The exam season is fast approaching and this can often be a time of stress, anxiety and pressure for students and teachers alike. I have taught GCSE and A Level throughout my career and whilst some aspects have become much easier, for example in the first few years of teaching I would have fears that I wouldn’t teach all of the required content in time … but I always managed to with time to spare. Careful planning, confidence and experience can help teachers with these worries but I like many other experienced teachers are teaching new exam specifications for the first time. This has brought new challenges such as being the first year to sit the new exams, meaning limited examples of past papers and a lack of clear grade boundaries.
I didn’t fully engage with educational research at the start of my career but in recent years it has transformed my teaching practice and further built my confidence in the classroom. As a trainee teacher I was told that educational research informed us about VAK learning styles and the idea of the learning pyramid! This so-called research is now better known by many in education as edu-myths, theories that have been debunked because they are not supported by the science and research as initially claimed. This post isn’t about debunking myths but if that is something you are interested in then I can highly recommend the work of Pedro De Bruyckere, Paul Kirschner and visiting the popular blog by US educator Blake Harvard.
Last month, December 2018, I was very fortunate to visit Hong Kong. This trip was a combination of work and leisure. I was presenting at the Asia-Pacific International Schools Conference (known as AISC) and the timing of the conference was perfect as it was at the end of the winter term at my school here in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi. Therefore after the conference, I was able to spend a week exploring Hong Kong – it was my first time visiting Hong Kong. I absolutely loved it, both the conference and the sightseeing. I wanted to share and reflect on my trip.
I discovered a quote by Jennifer Gonzalez where she interviewed Cognitive Scientist Pooja Agarwal “Retrieval practice: The most powerful learning strategy you’re not using” (you can listen to the podcast interview here) and this resonated with me because it wasn’t a strategy I was using for many years during my teaching career. Teachers often have so much content to get through that little time can be spent revisiting prior learning and subject content previously covered – I was guilty of this. Each lesson or week I would work my way through delivering new content on the specification or scheme of work and return to recall knowledge and understanding at a much later date. On reflection, it seems obvious that revisiting a topic 12 months later (or longer!) in the classroom just before the exam won’t be as effective as regular recall and retrieval.
Over the holidays I always enjoy spending time reading – from a John Grisham thriller to a historical or educational book. I love to read in different locations too – from my own home, the pool, beach, coffee shops – anywhere nice, quiet and relaxing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Made to Stick by the Heath brothers – perhaps more so because I read it during the holidays where time becomes a luxury and it’s easier to switch off from the to-do list usually on my mind! The book Made to Stick: Why some ideas survive and others die is a very interesting book because it was not written specifically for teachers, although it is a very useful and informative read for teachers with a chapter of the book actually dedicated to teachers. The authors’ Chip and Dan Heath have written other well known and New York Times best-selling books such as Switch and The Power of Moments which I have yet to read but they are now on my 2018 reading list! Chip Heath is a professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business, teaching courses on business strategy and organizations. Dan Heath worked as a researcher and case writer for Harvard Business School, he has founded the Change Academy, a program designed to boost the impact of social sector leaders and he is also the co-founder of a publishing company called Thinkwell.
I am delighted to be featuring a guest blog post by Carmel Bones. Carmel is a former History teacher, Head of Department, Teacher trainer, AST and she is now an education consultant providing CPD for teachers across Europe. Carmel is also a well-known author amongst the History educational community and Fellow of the Historical Association. It was at TMHistoryIcons 2017 where I first heard Carmel share the idea of summarising pyramids. In a short amount of time Carmel managed to explain the resource with such enthusiasm and show various examples. I think this is a great idea and resource for the classroom. Carmel has kindly agreed to explain summarising pyramids in more depth. You can read her post below:
A few weeks ago I presented at the second Digital Innovation Summit in Dubai at Jumeriah English Speaking School ( known as JESS). I have written an overview of the event that will be published in the upcoming edition of Education Journal Middle East (so apologies if this blog post seems self indulgent as it is just about my presentation which I didn’t refer to in the EJME article!). Many people have contacted me since my presentation to ask questions or provide feedback. I thought I would address any questions and share my slides for anyone who wasn’t able to attend my session or the event.
You could be forgiven for being confused about the title and the sherbet lemons! As well as Nina’s self-confessed personal fondness for the sweet it also refers to the fizz, fun and excitement that comes with teaching. At times all teachers, myself included, can feel that fizz has fizzled out and this book aims to bring back the fizz and sparkle into our teaching as well as providing lots of words of wisdom along the way.
QR (quick response) codes are not new and certainly not just for the classroom but they have so much potential for teaching and learning – I think they are great! There are a wide range of websites and apps to create and read/scan QR codes, I would recommend the app QR Reader. If you haven’t created QR codes before they are very easy to do so, I was surprised by how straightforward and quick it was! If you haven’t tried QR codes in your classroom then it is worth trying, because again its very simple yet effective so here is another blog with some advice to get you started.
Learning grids are a fantastic resource that can be used across different subjects and with different year groups/key stages. If you are not familiar with this resource it is simple; it is a grid consisting of 36 boxes ( 6 vertical and 6 horizontal). Dice are required – dice can be bought cheaply online or at stores such as Poundland or Tiger. Pupils will roll the dice twice – to give them a number they can use for the horizontal and vertical line (for example 2 across and 4 down). I have used learning grids in a variety of ways; to re-cap previous learning, support literacy, as a plenary and much more! The idea of a linking learning grid is more complex and challenging.