Tag Archives: teaching

‘Let’s go on an awesome, Arctic adventure!’, Abbey Park Middle School, Pershore, Worcestershire

Well, today, I was back with my partner in crime, Sarah Shaw, for an awesome, Arctic adventure, but this time at Abbey Park Middle School in Pershore, Worcestershire.  Melanie Hirst, a Year 6 teacher and Geography Subject Leader at the school, had attended a CPD workshop that I delivered last March and, subsequently, signed up to the Global Learning Programme (GLP). After completing the short, Whole School Audit (WSA), she received £500 of e-credits to spend. A perusal of the courses and events advertised online led her to our pupil and staff offering (amalgamating aspects of a successful Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 transition project and CPD workshop for teachers), which she promptly booked for the penultimate week of the school year.  Emily Hastings, a freelance drama specialist (see www.actinguptheatre.co.uk  and www.facebook/EmilyHastingsactingup for further details) asked if she could pop along to see us ‘in action’ … Sarah, Abbey Park Middle School and I were only too happy to oblige … after all, the more the merrier!

Sarah and I had an action-packed, interactive day planned, so it was straight to work!  Initially, we all gathered in the school hall.  The children sat around large tables in their allocated ‘country’ groups (named after nations lying within the Arctic Circle), ready to tackle our starter activity (a jigsaw puzzle centred upon the Arctic).  By piecing together the puzzle, youngsters were able to establish where we would be sailing to for the remainder of the day.





Next, I launched Google Earth and projected it onto the large screen, so that I could take pupils and teachers on a virtual trip, from their home market town of Pershore to the geo-magnetic North Pole.  We considered the distance, direction and time involved, identified countries lying within the Arctic Circle and some of its key physical (natural) and human features, as well as highlighting pressing environmental issues. The aim was to specifically target place and locational knowledge (with a few teachers and support staff learning alongside the children too).  I then outlined the learning objectives and the proposed format for the morning.

Whilst Greenland, USA, Canada and Russia remained with Sarah for a dance/drama session, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland joined me in a nearby classroom or ICT Suite to further enhance their place and locational knowledge.  In their hour with Sarah, the children entered into the world of the Arctic.  They were transported to the region, became explorers and set off across the snowfields and great glaciers.  On their way, they encountered wildlife, both on land and in the sea, and learnt how their habitats are under threat due to climate change.  Some photographs of the youngsters as avid adventurers can be seen below:







With me, the children embarked upon four, different activities in an attempt to answer the following questions:

  • What are the challenges facing the Arctic today?
  • What will the Arctic look like in the future?

Firstly, working in their ‘country’ group, pupils were given two plastic hoops so that they could create a Venn diagram and an envelope containing facts relating to the Arctic.  They were required to sort the facts into those that they believed to be ‘true’, those that they believed to be ‘false’ and ones that they were ‘unsure about’.  They then had to place the facts at appropriate points on their Venn diagram.  Later, I revealed the answers, correcting those statements that were ‘false’ in the process.



I also posed a question or two to the children:

  • Were there any facts that surprised you?
  • If so, how/why?

They had some interesting comments.  For instance, one individual was surprised that penguins do not live at the North Pole despite its freezing temperatures, others were amazed by the variety of wildlife that could be seen in such a cold environment and several were unaware of the sheer size of a polar bear (up to 4 metres tall when stood on its hind legs and having paws the length of a long ruler).

Secondly, again working in their ‘country’ group, students had to match each image with its caption to discover more about the Arctic region.  Once the answers had been divulged, I asked the youngsters if the Arctic region was as they imagined it to be.  Pupils were keen to contribute, which was lovely to see.  The majority did not realise that so many people lived within the Arctic Circle (around 4 million) and that towns with ‘proper houses’ existed, for example.



It was intended for each ‘country’ group to draw up a list of ten words that they felt best described the Arctic.  However, as time was at a premium, I simply went around the room asking each pupil in turn whilst their teacher recorded their words onto the whiteboard. These words will later be inputted into the text box at http://www.wordclouds.com/ to create a word cloud. This word cloud can then be printed, enlarged and referenced at appropriate points to support further written work in class and help reinforce topical vocabulary.

Lastly, it was ‘spot the difference’ time.  In their ‘country’ group, pupils were expected to look carefully at two satellite images that they had been given (of the same place, at the same time of year, but a few years apart) and record how many differences they could spot.  After a few minutes, I selected individuals to share the differences they had observed. When doing so, I encouraged them to use locational and positional language as well, e.g. in the foreground, behind the…, there is no… in image 1, yet in image 2 there is a… .  Pupils were really observant, noting changes to the shape, extent and colour of the ice, in addition to identifying new land. Afterwards, I provided detailed explanations for each observation.

A short break was needed by pupils, staff and consultants before the four ‘country’ groups rotated to complete the alternative session.

Just before lunch, we convened in the school hall for a short plenary.  The ‘country’ groups performed their dance/dramas confidently … Sarah always achieves so much with pupils in such a short space of time!  We then reflected upon our learning and experiences (since I was leading this, teachers were able to gather audio-visual evidence of pupils’ ‘concluding comments’).  We used ‘thumbs up/thumbs down’ signals when referring to the learning outcomes.  Both Sarah and I were encouraged by the willing show of thumbs pointing upwards. In order to stimulate an element of higher order thinking, I had hoped to challenge pupils to the following questions, but dinner had to be served and a prompt finish was required :

  • What do you think the Arctic will be like in 2050?;
  • What now needs to be done in order to secure a positive future of the Arctic?
  • Is there anything that you could personally do?

These questions could be explored with their class teachers over the next day or so, perhaps? Each child was then presented with a geography badge as a reward for their efforts, which they wore with pride for the rest of the day.

Gill Johnson from Wicked Weather Watch (https://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/) kindly arranged for Digby Rawlins to also pay a visit today.  Digby had just returned from a stint on Northabout (the boat that completed the record-breaking Polar Ocean Challenge between June and October 2016 – see http://polarocean.co.uk/ for further details); for him, it had been quite a challenging voyage from Ireland to Greenland, but well worth it, judging by the first-hand experiences he had to recall and stunning photographs and movie clip that he shared with the students. Afterwards, Digby invited the audience to ask any questions that they had; he was truly put in the ‘hot seat’ at this point, but it did show how engaged and enthused the children were!








In order to make the day as productive as possible, we offered a CPD session/working lunch for staff involved with the day.  They were asked to reflect upon the morning, identifying WWW (what went well) and EBI (even better if) and consider their ‘next steps’, annotating a pair of feet as a record of their intentions.  This provided instant and effective feedback for Sarah and I too … we are always looking to develop new themes for workshops/improve what we already do. Besides, we love to leave a school feeling confident that they could replicate the sessions with other year groups/classes.  We both shared further resources/web-links and ideas with teachers so that they could take today’s learning a step further or integrate it into their future curriculum planning. Seeing professionals so appreciative and inspired makes what we do all the more worthwhile.



As can be seen below, the feedback from staff and observers to date has been very positive:

‘Thank you for the Arctic theme day.  The children really enjoyed it and got a lot out of the different activities.’ (Year 6 teacher)

‘Thank you very much.  It was very interesting to see.  I thought what you guys did yesterday was brilliant, especially as your audience were pretty tough.’ (Emily Hastings)

Thank you for having us, Abbey Park Middle School!

 

‘Let’s go on an awesome Arctic adventure!’ (once again!), Gloucester Farmers’ Club

Due to the success of a previous CPD workshop and several requests from individuals/schools, I decided to offer a repeat of the session on Friday 30th June, once again using Gloucester Farmers’ Club as a base.  This proved to be an ideal venue for a reasonably small group last time and did not disappoint today either.  An array of refreshments were supplied at the requested times in an adjoining room.  Our meeting place was well-appointed, airy, clean and accessible to all.  Having plenty of free parking immediately outside the venue was a bonus too, especially when carting my laptop, a large box of resources and balancing a home-made cake!

We began by introducing ourselves and providing a brief potted history of our time in the profession, before I outlined the aims and format of the session.  This helped create an informal, open atmosphere right from the start and was conducive to much subsequent interaction and discussion.

Next, I encouraged delegates to think about the curriculum within their schools and identify links to the Arctic at both Key Stages 1 and 2.  Several connections were made in all years, but once we had picked the National Curriculum programmes of study for geography at Key Stages 1 and 2 to pieces, all agreed that there were many more links that could easily be exploited.  I also drew their attention to the Framework produced by the Geographical Association (GA) when the new National Curriculum was launched, which divides geography into three main areas (contextual world knowledge; understanding; geographical enquiry) and lists age-related expectations for pupils at 7, 9, 11, 14 and 16 years old (http://geography.org.uk/news/2014nationalcurriculum/assessment/).

I shared links to new Arctic-themed resources, e.g. Wicked Weather Watch (https://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/); Polar Ocean Challenge (http://polarocean.co.uk/); SV Northabout’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Northabout/), Arctic Alive in association with the Canada-UK Foundation (http://www.canadaukfoundation.org/arctic-alive) and Expedition Greenland: Learning about sustainability through the Vikings, an EU-funded interdisciplinary project (http://www.wilabonn.de/en/projects/723-expedition-greenlandsustainability.html), as well as showcasing a recent Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 transition project that Cirencester Deer Park School in Gloucestershire kindly hosted (http://espley.creativeblogs.net/2017/03/03/global-learning-programme-glp-ks2-ks3-transition-project-cirencester-deer-park-school-cdps-gloucestershire/).

Knowing how precious a teacher’s time is, I made sure that I included a good 45 minutes for delegates to explore these resources/web-links at their leisure.  It was great to see them interacting, sharing best practice and keen to determine opportunities for future rapport.  At this point, both Gill Johnson from Wicked Weather Watch and myself circulated around the room, providing additional guidance and answering any specific questions that teachers had. Below are a few photographs of the ‘action’:

Taking on my role!

Great to see individuals from different schools sharing best practice.

Smiley faces … clearly feeling relaxed and enjoying a reprieve from the classroom to reflect, discuss and plan.

Using their time wisely.

I love having the chance to chat with individuals and hear what is happening in different schools.

Providing ‘tailored’ advice.

Exploring literacy links to the Arctic.

Lovely to have Gill Johnson from Wicked Weather Watch (WWW) with us … she certainly has a wealth of knowledge and expertise to share.

Absorbed!

In deep thought!

Afterwards, we contemplated our ‘next steps’ once we had walked out of the room at lunch-time today.  Some of delegates’ ‘footprints’ can be viewed below (click on each to see an enlarged version of the image):

I was touched by the concluding comments written on the blank postcards that I handed out during the plenary session too.  Here, delegates were asked to ‘sum up’ the session in five words or a sentence or two and note any further resources they would like Wicked Weather Watch (WWW) to provide.  Their responses can be read below:

‘Inspiring, informative, interesting, excellent links/resources and fun!’

‘Useful, resource-rich, helpful, interesting and insightful.’

‘Useful resources to bring geography alive.  Inspiration to move our geography learning.’

‘Well-resourced ideas and clear focus to National Curriculum objectives within an exciting topic – Arctic.’

‘Excellent opportunity to talk about resources and share ideas.’

‘Inspiring; resourceful; great mix of information and opportunity to talk; helpful; real life.’

‘I’m leaving feeling inspired and excited to teach geography.  It has been so useful to have the time to sit and talk, share ideas and plan for next year.  I’ve got lots of new resources to use!  Thank you very much!!’

‘Very informative and fabulous.  Thank you!’

‘Thanks for a fantastic, inspiring morning.’

‘I am very much looking forward to teaching this topic in Term 2 as the course has fired my enthusiasm.  Thanks for organizing the programme on Friday.  It was very informative and offered lots of relevant resources.’

Suggestions:

  • ‘More FS/KS1 resources – interactive games/sorting activities.’
  • ‘Links to videos/live webcams.’
  • ‘Links to world weather anomalies related to climate change.’
  • ‘Link to English text types.’

Small events like these provide an opportunity to engage with individuals, gain insight into what is actually taking place in schools locally (sometimes very different to what is promoted on the school’s website), consider foci for future CPD sessions and ‘magpie’ ideas for new transition projects/pupil workshops.

It was a shame that Jane Pritchard-Meaker, Education Advisor from the Education Performance and Inclusion Team at Gloucestershire County Council, was unable to pop along … maybe next time?

Many teachers expressed an interest in being part of a Geography/Humanities Subject Leaders’ Network, similar to those currently operating for English, maths and science.  This would be something that I would be more than happy to coordinate and run, either with the backing of Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) or The Crypt Teaching School (http://www.cryptschool.org/teaching-school/), an establishment where I will be based part-time from September 2017.  Do visit my blog site at regular intervals to see what evolves.

 

Time for some brainstorming!

This morning, I met with Emily Hastings from Acting Up! (see https://www.facebook.com/EmilyHastingsActingUp/ and http://www.actinguptheatre.co.uk/
for further details) to brainstorm ways in which we might collaborate in the near future.

I am keen to work with the Education Performance and Inclusion Team at Gloucestershire County Council to establish a Geography/Humanities Subject Leaders’ Network for primary schools (as they already have operating for English, mathematics and science) and run three different workshops over the course of the next academic year.  I would hope that these days contain a strong element of interactivity since I feel that this approach gives teachers more confidence to replicate the suggested activities in the classroom.  It is essential that creativity/innovation features highly too; several schools need to embrace fresh ideas to re-ignite teaching and learning within their establishments and inspire and engage youngsters.  ‘Taking learning outside the classroom’, ‘integrating geography/history with the arts’ and ‘promoting enquiry-based learning’ would be ideal themes to explore throughout 2017-2018.  Not only do I have plenty of projects/examples to showcase/share with delegates, but I am also able to draw upon other people’s expertise, such as Emily for drama, Sarah Shaw for dance and Kathryn Minchew for D&T (food).  Enticing the Teaching School at The Crypt School , where I will be teaching two days a week from September 2017, to host such workshops might be my next challenge; we could all benefit from pooling contacts and the associated publicity, I feel sure.

Over coffee, Emily and I discussed opportunities to work together in the near future and gave each other plenty of food for thought.  It was great for both of us to have someone very like-minded to bounce ideas off.  Back to the drawing board now and a few leads to pursue … watch this space to see how things evolve.  Exciting times ahead, hopefully!

 

Twilight staff training: Abbeymead Primary School, Gloucester

My task this afternoon was to deliver a twilight training session centred upon ‘taking learning outside the classroom’ for all staff at Abbeymead Primary School on the outskirts of the city of Gloucester.  Fortunately, the weather was fine and dry, so we were able to spend some time outside replicating a few of my suggested activities … this does not always happen when fieldwork is planned, believe you me!

To begin with, we based ourselves in a classroom.  Here, I outlined the aims and format of the session, before promoting the importance of fieldwork.  I shared some research conducted by a group of primary Head Teachers on behalf of the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL), which listed the ‘hallmarks’ of an ‘outstanding curriculum’, many of which have strong connections to a powerful geography curriculum.  It also helped to signal the ways in which geography can contribute to the aims and values of the whole school and the personal development of every pupil within it.  We accessed the National Curriculum programmes of study for geography at Key Stages 1 and 2 and ‘zoomed in’ on the sections entitled ‘geographical skills and fieldwork’.  Next, I projected the Geographical Association’s (GA) ‘framework’, which exemplifies progression very clearly and includes age-related expectations in geography, as well as communicating their thoughts regarding fieldwork.  I briefly talked through the enquiry approach, which is fundamental in geography.  I referred to the updated Ofsted handbook and the direct implications that this has for geography, along with a recent geography survey visits report and a couple of outstanding school case studies.  These items were added to a folder on the school’s network in case teachers wished to delve into them more deeply at a later date.

With time at a premium this afternoon, I was keen to move on.  My prime aim was to showcase quick, cheap and easy activities that could be conducted beyond the four walls of the classroom and the achievements of similar schools locally, many of which have been supported by funding from the Frederick Soddy Trust.  Examples included:

  • ‘geographical glasses’;
  • ‘secret street detectives’, with case study material from Calton Primary School in Gloucester;
  • Andrea Mosaic;
  • emotional mapping with Quikmaps;
  • den building;
  • journey sticks;
  • The Geography Collective and Mission:Explore;
  • ‘Go the Extra Mile’ competition run by the Frederick Soddy Trust and the Geographical Association, with an ‘abridged version’ from Hempsted C of E Primary School in Gloucester;
  • Digimap, including reference to a Year 2 geography day for pupils based at The Christian Adventure Centre at Viney Hill in the Forest of Dean.

Geographical glasses.

Younger/SEND pupils could use images instead of text, making this an accessible activity for all.

Developing good observational skills.

After providing an overview of the application process for a Frederick Soddy Trust School Award to unlock the potential of the local environment for fieldwork, I decided to take staff outside and challenge them to a few ‘missions’ from the original Mission:Explore book.  The aim was to demonstrate how they too could easily take learning outside the classroom, even if there was only half an hour to spare.  The teachers appeared to really enjoy this, as can be seen from the photographs below:

Mission 19: Collect A to Z.

Great teamwork!

Proposing to be the gifted and talented group … not content with just collecting one image to represent each of their designated letters of the alphabet!

Making use of technology outside the classroom.

Discovering other ways to use their outdoor learning area.

Mission 26: Swatch nature.

A perfect colour match!

We came inside ten minutes before the end of the session for the ‘plenary’.  Each member of staff was handed a set of footprints.  They were asked to use the footprints to record their next steps once they left the room, starting from the big toes and working outwards.  Each step could be as simple or as complex as they wished.  Later, participants were asked how far they managed to reach and many voiced their ideas/thoughts in the short discussion that pursued.

Finally, each member of staff was given a blank postcard.  They were invited to sum up today’s twilight training session in five words/a sentence or two.  It was suggested that they might take the WWW/EBI approach, although this was by no means compulsory.  They could add their name and position or remain anonymous.  Instant feedback such as this is really useful for me when planning future CPD sessions, in addition to giving SLT some indication of any further support that might be appreciated or required.

‘Very informative and fabulous.  Thank you.’

‘Lots of simple, practical, yet inspiring ideas for excellent teaching and learning in geography.  Thank you.’

‘Interactive; helpful; interesting; pacey; creative.’

‘Valuable; helpful; interesting; useful; resourceful.’

‘Practical outdoor ideas for children.’

‘Range of ‘cheap’ tasks.  Practical. ‘Outside the box’ missions.  Revisiting geography. A stronger focus on Upper KS2 depth, perhaps?’

‘Explorative work outdoors with technology!’

‘Informative; eye-opening; practical.’

‘I enjoyed the practical activities.’

‘Great ideas for getting children into geography.’

‘Fun; hands-on; informative.’

I sincerely hope that teachers now feel far more confident about taking learning outside the classroom and look forward to hearing about, and seeing evidence of, their mini adventures shortly!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaching School, Sir Thomas Rich’s School, Gloucester

It was off to Sir Thomas Rich’s School (STRS) (https://strschool.co.uk/), one of Gloucestershire’s grammar schools, early this morning to meet with Debbie Brake, Assistant Head Teacher and Teaching School Lead. The purpose of my visit was to share outreach opportunities, discuss my recent, local consultancy activities that have been particularly successful and consider how I might be able to support their future developments.

I think Debbie was feeling a little overwhelmed an hour and a half later!  She was clearly impressed by the vast array of initiatives that I have coordinated and delivered over time, as well as the numerous contacts that I have established.  She commented on the really interesting role that I have too … yes, every week is different and I could probably earn more as a full-time professional in a senior leadership position, but it is incredibly rewarding.  She also made me realise just much I have achieved since freelancing and how this certainly complements any time that I spent back in the classroom in a part-time teaching capacity.

Giving up my time for ‘free’ occasionally is worthwhile when you receive an e-mail message on your return that says:

‘It was lovely to meet you today. Yes, this is very useful – thank you. I’ll be in touch after Easter.’

CPD workshop: Let’s go on an awesome, Arctic adventure!

The Gloucester Farmers’ Club was the venue for our CPD workshop, entitled ‘Let’s go on an awesome, Arctic adventure!’, and what an ideal one it was too!  We had a well-equipped room with lots of space to spread out, were supplied with plentiful tea and coffee (supplemented with some home-baked goodies, chocolate fingers and a tub of Heroes that I brought along with me), were surrounded by stunning gardens and had a large, free car park at our disposable. Gill Johnson, from Wicked Weather Watch, also joined us … it was great to have her presence and hear about some of the charity’s exciting developments ahead.  I will certainly consider using this venue again for further CPD events.

The session began with a formal welcome and introductions, before the aims and format of the workshop were outlined.  I prompted delegates to think and become involved from the onset by challenging them to a quick starter activity … to review their current school curriculum and identify any links to the Arctic, either at Key Stage 1 or Key Stage 2, or both, depending on whether they were based at an infant, junior, primary, middle or special school.  Participants then shared what they had written down, which also gave me an insight into termly themes covered within their establishments.  As several were non-specialists, new to the Geography/Humanities Subject Leader role or recent entrants to the profession, I dedicated a significant amount of time to ‘unpicking’ the National Curriculum for geography and highlighting the many, possible links to the Arctic region.  I also displayed the progression framework that the Geographical Association produced when the new National Curriculum was launched.  This lists the expectations of pupils at 7, 9, 11, 14 and 16 years old and is a useful reference when planning.

Next, I accessed Wicked Weather Watch’s website and provided an overview of the new Key Stage 2 scheme of work and its accompanying resources that has been produced and tested in local primary schools.  Whilst this is, perhaps, best suited to those in Years 5 and 6, it can easily be utilised with both younger and older students … there is a huge amount of content to ‘cherry-pick’ from.  We looked at the Polar Ocean Challenge’s website briefly and Gill added some information about Sir David Hempleman-Adam’s next adventure … he is off to Greenland with Northabout and crew this coming June and is integrating a land expedition to one of the North Poles. I relayed information about a Global Learning Programme, Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 transition project between four schools and relating to the Arctic that I had steered a couple of weeks ago too.

After a brief refreshment break, delegates were given time to explore a number of recommended web-links, browse resources that I had brought along with me, network, seek school-specific advice and ask any questions that they had.  Being a relatively small group, it was lovely to be able to spend some time with individuals … an effective means of seeing and hearing what goes on in the great variety of schools that we have, both within the county and beyond.

Spending one-on-one time with individuals.

Sharing Wicked Weather Watch’s new Key Stage 2 scheme of work and accompanying resources. An opportunity to deliver some high-quality geography, with many cross-curricular links incorporated.

Providing further suggestions to ensure specific school and individual interests and needs are met.

Participants appreciated having the time to explore resources and web-links at their leisure.

Finally, participants were given a set of footprints and asked to use these to record their next steps once they left the room at lunch-time.  I advised them to start with the big toes and work outwards and stressed that each step could be as simple or complex as they liked.  It was very encouraging to see that all identified a step for each toe.  Our subsequent discussion was lively and clearly reinforced how individuals had been enthused by the morning’s session.

Participants were asked to outline their next steps once they left the room today. They were encouraged to work outwards from the big toes and see how far they could reach. Steps could be as simple or complex as they wished.

Rising to my challenge well!

This proved to be a very thought-provoking exercise, and one that I will certainly repeat again.

Quite a few next steps identified … a productive morning!

Delegates were requested to use the blank postcards left on their tables to offer feedback about the workshop.  They were advised to consider what went well (WWW) and even better if (EBI), as well as noting any additional resources that they would like Wicked Weather Watch to generate.

Some of their concluding comments can be read below:








‘Thank you.  It was a great morning.  I feel very inspired.’

‘Many thanks for this morning’s CPD event.  It was very beneficial.’

All in all, not a great money spinner for me, but extremely worthwhile knowing that I have supported and truly inspired many individuals.  Hopefully, some high-quality geography will be taking place in local schools before too long!

Regional Primary Geography Conference (Contemporary Geography)

It was great to see the inspiring and engaging duo of David Weatherly and Jeff Stanfield once again for their annual roadshow (http://www.contemporarygeography.co.uk/contemporary_geography_training_opportunities.html).  Due to my strong links with schools and individuals across the county, I was invited by David and Jeff to attend today’s event … often, I am able to support them in their delivery of material by adding local snippets of information.

This year’s theme was ‘Developing mathematical fluency and language and literacy through geography‘, hugely relevant in light of the big focus on mastery, not only in maths, but now in many other areas of the curriculum.

The key aims were to:

  • demonstrate to colleagues how and why expertise in English and mathematics is vital in enabling high quality learning outcomes in geography.
  • design key question-led enquiries in geography, which integrate numeracy and mathematical fluency and language and literacy to enable children to perform better in geography.
  • ensure learning in geography, which connects with English and mathematics through the curriculum, is outcomes-focused and progressively challenging for children.
  • know how to plan effective assessment methods (beyond levels) matched to subject performance descriptors to identify achievement in learning connected to English and mathematics.

Following registration and the chance to grab some refreshments, David and Jeff introduced themselves and welcomed delegates, some of whom I had met before at previous conferences or they had been participants on CPD workshops that I have run locally; others were newcomers to the field of geography.

David began his session with reference to the historical master, Mercator, and his recognisable map projection.  He then went on to discuss real mastery and how we can teach it in geography. David emphasised that geography provides real life contexts for learning and applying literacy and numeracy.  He referred to National Currciulum links, as well as comments from Ofsted, e.g. evidence suggests that children do better in English, maths and geography when such an interconnected approach is undertaken.  David talked about the ‘flat-lined’ progress that is frequently seen between Years 3 and 6.  ‘Getting better’ is often linked to knowing more, but it is far more than this.  Mastery is not about the rote learning of information, but has three parts to it: teaching discrete facts and information; identifying concepts and applying/contextualisation.  We must ensure that we deliver a progressively challenging curriculum.

We had a short break for refreshments, which also provided the opportunity to chat briefly with other delegates, as well as David and Jeff.  Afterwards, Jeff took over, exemplifying good practice at Key Stage 1.  It was brilliant to see him ‘zoom in’ on Greenland and polar bears here, a topic that I have explored with youngsters this academic year, both in the classroom and via a Global Learning Programme (GLP) Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 transition project.  Jeff showcased the infamous ‘secret street detectives’ approach to enquiry, referred to Blooms taxonomy to ensure the shaping of outcome-driven learning objectives, highlighted that everything we do has an explicit link to geography and reinforced that written work is not always necessary; talking is good!  He led us through a scheme of work that he had recently produced, based on the well-loved book, ‘The Jolly Postman‘ by Janet and Allan Ahlberg and which addressed the theme ‘Our place, our locality‘.  This gave the opportunity for some ‘hands-on geography’ and further interaction among delegates.  As always, Jeff’s anecdotes were a pleasure to listen to and incorporated some live entertainment as well!

After a lovely lunch in the hotel’s airy dining room, we were certainly not allowed to slump! To begin with, David elaborated on the mastery approach and shared some very valuable tips with us. As teachers, we should plan by the outcome required.  We should not take a resource and then think what activities we could do with it.  All learning requires an activity, but not all activity constitutes learning – there must be an element of challenge and progression.  There must be no low-level activity as time is at a premium; instead, there needs to be rigour. He suggested that the mastery approach works well for boys as it is fast-paced, involves much verbal feedback and limited writing.  He quizzed us on how often we differentiate by gender; there are very few instances when we do this.  Girls frequently out-perform boys in schools because curriculum planning plays to their preferred style of learning.  Later, David demonstrated the mastery approach by talking us through an example of key question-led, enquiry-based learning, e.g. ‘How is India saving the tiger?‘  This was, undoubtedly, a fresh means of studying the country of India and very apt as it was the central theme for a Global Learning Programme (GLP) Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 3 transition project that I was due to deliver the following day!

A period of reflection and action planning was allocated to the final part of the conference. Unfortunately, I had to leave a few minutes before the end as I was tutoring after school. From my perspective, the day had enlightened me further about the mastery approach, inspired me to put it into action the next day when at Birdlip Primary School, provided new ways to explore India with youngsters and an innovative take for ‘secret street detectives’ enquiry work.

Thank you, David and Jeff, for inviting me today.  I hope that I did not ‘chip in’ too much!  Glad you liked the Arctic Alive (http://www.canadaukfoundation.org/arctic-alive/) and Wicked Weather Watch/Polar Ocean Challenge links (http://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/ and http://polarocean.co.uk/).  Look forward to seeing you both again before too long.

Global Learning Programme (GLP) KS2-KS3 transition project – Cirencester Deer Park School (CDPS), Gloucestershire

Today, I set off rather early for Cirencester Deep Park School (CDPS) in order to deliver a whole day’s workshop, centred around the Arctic, to nearly 70, Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 3 pupils and accompanying members of staff.  The secondary school had kindly offered to host the event and their Year 8 selected ‘ambassadors’ warmly greeted youngsters and their teachers from three, nearby primary schools, namely Cirencester Primary School (CPS), Down Ampney C of E Primary School and Rodmarton Primary School.  Rebecca (Becs) Lillington, Head of Geography at Cirencester Deer Park School, had done a sterling job reproducing the prepared resources and booking rooms to ensure that the day went as smoothly as possible.  I was supported by two, other consultants; Kathryn Minchew, a former MasterChef semi-finalist and now a professional chef running her own business (http://www.pyromaniacchef.com/), and Sarah Shaw, an AST for primary dance.  In addition, due to my freelance authoring and consultancy links with Wicked Weather Watch (WWW – http://wickedweatherwatch.org.uk/), we were privileged to have a visit from Rob Hudson, a retiree, who had recently completed part of the Polar Ocean Challenge (POC – http://polarocean.co.uk/) led by Sir David Hempleman-Adams, for some of the day.

On arrival at Cirencester Deer Park School, Key Stage 2 pupils were immediately paired with a Key Stage 3 student and given a jigsaw puzzle to complete together.  The intention was to ‘break the ice’ and encourage interaction from the onset, as well as providing a clue as to where we might be heading for the remainder of the day.

Key Stage 3 ‘ambassadors’ helping Key Stage 2 pupils cut out their puzzle pieces and, subsequently, piece together the jigsaw to discover where we were heading off to for the remainder of the day.

After a formal welcome and various introductions, I outlined the learning objectives and format of the day.  Pupils were then allocated to a group, named after countries located or represented within the Arctic Circle.  Next, we embarked upon three, very different activities to acquire some background knowledge and understanding of the Arctic region and promote higher order thinking and communication skills.

Unfortunately, as access to Google Earth was restricted at this point, I was unable to take the children on a virtual journey from Cirencester, Gloucestershire to the North Pole as originally intended.  Instead, I drew on my dependable, inflatable globe and invited pupils to the front to explore it with me, pointing out key physical and human features, explaining certain phenomena and posing a number of questions to them, relating to distance, direction and the time required to reach the region.  The overall aim was to develop their place and locational knowledge.  I also discovered that a couple of students had already ventured to the Arctic, having been lucky enough to go on a trip to Lapland!

Secondly, pupils formed a Venn diagram with two plastic hoops and sorted facts about the Arctic region into one of three categories; those which they believed to be TRUE, FALSE or were UNSURE about.  I later asked students if there were any facts that surprised them and why this was the case. Some did not realise that the Arctic was not a continent, which also helped to emphasise fundamental differences between the North and South Poles, or that it was also known as the ‘Land of the Midnight Sun’ and why this was.  It was rewarding to see teachers engaging with pupils and learning alongside them too.

Sweden was first to finish and very nearly right!

Great to see youngsters from different schools interacting from the start.

Having experienced, external consultants delivering the workshop meant there was time for teachers to mix with students, supporting them with explanations of topical vocabulary or challenging them to answer more open-ended questions.

Thirdly, pupils worked in their country group to match a series of images and captions connected to the Arctic.  Afterwards, they were asked if the Arctic region was as they expected it to be.  The subsequent discussion revealed that many were surprised by the variety of wildlife that existed, e.g. it is not only the land of the polar bear, that it is not all snow, ice and water and that people actually live there.  We mentioned briefly about the threat to wildlife habitats and the potential for the development of tourism linked to whale and iceberg watching.

Key Stage 3 ‘ambassadors’ taking the lead and helping younger pupils access the more demanding and topical vocabulary contained within captions.

Sitting back to admire their efforts. A first class performance!

As we were a little behind schedule due to the late arrival of one school, we were, unfortunately, unable to complete the final starter activity that I had planned.  It was hoped that each country group would list ten words that they felt best described the Arctic region.  These would then be collated and a word cloud generated by a couple of Key Stage 3 pupils using www.wordcloud.com.  However, it was suggested that this might be completed by teachers with their pupils at school tomorrow or early next week – a great means of reinforcing topical vocabulary and as an aid for any future, themed literacy tasks.

For the main part of the day, three countries merged to form a larger group and they rotated around three, separate activities.  One placed an emphasis on geography, developing place and locational knowledge further through a series of tasks, including a spot the difference, mix and match, diamond nine and card sort activity.  These explored recent changes, longer term Arctic climate trends, the impacts of climate change on natural systems and people, as well as questioning whether climate change was real or not.

Playing ‘spot the difference/s’ together. Looking at satellites images of the same area within the Arctic region at the same time of year, but a few years apart (September 1984 and September 2016).

Quizzing a trainee teacher too!

Considering the impact of climate change on people and natural systems via a diamond nine activity conducted in their country groups. This encouraged pupils to appreciate that not all impacts might be negative and stimulated much in-depth discussion too.

Lovely to see teachers working and learning alongside pupils.

Another session focused on science and D&T (food technology), looking at the different states of water and considering how vital a resource it is, reinforcing what is happening in the Arctic region at present, making cookie dough and footprint biscuits, promoting issues, such as Fair Trade (since Fair Trade Fortnight is soon approaching), and discussing how we might all reduce our global footprint.  When one youngster admitted that this was the first opportunity they had had to bake and how much they had enjoyed it, Kathryn felt all the stresses and hurdles that she had overcome today (a broken boiler meant no hot water for washing up; the temperature of some ovens was rather questionable and equipment was a little ‘stretched’ at times) were truly worthwhile.

Ready for our Great Arctic Bake Off!

Discussing where the ingredients came from, emphasising the importance of Fair Trade, eating seasonal and local wherever possible to reduce food miles and our global footprint.

Seeking guidance from our professional chef.

Great to see Key Stage 3 students having a go too!

Key Stage 3 students watching and advising Key Stage 2 pupils.

Making progress!

Learning new skills.

Cutting out their footprints.

Getting stuck in!

A real team effort.

Proud of their country’s efforts.

And, the best part … time for the taste test!

The final activity incorporated an element of dance and drama. Sarah very cleverly created a dance/drama to enter into the world of the Arctic.  The youngsters were transported to the Arctic, becoming explorers, setting off over the snowfields and across the great glaciers.  On the way, they met wildlife on land and in the sea and came to appreciate how their habitats are under threat due to climate change.

Perfecting their group’s dance.

Preparing for the grand finale.

Putting themselves in role well and being observed by a real Arctic explorer too!

At lunch-time, students were invited to meet Rob Hudson, one of the crew from the recent, record-breaking Polar Ocean Challenge.  Rob had brought along some of his kit to show the children and shared many, fascinating stories of his travels with them, providing further insight into the Arctic region.  Rob later sent me an e-mail, stating that it had been a pleasure to be involved in the day:  ‘… I enjoyed helping … it got very busy towards the end, and there was a lot of interest and some very good questions.’

We returned to the hall for the plenary.  It was intended for pupils to show their dance/drama productions to each other, but the layout of the room meant this would be too difficult. Instead, Sarah talked through the three scenes that had been ‘brought to life’ by the youngsters, inviting those that had taken part to add their own comments too.

Pupils sharing their dance/drama experiences with others.

I then prompted pupils to reflect upon the day’s learning/experiences, asking them to identify an aspect that they had particularly enjoyed, something that they had learnt about the Arctic region and a skill that they felt they had developed.  Whilst some mentioned baking and eating their sweet creations afterwards, others found the exploration with Google Earth fascinating or enjoyed participating in the dance/drama production.  Many were able to cite new facts about the Arctic.  Skills that were enhanced ranged from baking, communication, interpersonal, teamworking, decision-making to being able to justifying their thoughts fully.  Next, we reviewed the learning outcomes together using thumbs up/thumbs down signals (majority had their thumbs up held high in the air for all to see) and contemplated three, quite probing questions:

  • What do you think the Arctic will be like in 2050?;
  • What now needs to be done in order to secure a positive future of the Arctic?
  • Is there anything that you could personally do?

Students had some interesting responses.  One Key Stage 3 student suggested that things will go one of two ways and it is largely down to us – either the Arctic will continue to decline or it will turn itself around as awareness is raised and our actions change.  It was agreed that by ‘us’ we are thinking about those at all levels, from governments, international bodies, organisations to individuals, like ourselves.  Students were forthcoming with ideas as to what they might do, e.g. simple and easy activities that would reduce their global footprint.  Their comments certainly demonstrated that they had absorbed much from the different sessions that they had participated in throughout the day.

Many thanks, once again, to the other consultants and all staff involved from each of the four schools for their cooperation, support and enthusiasm.  Hopefully, they gained as much from the day as the students did.  Thanks, also, to the Geographical Association (GA), for funding the event as part of their contribution to the Global Learning Programme (GLP).