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A weblog designed to share Geography resources with students and colleagues

Monday, September 28, 2009

What you think of Mrs Marta

Categories: s1 and s2
Just a quick post for our lesson tomorrow. I asked 1@10 to give me their initial impression of a favela, including its appearance and how they would feel to live or visit there. Here it is, I wonder if it will change after finishing watching Acerola in our clip?

Mountain People

Catgegories: Glaciation
My s3 class only had a brief couple of periods on mapping and I have been reminded by them (how conscientious is this!) that they are due an assessment on Glaciation soon. I think tomorrow, we'll take a period out and use it to discover the map. As I went walking today on Buachaille Etive Mor, I thought I could use the experience and bring it in to the class. I had planned to tweet on the walk, but the weather was terrible and as I have detailed here, almost ruined my phone. I decided to tweet retrospectively using an account I set up for use in the class creating narratives and take my journey step by step. I thought this would be an ideal opportunity to use students map skills as they could try to map the tweets using some clues I have dropped in. The second aspect of the mapwork involved some questioning from me. As the weather at the summit meant that visibility was very poor, I have asked the class to tell me what I missed out on in terms of the views. Between mapping the tweets and doing this, I thought that students would have a good opportunity to use their geographical vocabulary for physical features of the landscape. The third aspect of the mapping through the tweets is where I have mentioned either land uses or conflicts. I am going to ask the class to find where these might be occuring and why e.g. Why is the hotel or the small patch of forestry sited where they are on the map, or why is footpath erosion a problem on the high ridge.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Lovely Biscuits! (well, just the tin...)

Categories: Limestone

Thought the limestone lesson with the little experiment went better than it ever has the other day. Not sure if this is because I am getting competent at teaching it, or because the group of students were so responsive- I think we might go with the latter there though ;) We have since started watching a video about the creation of limestone landscapes, but I think I'll pause the class for a bit at the start of the lesson and use an activity not altogether dissimilar to the 'can of worms' one I blogged about last post. I have in the past asked students to write on a post-it note something about a new topic that they would like to find out, or that so far, they don't understand. I then take in the post-its in a tin, read a few through to the class and then (have to say, this bit never goes down well) tell the students that I'll be coming back round with the tin-at which point, they have to pick one of the post-its out, prepare for a few minutes (or as homework) and then deliver a mini-lesson to the person with the question. Dead simple, but really effective at prompting students to take a bit of responsibility for their learning.

Cover Version

Categories: Rural Land Resources, Rural, Geography General
Got 4 cover lessons tomorrow, and been having a look back through the blog at ways to maybe break up the work that has been left. Higher have just started looking at land use issues in coastal areas and we did a bit of work today about both potential conflicts. I used an idea of Alan Parkinsons, found in this great collaborative presentation called 'can of worms'. Students were given a contentious issue e.g 'Leave homes threatened by cliff erosion unprotected' and had to decide whether to stop or allow the development. We got a good discussion of the issues in coastal areas from this and how they are not always straightforward. After this, we watched a video about coastal management, which looked at the various ways in which the coast could be protected from wave action. This reminded me of a classtools dustbin that I had created as a really simple starter before, so I'm going to use it as a recap at the start of tomorrows lesson:

Click here for full screen version

Miss Armstrongs s3 class are doing a mapwork exercise and today my time was pretty much dominated by a small group who had been on retreat and had not looked at any mapwork or feature recognition. This meant that others in the class were pretty much left to get on with the questions and I sensed a bit of confusion about a couple of the tasks. Tomorrow, with the help of Gavin Brock, I hope to take the class through the basics of interpreting the map, particularly in relation to land uses. Thanks be for 3D mapping!
s4 classes, depending on which one, are looking at environmental issues surrounding farms or urban sprawl. I am thinking about an activity involving post it notes...more on this in the next post, as I'll be doing something similar with my own s3 class. Right, back to my lot now...

Post Donna Marta

5Ws Template City of Men
Categories: s1 and s2
The 5 Ws exercise that we are going to use in class is above. This is adapted from something that I saw Christine Llloyd Staples use at a conference last year. For my s1, now that we have watched the video clip of Acerola in the Donna Marta favela, I am looking for the same again:-
1) How would you describe the favela from the video clip (have your thoughts changed?)
2) How would you describe life and people in the favelas?
Remember, only list the words, no need for long sentences as I am going to be copying and pasting all the text. Homework due for Tuesday, all you need to do is leave it here as a comment :-)

Pre Donna Marta

Catgeories: s1 and s2
Got a busy day tomorrow, covering quite a few classes (only fair as Miss Armstrong has taken my Advanced Higher away on fieldwork). This is for my s1, and will allow me to collect responses for a wordle. We are beginning to look at cities in Brazil and I want to gauge what your first impressions of a favela are. Here are a few images, please use the comment link underneath to a) list words which you think accurately describe the favela b) would describe how you would feel if you were visiting the area or lived in it:After you have left a comment, I'll be showing you a ten minute video clip, which might reinforce your views or might change them significantly. Your homework will be to comment on the post above with your impressions of life in the Donna Marta favela -see above.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Acid Rock...

Click here for full screen version

Categories: Limestone, s1 and s2, Advanced Higher
Going to mash two previous lessons together tomorrow, providing I have a) the time, and b) the kind co-operation of my colleagues in the Chemistry department. We are just about done with Glaciated Landscapes. I think the kids are ready to move on, and anything that we need to go back over can be done in revision sessions and mapwork catch up. We are going to begin looking at limestone scenery in the British Isles and will start by an activity based around experiences. I have previously given out small pieces of limestone and let students examine them for a few minutes- What do they feel like to touch, how would you describe the appearance, looking closer under the glass-what do you see, are there any shiny crystals and so on? Then, we use the acid dropper on a larger limestone piece and see what happens. Some of the students are usually able to work out that acid and alkali are reacting, and that's where the idea of rainwater as a weak acid would normally come into the lesson. We then try and guage what kind of impact that would have on this type of rock surface-great for bringing to the fore weathering, but a different kind to the freeze-thaw that the class have already learned about. Tomorrow, I would hope to follow this up with a lights out activity above, hiding the pavement above malham and asking students to describe a landscape that very few will have seen.
s1 were experimenting with etherpad on Thursday and our biggest task will be to move away from that experimentation I feel. We will probably spend ten minutes research time at the start of the lesson before focusing on our debate, quite similar, but not entirely the same as last year. I also might ask for each group to make a closing statement to give them a chance to round up their thoughts.
Finally, I see Advanced Higher for all of one double period this week as they go off to do some physical fieldwork with Miss Armstrong for a few days. I don't see any point in doing any new GMT work as I think we are reasonably well prepared for the exercises, so it's Issues tomorrow, and, I fear, some people looking for a new topic...

Friday, September 18, 2009

Do Farmers twitter and facebook?

Categories: Rural
I have an s4 class who I share with Miss Gordon. I only see them once a week and sometimes because of that, continuity in the lessons can be a bit difficult. On the other hand, there's always an opportunity to do something a little different while my colleague does all the hard work ;) We have
been studying rural geography and, having been suitably inspired by ideas and links courtesy of Tony Cassidy and Alan Parkinson, I thought I would have a go at two things. I suggested to the class that we try 'talking' to a farmer through twitter, an idea Tony had used when studying Hurricane Katrina with a group. They seemed keen on this, and we arranged it a week or so after discussing the possibility. I was unsure how the exercise would work and whether I would have too much waiting throughout the period, so I set the class a note taking task throughout the exercise. Fortunately, Gerry Chalmers, our farming friend from Norfolk and a close mate of Alan ;) had provided the answers to some questions we had sent in advance:
The class took notes on a variety of things pre-interview, such as his views on diversification, conservation and the recession, all the while discussing why he might have certain views or have made certain decisions. The writing wasn't onerous and we mostly talked about the responses.
When we had our live part of the discussion, there were a few things I noted. It could be quite stop-start due to the lag in responses, and with the benefit of hindsight, something like twitcam or tinychat would maybe be more immediate. That said, when I tried to wrap up the questioning, I got a volley of unanswered ones from the class, so it would appear that despite my fears, the activity did keep them involved and interes
ted. The note taking also helped keep a focus during quiet times. I also noticed that this activity allowed us to a) go into much more depth than the text based resources allowed us, and b) we learned a lot of good up to the minute examples of changes in farming which could definitely be used in exam responses. Thanks to Angus Willson, who took screen dumps of the whole conversation in chronological order (although it might not come out like this!) Here are the screenshots:-

I was really pleased with the outcome of the exercise, and it seems to me that twitter, used in the correct way, is a great way to get characters of interest to the education of the students into the classroom. Something I'll definitely try again.
So, where does facebook fit in? Well, last Friday, after arranging our discussion for the following week with the farmer, we looked at what was happening to rural villages. The class have been studying France and the Paris Basin, so we moved south a little bit to Montperroux and watched a video looking at the development of dormitory settlements along new transport links. Tony had a great idea during the summer around 'What if they were on Facebook?' and it involved creating a mock facebook/bebo/myspace for anything/anyone that a class might be studying. I decided to set a ahomework to create a profile for a typical resident of Montperroux and it was really interesting to see the mix of characters that were created, from old to young, and how accurate the portrayals could be. We collected them through edmodo and I am either too tired or not smart enough to remember how to make this work public, but as soon as I work it out, I will share some excellent work on here. In the meantime, Tony, if you want a look, give me a shout and I'll send you some of the files :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Lesson Handout (for me)

Categories: Glaciation, Rural Land Resources
Blogging a nice idea from Miss Jamieson, which I used today and will definitely use again. I was struggling to think of a way to teach National Parks/Voluntary Bodies and their role in managing land use conflicts. I wanted to do something quite active with the class as the previous period had been a trawl through a homework where there had been some difficulty. All of the ideas that I had or had read about seemed either quite contrived or too complicated (if anyone knows of a lesson idea here that I've missed, please let me know). I ended up borrowing my colleagues lesson.
Simple starter- Students used a a source to extract short bullet points about the purpose and role of both the National Parks and the National Trust (5 minute time limit). Groups of 3 to 4 then set in stations around the class. Each station had a statement about an activity where there was a potential for conflict. In the groups, two questions had to be considered:
1) Which of the organisations would most likely deal with the conflicts presented?
2) What methods would they use to do so?
Again, this had a time limit- 3 minutes at each of the stations and then moving on. I like this type of activity as the students have to literally think on their feet a bit, and are constantly being presented with new challenges. Also, highlighted for me a less well developed idea of what the NT does, so we have been exploring a follow up activity where we are hoping to bring the NTS into class through twitter if this is possible. If not, we have still identified our next steps, so the exercise has been entirely valid. Thanks again to Miss Jamieson for a simple but really effective lesson.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Building Blocks

Categories: s1 and s2

I am pretty dreadful at the game 'jenga' but I love using it in class as a teaching tool. I have used it to show sustainability when teaching about the decline of old industries and exhaustion of non-renewable resources. On Friday, I used it with my s1 class as a starter activity to help learn about the rainforest ecosystem. I had asked a different class on Thursday to share their understanding of the term 'ecosystem' and was quite surprised that few people in the class were really confident in what it meant or how it worked. We had started learning about the rainforest through looking at tribal Amerindians as an extension of our study of culture in Brazil and had looked at how they manage their use of the rainforest and I wanted to show how a wider use would have a bigger impact. So we played jenga. No mention of why, we just played.

The students were determined to keep the tower growing and the game going. Some would try to move a block and have second thoughts, others would be quite blase in stripping their block out and many took great care but the blocks still collapsed. We even managed to involve Mrs Graham, one of the deputes who visited our class during the lesson, who looked visibly stressed at the possibility of knocking everything down. This was great for our later discussion, because it chrsytallised the way some people or organisations view the rainforest and their impact on it. From the ensuing discussion we managed to decide that all the blocks were connected and, regardless of how you move them, you still weaken the overall structure. So we then named some of the blocks. What if we called this block logging, this mining, this hydro-electric etc? This highlighted the vast competition for use of resources, and how each builds their success on removing the resource which actually supports it.

We also looked at the idea of the blocks as representing a species of plant or animal which disappeared as activities spread into the rainforest, and how all of those species were connected as a web of support which kept the rainforest ecosystem from collapsing. Finally, we brought it back to the tribes and how careful use might have less impact. I started a game to show the class and put some blocks on top, but some back into the tower, and the students compared this to the fallow periods that tribes leave for former clearings to replenish themselves. Asides in the discussion also led us to think about the actual role that the forest and the canopy play in keeping the whole delicate system in balance and what happens when that protection is removed. My own thoughts are that this activity gives students a much deeper understanding of the connections than simply teacher talk or use of texts. The jenga is cheap (about two pounds in ASDA), easy to set up, involves just about everyone in the class and from previous use, sticks in the mind of the participants for the right reasons as well as the fact they get to play a game in class. Now, must check that those blocks were from sustainable forests... ;)

Monday, September 07, 2009

The Pictures on my Wall

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This is the s3 activity for today. There are 3 different aspects of a glaciated upland landscape. One is the honeypot town of Keswick, the second is Striding Edge Arete and the third is Loch Sloy Dam and Hydro scheme. For each, you will be using post-it notes for 3 different categories. Colour code these. The categories are Land uses, Land use conflicts and resolutions. For each image try to identify what these would be and where possible, where they would be within the picture.

Sunday, September 06, 2009


Categories: s1 and s2, Advanced Higher, Glaciation
I have been wanting to use wallwisher in class for a long time. When I first saw this tool, I immediately thought that it would be a great way for students to collaborate around a topic and I liked the way that it had been used before an education conference that I followed through twitter and blog postings. As it's only compatible with recent internet browsers, I couldn't really demo it at school, but having got round that problem, I'm trying it out with two classes tomorrow as a homework. With s1, we will shortly be looking at the rainforest, and I would like them to bring a little to the table before we start the topic. I'm posting a wall for the students to share facts. I will be asking that they limit the time that they research the topic to ten minutes, after which time they must be prepared to share at least on fact that they did not know beforehand. Students can't duplicate each others facts, so there is also an incentive to do the homework early. I'm also going to ask them to credit their source. That way, they are also getting into a good habit regarding plagiarism- in early years at high school, the copy and paste is used far too often.
For Advanced Higher, I set aside the Monday double period for folio work, of which the issues essay is a part. I have found that initially, students can find it quite difficult to establish exactly how they should be critiqueing a source, and get bogged down in trying to make the author out as a liar! For this, I am using wallwisher and posting an article that a student of mine used last year in their final submission. It is by Nigel Lawson and is full of inaccurate science, political agenda, exaggeration and contradiction. For that reason, it's a good starting point! I'm asking my students to fill the wall with comments to show examples of exaggeration, bias, emotive language and challengeable conclusions. I think it's easier to get the views of a number here and see where it takes us in our discussions. I would hope that breaking the source down like this will make it much easier to do in future on their own.
Wallwisher, I think, has an amazing range of possibilities for the classroom. Some colleagues and I have been collaborating on a wall to highlight some possibilities. If you are a teacher and can think of a way in which you have used or would like to use it, perhaps you would like to contribute your ideas to our collection here or above. Many thanks in advance.
Finally, I will be relying on my crutch in times of crisis, classtools, to enliven the s3 period tomorrow. Similar to wallwisher, there is a post-it function, and I'd like to use it with images as a background to ask students to locate possible land use conflicts within a landcsape by dragging the post-its and explaining the issue. I'm thinking of an image of a honeypot town, one of a popular walkers route, and one of a hydro scheme. Unlike the work with wallwisher, I'll be looking for submissions in pairs, as I want to get a better idea of knowledge gaps (not enough laptops for one each unfortunately).

Thursday, September 03, 2009

I've got a brand new combine harvester...

Categories: Rural, Advanced Higher, s1 and s2

Thank goodness for the blog back catalogue, have been pillaging it extensively in the last 3 weeks while juggling commitments. Just blogging tomorrows lessons.As you can see from the picture above, rural geography figures. Might introduce my s4 (who I see once a week) to Gerald Chalmers of East Anglia. He sounds a little down in the dumps, but wondered if they would maybe like to talk to him through twitter at some point during a lesson and ask him for themselves what's bothering him. Alan Parkinson put me on to Gerald, so many thanks ;) A big thank you also to Tony Cassidy, who has let me rip the audio from Henshaw Farm, a resource which I love for a few reasons. First, it relies on listening skills rather than a visual stimulus, which in my opinion makes students concentrate on the content a bit more. Second, there is so much that can be drawn out of it too - changes to the farming landscape of Britain, changes to the farming system, farming policy and the associated problems/responses.

Advanced Higher have just about succesfully negotiated the first stats biggie, chi-square. I personally sometimes think that a statistical test just underlines something you already know, but funnily enough, one of the examples we used in class looking at land use and altitude threw up a fairly unexpected result. This was quite good for talking about the geographical study and what to do when your results don't show the relationship you expect. Tomorrow, we continue with a cross-section of the same sample area which is really aimed at showing how you can use different techniques to reinforce conclusions.

Finally, I was very annoyed with myself for not saving a file that I'd recorded of my s1 singing. I had planned to send this to my class posterous from my phone as we had some absolutely fantastic songs and poems based around the theme of the Rio Carnival, bringing the geography of migration into the celebration of culture. Fortunately, I do have the written version, so I may try to put some of these online, and depending on the efforts from tomorrows rotation, try again with the audio. 3 weeks gone already! Enjoy the weekend :)