Catching Up!

Sorry, massively behind on blogging. Here is a post summarising the rest of my first placement and time back at university before Christmas. The first half was already written, I just never got round to posting it!

After spending the weekend away, I was already panicked and stressing at the beginning of the week over not having used the weekend to plan lessons further in advance. Luckily, I was teaching both Year 8 groups the same topic, just adapting and improving the lesson for the second time. As I knew my Monday Year 8 worked slightly less independently than my other group, I used one of the ideas presented at the TeachMeet last week. We were going to look at the formation of a waterfall, and before the lesson I had written keywords up on the board, which I referred to during my explanation of its formation, using processes they had encountered last week. They then had to write their own sentences of the waterfall formation using the keywords on the board. To give them more scaffolding and support I had made three challenge cards. Bronze provided starter sentences and some fill in the gaps sentences, along with the keywords on the board, in order to help those less confident. For silver you had to use all the keywords/phrases on the board and for gold they had to use all the words on the board but putting them into their own words, not using the phrases, and SPAG (spelling and grammar) must be perfect. The class loved being able to choose their own challenge, it really engaged and excited them, and that extra support meant less “Miss, I don’t get it! I don’t know what to do!” whiny voices when they were on task! I was able to go round the class and check everyone’s descriptions and either encouraging them to pick an easier challenge or if their work was good and they were finding it easy, I encouraged them to pick a harder challenge. I think this activity worked really well and I will definitely use it again!

We were looking at vegetation adaptations to the temperate deciduous forest and hot desert this week with Year 10s, the latter for my formal observation with my university tutor. As this was also the second to last week on placement, things were starting to ramp up a bit, and I had lots of tasks to complete. Because I had established a great relationship with my Year 10s, they were really concerned about my observation and worked really hard that lesson. They were impeccably behaved, answered lots of questions, and when I marked their books, even their (usually messy) work was much neater! I was touched! And the next day on the Friday, the first thing they all asked me when I opened the classroom door to welcome them in was “Miss Payne, how did your observation go?”, “What did she say about you?”, “Were you good?”, “Does that mean you’ll be teaching us for good now?” Inwardly, my response was “Awwhhhhh!!!” My Year 10s were awesome! Outwardly, I had to tell them that no, I only had one more week left teaching them, to which they were very disappointed.

The last week of placement was jam-packed with getting tasks in my PLR completed – behaviour for learning, education for social justice and pupil care, and I interviewed the two geography teachers for my assignment Wednesday after school. We also stayed behind longer after school on another day to write and check my School Experience Profile, so towards the end of the week I was absolutely shattered, but was glad to be near completion of my PLR. This was also through collaborating with the other PGCE students! All too soon, Friday came around and I was a mix of emotions. Happy to have got through it and beginning teaching, excited to be back at uni to see everyone, but also sad and emotional through leaving my wonderful tutor group and classes. My tutor group made me a card and bought me chocolates, and my Yr 10s had made me a card which they gave to me at the end of the day as well. I did get a little upset and said how much I was going to miss them and how great they were. After school, the two geography teachers had also got me a card, chocolates and a gift, and I gave them cards and chocolates too. We then went to the pub to have a drink to celebrate!

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Our first week back in uni was a bit of a shock to the system after being in school. I loved seeing everyone and catching up and hearing about their experiences, but I immediately missed school! We had a jam-packed week with lots of interesting sessions – inclusion and SEN, Assessment for learning in geography, using data in schools (a scary session with the amount of data shown to us!), inclusion in geography  for high attaining students and less able. One evening in the week we met our mentor for our Teaching Practice, and I arranged to go in one evening after school to pick up some schemes of work to start planning lessons over Christmas. We also had an afternoon visiting Bilborough College with sessions on teaching A-Level geography. All of our uni sessions are so much more relevant now we have experiences to refer and apply them to. We also had sessions on our first assignment, which is due in next week and no one has started! That weekend was a panicked two days working on both our first geography assignment and prepping for our Schools and Society discussions the following week. They went well, as they were less formal, and everyone in our group was very talkative so needed little prompting to discuss our theme. We also had a marketplace event as part of our Schools and Society module, where PGCE students from each school had to make a stall with information presenting their school, and be ready to talk about the school and their time there. Taking turns, we all had chance to have a wander round and look at each other’s stalls, and especially visit the stall for our Teaching Practice school to find out information and what it is like. I found this useful, and good practice presenting your school for the future, but maybe a little too long was spent on it in relation to everything else we covered whilst back at university. Our geography assignment was a presentation critically analysing the geography curriculum of our School Experience school, looking at what kinds of geographies are taught and learned. We presented to our individual tutors and some of our cohort who had the same tutor. We all got a bit flustered beforehand so I was definitely nervous when doing my presentation. Mostly, it was just such a relief to have it over and done with. The following day we had individual tutor meetings to catch up on our work in SE, and then finally, it was Christmas!

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First Placement – ups and downs

Still finishing off blog posts from last term!
I had not properly met my Monday Year 8 group yet, due to us only being in our placement school Wednesday to Friday for the first few weeks – and I was teaching the latter half of the lesson to them first thing on the Monday.  I was using and adapting the lesson I had taught to my other Year 8 group last Wednesday and it was interesting seeing how they responded to the lesson and the tasks set, and more generally, me teaching them. In terms of behaviour, it was probably my worst lesson so far, as they were quite chatty and there was quite a lot of low-level disruption. This in turn affected their engagement with the lesson. I think this was because they did not know me, and there was no established relationship. After the lesson I was frustrated, and realized I should have been more authoritative and insisted and waited for silence before explaining the work. I was worried that they wouldn’t have understood the work and done little due to not listening, so was relieved when I marked their work and saw that most of them had worked well.

The rest of my lessons that week were much better, especially my Year 8 group on Wednesday, where we looked at the formation of a waterfall. The class enjoyed me teaching them, and I think I had planned this sequence of lessons effectively to establish and build on their knowledge, and the class engaged and grasped this well. This was also a formal observation by their class teacher, who commented on the well-planned lesson, good building and linking of knowledge, and the pupils worked well in a productive classroom environment. I think this was helped by having established good relationships with a lot of the class, and I was picking up their names fairly quickly.

This week was also busy with after-school sessions and meetings, leaving little time to plan/mark/complete other activities in our Personal Learning Record (a massive file with lots of tasks to complete throughout our placement – such as on SEN, EAL, the use of TAs, marking and assessment, pupil care and guidance, and our social justice tasks). On the Tuesday I attended a Geography Network Meeting with my mentor; it was a meeting with several other geography teachers from local schools, and we discussed and looked at the proposed GCSE and A-Level geography specifications. It was interesting to get an insight into the new specs, and which ones schools were thinking of using and why, and comparing it to what I thought of the new specs. On Thursday was probably – no definitely – my favourite, and most interesting event of my placement! I attended a TeachMeet at another one of the Academy Trust schools. It was a fantastic evening and so inspirational, and I left with so many ideas in mind that I wanted to try out. I cannot wait to attend another!

This week I only had four days in school, so I missed my Year 10s on Friday, as everyone on the Geography PGCE went to Lea Green in Derbyshire for two days to look at how fieldwork is taught , to explore and get to know the area and start thinking of ideas for carrying out our own fieldwork days with Yr 8s from a local Nottingham school in the spring/summer term. We had a lovely but tiring two days. It was so nice to get out in the countryside again, I had definitely missed it, the Lea Green Development Centre where we stayed was lovely, and we were very lucky with the weather, escaping the rain until Saturday afternoon!

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First Lessons and Settling In

After our two weeks out of school, I was so excited to be going back full time into my school for the next month, and teaching every day! I was meant to be teaching one of my Yr 8 classes first thing Monday morning, but instead there was an hour in our tutor groups to go through notices, and show students the new dining room which had been finished over half term. I was slightly relieved and partially disappointed, I just wanted to start teaching but was also quite nervous about doing so!

I taught Yr 10 second period on the second day, and I really looked forward to it. I really liked the class, it was a lovely group, and I was anticipating a bit of a challenge in having to keep on top of my subject knowledge for ecosystems in order to teach it effectively, and it was nice being able to start that topic afresh in having to tag onto and follow on from a previous topic. For my first lesson I had made lots of food chains which connected to each other to form a hedgerow food web, with pictures of each animal, and students had to make their cards into a chain. Then, as each child had a slightly different chain, I went around the class and asked them about their food chain, and added each animal to the web on the board, to show how each was connected to a larger web and part of a small-scale ecosystem. We then named different parts – producers, consumers, scavengers etc. – and looked at the nutrient cycle.

My Year 8 lesson on Wednesday continued the ‘Water on the Land’ topic that they had begun before half term, and we looked at erosion processes. I really enjoyed this lesson as the class was very capable and responded to the tasks well, engaging with them and asking/answering questions. They had to individually extract information from a piece of text, write their own descriptions for each process and draw a sketch to show what was happening in the river. Then, in pairs, they had to coach each other and talk about each process for a minute. The classroom became rather noisy but because everyone was talking about erosion! I then taught the class the Kung-Fu moves for river processes. I couldn’t play the Kung-Fu panda theme tune as the speakers were not working – my first technical glitch – so I got the whole class to stand up and repeat the movements after me, and then tested them to see if they could remember them. We then started to look at which processes affected the formation of waterfalls.

With Year 10 on Thursday we recapped the key terms learnt last lesson and then played a game to look at what happens when the balance in an ecosystem is affected. Each student was an animal in the hedgerow food web in the centre of the classroom. They each had 10 food tokens and had to move around and eat other animals/be eaten by losing or gaining food tokens. I read out different scenarios, e.g. what would happen if we had a hot, wet summer, we would discuss answers and then act it out, and look at how many food tokens students had at the end of each. The students really enjoyed the game and understood the impacts of human and natural actions. They were also great in giving me feedback on my game, as I had made it up and practised it at home with my partner but didn’t know if it would actually work with 20 students!!!

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Above – my menu cards for my ecosystems game!

Friday’s lesson was also with Yr 10 again, and we looked at how three biomes (tropical rainforest, temperate deciduous and hot desert) are spread over the planet’s surface. They had to do a flow diagram of the impact on different parts of the hedgerow ecosystem when something changes, and then we talked about the scale of the ecosystem we had been looking at, and discussed others we would find in the UK, and how we would class the UK overall. This led nicely into explaining biomes and that these are formed due to different climatic zones across the globe. Students had to use atlases to complete a colour by numbers map to locate the three biomes they are going to be studying, and then write me an answer describing their distribution. After seeing this class three times, we were definitely starting to know each other better, and they were getting used to my classroom routines and rules. I was starting to settle down more into teaching, I wasn’t nervous any more and was starting to feel more confident and get across some of my personality in my teaching.

Teaching the first lesson

Our first full week in school in mid-October had been long-anticipated and when it finally came, it flew by. We had to begin teaching this week so I arranged on the Monday to teach a starter to my Yr 8 class on the Wednesday, and my first full lesson would be with Yr 10 on the last day of the week. During the week we also carried on with our School Experience tasks; observing lessons with a focus on behaviour management; becoming familiar with the school’s behaviour policy; observing geography lessons with a focus on how they develop student’s literacy and numeracy skills; and continuing to support a SEN student in a geography lesson to look at how they are supporting within the school and how geography is taught to SEN pupils. I also really enjoyed getting to know my tutor group more – which is a vertical tutor group containing students from Yrs 7 – 11, and each tutor group is part of one of four houses.

I spent a lot of time this week planning for my starter and first full lesson. For my Yr 8 starter, they were going to locate river features on a river profile, using drainage basin key terms they already know and introducing some new ones through watching a video. I was pretty excited to finally start teaching, it was only about 5 minutes before the lesson started and the class were lining up outside when I was suddenly nervous! But that disappeared once the lesson began, as I was so focused on the class and what I had to say and remembering names, and asking questions and…. Well so much to remember and the lesson flew by! My starter lasted most of the lesson! But the students were really engaged with the task, asking questions and volunteering answers, and they had learnt stuff, which is always good!

I was absolutely shattered after that one lesson, even though it was first thing in the morning! I then spent the rest of the day (and the next day and a half) planning for my first full lesson, which was with Yr 10 on migration on the Friday afternoon. We were going to recap the different types of migration, be able to describe the location of Poland, create a choropleth map showing when countries joined the EU, categorise push and pull factors and then answer an exam question. The lesson went really well, and the pupils responded well to me teaching them and were engaged in the lesson. I did plan way too much for one lesson, so we didn’t get through everything. But I was just so happy at actually teaching now, I had begun! And it wasn’t a disaster! Hurrah! The most memorable and pleasing part for me of my own performance was being able to answer any questions that the pupils had and bring in topical events, showing that I had a broad understanding of the topic and wider context and could relate it to what pupils were learning. Someone asked me questions about the EU, e.g. asking when did the UK join the EU, and I was able to answer these confidently. I linked in current events, the Syrian refugees, with the terminology we were learning and questioned the class about the difference between refugees and asylum seekers, and discussed why they were leaving, where they were going, Calais, perceptions and portrayals of them in the media. I think this showed that they were interested in the topic and could relate it to what they had seen/heard outside of school. I think these discussions really emphasised the seriousness and “realness” of these topics, and enhanced their critical understanding of migration.

After our first full week in school, and teaching for the first time, it felt like a backwards step going back to university. We now had a full week back in uni, then another week for independent study, aka full time working cramming in as much as possible, catching up and finishing off previous work and planning lessons for our full month back on placement in November.

Our university sessions heavily focused on teaching and learning. We looked at learning theories, going deeper into how children learn and process information, their developmental changes, and how we can develop high-order thinking, analysis and metacognition, challenging pupil’s thinking constantly and questioning how they have arrived at their answers or conclusions. In the afternoon we had a great session on how we can use GIS in school geography, led by a previous PGCE student at Nottingham. He gave us some great ideas and showed us some great resources, and we were meant to have a go at some of the activities and lessons, but, typically, the computers were not playing ball, and one bit of software we were meant to be using, Google Earth, was not installed onto the uni computers. Despite these drawbacks, we still came away with some awesome ideas and resources to try at home (though for some reason, Google Earth won’t install onto my laptop, who knows why?!!).  For a couple of these days in this week we were in our Schools and Society groups, mixed with students from all subjects to discuss (or hotly debate) issues and themes of social justice.  One of these days specifically focused on issues surrounded teachers and the law, and we had to research and present an aspect to the rest of the group. On the Thursday we then had a session preparing us for fieldwork later on in the term at Lea Green in Derbyshire. We discussed the value and importance of geography fieldwork and split into groups. Each group will be leading a fieldwork session with Yr 8s from a local school in the spring term, and the visits to Lea Green prior to this are to enable us to build our knowledge of the area, and how we can use this area for fieldwork. Each group had to choose several fieldwork methods to research and we all had to carry out research into the history of the Lea Green area. We also had to read and evaluate the new (not confirmed) A Level specifications, specifically their fieldwork requirements.

The last day at university was over to us and gave us a chance to broaden and extend our geographical subject knowledge. We each had to do a presentation on our specialist topic to the rest of the group, for about 10-15 minutes. I did mine on cultural geography, based on what I studied at A-Level as I thought a lot of my university geography would be irrelevant. We had a wide range of topics, a lot in areas that I am weak in, such as paleoenvironments, glaciers, mountains, geological timescales, and other topics updated and refreshed my understanding of those topics. The session was really useful, and also in getting to know other people’s strengths and weaknesses.

The following week was our independent study week, of which I mainly spent it starting to plan lessons for the following week when I would being teaching. I would have a lesson a day for the next four weeks – twice a week with Yr 8 (teaching 2 different groups) and three lessons a week with Year 10. Planning each lesson took incredibly long, deciding what I wanted to cover each lesson, thinking of how to do this didn’t take long, but the thinking, making resources, and writing the plan were the lengthy parts. Pretty sure I was spending over 5 hours on each lesson. I also spent time preparing for our fieldtrip to Lea Green, catching up and reading stuff from the previous term, and starting to work on the masters assignment. I did feel very productive that week!

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Behaviour and Classroom Management and Educating the Whole Child

This week again consisted of two days in university and three days in our placement school. Our time in university focussed on class and behaviour management. It started with a whole course lecture on Behaviour for Learning and how we encourage behaviours that are good for learning. We discussed how far it is possible to control or manage behaviour, or whether we should focus on creating a positive environment to encourage good behaviours. We watched extracts from Channel 4 documentaries “Secret Life in the Classroom” and their “Educating..” series. Teachers and education in general, is portrayed very negatively in the media, teenagers are nearly always given a bad rap, and there is always scare-mongering over bad behaviour. Programmes like those mentioned try to change these perceptions, and give a real insight into schools. Like in the picture below, most dominant discourses focus on the black dot, occasional poor behaviour. It ignores the white square, the rest of the child, which these programmes focus on.

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Teachers need to promote learning through positive emotions, and as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs shows once all our basic needs are met, we are more motivated to react positively and be engaged. This is echoed in the Every Child Matters report. We need to create a positive environment for pupil learning both physical (including layout, facilities, resources) and through relationships (with themselves, with other pupils and adults, and with the curriculum – how well they can access it and whether they think they are good at the subject).

Effective behaviour for learning relies on establishing clear structures, rules and expectations that are negotiated and agreed, fair, clear, positive, enforceable, and consistently applied. Having high expectations, a safe and stimulating environment, mutual respect, positive attitudes, good progress are all key to effective learning. To have a positive environment the language and communication in the classroom needs to be positive. There should be three or four positives for every negative and non-verbal communication – the teacher’s height, positioning (e.g. where they stand to give out instructions) are all important considerations. Many components of professional behaviour also contribute to making a positive atmosphere; thorough planning and preparation, being confident, being a good manager of resources, being aware of environmental factors and being in control. A teacher needs to be able to multi-task in the classroom – being able to explain, time manage, monitor pupils – and manage the overall atmosphere of the room. Remaining firm, calm and in control, and praising the pupils often to create a good work ethic are also important. I think the most important factor for me is relationships, the relationship you have with your pupils will have a massive impact on how they respect and work for you, and knowing your pupils well means you will be more knowledgeable and able to meet their needs.

It was interesting watching two videos on TES: Tough Love and Positive Design and comparing the very different strategies. The first teacher was very authoritative, setting his standards and expectations immediately through clear, simple rules. He lined the class up outside, then against the back wall of the classroom, and individually told them where to sit. He outlined the consequences and what students would face if they did not follow the rules. He spent 25 minutes on all of this. He is very much helped in establishing his authority by his physical presence – a tall man with a deep voice. But he outlines clearly that he has high expectations of them and starts to establish a culture of success. He also tells them a little bit about himself, building relationships and showing that he is human and has been in the same position as them. He does a little bit of teaching at the end, and encourages participation and responses from students, and thanks and supports those who answer incorrectly. He shows the kids that yes, he is a tough teacher, but he believes in each and every pupil and will make learning fun. The second teacher had an entirely different approach in the Positive Design video. She mentions her two rules for about 10 seconds and that was it. She maintains discipline by rewarding positive behaviour and says to the class that she wants to praise them and give out as many credits as possible. This motivates students as they want rewards, they want to be praised, and they are all engaged. She distributes questions widely and tries to talk to each student, encouraging and supporting particular students in answering if they are less confident, and giving out lots of verbal praise. This raises the general classroom atmosphere and makes it very positive, and makes her more likeable. When she wants their attention, she just says to class that she needs their attention for 10 seconds, and everyone responds immediately. She has no need to apply a single sanction. Her lessons are fast-paced, engaging and fun, with good resources and hands-on. This keeps the pupils focused on their work. She keeps certain pupils behind at the end to praise them further and gives them a well done card. Her working relationship with her pupils is very different, but she has still made her expectations clear, and has established an effective and positive working environment.

As mentioned above, we can all too often focus on behaviour and ignore the rest of the child. We have to be prepared to deal with everything the child brings into the classroom and we need to promote both their wellbeing and learning. You can’t have one without the other. Successive governments may create and change policies very quickly, and schools have to adhere to these, but it is the teachers on the ground who are in the best position to gain an insight into children’s lives. So it is vitally important that we know and understand the changes that have taken place to these policies and be aware of how they affect our work. We discussed how a policy change is often driven by a tragedy, always attempting to find the perfect solution, the perfect answer, and stop children slipping through the net. This government have changed tactics considerably, disbanding the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and changing the emphasis in their policies away from safeguarding and integration towards improving services and standards. The Ofsted inspection criteria were changed to emphasis the quality of teaching and achievement first, with the safety of children dropping to the third criteria. Subtle but important. This government disregarded the Every Child Matters report to focus on raising standards, quality and achievement. But at what cost? The ECM report made important connections and built a vital framework integrating services and coordinating thinking, with children at the centre. So, it’s a bit of a dilemma. It seems this government have forgotten about the whole child, and want us teachers to focus on learning, and raising standards and achievement. But schooling is never just about what happens in the classroom, and as I said earlier, you can’t promote their learning without promoting their wellbeing.

Literacy and Numeracy in Geography and My First Days in School

We started our third week of our course by looking at different teaching strategies. On Monday we looked at group work in geography and writing mysteries. We discussed the pitfalls of group work and how this method needs to be highly structured in order for it to be successful. The teacher is still central in group work in deciding the groups, organising the size and structure of the group (deciding how the children learn and creating opportunities) and obviously what they are going to learn. The teacher needs to ensure that everyone in the group has a particular role to play so each pupil is active and their voice is heard, and so no one student dominates. The teacher needs to plan the groups and tasks effectively, develop appropriate resources, manage the groups and the whole class in general, provide subject expertise, listen and observe and enable the groups to evaluate and reflect back on the task and their thinking, and making the geography clear.

Group work challenges the notion of an ‘answer culture’, giving more opportunities for open-ended enquiry, more opportunities for students to look again at topics/arguments and revisit, rethink and reconsider their thoughts and avoids sloppy thinking. Through cooperative learning, pupils build skills in communication and teamwork and engage critically with the topic and the resources. Students extend their thinking through debate and communication with others in their group and self-scrutinise through thinking collectively and considering different viewpoints, and through evaluation and reflection.

On Tuesday we considered how to develop numeracy and literacy skills in geography and explored Gapminder. Geography is often paired with other humanities subjects, yet can be very numerical, scientific or literary too. We discussed the numerical problems that affect geographical learning;

  • lack of confidence from pupils
  • perceptual problems where pupils find it hard to relate them to real life and cannot transfer learning from maths to geography lessons
  • maths having its own language, conventions and symbols which differ in meaning from everyday life
  • geography teachers assuming that students possess certain skills and understanding of concepts which they may not have covered in maths yet
  • students having difficulties with place value of large and small numbers including decimals and fractions
  • difficulty with ‘zero’ as a concept, and subtracting from zero
  • difficulty with concepts such as ratio, proportion, percentage and scale factor
  • understanding notions of proportion and percentage
  • problems with understanding different scales (ordinal, ratio, interval)
  • some concepts such as density, river velocity or discharge appear in geography before they do in maths

We discussed how we should consider these issues when planning lesson, possible solutions and how we could tackle each problem. Ideas included liaising with the maths department to enable more cross-curricular teaching and using different teaching approaches, having a positive attitude to maths problems in geography to try and change perceptions, and trying to tie in local examples and experiences.

Numerical and literacy skills are essential for everyday life. As they are so fundamental, everyone should be responsible for developing these. Literacy skills include speaking, reading, writing and listening and everyone is entitled to developing these. Geography should be used as a driver to develop all these fundamental skills in children. Geographical information can be presented as text, maps, flow diagrams, cartoons, bulleted list, concept maps, graphs, speech bubbles, photos, news reports and articles, extended extracts, tables, videos or literature, and it is up to us as teachers to teach our pupils how to read and use all these different sources, and extract the geography. We analysed existing geography textbooks that schools use to examine how they present geographical information in an accessible way to students, and methods we could use in class to help students access texts and sources (DART – divided activities related to texts). These methods include underlining and highlighting, reforming and replacing text, making predictions, completing diagrams using the text, sequencing text or comparing texts. These methods help pupils to interact with the text, improve their reading comprehension, develop their questioning, reading and writing skills, their criticality, and they can work as individuals, pairs or groups. We then mind-mapped different texts we could use in geography lessons, and had the chance to start to develop our own DART activity.

This week was the first opportunity to spend time in schools, with Wednesday, Thursday and Friday  spent in our SE school introducing us to school life. During our SE placement we have lots of different tasks to complete, and my first day in school was spent completing one called “Pupil Pursuit” where I had to follow a pupil around for the day, in all of their lessons, to observe them and gain an insight from their point of view. I had to focus on the content and structure of each lesson, who my pupil sat with and where, how much they completed in the lesson and how successful they were, how they interact with other pupils and respond to the teacher and what we thought about their attitude, commitment and learning in each lesson. My pupil was a lovely Year 11 boy, a little stressed as was starting coursework in several lessons and going through a practice test in another, under the pressure of GCSEs. He was also frustrated as he had suffered an accident at the beginning of term, and could not take part in his favourite subject, PE, or any sports that he played for quite a long period of time. His frustration was also apparent when moving between lessons, as it took him much longer than the rest of the class, as he had to walk to reception, get the key and use the lift to get to different levels of the school. This meant that he would always arrive to his next lesson late – he was never let out of his previous lesson early – and he would always miss the introduction to the lesson. A friend or the teacher would always have to help him catch up and let him know what they were doing. This definitely needs to be considered in lesson planning in order to take account of his needs, and also the effect that his injury might have on his mood/attitude as a whole. It was also very interesting to see his different levels of engagement in each lesson; it was easy to see how confident he felt in each subject and his relationship with each teacher. This shows the importance of establishing good relationships with your pupils, being personable and showing that you care; as they will be much more engaged and enjoy your lessons more.

I did another task the following day called “Teacher Pursuit”, following a teacher for a day to get to know a typical working day. I was following a DT teacher, so observed all of his lessons, and had a conversation about his workload, planning and preparation, what he does in the evenings and weekends etc. My expectations were pretty accurate, having already worked in schools for a year. My teacher got in to school at about 8am, and uses the mornings to catch up with the rest of his department and prepare anything for the day. He stays after school every day for about an hour, completing any tasks that need doing, then goes home and takes about an hour off then spends a 1 or 2 hours marking and planning. Most weekends he can take off completely, and he said this was because of his subject, unlike English or Maths with many more classes and much more marking. This day was also really good enabling me to see lessons outside my subject area, where lessons are more practical-based. I think this teacher’s working life is really well-balanced, and I want to be able to use my time effectively, so enjoy the same work-life balance.

The last day of the week I started getting to know a pupil with special educational needs, observing them in one lesson and becoming familiar with the school policy on SEN and how many pupils carry statements of special needs. We have to develop and work on this task every week, continuing our work with a SEN pupil to improve our knowledge and understanding of different needs.

Our first three days in school were so exciting and jam-packed with tasks and just generally becoming more familiar with the school. I didn’t even have a chance to visit geography till the last day! Overall it just made me so impatient and wanting to get started working with the classes I am going to be teaching!

Week 2: Teaching and effective lesson planning

Our second week began with a lecture of the history of education, with everyone from all PGCE subjects. We do not need to know this for any assessment or any QTS standard, but for an understanding of the changes that have affected education throughout history, and how this has an impact on its current form today and informs current decisions. For example, why do we have an academic year that starts in September after such a long summer break, why do we teach certain subjects, why is it split into discrete subjects, why do we have 1-hour lessons, and why do we have exams? All the answers to these questions are informed by a historical understanding, and give us an insight into what we value in education.

I knew that education is impacted by politics, but I did not realise the extent to which it is, and how this influence has increased over time, to now where one person, the Education Secretary has so much power and influence over this system. Education has a clear political agenda, and is vulnerable to the changing political views and aims of successive governments.

We then built on the knowledge debate from the first week and discussed Geographical Enquiry in our first subject session of the week. We used Margaret Roberts work and how geographical enquiry should create a need to know, generate curiosity and generate speculation in pupils, looking at how to start this enquiry process and choose an initial stimulus. The geographical significance of lessons is a very important planning question,  where you need to justify why you have chosen a particular topic, linking it to key geographical concepts, why it is relevant, and how you are going to highlight this to pupils. We worked through one enquiry task to demonstrate the process, using a Youtube video of an old Irish folk song (“Kilkelly”) to explore Irish migration during the potato famine.

We then moved on to looking at how this fits into medium and long term curriculum planning, thinking about coherence, progression and continuity in the geography schemes of work through evaluating examples in groups. Key skills of effective questioning and explaining were discussed in the afternoon, using Bloom’s Taxonomy and Socratic questioning.

The next day focussed on lesson planning, following on from yesterday and practicing how we will be planning our lessons in our SE (School Experience) school using their schemes of work. The importance of a good lesson plan was stressed, and this makes the teaching a lot easier. We evaluated different lesson plans and formed our own preferred layout of a plan. We then had to practice lesson planning and using our own layout, and in pairs, were each given a topic to plan a lesson for. Our plan had to include a 10-minute part explanation which we would “teach” to half of the class on Friday (each pair was split in half, one would teach in the morning and one in the afternoon, so everyone heard each topic). My topic was hydrographs, and we spent the rest of the afternoon working on our plans.

I missed Wednesday and Thursday as I was in Plymouth, finally graduating! Luckily I did not miss much – we were given time off to catch up on reading and plan for Friday, so I missed my tutorial session and an afternoon on teaching strategies, which I still haven’t caught up on! But I had a lovely time in Plymouth, although sad as that chapter of my life is now completely over!

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I finished preparing for my micro-teaching on Thursday afternoon once I was back from Plymouth. I was so tired after being in a car for so long and travelling so much in a short space of time, so it was hard to focus and stay motivated. Luckily, I remembered studying hydrographs at school, and had also helped in a hydrographs lesson during my placement year, so it didn’t take ages to plan and make a presentation.

Our micro-teaching on Friday was filmed, mine was about halfway through the morning. Standing up in front of the group, even though I knew them all, was still nerve-wracking. I think I spoke pretty fast during my first slide, I remember being up there and thinking, “Right, stop panicking, slow down and take a deep breath”. Every time I had to go to the computer to click and change the slide, used that time to take a deep breath and relax and stay calm. I had practiced what I was going to say the night before, and I think I remembered all the key facts, and spoke at a fairly good slow pace. I did not interact or ask any questions during my explanation, just asked students to annotate their hydrograph, so I should ask more questions in the future to check their understanding along the way. After my explanation, we did make a list of success criteria on the board, and students listed elements that would make a good hydrograph. It was definitely good to practice teaching something, and a really good idea to film us, as actually being up there is a blur, but the video allows us to reflect on how we did, any issues and just see what we look and sound like!

hydrograph1

hydrograph2

hydrograph3

(screenshots from my hydrographs teaching)