Friday, 11 January 2013

How my day exploded Y8 ,Y10, Website, Examiner

Today has seen me explode with ideas and begin to set in stone the vast majority of them!

In the past something always got in the way of the majority of my ideas mainly alcohol. However I have found great comfort in a renaissance to my thinking! I can't emphasise how much clearer my thinking has become. My planning is so much clearer, exciting, wacky, contrasting, reflective, inquisitive driven. But more importantly I am razor sharp with my focus in class and I am picking up much more great learning as my attention is 100% focussed on the students learning with a clean body and mind.

Take today as an example. My class were learning about push and pull migration. They came in to the Clash 'should I stay or should I go?' On the board asked to immediately explain the title. Apply it to a situation in their life in the last week. Then hold a paired discussion on their table of 4. One pair had to work out the additional Q of what a push factor might be and what a pull factor might be and how they could link it to the song - they then linked back with the other pair on their table and came to an agreed way of phrasing both push and pull and then wrote the push on the black card and pull on the white card. The class examined all the options and decided on the best 2 definitions then they all checked their table glossary to judge how well as a class they had done on creating definitions. Naturally they were spot on;) The class then were told to focus back to the song Q posed and their own life situation and adviced to do a contrasting room shift one side I should? one side I shouldn't for the problem they had posed themselves. The class had a quick PPPB session

Pose - one student pose their problem (their answer was related to which side of the room they were on - pause give students thinking time then when they saw a collection of faces that had processed the point and they could tell by face/body language ask for a vote thumbs up for agree or down for disagree they then passed the 'cubes of destiny' to them - pounce they gave their response - on the whiteboards students wrote alternative options. Then after 57 seconds turned them round and the class voted by on whose response was best and then given 13 seconds to decide on the best option view (unlucky if your decision isn't chosen). They then received the cube of destiny to bounce it to the other side or to their side so both I should? And I shouldn't got a voice. The students did this twice each side so we were fair and not overly biased to one side. During this I was allocating positive learning and behaviour points to Classdojo. I also handed all the books out and set up the board for the next task. The class were refocused onto the next task.

This involved Led Zep! The immigration song (lyrics with a similar theme) they all stared at the whiteboard it was flashing black (negative for push) and white (positive for pull). To engage the students it was then adding instructions on what to do - go and sit down quickly we're about to start task 2! A whistle from the whiteboard focus on the board 'I shall say this only once!' 9 pictures categorise into push or pull using a turbo table in your book (turbo table - fold page in book in half and central line acts as table with divide) rank each side into worst push and best pull. 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 go! The students quickly organised themselves to be prepared for the task - not a word from me;)

The class then reflected on their choices by each table choosing a picture from the catch phrase now blanked screen - catch phase music as the picture revealed and a response - thumbs up or down if agree or disagree?

I judged whether I was happy the class knew their push and pull and I was happy to move on!

I introduced the class to West Side story and the song America - the class had been given by me whilst they worked on the last task (I used slide hand held remote to move slides on) the lyrics to this song. Their task was to watch the introduction to the scene and listen to the song and watch it for the actions then for each line of the song write next to it whether it was a push or a pull? Students were asked at the end if their was a pattern? Yes the boys were push the girls pull for America:)

Next was the independent task students could using one or more of the multiple intelligences create a representation of push and pull factors.

I watched for the next 20 minutes in awe at what they produced!

Each group planned their task and created their own outcome and success criteria and process ladder for others to see how they created their learning.

One pair created a song mix using westside story and should I stay or go - for each line by Anita they added the response 'Stay' from the Clash and for Bernardo they used 'Go' it sounded AWESOME! - Musical

Another group wanted mathematical - they wanted to review statistics for different countries for their immigrants and emigrants and they linked with another pair who wanted to map it as they wanted to do that:) - interpersonal

A linguistic group focused on push and pull wording in different languages and then categorise them with a series of pictures that they sourced.

Another - Intrapersonal - linked it to Football and the push and pull factors that draw them to going to games home and more importantly the away games they'd been pulled by and in the future wouldn't consider or would jump at!

And on and on with great ideas! Next lesson will be completing and then an exhibition to listen, watch etc each group or individual creation.

Then feedback and evaluation using post it notes using Ron Berger's Kind, Specific and Helpful.

Onto Y10 a fantastic class (low ability targets but that means nothing to me with what I can challenge their thinking with) we were moving our learning on from a topic overview lesson to introducing the structure of our planet, convection currents and then finally linking this to the movement of the 4 plate boundaries.

Students entered the room to each pair having a hard boiled egg and a cadbury's Cream egg on their desk. They had a knife no instructions let intuition take control. Some times less is more and let instinct take control. They cut the 2 open on the board was a slowly. Developing question letter by letter. Could the class workout the core question to the lesson before it ha finished they had to write it on their paired whiteboard and reveal. Students were Asked to describe the textures as they cut through the hard boiled egg and discuss in their pairs. Then share with their table each person on the table adding a comment to the whiteboard to show the class - brittle shell that cracked as we applied pressure to it and soft white section smooth in texture but thick enough not to run then a solid yellow yolk. Students had some prior knowledge to this of the structure names but I wanted the textures in their minds to show different compositions like our earth. A quick table to classify and sort out properties with a 4 part information sheet that students had to organise for each section of the earth. Why do we have a hot core? Collisions with other rock bodies during the formation stages of our planet-demonstrate it:) punch the palm of one of your hands repeatedly fairly hard.. What happens? Test it now:)

Oh it goes red and gets hot:)

Whilst they did this I set up my fish tank (no fish) in the middle of the room students were told to form a circle around it one of the pairs bring an iPad from the table to film the others a whiteboard to describe what they see. Three on the table writing about the same thing as one is likely to miss a little as is two as is three but combine and likely to have a thorough set then they have the iPad video as well to replay and self assess their initial description and compare and contrast with each other the 4th makes a model answer from the other 3 to share with the class. this is an example of what they watched. No prior explanation to give it away just this is a model of what is happening beneath our feet each and every second. Describe what you see happening to the blue and red dyed water.
Next a picture of a radiator how does it hear our room? Think, pair and share and a quick research on the iPad for how. Now some relational learning opportunities can students link to the earth structure and its varying properties? You bet they could quickly linking the hotter outer core to the top of the mantle which is cooler and the crust acting as the barrier to split and force the flow side ways of the heat flow. I got students to demonstrate this flow pattern with their fingers. Hold them in pray position then push on to the table using the tips of their fingers. What happens. Give it a go?

Students from this were given another piece of earth dynamics to link to this process. Movement of the plates generated by convection currents could move in 4 core motions. Again initially nothing given by me I wanted to give thinking time to allow themselves, pairs, table and class to see if they could come up with these movements. As they were thinking saying nothing I put a picture slide show showing effects of the different motions to aid thinking to try and make connections with the motions. Stop. Find out time. Using their hands with eyes closed so as not to initially look at anyone else what had they discovered - hands coming together, hands moving apart and hands sliding past each other 3 out of 4 open eyes look at each other:) Laughter with some of the moves:)

So which had they missed?

Yes destructive plate margin movements where the heavier oceanic plate sinks and subducts beneath the lighter continental crust. Time for a demonstration ;) each table had an iPad and their green learning books. Can you work out what they did? Think before you read on:)

They slid the iPad and and book towards each other and found everytime the book went over the top of the iPad! Why? Heavier:) Just like the two plates.

Now for subduction! I got students to do another self demonstration on themselves- hold hands out flat - point them towards each other tilt your left hand downwards slightly but keep the line of the hand fingers straight next using the tips of your fingers of your right hand slide up and down quickly with a bit of pressure between the finger joints on your left hand. Again give it a go what happens?

Where you rub gets hot and read and your finger tips begin to hurt- a student shouts out (shame I wanted think, pair, share again about it:) sir that is friction! Bang on! So all describe what you have demonstrated what will happen to the rock during this time? - melt they said as a table yes then what will happen? Think, pair, share link to the tank- The melt will rise like in the tank the red dye:) bingo!

We then had 20 minutes left over to the class to again Use any of the multiple intelligences to demonstrate the movements if the four plate boundaries:)

I opened it over 2 lessons like the Y9 class to complete, exhibition present-feedback-evaluate-judge-reward.

By the end of the lesson I had a song, 6 stop motion animations, a dance like this one on YouTube some of my students made , a university lecturer podcast, an image collage and a few more gems.

My next thinking of the day was planning the school geography website that I'm going to create alongside students and the other geographers in the department. In the coming months watch out for the nothing yet but come back in a month or so;) (name because school is Lord Lawson).

I've enjoyed watching the progress of Mission Explore and Discover the World Iceland booklets. I had a hand in this epic resource by visiting Iceland and creating missions for it. I know you'll love them and if your school goes to Iceland for a trip be sure to contact Discover the World for the packs to download:)

My final part of the learning day involved me visiting Northumbria University to meet the Chief Examiner of AQA with some Y12 students. They listened and did some work in his workshop but the joy came from a student called Paige who told me and I quote 'Sir you owned everyone' She seemed super happy with the efforts I'm putting in to prepare her for the Geog 2 exam! I love moments like this:) I loved 2 of the students respond to his questions and he responded with 'Oh that is very clever I love that very technical' and 'ohh that is fantastic identification of this photo'. What I have in my minds eye is the smiles they have me saying a thank you for your efforts in helping us get ready for this exam:)

So I go to bed now with a clear, content mind which is buzzing away with what to do next.

So tomorrow is Urban100. A 500m transect walk in Newcastle taking 100 pictures one every 5m and creating a visual and mapping show from it. I plan to do it day and night to make comparisons between the two. I would love for you to do the same thing as part of #urban100

I'm planning on Mission:Explore missions in Edinburgh and Italy for field trips coming up this year in March and July and I'll begin planning the Italian classes for the students going to Italy. Phew! But most importantly I can get cracking knowing I'll have a clear head in the morning:) I bid you good night!

Sunday, 6 January 2013


The start of a new term is nearly upon us and I am going in revitalised due to a number of life changes.

One aspect of getting back into the classroom and school environment is to listen to the great array of questions, challenges and responses I'll hear and be involved in. I love questioning and the potential depth to thinking it can generate. However far to often including in my own practice I prevent opportunities for taking the thinking deeper by posing a new challenge, problem to keep that engaging thrust of something new flowing in the room. This is good a trigger but like a gun firing the trigger too often at the same target can lead to the death of something. In this case deep thinking that challenges students.

So how about a strategy. Well my preferred method if you look at the pictures is Socratic questioning. I made a simple model which shows a possible method to students thinking about a question deeply and as a result using a whole multitude of other questions to come to an answer or perhaps a new aim to test by questioning the question and generating a new core question.

I've provided a series of pictures of a set of cards my school has provided that help provide a starting point for each of the stages of Socratic questioning so that the metaphorical ball can start rolling and as in a rolling snowball down a snow filled slope the momentum building and the ball - thinking expanding:)

So what are the question Socratic circle questioning poses?

It is a 6 step process:

• clarify
• challenge assumption
• evidence for argument
• viewpoints and perspectives
• implications and consequences
• question the question

By getting students to explore this process they are thinking about that impulsive answer try give. Have you ever had that moment as a teacher where you ask a student "why did you give that answer?" and you get back a shrug of the shoulders or a "urghh I don't know!" How many of us commit the cardinal sin of not even asking that question?

Questioning is crucial it allows me to go through the teaching process of acknowledging what learning and the depth of it and more importantly the opportunity of identifying this with ALL students in class. Therefore a process that takes more than a second is benefit to me as it allows me to lap the room listening to every table and a large majority of students if not all their use of questioning. I find using Classdojo has helped me identify this as I highlight each student on my iPhone as I lap as I hear them using questioning. If I haven't heard a student I identify this on my mobile device and I will go up to listen to them and ask them a question or two about so that I a have at least acknowledged everyone in class. This sounds like it takes a long time but give it a go and you'll be amazed at what you can pick up about a student/your class by lapping. It allows you to stop the class when you hear amazing thinking going on by handing the role of tutor to a student to tell the rest of the class. This can give them confidence, worth and aid others in your class to focus on something specific or think along a different avenue than they would otherwise have done.

This opens up another can of learning worms or threads as Socratic circle questioning in my view works best in pairs or as a table of 4 to allow the process to be deeper by allowing more viewpoints to be explored, implications, reasons, evidence etc. but more importantly I allows students to communicate and use literacy skills. Talking and listening especially with questioning allow students to use specific language and learn the powers of communication. These skills are very high for employers as let's face it a large majority of jobs involve an interview of talking and listening! So students thinking and interacting to learn from each other and extract information to make acknowledgments to help solve a problem are crucial life skills.

So look at the model picture for socratic questioning and give it go following the step by step process. Look at the cards and have a go yourself at planning it into a lesson or two next week it is a great strategy for developing progression of thinking.

Doing this every single lesson could develop learning boredom and throughout the years I have tried to plan the use of varied questioning into my lessons to keep the students intrigued as to what they'll expect next lesson. But at times it can be difficult to trace these questions.

This was where I worked on a question matrix I had seen. The main thought process of this for me was for me to clearly identify question threads I had use with a specific class and student and as a result I could personalise questions for them and then the process would be taken away from me and the student command it by personalising their own questions.

Each student has a question matrix in the back of their book and as try use a question thread from it they mark it off. On class learning walks I can sit o a I prefer to do kneel so I'm level with the students and get them to run me through questions they have used in their book and the matrix and the student from it identifies question styles they are effective at answering and those that they may not be. They then plan the next sequence o questions that they'll work on. The role for me is to monitor students question use and effectiveness and also to help make sure throughout the year they are using all threads and have made progress in the use of each question type. I have found it the most brilliant form of simple personalised planning for ALL students.

The matrix has another clear process. It allows students to plan progressively deeper thinking questions into a lesson or a project. So their learning follows a path. A self developed strategy to move down the matrix and further to the right.

This isn't to say that the questions at the top left aren't important. In fact far from it but these are what I refer to as closed or hinge point questions. They have a set answer. This could be a date or a landform name, a type of plate boundary that is important to get right as if not they could get the whole process wrongly linked to a specific location and so the effects, solutions may not be valid.

These questions are often I effectively used in lessons and can become a ping pong question between a teacher and one single student. What is the plate margin type that splits Iceland? Students put hand up teacher asks one student they answer constructive. Yes right and move on! What about the others in the class? What do they think? These questions could go around a table via the PPPB method. Pose the question, Pause for thinking time - I always think about what I will cook for dinner, let students discuss. I get the Pounce bit by saying ones on the table give your answer to the table am Bounce it to number 3 - I think it is x what do you think? So a quick Kagan strategy helps each table discuss and listen to thinking.

So I have mentioned a few strategies so far that I use in class socratic, matrix and PPPB, and there are many more.

One type that I love to implement involves TV quiz shows. Programmes like 'Pointless', Going For Gold, Blockbusters etc these have a slick style to them that keeps me and many others entertained when I get in on a night. But they work really well in class and can allow students to create and think deeply about answers that they have researched. Take Pointless it involves trying to find answers that few others will have known. This is a great concept to use in the classroom or as a research task. Find some information that is of use to a question posed as an Objective and allow students to question whether other people will have researched the same fact etc. it has led to some very interesting and extremely wide ranging points made in circle time discussions. It has engaged the students to think deep! Each student can then add their point to the question wall via a post it note or write it on the windows and allow time for other students to see if they can connect the point made to a specific aspect if they can it isn't pointless and the student(s) who found it get rewarded but if no one in the class can that student or group have a Pointless answer and so get rewarded. Also it is opportunity for me to look at the puzzled question wall where if a student or group have any issues the post it there and I can help or ask the class if anyone knows the answer or how to help and give them the responsibility of becoming tutor.

Later into a lesson or a project a. Student or group may finish the process. I don't say well done have a break far from it they take over role of tutor and become question monitors. Each will have a different focus on what they are managers of and try will go round with an iPad or my iPhone with Classdojo and give students points based on the discussions they have as they monitor the class. They can help solve issues as they have developedan effective strategy in the lesson (I check what thy have done first asking evaluative questions where the student traces their learning path and reflects on what they discovered etc) they then go and pass that strategy on as well hoeing their work off.

I briefly above linked the TV show question style with Objective questions. These are incredibly powerful and when constructed using solo taxonomy or blooms taxonomy allow students to clearly identify the skill the question involves and the ultimate learning purpose to the lesson to keep them focussed on the specific learning you are wanting to assess them on. The students will see the question and then have to question themselves or their group on how they will answer the question. What intelligence will they use? Musical in a song a music video, linguistically via a radio news report etc. students have a blooms wheel in their books that they spin or point to if they glued it in. This is the strategy they will use to solve this objective question. But why that method over another? Always questioning the question and questioning the learning method. I prefer for students to use their strengths at the start of the year so I can identify G&T students but also so I can identify possible strategies for stretch and challenge for ALL students and how we'll go about personalising those in our mini one on ones as I lap the room. Then throughout the year students underline what they have used so we have another audit system to check how thy are learning and going about solving problems and identifying strategies they haven't used and so could employ in the coming lessons. Why haven't you used that method? Have you seen or heard someone who has? You have! Have you asked them how they use it? No. Ask them I'm positive they'll do a great job in explaining it to you for you to attempt it as well. This extends the learning experience in my classroom where students are taking control and becoming self managers, reflectors, and more importantly planners for the future so they are planning their learning development and can identify what they have done, what they know to have gone well, what they need work on etc. Great for telling parents when they get home and me:)

I have started to lose track in my mind of what I have identified as questioning methods in my classroom. Actually I roughly know but that isn't really good enough! I need a rock solid plan so I KNOW! This reduces the risk of what has happened to me on many occasions where a class leave the lesson and a minute later I curse myself thinking ahhh we didn't get to that or I should have asked that etc...

I saw on twitter the great 5 minute lesson plan create by Ross McGill. I love using it as it is quick! But it got me thinking. Why not create a 5 minute questioning plan that quite easily can be used over a week or a project! So I did. As you can see in the picture it uses all of the questioning methods I have identified. The Columbo style is simply for the end of lessons or projects as summary questions to check are we at the end of the questioning process where we have the answer. This plan has really helped my focus to topics and lessons and means I am thorough. Students get a copy on their table or I print one off and put it on the door or the whiteboard for all to see. I have even started putting blanks on tables where students add their own and I use these for reflection of the lesson and as an evaluation for how I could adopt the main questions got another class or for next year. A very effective planning tool and once again it is handing over responsibility and command of the learning to the students where they feel empowered and wanted in that lesson 50 minutes:)

Give it a go and I'm sure it will strengthen questioning in your lesson and allow your students to stretch and challenge their thinking.

Questioning powerful or not? Let me know what you find out.