Asking for a friend

All secondary teachers look forward to the summer term. Not just because we might actually get to see daylight before and after work, but for that possibly mythical creature, ‘gained time’. Assuming you don’t end up teaching RE to stroppy teenagers after a colleague collapses in tears trying to reconcile ‘Trinity’ and ‘monotheism’, you might get a classroom to yourself. Without kids. A chance to have a cuppa and finally clear out the bottom drawer of detention forms and credits.

Until you get handed 100 pages of new syllabus and are asked to write a scheme of work for September, that is.

Science teachers across the land are currently going quietly mad about the new GCSE specifications. We’ve lost count of which draft version the boards are on, although rumours abound that they’re going to be properly published any minute now. Even if you’re planning to start in September for a two-year GCSE this is cutting it fine for buying/creating resources, let alone ordering kit for the required practicals and any new content. And if you teach the content over three years, you’ve been having to use a draft specification for real kids. Which is more than a little frightening.

Reciprocal Altruism

I’ve blogged before about the difficulties of finding resources to use without trawling through dozens of sites, each with their own login and categories. Even great sites like the eLibrary (its URL has changed but your login should be the same) can’t have everything. And every time the specifications change, we have to move everything around. If schools can share the planning then the workload can be reduced.

A school in Hampshire is holding a free “Science Curriculum in a day” event in March. Basically loads of teachers building a scheme of work as best they can. It’s organised by @MartynReah who tweeted about it, and I wondered if I could help. I can’t make it down there (although I will be trying to contribute via twitter: #teacher5adayScience ) and I suspect that’s true for many of my readers too. So how about crowdsourcing a resource list instead?

I’ve created a GoogleForm. It should take just a couple of minutes to complete for each online resource you’d like to share. Copy and paste the URL, tick a few boxes so they can be sorted by subject/topic and type of resource, and you’re done. The resulting spreadsheet will be freely available (although it’s currently pretty empty) and be used by those who can attend the day as a starting point.

EDIT: I’ve sorted a couple of bugs so specifying Chemistry topics doesn’t lead you to the Physics list (completely accidental I promise!) and you can now describe something as ‘All Subjects’. No need to repeat submissions but please add to the seven so far!

(I’ve suggested to Martyn that a Dropbox folder would allow colleagues to donate their own offline resources too, and will update this post if relevant.)


I have, according to WordPress, 132 followers. If each one of those can contribute a couple of links between now and the event, that’s over 250 teacher-recommended resources for a new Scheme of Work. The more people who get involved, the better the spreadsheet will be for us all, on the day or not. Heads of Department, why not ask your teams to add a favourite resource? NQTs, this would allow you to tick the ‘sharing good practice’ box on your paperwork. Fancy helping out?

I’ve even created short links so you can stick it up on noticeboards or in staff meetings. Please share widely. I intend to be tweeting this regularly with a running total of shared resources, so please help get the numbers up.








TeachMeetMidlands 1/2

Last night – a warm summer evening – I finished work and then travelled into Derby rather than away, so I could attend a TeachMeet. If you’ve not been to one, I strongly recommend the experience; classroom teachers sharing an idea which should be usable more or less immediately. Quick talks (max 7 minutes in theory) and lots of chances to ask questions and share ideas. There’s usually coffee.

I’ll post soonish about the ideas I’ve taken away, although if you’re in a hurry you can see the quick notes I made via my CPD tracker – these are not yet proofed and will be gaining details and links when I get a chance to reflect. This post is my chance to share the resources I talked about there, and the presentation I didn’t end up doing.

Review Templates

I’m not bothering to embed the presentation, although you can have a look if you’re interested. Basically, I like to get students using the ideas to improve understanding, as a stage distinct from revision (although these are good for that too). I’ve spent a bit of time today tidying them up and you can now download a total of eight A4 pages in two sections. (They were a mixture of Word and Publisher originally – anyone know an easy way to stitch two pdfs into one file?)

Cornell Notes, Prior Planning, Fours as a pdf

These Are The Answers, PBODME, Blooms, 5Cs, Quarters as a pdf

Comments, thoughts and feedback welcome as always. The only one that’s not really self-explanatory, Cornell Notes, has its own post on this blog.

CPD Tracker

As the link above shows, I’m trying to better track (and reflect on) my CPD using a Google Form. This has lots of advantages (mobile as well as platform independent) and could potentially be used for accreditation or sharing within a group or department. In fact, I’m hoping it will get looked at as part of my #CSciTeach accreditation, which I will be blogging about soon.

My original post is probably still the most useful to explain, but you may also find the presentation helpful. This is what I would have delivered with more time, but this way I can reach those who care and avoid boring those who don’t!

(If for whatever reason the embedded version isn’t working for you, the presentation can be accessed directly.)

Please let me know what ideas, if any, are useful for you – nice to be able to show impact!

Guest post: #YorkTU

A guest post from @MissMolecules.

A couple of weeks ago a few teachers were chatting away on Twitter, generally bemoaning the fact that we would be unable to attend @alomshaha’s book launch for the Young Atheist Handbook. The book launch is in London and on a school night. Within a few tweets, and in the spirit of taking responsibility for our own CPD, Mary Whitehouse (@MaryUYSEG) and I suddenly found that we had volunteered to organise a teachmeet and social event in York during the summer holidays. I remember Alom suggested at the time that we should save the thread of tweets to show how powerful a tool Twitter can be for organising CPD events. Needless to say, I didn’t save the tweets and now I wish I had!

I am a complete novice at this kind of thing, so at Alom’s suggestion I started a poll on in an attempt to narrow down a date. Mary was unavailable at the start of the holidays and Alom had limited availability, so the dates were quickly narrowed down to the last couple of weeks in August.

Promotion of the event was simple; tweet it. After a couple of announcements and a few RTs, there had been a lot of interest. I asked people to DM email addresses and I just sent out an email with the link to the doodle poll and some information about the event. I don’t want people to think I’m being selective in any way, or this is an event by invitation only, everyone is welcome. I just need to keep track of who wants to come, and the poll is an excellent way to do this. We also now have a hashtag thanks to Linda Needham (@NeedhamL56) which is #YorkTU.

The event will be based around a teachmeet at the University of York during the day. The idea is that anyone attending can do a short (5 minute) presentation. This is informal and the subject matter can literally be anything the delegate finds interesting or pertinent and would like to share and discuss. If people feel that they would like to attend and just listen to speakers and meet the other delegates, then that’s fine too. I would really like the event to be fun, relaxed and to be an opportunity for people to chat, share ideas and good practice. We have suggested that lunch can be bring and share. There will (hopefully) be people travelling some distance to the event and this way we should have enough food for everyone.

The evening event will really be an opportunity to socialise and have fun, something we scientists are good at! Once we have a better idea of numbers, I will look at venues in York. I do have a couple of places in mind and room hire is usually free but there may be a small cost involved for any catering.

The date for #YorkYU has been finalised now for Wednesday 22nd August. I am still hoping more people will attend so if you are interested, please tweet me at @MissMolecules or leave a comment below and I’ll be in touch.

MORSE Code for Revision at #tmm11

Yesterday I attended my first TeachMeet in Lutterworth. The colleagues at TeachMeetMidlands11 (#tmm11 on Twitter) have given me loads of ideas – which I plan to blog about in a few days when I’ve had a chance to think about them – and I was also brave/daft enough to give a presentation. I like the idea of a teachmeet as an ‘unconference’ where most attendees give either a 2 or 7 minute presentation as well as meeting and swapping ideas. Like many teachers I often find the informal parts of CPD the most useful ones, where teachers swap ideas or chat between ‘organised’ sessions. Sadly I couldn’t stay for the food but the afternoon was still well-spent. @oliverquinlan summarised each presentation on Posterous here and the whole thing was also livestreamed and saved (I strongly recommend the whole thing, but for reasons of vanity am also linking directly to my bit.) Thanks to @squiggle7 and @mikemcsharry for organising it.

Lessons I learned from my Presentation

  1. Double check that you’ve got the presentation on your memory stick – then put it in the cloud anyway.
  2. Put a clock where you can see it – I think I was rushing.
  3. Ask questions – I really should have been more interactive but think I was worrying about the timing.
  4. Give myself a longer lead time to make it easier to include pictures/videos of students’ work.

The MORSE Code for Revision

I’ve blogged about this before and effective learning and revision feature regularly in my posts. The presentation I gave (also downloadable below in case I’ve not set up SlideShare properly) is adapted from ones I’ve used with students and focuses on the many varied ways revision can be made more active, and so more effective. As always I’d really value any feedback and/or suggestions.

MORSE Code for revision as a ppt.

Printable Blanks

There are several of these elsewhere on the site (have a look at Cornell Notes for Revision or check out the printables category for all the ones I remembered to label) but here are a couple I produced this week. The idea is that students should be able to fill these in with the ideas covered in lessons. I suppose they might work well as plenaries too, perhaps partially completed by the teacher. I’d also suggest students could use them to test each other, as I did during ‘speed dating revision’.

  • Inspired by Mock The Week among other things, Answers And Questions (saved as pdf) reverses what students expect. Given a list of ideas, key words or examples they need to suggest one or more questions that result in those answers. Obviously there are many possibilities. To make it more challenging they should mix up the questions, at least two for each answer, and challenge a classmate to match them up correctly.
  • Concepts Cues Consequences (saved as pdf) is a variant of the Good/Bad/Interesting approach to ideas. Students not only suggest a few reminders for basic concepts (possibly while looking at markschemes or their notes) but then suggest a couple of real world uses or implications.
  • I like concept maps but it can be tricky to use the finished product for testing. I produced Quarters Revision (saved as pdf) as a way to guide a mind map so that one quarter can be covered easily and a student – the author or a classmate – can then try to reproduce/predict what is underneath.