Tag Archives: revision

GA conference 2015 materials #GAConf15

Well it’s been a long time coming but I’ve been a wee bit distracted with leading an Iceland trip and getting back to school mode! The Geography Association conference this year was ace. Really enjoyable. Thank you so much to all of you who came to my Revision Games workshop! I was truly surprised to have standing room only and flattered by the lovely comments you gave in feedback. I really hope that you can find one tiny thing that is useful and then take it and make your own.

Below is the presentation from the Revision Games session. If you download the file you can see in the comments box in powerpoint which explain each section.

I was also privileged to help with delivering a Discover the World workshop alongside Simon Ross sharing the website resources from Discover Geography . This excellent site shares teacher resources for Key Stage 3 – 5 for a range of locations including Iceland, Norway, Azores, etc. that have been created by teachers from experiences in the field and can be used before, during and after trips or as virtual fieldwork and just great case studies. I shared some materials from the website that had been created from a teacher inspection trip to the Azores, and just explained how I have modified and used these materials for myself in the classroom. If you want to have details on the different sites and what we saw in the Azores, then check through my posts from the visit in April 2014.

Finally, this year’s GA conference saw the first ever TeachMeet courtesy of David Rogers‘ badgering which was an epic success. Lucy Oxley and the GA team organised a fantastic event, and it was thanks to sponsorship from Discover the World. When we first stepped into the venue I got nervous – worried we wouldn’t pull it off, that nobody would come, that it was such a big room and I would muck up, all sorts! But it was so so good. The reason it was good? Purely down to the range of presenters in the room, the Twitterati interacting online (thanks to Rich Allaway for live streaming it), and the networking and rapport going on in the room itself. Particular credit has to go to Alan Parkinson for sharing some great ideas in a hilarious way (‘who is David Rogers anyway?’!) and to Paul Berry for closing the show in style. I had known Paul as a fairly quiet, unassuming, gentle kinda chap with a cheeky smile and penchant for vino…but he blew me away with his presentation at the end. Coming up to retirement in a few months he bounced all over the stage squawking blow-up parrots, throwing inflatable globes around, sharing all sorts of whacky and brilliant ideas, and showing that he is a brilliant educator. Loved it. All the other presentations were fantastic as well, and great to see new people who haven’t spoken before too – I merely mention Alan and Paul because they made me laugh so much. Epic evening so thank you all. David has a full run down of the event and the Google Hangout video archive on his blog here. Cannot wait for next year’s!

My own TeachMeet 6 minutes was based on a title thrown on me: ‘Bill Shakespeare was a Geographer’ and just has a few ideas with quotes from text for how to embed good old Bill and literacy in general into geography lessons. Ticks the boxes of ‘literacy in every lesson’ and ‘we are all teachers of English’ as well as just being good fun, useful, enlightening, and ultimately improving literacy and writing analysis which good geographers have to be able to do. If you want to know what I was rambling on about during each slide then look at the video on David’s blog, scroll to about 44mins and you’ll be able to hear some waffle.

All in all, GA Conf 2015 was great. Really enjoyable sessions attended and great to take part in. Roll on Derby 2016.

Getting messy to get to grips with rivers

I don’t know about yours, but sometimes my students struggle with visualising what features and processes look like in real life. Mention a cross-section or long profile of a river and you’re likely to see a mass of blank faces. Having checked through my year 10 books at the weekend I noticed a lot were struggling with the concept of river transportation, how sediment varies along the course, and how the river profile changes. So I decided to get a bit messy.

After a nice walk with the dog, I collected a load of different material from a nearby river (with some substitutes from my garden to top it up!). When students came in to the class they were working in groups. Each group had:

1 x A2 sugar paper

A Selection of felt pens / glue / sellotape

1 x bag of likely river materials (a mixture of sand, mud, silt, shingle, different sized pebbles, twigs)

1 x plastic wallet filled with selection of keywords (e.g. traction, suspension, river cliff, meander, deposition, etc,.)

1 x image of large boulders with a scale (I wasn’t going to carry any boulders in now was I?!)

I set students the challenge of using the materials and resources to create a 3d cross-section of a river, showing how sediment varies along the profile of a river. They had to annotate the cross-section with keywords and describe what happens in the different courses. They then went around and evaluated each other’s work. The follow-up after the messiness was a piece of extended writing with a bingo element.

Some images of their work are below:

‘Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.’ (Benjamin Franklin)

Coastal cake craft challenge

We kick off GCSE Geography with the Coasts unit and study the OCR B course. Although doing this unit first gives us the opportunity to get out in the field and practise fieldwork skills, students (and maybe teachers!) can sometimes find it quite dry and repetitive. Not much chance maybe for different activities, more just learning a lot of processes and landforms and keywords? I would always class myself as a physical Geographer first, but I can see that it might seem repetitive or dull just learning step-by-step how something is created. Maybe more interesting once you can put all that background theory into context when visiting real places, or by doing decision making exercises about coastal management. Anyway.

We’ve always done the tried and tested (and tasty) Angel Cake wave cut platforms suggested by Tony Cassidy which works a treat. Model the step-by-step erosion and creation of a wave cut notch / platform with cake and show this under a visualiser to the class. Then if you’re feeling kind let them have some cake. Works!

This year we thought we’d let students have a go themselves. Classes worked through the theory as a class first, following traditional exam questions / discussion / explanation from teacher and group enquiry (see lesson powerpoint below – NB, this isn’t all done in one lesson!). When we got to the wave cut platforms part we just discussed the process as a class briefly, showed an animation and then I set the challenge.

Students had at their disposal the following resources: cake (ideally layered cake like angel cake or mini slices cakes), a selection of sweets, paper, pens, mini whiteboards and pens, a flip camera or tablet or mobile, and textbooks. The challenge was to create a resource that demonstrated the creation of a wave cut platform and evolution of a headland to then be recorded somehow and shared. Students were not allowed to eat anything until they had completed the resource, shared, and completed a follow-up exam question. Mean I know.

Two classes were doing this activity in parallel so myself and Sam Atkins were flitting in between, cajoling and cheering students on, adding an element of competition as to which group would produce the best resource and checking on knowledge.

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Some examples of videos produced are here (apologies for the sideways angle!) :

Once the students had completed and shared their resources they had to be able to explain the process step-by-step and complete an exam question. This will also be followed up again with a starter exam question next lesson asking for an annotated diagram to explain the process. We did note that the lower ability children in particular seemed to grasp the overall process better following the making of their resource, whereas we had to push higher ability learners to remember to still use keyterms even though they were playing with cake! Overall, some great results and better quality answers.

NB – it was pointed out that I forgot the customary quote…so, far be it from me to not learn from constructive feedback! Here goes:

“Learning is more effective when it is an active rather than passive process” (Euripides)

or, if we feel less cerebral…

“My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it” (Boris Johnson)

Revision games #ukedchat

Tonight’s #ukedchat focus on the role of play and games in learning was really interesting. Some quite polarised views on the validity of games and playful learning, and perhaps some misconceptions by others about what is meant by play. Anyway, this isn’t to discuss all that. You can read the thread on twitter. My view is that there is a role for games and play in learning, just as there is a role for pretty much anything. My mantra : learning, by any means. Games and play aren’t the destination, and should not be the focus, but they are can be a means to an end. Whether those games be simulations, trading games, xBox, dice, snakes and ladders, whatever – if the focus is on clear learning outcomes, and if expectations are high, then there’s nothing to lose. Well, except the game itself. And that in itself is a learning tool. Learn by failing or fail to learn.

So, here are some games / play type activities I’ve used for GCSE revision. I’ll also happily crack out the playdough, or dice games for learning grids and literacy etc,. but this is revision. In our classes, we teach A*-G in the same group. Quite a challenge. How do you differentiate? Simple: jenga, twister and bunting 😉

This was from the last #tmpompey where I shared the story.


Keyword Jenga

So how does it all work? I have to admit I got the idea from the fabulous work of John Sayers during #TLAB13 (an awesome event in itself, get yourself along to #TLAB14  – sign up here) when he spoke about using jenga at times. And in true professional manner I just took some genius idea that somebody else had, and (to quote Louis Walsh) made it my own.

I used this with my GCSE classes, and with a class I taught at another school whom I had never met before. Trialled it and then bought sets of the stuff off eBay for the department. The basic principle is keyword practice. I used stickers for keywords and stuck them on the ends of the jenga pieces. Since the nature of jenga is to remove pieces and then rebuild the structure you need to think about making the game last – it would be somewhat demoralising and pointless for it to be over in seconds with it collapsing. To help with this, repeat the keywords about 3 or 4 times throughout the box. I use about 15 keywords for each set and just repeat them. Then make sure they are muddled up when the set is built!

The first time I used this game was to revise coastal processes and landforms. We had keywords like ‘stacks’, ‘hydraulic action’, ‘longshore drift’, etc,. There are two ways you could run the game that I’ve tried.

1) Students work in a group (about 4-6 ideally). One student is the quiz master and has the list of keywords. On rotation, a word is called out and a student has to remove one of those keyword pieces and then define the word out loud. Another student has the proper definition and acts as the checker. If the player defines correctly, move on to the next go. If not, they may ask for help or attempt again. Keep going until the structure collapses!

2) Alternatively. Students are still in groups. You are the quizmaster general. Games are being played by the groups concurrently. You read out a definition or description of a word, being as vague or specific as you wish, and students can work on their own or discuss as a group to define and choose the correct word and then remove it.

revision jenga

Either way, it works well if you have simultaneous games going on around the room as you can act as the compere and provide more competition between them – “Team 1 have built to 17 stories high – can you beat them?!” or “Team 3 is struggling to define X, bonus piece if you can define it for them”. I tried this with both year 10 and year 11, and then the following week’s lesson started with a keyword test – with significantly better results! Students said they felt much more confident.


Revision twisterOk, I suppose this game should come with a health warning. No students were harmed in the process. I fully risk assessed the area and chose a suitable location. Promise.

Now I’ll assume we’ve all had a flirtation with Twister at some point? So how can you make this relevant to revision? Simple, link short answer exam questions / case study facts / keywords to the spin of the dial. For those of you who don’t know, Twister is a mat with dots on it of 4 different colours. There is a spinner dial with the command ‘right hand’, ‘left hand’, ‘right foot’, ‘left foot’ and a corresponding colour.


A games-master spins the dial and reads the command to the victim, sorry, player. So, for example, it could be Right Hand on Red. Players then take turns to follow commands and gradually become more and more muddled and twisted until someone drops out. Survival of the fittest.

Again, this is a team game. You can choose to give more or less support depending on your students – differentiate. Students can either figure out answers alone or with help, and you can provide tips or suggestions to help out as needed.

So, in groups of about 4-6 again, you need a games-master in charge of the spinner and a quiz-master to pose the questions and judge answers. The quiz master is given a set of questions, and some possible answers. This could be definitions, factual recall of case study detail, place specific information, processes, etc,. For example, Q1) What term means the proportion of a population working in industries such as mining or farming? A1) Primary employment. The games-master spins the dial, the player moves into position, the quiz-master poses the question, and the player has to answer.

Twister Q+A

If they answer correctly, move on to the next player’s move. If incorrect, spin and quiz them again or they can ask a friend for a clue. This works simultaneously with ‘Taboo’ really as you don’t want other students giving the answer away by saying the actual words.

I built my questions so that the were a range of either short factual recall style questions, or case study detail questions. You, as the overall Quiz Master (or Mistress) supreme, get to move around each group checking answers are up to scratch and reminding them of how many marks each question would be worth in an exam or what grade they equated to.

Of course, this gets messy. And loud. We took over the dining room during the last lesson of the day and I’m not sure the Head was entirely convinced at first but he did visit them in class the next week and seemed satisfied.

Now, I like games and playing as much as the next girl, but there was a moral to the end of this story too – they had to learn! I took them back to the classroom with 15minutes remaining and they all thought that the working was over…until I presented them with a timed case study exam question. questionsThey had 12minutes to complete, and had to include as many of the answers from the game as possible – games building on top of games because now they were kind of playing Bingo (which is also another great tool to include in helping with extended writing and developing literacy, but that is another topic). They moaned and groaned at first, but then produced great quality answers. And it wasn’t just short term either – they still remembered the case study detail the following week. Hoorah!


Ok, maybe not a game as such but still playful learning. I fully expected this to only be popular with some students and was surprised when they all got into it. Must be the vintage / retro era we are in! The basic premise is just to make revision a bit more interesting, and to share.


I did this with my Year 11s when they were starting to get a bit frazzled, and some were in and out doing exams elsewhere. I put a selection of processes, case study names, landforms and topics into a hat (literally) and then students pulled a piece of paper out and were then in charge of producing a piece of revision bunting on that topic. They could use any resource they wished in order to complete the mission (textbook, mobile device, internet, etc,.) – the only rule being that they were now in charge of helping someone else’s revision and so it must be good quality. Corporate responsibility. The one example of a poor piece of work (from a cheeky lad who decided he’d try to be daft) I hyped up as being a fine example of what not to do, and told him I’d be leaving it on the wall all year as a reminder to others to do better. The boy was in my tutor group and I knew him very well so he could take the banter, and proceeded to then produce two quality pieces and proved himself (but I still left the original shameful piece on the wall as a reminder to him to not cut corners!). As I said, I was surprised at how they got into this and the bunting went on display around the room for them to all visit and learn from. Most of them took photos of sections to take home with them. It could be a good little end-of-topic piece to do.


That’ll do for now. As I said, the games and the playing are a means to an end. But a very welcome one and some relief to students who are getting stressed or struggling with concepts. And for those visual and kinaesthetic learners out there! But keep in mind there always needs to be a clear focus, clear outcome, and some sort of follow-up in a more traditional sense. At the end of the day, they still have to sit a written exam!

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work and learning from failure.” ~ General Colin Powel