Oct 132013

The single most complex thing I ever made – a virtual tour of a local CBD to illustrate the physical improvements (for the AQA GCSE Geog A spec.) There’ll be no more of this kind of thing – the equipment cost a four figure sum and I never made much back from donations so the fisheye lens and panoramic tripod head have been sold to make way for a travel camera. It took about 3 weeks of work to program the tour itself!

The full scale lesson is at Juicy Geography, though I doubt that many departments ever worked through the whole thing – still might make a nice extension activity for the most able?

Oct 052013

The new term has brought with it a workload of such epic proportions that I’ve just completed 21 full working days without any kind of break. My AST role has finally vanished, so it’s back to the rigours of a full teaching timetable, spiced up with five brand new subjects that I haven’t taught before. Hopefully this excuse adequately covers the lack of updates on the blog.

I’ve just finished teaching a short series of lessons on plate tectonics to year 9. We started by looking at the impact of tectonics on human history using the Deep Earth resource I wrote about last year. I used the 2004 SE Asia tsunami to illustrate short and long term aid (I save the Japan tsunami for GCSE) and finished with the classic Montserrat activity. I wanted to devise a differentiated  assessment that would recap and reinforce knowledge as well as allowing the students to show what they’ve learned. I came up with a simple concept map that is easy to modify for any topic. Students are given a list of key words from the topic, an A3 sheet and instructions to find and describe as many links as possible. There is a selection of bonus words to stretch the most able and a mark scheme. It’s super simple and brings nothing new at all to the world of assessment.

17/10/13 Update: I’ve discovered the hexagon generator from Pam Hook which may well offer a better way to analyse links between keywords.

Using Digimap in coursework projects

 ICT, iPad, Teaching resources  Comments Off on Using Digimap in coursework projects
May 052013

Digimap for Schools is a subscription service for OS maps. The service represents exceptional value for money and works seamlessly in all current browsers as well as iPad. With a range of very user friendly annotation and measuring tools and simple printing options, Digimap is far more than just a map viewer. It also comes with some excellent free teaching ideas by Alan Parkinson.

Here’s a short guide for students on how to make the most of Digimap in coursework projects.

Was Margaret Thatcher right to close down the coal mines?

 Student work  Comments Off on Was Margaret Thatcher right to close down the coal mines?
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.

New from Gapminder…

 Teaching resources  Comments Off on New from Gapminder…
Mar 232013

Want a sneak preview of what my all time geography hero and the Gapminder team have been up to recently? Follow this link and have a look at some exemplar teaching materials being developed to help students understand global development. The resources will be free of charge.

gapminder school

The team stress that this is a work in progress and that they really appreciate feedback. Please help them out!

Closing the Development Gap in expert groups

 Teaching resources  Comments Off on Closing the Development Gap in expert groups
Mar 232013

I’ve become a very enthusiastic exponent of “expert groups” recently, thanks to David Didau. Following some interest on Twitter, I’ve extended an idea for encouraging critical thinking on how the development gap between rich and poor countries can be reduced.

The downloadable presentation below, starts with my class organized into home groups. They  move into expert groups to think about the factors they have been allocated,  (following the colour code) The method allows for some subtle differentiation as some ideas are easier than others, and the groups have been carefully created to reflect this.

Returning to home groups, students are given a blank version of the graph to complete (on the final slide)  before sharing their ideas with the whole class and hopefully reaching a consensus.

Reflection on what I’m learning from John Hattie’s Visible Learning for Teachers suggests I need to make some of the learning in my class more difficult. I think this is quite a challenging activity?