Author Archives: Kenny O'Donnell

The story of the hurricane: Friday lesson for S3.⤴

from @ Odblog

Today's lesson with s3. Wanted to describe the distribution of tropical storms and explain their formation after some group work on pecha kucha style tasks. Lesson setup is all in the picture above as I wanted to get a quick start and keep moving. Started off with the map below on the whiteboard and just established that we all knew certain places, for example, North America, Australia, India etc.
Students then had thirty seconds to look at the map and then I covered it. We used the class tools jigsaw on the whiteboard 
Students picked the next person to go and gradually edited each other's sequence until we were almost spot on in terms of the distribution of storms. I think the link here should work to the jigsaw http://www.classtools.net/widgets/jigsaw_2/Yx7Up.htm 
We then put our response into our books. No need to write for the sake of writing, we used a print as nearly every class member was involved and understanding checked as we went. 
Then had a pecha kucha input on storm formation which helped us make the link between the sea and temperatures. This brought us to our think, pair share where we actually pre-empted a lot of the picture reveal which we picked away at to build our knowledge. For example, after the temperature link was made, I could reveal part of the annotations for students books.
Finally, our plenary was again student led. They could pick the term from the lesson and the person they wanted to explain its relevance to our learning. Happy with the pace and the content as well as participation. Hope to build on this on Monday and gradually bring in pecha kucha where it supports the part of the topic, allowing prior knowledge to be built on.

The story of the hurricane: Friday lesson for S3.⤴

from @ Odblog

Today's lesson with s3. Wanted to describe the distribution of tropical storms and explain their formation after some group work on pecha kucha style tasks. Lesson setup is all in the picture above as I wanted to get a quick start and keep moving. Started off with the map below on the whiteboard and just established that we all knew certain places, for example, North America, Australia, India etc.
Students then had thirty seconds to look at the map and then I covered it. We used the class tools jigsaw on the whiteboard 
Students picked the next person to go and gradually edited each other's sequence until we were almost spot on in terms of the distribution of storms. I think the link here should work to the jigsaw http://www.classtools.net/widgets/jigsaw_2/Yx7Up.htm 
We then put our response into our books. No need to write for the sake of writing, we used a print as nearly every class member was involved and understanding checked as we went. 
Then had a pecha kucha input on storm formation which helped us make the link between the sea and temperatures. This brought us to our think, pair share where we actually pre-empted a lot of the picture reveal which we picked away at to build our knowledge. For example, after the temperature link was made, I could reveal part of the annotations for students books.
Finally, our plenary was again student led. They could pick the term from the lesson and the person they wanted to explain its relevance to our learning. Happy with the pace and the content as well as participation. Hope to build on this on Monday and gradually bring in pecha kucha where it supports the part of the topic, allowing prior knowledge to be built on.

Where’s the place for place?⤴

from @ Odblog

I read a blog post tonight about learning place over processes in the earlier years of secondary geography. The fact that I'm reading it on the first day of the school holidays probably tells me that I haven't switched off yet but it set me thinking. I took the atlas skills unit out of our S1 course a while ago. I used to love atlas and map work personally (and still do) but, from feedback at my previous school, the way it was delivered in a block had been one of the reasons why students weren't continuing in geography. We rewrote the unit and tried to balance individual time with interactive work, but blocking it together all added up to an emboldening of a cultural view of the subject as being just about maps. 

In developing our fourth level course for S3 at my current school, I tried to link all of the topics we cover with the national course units. Therefore, we start with coasts and all of the processes that the author of the blog post had said should really come after place knowledge has been established. We have interspersed place knowledge in other parts of our lower school courses, so I don't think we have ignored it at all. In fact, from feedback, learning about a place such as Dubai or Tokyo or an empty land often remains one of the most enjoyable parts of students learning because it is the backdrop for all sorts of geographical themes but all within the context of an  alluring place. When we separate this out to teach about 'coasts' or 'glaciation', even when case studies are included, there is much more of a turn off from the students. Indeed, they find the processes repetitive and coasts is most definitely the least popular of all of the topics we cover in S3. Conversely, the over- emphasis on the exam that CfE was supposed to tackle but hasn't is precisely the reason that some of the same students by the end of S5 have it as a 'banker'. It's one of the topics where rote learning wins every time. 

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that, from experience, the best learning and the most satisfying episodes of our students time in geography seems to be when we DON'T try to create big blocks of content, including how we teach about place, that separate rather than link learning and that, as a subject, we lose relevance if we make the content more important than the context. This is something I think I and other teachers can be guilty of, particularly in relation to physical topics. I'll state clearly that this is not a criticism of the blog I read as the author was at pains to explain how he links place content to the current, just a reflection on how and why I see myself going in the opposite direction. 

Where’s the place for place?⤴

from @ Odblog

I read a blog post tonight about learning place over processes in the earlier years of secondary geography. The fact that I'm reading it on the first day of the school holidays probably tells me that I haven't switched off yet but it set me thinking. I took the atlas skills unit out of our S1 course a while ago. I used to love atlas and map work personally (and still do) but, from feedback at my previous school, the way it was delivered in a block had been one of the reasons why students weren't continuing in geography. We rewrote the unit and tried to balance individual time with interactive work, but blocking it together all added up to an emboldening of a cultural view of the subject as being just about maps. 

In developing our fourth level course for S3 at my current school, I tried to link all of the topics we cover with the national course units. Therefore, we start with coasts and all of the processes that the author of the blog post had said should really come after place knowledge has been established. We have interspersed place knowledge in other parts of our lower school courses, so I don't think we have ignored it at all. In fact, from feedback, learning about a place such as Dubai or Tokyo or an empty land often remains one of the most enjoyable parts of students learning because it is the backdrop for all sorts of geographical themes but all within the context of an  alluring place. When we separate this out to teach about 'coasts' or 'glaciation', even when case studies are included, there is much more of a turn off from the students. Indeed, they find the processes repetitive and coasts is most definitely the least popular of all of the topics we cover in S3. Conversely, the over- emphasis on the exam that CfE was supposed to tackle but hasn't is precisely the reason that some of the same students by the end of S5 have it as a 'banker'. It's one of the topics where rote learning wins every time. 

I suppose what I'm trying to say is that, from experience, the best learning and the most satisfying episodes of our students time in geography seems to be when we DON'T try to create big blocks of content, including how we teach about place, that separate rather than link learning and that, as a subject, we lose relevance if we make the content more important than the context. This is something I think I and other teachers can be guilty of, particularly in relation to physical topics. I'll state clearly that this is not a criticism of the blog I read as the author was at pains to explain how he links place content to the current, just a reflection on how and why I see myself going in the opposite direction. 

All the world is just a cake⤴

from @ Odblog

Another fantastic example of what free choice can bring to the classroom. Two first year groups with an independent choice of topic, some controlled research  in class and then the choice of how they wished to present their learning produced some really outstanding efforts and took over our lessons by teaching each other over the last two periods. Well done, 1W and 1F.











All the world is just a cake⤴

from @ Odblog

Another fantastic example of what free choice can bring to the classroom. Two first year groups with an independent choice of topic, some controlled research  in class and then the choice of how they wished to present their learning produced some really outstanding efforts and took over our lessons by teaching each other over the last two periods. Well done, 1W and 1F.











Pause for breath⤴

from @ Odblog

I have had a very welcome and fulfilling Easter break with the family and an even longer blogging sabbatical. It has been possibly the toughest year of my teaching career, with an authority SQA visit in the style of an inspection followed by the full HMIe inspection (my first as PT subject) along with verification of our work with students on the new National qualifications. I have appointed a member of staff for the first time and worked with and managed a number of supply staff while we waited on the appointment. As a department, we have very much learned from experience as we worked through the changes in the upper school curriculum and my colleague in history is probably fed up with me saying next year will be better :-) We also had very positive feedback on both the quality of learning and teaching from the inspectors who visited our lessons and further welcome positive feedback on our National 3,4 and 5 assessment judgements from the verifiers. And yet...
When I look back on the year so far, I have to say that it's the year where making learning a positive, challenging and fun experience has been most difficult. All of the quality assurance mentioned above is absolutely necessary but creates great demands on time and some of the sacrifices have inevitably been in preparation of learning resources, ideas and activities. I find less of my time spent mining my networks for inspiration and sharing our own ideas. Our department twitter @marrgeog and my own have been notably quieter than previous and I have taken great solace in the 'Thinking through Geography' series of books for a quick fix while recycling the lessons of the geographers such as Alan Parkinson, Tony Cassidy, David Rogers and Noel Jenkins that I've used for what seems like a long time now with probably too little in the way of thanks. My colleague @daviemarsh has been a massive help and influence in the department throughout this time and I'm hoping for a period of relative calm and stability now to jump back on the bike again and use the summer term to develop, renew and share, hopefully nicking a few nuggets from others along the way. Old habits die hard ;-)

Teachery results analysis question⤴

from @ Odblog

I was doing my post-results analysis recently. We had decent standard grade results, with an improving trend in most areas for the last 5 years. It was interesting seeing our figures against other subjects. We had very similar results to the largest subjects in terms of presentations, Maths and English, and we were talking today about how our results, having a large student roll ourselves, were maybe quite reflective of the school as a whole - identical passes to maths at 1 and 2, for example (though slightly higher credit passes than the school average). Higher had a drop in the number of A passes, but was our highest A/B pass rate in the last five years and our highest overall pass rate in the last five years. There is a continuing disappointment with No Awards at Higher (although it is lower than all but one of the last five years), something we have tried very hard to address through interim testing, offering a two year Higher and targeted suported study. We have extensively broken down the data to pick out the impact that we have had on individual students, for example, those that needed one or two more credit/ general/ foundation passes overall, those Higher candidates who did not pass any prelims and have measured the impact of study support against the results. We had set classes for the first time at Standard grade and feel that, in comparison, it has allowed students to work well towards their own level, particularly in the smaller classes where more support has been available. In our return to SMT, we detailed what we thought had worked well, but I am at a little bit of a loss as to what we could do differently to take our results to another level.

Here is a flavour of what we currently do:
  • Drop-in support
  • Supported study
  • Students provided with staff timetables during exam leave
  • Standardised homework exercises for consistency
  •  Early interim testing based on SQA standard for decisions on presentation levels
  • Coaching of targeted individuals (set activities post-prelim)
  • Parental contact where neccessary
  • Input at study skills evening
  • Provision of accessible online revision resources
  • Focus on paper two at Higher for in-class revision (this is consistently the weakest part of the component marks)
  • 'I can' checklists
  • Traffic lighting in the student planner (although this could be more consistent)
  • Access students identified early and assessed
  • Target setting discussions at regular intervals throughout the year
I am sure there are some things that I am not including, but the point is that there is always an expectation that we improve again and there will still be questions asked of us, as there will of the school as to how we can deal with issues such as students achieving No Awards, for example. I am conscious that the context cannot be given in 140 characters via twitter, but I would really love to hear your tweets or comments as to how you would continue improvement in attainment, no matter how obvious,abstract,simple or sophisticated they might be. We don't have a bad set of results at all and there are some cracking successes too, but how can it be better again? Many thanks in advance for anyone replying.

Drops in the ocean⤴

from @ Odblog

Today, we switched the focus of the elective class to the sciences and, in my opinion, our far too understated links with all three. This is a potentially rich vein of engagement that I think we as geographers frequently miss out on. Our subject lends itself so well to many of the practical elements of the sciences and students frequently tell me that they enjoy science "because of the experiments". We have built this learning through experiment and experience into part of the elective and focused on oceans today, using climate change as the context to discuss ocean acidification. There are already some fantastic resources available through the Catlin Arctic Survey and Digital Explorer which we used for the basis for today's activities. We also employed the S3 experiment write up structure that is used in Biology after discussion with my colleague, Mrs Morrison. 
I was confident in teaching part of this theme but wanted to make sure I wasn't teaching bad science, so I invited a colleague, Mr McDermott, to see if we could co-op on this. It's fair to say that we were both delighted with the outcomes. The students conducted experiments comparing carbonated water to still water, using 'sea' water and fresh water which they then carbonated themselves through straws, comparing PH change rate over time and prepared for next week, where we will look at being ocean detectives, followed by a look at ocean currents and how meltwater might influence energy distribution. The student engagement was first class, the learning was pretty much all through enquiry, the context (something that Mr McDermott stressed the importance of in our later conversation) was real and the results were not uniform. This led to anomalies and the realisation that unexpected results are not always wrong results, as long as they can be explained or improved. The concept of oceans as a carbon store was explored, but the real eye opener for me came after the lesson.
When we discussed the lesson from each others subject background, Mr McDermott and I actually learned quite a lot from each. For example, I now know that temperature increase diminishes the ability to absorb CO2 and can therefore link this to skewed results but, most importantly, the increasing acidification of oceans in polar regions. This also led us to discuss methane locked in the seabed and how increasing temperatures are likely to release it which, again, links back to climate change and greenhouse gases. This was hopefully a lesson which students enjoyed and has given me another angle to teach it from when we build on the prior learning next week. I was also sent a link by Jamie Buchanan Dunlop on twitter to this (
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/may/07/arctic-threat-ocean-acidification) which brings a marine biology element to the climate change and when we discuss oceanic circulation as part of the theme, there are ties with physics.  This is a small step towards proper interdisciplinary learning, a drop in the ocean to use an obvious pun, but the possibilities for its expansion seem very real if this is an accurate snapshot of the outcomes.

Drops in the ocean⤴

from @ Odblog

Today, we switched the focus of the elective class to the sciences and, in my opinion, our far too understated links with all three. This is a potentially rich vein of engagement that I think we as geographers frequently miss out on. Our subject lends itself so well to many of the practical elements of the sciences and students frequently tell me that they enjoy science "because of the experiments". We have built this learning through experiment and experience into part of the elective and focused on oceans today, using climate change as the context to discuss ocean acidification. There are already some fantastic resources available through the Catlin Arctic Survey and Digital Explorer which we used for the basis for today's activities. We also employed the S3 experiment write up structure that is used in Biology after discussion with my colleague, Mrs Morrison. 
I was confident in teaching part of this theme but wanted to make sure I wasn't teaching bad science, so I invited a colleague, Mr McDermott, to see if we could co-op on this. It's fair to say that we were both delighted with the outcomes. The students conducted experiments comparing carbonated water to still water, using 'sea' water and fresh water which they then carbonated themselves through straws, comparing PH change rate over time and prepared for next week, where we will look at being ocean detectives, followed by a look at ocean currents and how meltwater might influence energy distribution. The student engagement was first class, the learning was pretty much all through enquiry, the context (something that Mr McDermott stressed the importance of in our later conversation) was real and the results were not uniform. This led to anomalies and the realisation that unexpected results are not always wrong results, as long as they can be explained or improved. The concept of oceans as a carbon store was explored, but the real eye opener for me came after the lesson.
When we discussed the lesson from each others subject background, Mr McDermott and I actually learned quite a lot from each. For example, I now know that temperature increase diminishes the ability to absorb CO2 and can therefore link this to skewed results but, most importantly, the increasing acidification of oceans in polar regions. This also led us to discuss methane locked in the seabed and how increasing temperatures are likely to release it which, again, links back to climate change and greenhouse gases. This was hopefully a lesson which students enjoyed and has given me another angle to teach it from when we build on the prior learning next week. I was also sent a link by Jamie Buchanan Dunlop on twitter to this (
http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/may/07/arctic-threat-ocean-acidification) which brings a marine biology element to the climate change and when we discuss oceanic circulation as part of the theme, there are ties with physics.  This is a small step towards proper interdisciplinary learning, a drop in the ocean to use an obvious pun, but the possibilities for its expansion seem very real if this is an accurate snapshot of the outcomes.