The big KS3 History re-vamp

KS3 SOWSince the GCSE reforms were announced by the coalition government, History departments across the UK have been switching round, reviewing and tweaking their KS3 schemes of work to accommodate for the increase in conceptual ideas, content and ultimately to support students with the increased difficulty of exam skills.

We decided against a 3 year GCSE for several reasons, mainly that student’s would not have enough conceptual skills to analyse and explore the historical content in enough detail. In addition, we wanted to equip students with a broad contextual knowledge of History, not just teach to the exam.

We also wanted to interweave as many different types of assessment as possible – from in-class debates to the more traditional exam-style questions.

In 2016, we changed our KS3 SOWs to accommodate for these ideas.

However, this year, we have switched it around again, to include more links to the GCSE content as well as changing the order in which topics have been taught. The latter has been the result of careful calendar planning, to ensure we teach each subject with enough depth in the time we have each half-term. 2 x 50 minute lessons have allowed this to happen.

We have also been conscious that student’s enjoy the topics and a balance is struck between curiosity and genuine intrigue, and the development of exam skills and conceptual ideas. A clear favourite for students has been the Empire and Slavery topic in Year 8, which we link to the modern day monarchy. empire

I’m so excited to add suffragettes to our SOW for next year – it’s a great topic to end the year on and is something I’ve wanted to teach since I started my PGCE all those years ago!

 

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ITT/PGCE – The basics and interview tips

We all know that any interview can be daunting; the night-before-nerves, not knowing what to expect and the side-ball questions that leave you stuttering. An interview to become a trainee teacher is no different. I remember rolling up at the UCL Institute of Education for my interview, hot off the back of leaving a good job in Parliament, feeling mildly confident that I knew enough about Politics to teach. It was the teaching part that, it turned out, I knew absolutely nothing about.

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Where you could have your interview

This usually depends on the type of ITT course you are doing. The most common are:

  • PGCE – you will have your interview at the university you are applying to. You will then, usually, have two contrasting placement schools throughout your ITT year, although you will not have interviews at these.
  • School Direct – a majority of school direct applicants apply to a teaching alliance (a group of schools in the same are) or to a specific school, who run the ITT programme with a university partner. My school, for example, runs a teaching alliance in Richmond, London, and works in partnership with the IOE. You will be at this school for most of your ITT year. You may have two interviews – once with the teaching school alliance and one with their university partner.

Either way, make sure you research the place you will be training with.

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What to expect on the day

Depending on how early the interview is in the ITT yearly recruitment process, you will likely have a day of interviews, mock lessons, group activities and a written task. The latter is likely to either be a literacy/numeracy test or, more likely, a past GCSE/A-Level paper for the subject you are applying to teach. Don’t panic – if you are applying to teach something you haven’t studied for a while, you don’t have to swot up. Knowledge isn’t everything here – the school/university is looking to see your interest in the subject.

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The interview(s)

Again, this entirely depends on where you are having your interview, but a combination of two or more of the following separate interviews often take place:

  • An interview with the course leader/Head of Department/Faculty. This interview is designed to see why you want to become a teacher and the what you can bring to the job. Common questions asked here are:
    • What challenges do you think you will face as a trainee? How will you overcome these?
    • What are the key issues facing education in the UK today?
    • Why do you want to be a teacher? (Avoid the ‘I want to make a difference’ avenue, however true it may be!)
    • Give an example of a time when you have learnt from a school experience.
    • What transferable skills could you bring to teaching?
  • An interview with former ITT students from the course who are now full time teachers in that subject/a school student panel:
    • This tends to be a *slightly* more informal setting, away from the “scary” adults. This is where you have the opportunity to ask questions about the university/school. They are likely to ask you questions about your subject knowledge, and why you want to teach the subject you have chosen. TIP: some trainees can overcompensate in the student panel interviews, and feel it’s important to impress the students and get them to like them. This is definitely not something you should do. Always be genuine.

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The mock lesson

I remember this being the highlight (failure highlight, I may add) of my ITT interview. I wrongly presumed that I could just stand and speak about all the amazing Politics facts I knew, and blow the other candidates/interviewer away. How wrong I was! (Note: I did well in my interview and managed to get onto the IOE course, so don’t worry if this doesn’t go well for you either!)

IMPORTANT: A small but significant amount of other candidates will have worked in a school environment before (are likely to have been teaching assistants etc) so will have been in the classroom before, and seen how lessons are taught. They may have even worked with teachers in their school on their mock lesson. DO NOT be daunted by this – although this puts them at a slight advantage, you can easily match them by remembering the following:

  • The mock lesson will be a 10 minute ‘short’ lesson which should include an activity for the rest of the candidates to complete. The activity should be engaging. This could be a worksheet, a card sort or similar.
  • Lessons in schools are usually 50-60 minutes. DO NOT try and fit an entire lesson into 10 minutes. Pick a small easy topic that can be introduced (starter), developed (main) and the learned knowledge can be shown (plenary). This is the structure of lessons most schools in the world! For example: A 10 minute lesson on the differences between the suffragists and suffragettes –
    • 2 minute starter activity – ask the “students” to brainstorm their prior knowledge for 1 minute, then come together and share prior knowledge as a class (e.g. it’s something to do with getting women the vote)
    • 6 minute main activity – introduce NEW information here, through a worksheet, for example. Get the “students” to complete an activity around this new information.
    • 2 minute plenary activity – SHOW the interviewer what you have taught your “students”. This could be as simple as getting them to answer questions based around the information, write down 3 things they have learned or drawing a picture to represent their learning over the 10 minutes.
  • You will be expected to provide a lesson plan, which shows you have planned what you will do in your 10 minutes. Don’t spend too long creating this. There are lots of examples of these online, the most widely used being the 5 Minute Lesson Plan by @TeacherToolkit.

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Educational acronyms/key words

I went into my interview knowing NONE of these. In fact, after many years of teaching, I still don’t think I know all of them. Here are some of the key ones you need to know for your interview:

SEN = Special Educational Need e.g. dyslexia.

Differentiation = Something you do to help students access the work. You can differentiate for higher ability students by, for example, setting extension work which pushes them if they finish early. You will need to differentiate for SEN students via their ability (e.g. if a student is dyslexic, they may find it useful to have the key words for the lesson in front of them, with descriptions).

EAL = English As An Additional Language. Some students in your class may not speak English fluently. Although you won’t have to differentiate for this in your interview, you may be asked in your interview how you would help these students. A good start is to say you will translate key words into their mother tongue.

And most importantly? BE YOURSELF. BE GENUINE! GOOD LUCK!

KS3 FeedForward review 

As many KS3 classes finish their end of year exams, already exhausted teachers round back up their marking pens (last seen hurriedly marking last minute practice GCSE/A-Level questions). Like many teachers, I teach Year 7, 8 and 9 in History, but also a solo RS and even more solo Geography lesson. 

I’m even more sure that those teachers will give these exams their due diligence, ensuring feedback written is useful as well as effective for students. However, it’s all too easy to put all of this work in, only for the grade to be seen and the rest of the paper abandoned. We’ve all been there – you focus purely on the grade and not the feedback. 


I wanted a feedback method that ensured students reflected on their work, as well as being able to physically carry something with them into their next year of study.

That’s why I jumped for joy when I found @misshollandhums ‘ Exam FeedForward sheet (by the way, she’s fab, you should definitely check her out if you haven’t already!) The aim here is to get students to read through their paper, make notes through oral feedback in green pen, then complete the FeedForward sheet. Only then can students approach my desk to find out their grade. 


I have gathered up completed FeedForward sheets and will ensure they make their way into student’s fresh clean books in September!

Don’t judge others for when they work

Do not judge others because they have a different working pattern to you.

I’ve seen a lot of talk on Twitter recently relating to when teachers work – many of these Tweets are very opinionated, some even, in my opinion, borderline rude. In essence, the debate here is whether teachers should be encouraged to work during their holidays, or encouraged to wholly take a break and ignore even a sniff of work for the entirely of their school break.

But, as with most edu-debates, things are simply not as black and white as they may seem.

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“Oh wow, you’re on holiday again?” “You get HOW much time off??!!” “You must be on holiday more than you work!!!” We’ve all had it, we’ve all been there. And ultimately, every teacher knows that it’s not true. Whether you’re spending 12 hours at school each day, working from home before or after, during weekends or working during holidays, the workload of a teacher is much more than just 8-3.

And that’s just the point – teachers all have an unbelievably large workload – we ALWAYS have too much to do. How you choose to cope with that workload is entirely your own choice.

Many of my colleagues have children at home – they can’t physically work during the evenings, so instead choose to get to school at 5.30am and work in the morning.

Some colleagues aren’t morning people, instead choosing to work into their evenings; they might go to the gym on their way home, pick up some dinner and be back by 8.30pm.

But me? Although I’m a fairly sprightly morning bird, and tend to get to school for 7am, my brain just doesn’t function past 4pm. Whether I’m in a meeting, or trying to plan for the next day, I just can’t do it. I’ll rarely be found in school past 3.30pm; I like to go home, and spend the entirety of my late-afternoon and evening away from work. I might go home and not move from the sofa all evening, I might go for a run, I might go and help my partner at his business for a few hours – I might even go home and spend 4 hours cooking a lovely mid-week feast, or do some housework (although the latter much less likely!) It depends. And unless it’s the odd A-Level essay here and there, I never work weekends either.

Instead, I choose to work through my holidays, whether it be from home or school, in order to ‘bulk plan’ my lessons for the whole of the half term. In some circumstances, I’ve worked through my summer holiday, to ‘bulk plan’ lessons for the whole year. This then allows me to differentiate these lessons easily and efficiently the morning before I teach them.

For example, this half term (May) I was in Norway Friday-Tuesday. The break was fabulous, but I’m happy to come home and work the Wednesday-Friday.

Whenever people ask (I tend not to offer fellow teachers my workload rhythm, for this exact reason), they are always concerned that I work too hard. That I never get a break. That my lifestyle is unsustainable.

My response is this – this is how I choose to spend my time. I’m very lucky to work at a school that appreciates the work I put in, regardless of when this work takes place. I’ve found a work rhythm that works for me, and I’m very happy with it. Of course I get breaks – I escape London most weekends to walk in the countryside or spend time with friends, I’m forever searching AirBnB for my next adventure. And for my efforts over the past few years, I have built up a bank of refined resources that I can be proud of. The time I spend planning is therefore decreasing.

So, my hard work has finally started paying off – regardless of when I did it.

Do not judge others because they have a different working pattern to you.

My takeaway from #LeadPChat #teacher5aday

I was so pleased that Martyn Reah, the demi-god of #teacher5aday decided to create a #LeadPChat. I had been conscious for a while that, whilst I regularly follow Middle Leader, Senior Leader etc chats on Twitter, there wasn’t really a forum for my whole-school role of Citizenship and PSHE Lead Practitioner to grow and share ideas.

Since taking on the aforementioned role in May 2016, I’ve struggled to engage some teachers in the new curriculum, especially as they are all non-specialists. Having to manage expectations of pupils and staff, juxtaposed with an ever-changing fluid curriculum means that sometimes I forget the essentials of being a Lead Practitioner, and can sometimes feel isolated in my role.

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#LeadPChat takes place every Sunday from 11am, and is designed to share good practice among Twittee-s across the UK. I frantically took notes throughout the day on Sunday, so I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to share some of my favourite ‘take-away’ ideas.

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Passion

Sometimes it’s hard to forget that we’re all passionate about our area of practice, and it can sometimes get lost under a metaphorical (and often physical) pile of admin and faffing that we’re all used to in schools. The #LeadPChat enabled me to re-ignite the passion for my subject area.

Risk taking

This one can be particularly tricky for those new to the post, or equally as daunting for others. Many people commented that risk taking was needed in education, and that innovation was desperately sought after amongst staff. For me, innovation and risk taking are one of the same. I was chuffed with all of the ideas that colleagues put forward on how to inspire staff to feel the same, particularly around rewards and difficult conversations.

Motivation

Whilst I feel I have plenty of this, I often find it hard to instil motivation in others. Colleagues from across Twitter were quick to share their ideas, including linking practices to Performance Management, socialising and getting to know staff more, and simply building up the trust needed to know what motivates others. This, for me, is going to be the most important take-away from Question One, going forward.

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Collaboration

Without a doubt, this was the most important take-away for me, particularly relating to instilling collaboration in others. It’s rare to find people who are willing to share ideas regarding whole-school Citizenship and PSHE, partly because many do not have embedded curriculums themselves. So many inspiring ideas were being shared as to how to encourage this, my favourite being leading by example.

As selfish as it may sound (and I’d like to think I’m generally a generous person), I sometimes feel resentful of sharing resources with others as they don’t always pull their weight. The #LeadPChat has entirely changed my thinking on this – a more holistic approach of sharing and encouraging others to do the same is needed, so leading by example is going to be my motto going forward into the Spring term.

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Train to teach

After I shared the idea of ‘Train to teach’ as an answer to this question, I was pleased to see so many colleagues running similar initiatives in their schools. The idea is to simply invite potential teachers into the classroom, to engage with students and staff and to really see the inner workings of a school environment. Some schools choose to charge for this privilege – whilst I understand the necessity of this for larger schools and the administration issues they may create, I strongly feel the initial experience should be free. After all, free education is the bastion on which this country prides itself!

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More funding and CPD

It wasn’t surprising that the consensus settled on asking Justine Greening for more school funding, which would be put towards increased CPD. For me, the key take-away here was how schools were getting around the problem by providing their own CPD. Following on from leading by example, teachers were running their own CPD in school, known as Teach Eats, Learning Lunches or similar. The idea was that any teacher could share an idea that had worked for them, and give their colleagues the tools to embed this in their own classrooms. My plan is to continue to encourage all teachers to in my school to engage in voluntary CPD, by leading by example and sharing as many ideas as possible!

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Looking forward to next Sunday!

Teaching and Learning Newsletters – so simple and so effective

Keeping teachers up to date with new research and inspiring classroom pedagogy is difficult; you can put on as much CPD in the world, but often teachers, just like students, need to actively learn in their own time, and hand pick strategies that work for them.

With this in mind, my school have introduced a termly Teaching and Learning newsletter, which we call The Muse. The key aim is to engage all staff with exciting pedagogy, whilst empowering staff to share their classroom ideas. The idea is simple: Teaching and Learning lead teachers (known as Teaching Champions) AND staff summarise developments in educational research, or recent updates in Teaching and Learning at the school; staff then share successful classroom ideas and explain how they have embedded them into their teaching.

We recently ran our first Teach Meet (a blog post on this to come!) We used the Muse to share the best ideas from this, enabling all staff to engage with the voluntary CPD. Some of our favourite ideas included differentiated beach ball questioning (see post on Poundland Pedagogy), deliberate mistakes in lessons, and plenary tweeting to show progression in learning.

Staff have loved being given the opportunity to share their classroom ideas; anything from phone apps, to more researched based ideas such as Harkness and Solo Taxonomy. There has been a real buzz around the school as staff see their ideas being integrated across the curriculum; this has encouraged others to try new ideas and contribute to our newsletter!

We’ve also used the Muse to focus on our termly Teaching and Learning priority. A key part of this in our first two Muse editions was the use of iPads in the classroom. As we have already integrated iPad CPD into our TLC (teaching and learning community CPD sessions) and Teach Eats (weekly bitesize teachmeet style sessions on specific topics), we were wary of overloading staff, but wanted to ensure that they got a summary of the key apps they could use in the classroom. Our ‘IT hacks’ section of the Muse has been particularly popular, with teachers finding new ways to increase effective and efficient marking, reporting and learning.

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After giving staff a chance to peruse the Muse, we gave departments a challenge to integrate one Muse strategy into their lessons. This has proved really popular, and has been a great incentive for staff to try new ideas. A science teacher, for example, thoroughly enjoyed using aspects of the Poundland Pedagogy strategy in their lessons, and English GCSE students have relished in being challenged using Solo Taxonomy.

I’m happy to send out a template for colleagues to use – pop me a message if you’d like one!

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Progress not Process – differentiating between the two

I’d like to start this article with a surprise – a colleague at work mentioned to me that he had not only seen my Twitter feed, but that he had noticed a graphic that I had re-tweeted, from @Gary_S_King on how to plan for Progress, rather than Process. My colleague asked if I had an original of the graphic.

Now, I think we are all guilty of thinking “oh that looks good”, “great idea”, “wow good thinking”, re-tweeting that idea, and promptly forgetting about it. But my colleague surprised me by a) following my Twitter and b) making me realise that I had re-tweeted something which I wasn’t sure I entirely understood.

 

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I promptly started brainstorm all the differences between the two, and how I was translating this in my own classroom practice. I think it is all too easy to believe students are focussing on progress, when in fact they are all aiming to master the process of something. Indeed, many learning walk feedback forms and lesson observation forms are focussed on this – so long as the boxes are ticked (as Gary states in the above graphic), why worry about progress?

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It was’t until I was marking some Year 12 Politics essays that realised what was, for me, my biggest difference between progress and process. It came in the form of the feedback that I was giving. Whilst it enabled pupils to make progress in some areas, I was too focussed on the ‘box-ticking’ of work scrutiny that I had failed to fully embed this throughout my feedback.

A good example would be the following:

Rather than asking: Which type of pressure group is the most successful? (something they have answered in their essay question)

I ask: Use Greenpeace as an example to evaluate why Outsider Pressure Groups can be successful.

The latter next step ensures they are not only progressing to other examples, but applying these to higher order thinking; of evaluation and analysis which will ultimately aid them in achieving their assessment objectives, much more than the former next step.

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I also love the above sticker, which was created by a fantastic NQT in my department. Often, there are pieces of work which ticks both the process and progress boxes; these are often short pieces of writing which you will skim read but will not mark in depth. This sticker ensures students are progressing nonetheless.

I’ve now ensured that as much of my feedback is phrased towards progress not progress as possible:

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No more getting my P’s confused!!!