Twitter is taking off! 

It seems that all you need to rekindle the blogging bug is a bit of a buzz. Currently at Gillingham school in Dorset talk has turned to Twitter and other media tools that can aid teaching and learning. 

I reluctantly joined Twitter during my PGCE year, thinking that it was all self indulgent celebrities and acceptable stalking. So I promised myself I would only use it as a tool for teaching, and 2 years on I can safely say that it is one of the best CPD tools out there for teachers. I follow a mixture of teaching heroes, Geography related organisations and fellow teachers. What I absolutely love about it is you can find inspiring and astounding resources in seconds, alongside sharing ideas and thinking on a level with NQT’s and head teachers alike. Twitter keeps ideas fresh and involves you in a dynamic community of teachers far beyond your own department and school. I cannot claim to be a post a minute or even a post a month person, however whenever I need a different perspective on the content of a lesson I am planning, or a brilliant image for a starter I know I will find something useful if I scroll through my Twitter feed.

As we progress with technology both in teaching and the real world, I know it will be absolutely essential to use social media such as Twitter to help inform and motivate students. This is particularly the case for Geography teaching. As a student I remember there was always a sense of awe and wonder when your Geography teacher brought current events into the classroom, the difference is that when I was at school we were lucky if it involved a newspaper clipping from the day before. Now we have no excuse not to bring the wider world into the classroom, with the aid of social media that Tornado in Oklahoma that we hear about on the 6 o’clock news can enter the classroom minutes after it has hit….call me a geek but that’s where the learning’s at!! 

Below I have listed some of the great people and organisations I follow:

@Learningspy

@WHO

@FAO

@HansRosling

@worldmapper

@natgeo

@followthethings

@Geoblogs

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Coming up for breath.

Wow, where to start….7 weeks into my teaching career and I have finally come up for breath as half term break approaches. I am quickly coming to realise that all those teachers who said to me during my practice that term time is a whirlwind of lessons, marking, meetings and parents evenings, and that you only stop to properly think in the holidays…..were damn right! It has been exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time and here I am on the verge of completing my first half term as an NQT.

One of the many things I have learnt in this short time has been that the regular marking of students books and other work is an incredibly powerful tool in enabling constructive and fulfilling learning in the classroom. My students have had a particularly rough ride of late due to a high staff turnover so part of the mutual respect I have been trying to build with them is the regular feedback I give them on their work. To do this we have a format which I think works called STARS marking which stands for Strengths, Target, Area for improvement, Reflection (for students to write) and SPAG (Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar):

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This has given a great structure for constructive feedback and dialogue between my students and I. After two or three STARS markings I have already seen significant progress by the majority of students in reaching their own targets (reflections) from the previous STARS. This in turn is helping students to reach their aspirational all targets for the end of the year.

If anyone has any top tips for marking that they want to share then I would be interested to hear them!

Until next time…

World development inspiration

First of all I would like to say a massive thank you to Mike Tidd for promoting my blog, I hope that other NQTs out there will read it and find some parallels from their experiences in my words.

This week was full of inspiration. As the school year winds down I felt like I was just getting ready to go. I received my timetable for next year and was delighted to see that I will be teaching A level ‘World Development’ which as a human geographer and teacher is the best case scenario I could have wished for! The course is from WJEC and from what I have read so far it has a very university and IB based approach to learning, which I think is absolutely key if pupils are to handle the transition from school/college to university properly. There is much emphasis on independent learning and critical reading of up to date articles and media literature. This is exciting for two reasons, first of all it is an essential skill for learners to acquire, and secondly it involves the use of hot off the press and relevant goings on in the world. Which is what geography is all about!

I have already discovered a huge amount of material out there which will help me to create some excellent resources to help me teach and my students learn during the course. I will keep you updated on my progress and will post any useful resources on here.

To finish on here is a photo of myself and my fellow Plymouth PGCE Geography graduates and our tutor Kay Chapman, a lovely bunch of geographers who I had the privilege of training alongside!

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Baptism of fire!!

Wow…what an interesting first couple of weeks as a full time Geography Teacher! It has been a whirlwind of faces, names, data, lesson planning and classroom overhauling. I arrived at Avon Valley College in Wiltshire 3 weeks before the summer holidays, some would say this is an ‘interesting’ time to start at a new school. The Human Studies department has had a very unsettled time over the last few years with staff off on long term sick and leaving half way through the year. I have come into a team which consists of six teachers including myself, of which the head of geography and I are the only geography specialists. There is a lot of change going on with a new marking policy being launched, and a new approach to performance management being put in motion in light of the new performance related pay policy being launched in September.

45% of the schools cohort come from military families and 33% of the cohort also have SEND. Being a state school in a grammar school system brings with it a whole host of challenges, however I have found my lessons with my classes so far incredibly enjoyable. I am looking forward to starting afresh with my own classes in September and a year 7 tutor group too! I am slowly establishing myself with both the pupils and staff and I feel hopeful that my NQT year will be both challenging and rewarding in a school where change is actively occurring in the right direction, I feel I can really add to its progress. Hopefully in the process I can help establish a successful geography department with more and more pupils choosing it as a GCSE and A level option. I will also be teaching World Development as an A level from September which is right up my street as a human geographer!

On a different note my recent case study research entitled ‘how can we narrow the gap between certain boys enthusiasm and attainment in geography’ has given me much insight into verbal communication in the geography classroom, which favours boys, and assessment which tends to favour girls as they are generally ahead of boys in the literacy stakes when they reach secondary school. This has raised a few issues for me regarding the way we assess pupils, are we using too much written assessment and giving less weight to formative, oral and presentation based assessments? I was recently teaching in the Czech Republic where I was told that interactive techniques in the classroom were seen as non-academic, and therefore regional and fact based geography teaching reined supreme! Any ideas on this from my fellow teachers would be gratefully received!

Until next time….

Hello to the blogging world!

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Follow me on Twitter @Amberkatja

As an imminent NQT Geography teacher I have come to realise throughout my training that the future of Geography teaching and education more widely will be based in the world of virtual tools for teaching and learning. It seems obvious then that part of that future will involve blogging as a vital tool for the open discussion of teacher pedagogy, as well as a forum for teachers to share up to date goings on in their subjects. For geography as a subject, which has the undeniable benefit of being closely related to the ever changing outside world, this is an invaluable tool. Aside from the obvious benefits of blogging for me as a teacher I am incredibly excited about being able to interact with other like minded geographers all over the world, and share new and interesting ideas and information which will help me to develop my knowledge of what is going on in the world of geography and geography teaching.

In addition to this I am keen to develop a bank of ideas on how I can use iPad and other technologies in my lessons. I have already started to explore this and my new HOD for next year is currently involved in a bid to get a number of iPads for the department which is exciting. However I need to understand how to use them to their highest potential for aiding teaching and learning. Therefore if anyone out there has any experience with using new technologies in their geography classroom then I would be very grateful to receive any advice or ideas. Likewise if I discover anything of interest I will also share.

I am planning on regularly updating this blog with interesting info on the world of geography teaching. I will also be using it as a forum to give an account of some of my experiences as a NQT entering the profession for the first time. This is in a bid to show current trainee teachers and anyone that’s interested what to expect, and where geography education is currently headed.

My first offering: Sugata Mitra my educational hero->http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22891283