced glory, as I’ve had a lot of requests over the past few years.

Comic Relief have also been in touch over the Rich and Famous in the Slums video that I edited and uploaded to YouTube two years ago. Several people have asked me what happened to the video, and the charity have been kind enough to explain the reasons why it can’t be posted online (which were far from obvious in the initial, rather terse takedown notice they sent me.) Here’s the official statement from Aleks at Comic Relief…


The Famous, Rich and in the Slums programme was created in collaboration with an external production company in order to communicate serious messages and raise as much money as possible. The contributors to the documentary allowed their lives to be filmed in order to help us do this on the condition that it should only be used by Comic Relief in the UK. We therefore cannot allow the programme to be uploaded onto websites like YouTube.

If you would like a copy of Famous, Rich and in the Slums to use educationally within your classroom then we can post you a copy to use on the understanding that it is only used for educational purposes and will not be uploaded onto the internet.  As we are a charity we kindly ask that you consider donating £10-£15 for a copy which will go towards helping projects such as the ones seen in the programme. You can do so at

Best wishes,

Aleks Leimanis
School & Youth manager
Comic Relief

RSA Animate style meanders: Teach Less!

 ICT, Student work, video  Comments Off on RSA Animate style meanders: Teach Less!
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.

Oct 062012

Here’s an idea for using the BBC production Deep Earth (part of the brilliant How Earth Made Us series with Professor Iain Stewart). The DVD is widely available.

The video is used to gather evidence for an essay entitled “How have Plate Tectonics shaped human history”? 

The aim of the activity is to move away from the usual disaster-led approach to the teaching of plate tectonics towards a more cerebral examination of the deadly pact between early civilisations and fault lines. It concludes by examining the role of the San Andreas fault in the economic success of California and a reminder that technology allows humans to reduce the risk, while continuing to exploit the benefits of life in the world’s danger zones.


I started with an trailer for Ice Age 4 that suggests an alternative theory for plate tectonics…

Task: We move on to watching Deep Earth. This takes around 70 minutes and students make notes at intervals.

Here’s a note taking form, instructions for the assignment and a mark scheme.

Coping with Kony 2012

 Teaching resources, video  Comments Off on Coping with Kony 2012
Mar 242012

I’ve reflected on the Facebook-powered viral video Kony 2012 with several classes. The lessons went something like this…

1) Watch the Kony 2012 video until Jason Russell explains the situation to his son.

2) Students have a few minutes to reflect on all that they have learned about the situation in Central Africa and the message of the film.

3) When they have shared their thoughts, I offer them an alternative short film from The Guardian. 

4) I check that students understand the complexity of the issue. I guide them to consider the geography of Central Africa, the difficulty of fighting small guerrilla groups, and the relentless stress on isolated rural communities. Is the Kony 2012 message too simple? Are there better strategies for defeating the LRA?

The aim of the lesson isn’t to critique the Invisible Children organisation – they offer a usefully robust defence of the campaign on their website, but to help students understand a little more about the reality of the conflict. The LRA Crisis Tracker is a good talking point, and more able students may be able to construct opinions about the value of the programs run by Invisible Children. Wikipedia has an excellent article about the Lords Resistance Army.