Tag Archives: teachmeet

#TMRGS presentations – Geography TeachMeets really are awesome

RGS So last night saw the very first TeachMeet hosted by the home of Geography, the Royal Geographical Society in London. The event was organised by the amazing Claire Brown from the RGS, Steve Brace (Head of Education), sorted by David Rogers and a tiny bit of effort myself.

What an evening! Geographers really are an awesome bunch. It was a later start than usual to allow for travel, but the enthusiasm in the room and in the virtual room from Twitter was palpable. We missed the company of other illustrious Geographers like @aknill and @robgeog, but did get a wannabe geographer from @Miss_J_Hart. And thank you to Richard Allaway for sponsoring refreshments!

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I’ve got the fun job of sharing the presentations from all the amazing presenters that night. In true TeachMeet style these were 6minute snapshots into truly professional teachers’ work and their presentations won’t be the same as hearing them speak, so for questions I suggest getting in touch! The great thing was seeing such a wide range, and each presenter kept coming back to the need to have carefully thought out sequences of learning, building curiosity and developing rigour and skills, but also making everyday lessons memorable. There was also the challenge by David, to remember that Geographers change the world!

So here’s a rough idea of who did what!

  1. We kicked off with Steve Brace defending the importance of Geography, and how statistically speaking geographers still are more employable and that the skills of GCSE and A Level v highly valued by universities and employers alike. Did you know that 10% of all PLC revenue is based on data from the OS…and geographers?! Slideshare link to presentation.
  2. The adventurous Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop from Digital Explorer shared the beautiful resources of D:E. including citizenship materials so critical to current key global issues such as refugee crises such as My Voice, My School. He also reminded us of the stunning Catlin Seaview Survey resources, e.g. virtual dives (Oh, and he’s a historian that is now working for geoscientific research!) His slideshare link here
  3. The wonderful Liz Pattison shared a range of differentiation ideas, including lead learners, learning grids (always love a learning grid!), silent debates, use of SOLO.Her slideshare presentation here
  4. Deborah Syme talked about underachievement and barriers to learning, through ‘executive dysfunction’, and potential smart solutions to these. Slideshare link
  5. Andrew Boardman shared his use of ActivInspire software for verbal feedback through sound recording and screen capture for students to keep coming back to. Loved that he emphasised the need to ‘talk like a geographer’ – so critical for success. Link: tinyurl.com/qxuheao
  6. Richard Maurice shared ideas for developing more challenge and use of better questioning. The 5Ws are not enough, we need better deeper questioning. I also liked his suggestions for subverting the #5minlessonplan by getting kids to use it as a structure for note taking / forming and answering Qs. His presentation here
  7. Rachel Hawke shared lots of ideas for encouraging creativity and curiosity, plus great use of SPAG model for proof reading – CUPS: capitalise, understanding (do your sentences make sense), punctuation, spelling. In fact, by 10pm @dukkhaboy had already created his own style version of this and was preparing to use in class next day – and he was only following on twitter! #TMRGS making an immediate impact. Slideshare link
  8. Deborah Gostling spoke about making real world links to architecture and urban design, through tricky projects such as redesigning Cairo. Building rigour and knowledge while using Google Earth and CAD software to add challenge Slideshare link
  9. Rupert Littlewood talked about making favelas and creative hands on learning – always love a bit of model making and really getting the feel of things. Slideshare link
  10. Anna Forshaw gave loads of practical ideas and suggested activities for embedding DME skills and problem solving activities Slideshare link
  11. Ewan Laurie shared some fab ideas for ‘hijacking Geography’ and getting it taking over school. Love the idea of the Pop-up classroom, or teaching something for ten minutes in the corridor at lunch, letting geography take over the school.Slideshare link

My own presentation got a little distracted on Monday night when I stumbled across some tweets claiming that Geography is ‘confused’ or ‘not a subject’. The controversy! Some were claiming that because Geography is diverse, this is a weakness and makes it confused. It’s the same story as has been heard before, but it does frustrat me that this is seen as a weakness, and also that people don’t appreciate that other subjects are equally diverse – it just goes unhidden. There is no one History: there’s a vast difference between ancient and modern history, and I’ve yet to meet a Historian that likes every era. There is no one English: pit a medieval romantic literature lover against 21st century science fiction lover and there are sparks – the skills employed to decipher the different English types vary as well as the content, and the language itself has clearly evolved. There is no one Music! I could go on. And as with all these other varied subjects, it is not a weakness to be a diverse hybrid. There is always something to hold it all together – and in our case it is the way that Geography marries together the world of hard scientific fact and process, with human interaction and reaction, through skilful application. That is the strength. We don’t study for the sake of it, we problem solve. We don’t learn skills to sit in a room and stare at them, we go out and fix issues. There were some great responses to support Geography’s corner from @RobGeog @RJCGeog @Jennnnnn_x as well 🙂

So this led into my presentation: that not only is Geography not confused, but actually the 4 key strands that hold it together as ‘awesome geography’ are essential. The talk was a variation on the #GAConf15 theme: Shakespeare was a Geographer, so was Pythagoras. Looking at embedding whole school priorities of literacy and numeracy through simple Geography activities in different year groups. My main point is that since we are all responsible for teaching these components, and since we should do anyway as it empowers students to become more successful Geographers let alone having great skills, we should make sure we use the same language as our Maths and English departments. I was responsible for numeracy across school last year, and each department (or faculty for smaller areas like Hums) has a lead teacher for literacy and numeracy who takes part in regular reviews and auditing the curriculum of every area in school. We met as a full staff on Tuesday, and going through the list of key skills for Maths and English as a Geography team we could easily say ‘Yes!’ or ‘Tick, Tick’ to every kind of skill since we are so literacy and numeracy heavy. The weakness at the minute, is that we do not use the same language as our specialists in schools. I don’t often say to a class ‘oh that’s a homophone, be careful on the spelling’ or ‘great use of compound sentences’ or ‘don’t forget your factoring operation’…it’s not my natural patter. But it needs to be. Having a uniformity of language in the classroom for core concepts will develop transparency for students, and encourage the idea that these skills are actually pretty important in a range of different environments and situations. Otherwise, how often do you hear ‘yeah but when will I need to do that in the real world’?!

If you’ve made it this far and want to read a brief kind of summary of what I said for each slide, here you go:

My presentation notes:

Slide 1: The controversy! Twitter debate on Monday evening. Some claiming that because Geography is diverse, this is a weakness and makes it confused. Great responses to support Geography’s corner from @RobGeog  @RJCGeog @Jennnnnn_x

Is Geography confused, or is it a brilliant blend of science and art that is held together by that essential application.

Slide 2: The strengths of Geography are clear within the new national framework – there are 4 strands to being a great geographer: those of knowing, thinking, studying, and applying like a geographer. Value of skills and knowledge combined but with the life-skills essential component of having to apply those, to problem solve. Synthesis and making relational links is the key to Geographical genius.  And what makes Geography strong, is how we meet whole school issues of literacy and numeracy, as well as building whole child skills.

Slide 3: So meeting whole school aims of literacy and numeracy – because if we do, we not only support the wider school community but we will empower children to get power results in geography and across the board. Particularly with more rigorous examination systems, content, and emphasis on skills we need to be building these skills from day 1 in year 7.

Slide 4: So Shakespeare. 21/38 plays were set in the Mediterranean…yet he never really left London, apart from a brief trip to the Netherlands. So it was entirely based on geographical imaginations. Imagination is key part to our subject, and to curiosity. Many of our students, particularly our disadvantaged students, may not leave their own areas either – so we need to encourage imagination.

Slide 5: Use Shakespeare quotes / DARTS text analysis to talk about describing places. Encouraging the idea of speaking like a geographer. Analyse text for context, introduction to places, to listen to silently and picture, descriptive mapping, and for picking out use of literacy techniques e.g. synonyms, compound sentences, rhyming couplets, metaphor, etc.

Slide 6: Read the text (perhaps excluding some bits that are too obvious!) and kids have to guess what the feature is being described. Then turn into modern descriptive text.

Hamlet piece- read it to them, and tell them it was written in Denmark and finished in 1599. Ask them to figure out what the features was that was north-north west from Denmark and sulphurous (Hekla in Iceland that erupted in 1597)

Slide 7: Compare descriptive text of geographic features through the ages. What are the similarities and differences? How does the language, and the understanding of science, change over time?

Slide 8: Use text to describe climate as Shakespeare recorded the Little Ice Age

Slide 9: BUT – since he didn’t visit locations, there were misconceptions! So give children the text and then get them to prove what is real vs unreal, fact and fiction

Slide 10: Example of differentiated activity with class

Slide 11: Where does our subject meet maths? Everywhere! The key thing is to be liaising with our maths departments and ensuring we teach at similar times, but most importantly that we all use the same language and teach skills in the same way. E.g. Science and Maths teach line graphs differently, do we? Are we using the language of everyday maths classrooms in our classrooms? Because we certainly do plenty of data analysis and graphicacy, just need to hit the terminology to make it explicit to learners.

Slide 12: Using Google Earth polygons to identify shape patterns of landmasses – just simple shape work but builds confidence with using Google Earth tools. Can also use alongside measuring tools and estimating area, discussing different types of shape and calculating area from them.

Slide 13: Create layered data presentation, e.g. climate mapping: base layer for temperature, tracing overlay for precipitation – then analyse. Helps with learning locations and climate patterns, as well as analysis skills. Or proportional mapping for tourist locations. Key is using different methods to learn locations, become confident with features of the UK, and having to do numeracy skills.

Slide 14: Use your school for urban steps. Calculate the number of steps required to climb the equivalent of different mountains indoors. Have to measure each step, multiply it up, divide by number of kids, etc. Make it a House competition challenge.

Slide 15: Links to STEM. Produce equipment. From simple weather equipment to earthquake sensors. This example was a beautiful cloud cover measuring Oktas device. Student had to scale it all up, measuring and calculate, etc.

Slide 16: Geocaching – measuring distance, direction and bearings.

Slide 17: Make graphs 3D and tactile. Brings to life population pyramids and statistics, easier (especially for lower ability) to analyse and interpret the data.

Slide 18: Use numbers and ask students to discuss, interpret, tell a story with them.

Answer in this case: it’s all to do with elderly dependency

Slide 19: Transform one kind of data presentation into another form of graph – have to recalculate, compare, translate. This is from the London National Park statistics on the amount of green space in the city. Analyse the patterns.

Slide 20: Because it all comes down to skills. Skills web based on GCSE criteria. Geography ticks off so many skills and really builds literacy and numeracy, so make it explicit!

Slide 21: And at the end of the day, it is worth the challenge!

The next bit of Geographical TeachMeet fun will be at the GA conference in Manchester at Easter. Check the conference pack for more details, the GA website, and follow #GAConf16 

#TMPompey -getting better every time:-)

Meet and Greet on board HMS Victory
Meet and Greet on board HMS Victory

So last night saw the relaunch of TeachMeet Pompey for the new academic year, set up by David Rogers and myself. And what a way to kick off the new term! Phewf! For David’s write up check his blog.

The evening began with an incredibly civilised and fancy meet and greet on board HMS Victory, courtesy of our ever helpful host and organiser Phil Wright over at the Historic Dockyard. Ok, so there was a torrential downpour but it didn’t dampen spirits. We were welcomed on board by the Royal Navy serving refreshments (pleased to say the homemade cupcakes went down well in the end!) and then relocated to the National Museum of the Royal Navy for the meet itself.

The hosts enjoying the event
The hosts enjoying the event

We had a packed evening with cracking presentations. What makes TeachMeet so great, in my opinion, is that it is simply teachers sharing stories in a relaxed way. No pretence, no bragging, no ‘we should all do it this way’. Just simple honesty and some great ideas of what could work if you just have a go. All of the presentations are available on my slideshare . Here is the list of what we enjoyed:

Charlotte Assomo – using video feedback

Julia Skinner – 100 word challenge and improving literacy

Rachel Jones – public outcomes enquiry

Nik Doran – beautiful graphing (making maths artistic!)

Shorny Morgan – 7 ideas in 7 minutes (and well done for your first TM presenting!)

Ian Addison – messing about with photo editing

Danielle Kohlman – Purple pages of progress (AfL)

Phil Wright – different places and using the Historic Dockyard resource

Nic Boardman – Using Socrative

Naomi Ward – turning poetry into video games

Charlotte Hamilton – A bag full of bits

Louise Boston-Mannah – the Global Learning Programme

@priorygeography Digital Leaders / Curriculum Hackers Robbie and Jon
@priorygeography Digital Leaders / Curriculum Hackers Robbie and Jon

Everyone who shared brought something new, something useful. A rapid fire 2 or 7minute insight into an innovative teacher’s mind that gave you food for thought. So thank you! Plus all the resources were my favourite price – FREE! The presentations give you some clues into the action, but for more information get in touch with each speaker personally. Email or DM me on twitter if you do not know how to contact.

We ended with a fantastic and inspiring keynote from Tim Rylands who shared a whole realm of interesting links and ideas, in a brilliant and humorous fashion. It was hard to keep up, and the twittersphere hashtag went unusually quiet at this moment as we were all gripped and avidly listening. Loving the look of Tag Galaxy – especially as a geographer – this looks a great resource to visualise the world and compare places, cultures, etc,. I already use If This Then That and recommend this as a great way of linking media / social media / resources etc such as dropbox, twitter, facebook, etc,. Clevr looks an interesting tool to make panoramas, and I agree with him in sharing the utility of Photosynth – dead easy and available on multi-platform / devices. Far too many fantastic links for me to share and do justice to, so check out his blog for his own discussion on them. So thank you Tim, it was a privilege to have you join us. Sarah also rushed around taking fantastic photos, such as a few seen here, and putting all the cogs in place so thank you as well. For Tim’s write-up and all the images, head over to his inspiring blog here . Also all the links that he mentioned in his talk are very kindly being shared via this link.

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Thank you to everyone who came and participated – we had a 100 people taking part as presenters or ‘enthusiastic lurkers’ and even had others from afar joining in via twitter to get involved. Thank you also to two of the @priorygeography Digital Leaders and Curriculum Hackers, Robbie and Jon, who came along voluntarily in their own time to simply listen, and then went round the room during breaks networking like pros! They are a credit to the school and I’m proud to work with them.

It was great to see new presenters who have never spoken before, and all did a fantastic job. I shall certainly be trialling lots of the ideas shared. Particularly keen to get school involved with the 100 Words Challenge (see @theheadsoffice or 100wc.net) and can see this having a very beneficial impact on our need to improve literacy and embed this whole school. I also loved some of the photo editing tools shared by Ian Addison such as picmonkey.com, 5 card flickr, or Animoto. Some great ideas from newbie presenter Shorny Morgan such as #poundlandpedagogy – awesome idea for starters to lessons, for inspiring literacy responses to stimuli, for enquiry. Also liked the idea of ‘paint chart literacy’ – having a paint colour swatch chart and asking students to start with one adjective at the bottom and then having to think of a simile / synonym for the other colours above. Great stuff 🙂 Oh, and she also has a ton of Snakes and Ladders boards if anyone wants some! The elegant and enthusiastic Rachel Jones shared great enquiry and ‘public outcomes’ resources – to encourage student projects by making their work visible to the outside world, giving students an audience. I already loved Hackasaurus from her presentation last TM but do recommend it again – create ‘hacked’ websites like your very own BBC page or fake CIA page! Nik Doran shared how to make Maths artistic and pretty using Desmos to visualise graphs; could be a great tool to enable access to analysis – possibly something to try for the old controlled assessment enquiry in future. And Louise Boston-Mannah spoke briefly to introduce everyone to the Global Learning Programme – a project that Priory Geography will be taking part in. The idea is for schools to collaborate to share resources, teaching and learning ideas, and have cross-theme and cross-curricular links designed to improve young people’s access to ‘the global dimension’ (topics that have a global aspect, e.g. development, human rights, climate change, democracy, politics, poverty, trade, culture, etc,.). @priorygeography will be the leading Expert Centre school for this programme for the Hampshire area and if you are interested in taking part then please get in touch. You can be from any school or college, any age range, any subject. There is funding available from the GLP for schools that participate in order to free up teacher time / visits to other schools / trips. I’ll be sending out requests to participate soon!

Congratulations to the lucky four who won the vouchers from Rising Stars logo – you should get your confirmed e-voucher soon! And thank you to Rising Stars for agreeing to donate the prizes and sponsor refreshments. It really helped.

I thought all the presenters did a fantastic job, and there is too much to write for here so apologise if I haven’t mentioned you personally – it’s not judgement! Just have a look at the resources on slideshare and any questions get in touch with them or come through me.

I’ll finish with a beautiful quote shared by Julia and just say thank you again, and roll on next time! Bigger and better!

“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.” (Ursula K. LeGuin)

TeachMeet Pompey 17th September


Final bit of plugging for #tmpompey happening on the 17th September. TeachMeet Pompey has been growing for the last couple of years and is a great event for networking and sharing ideas. We are lucky to have the hospitality of the Historic Dockyard through Phil Wright at Action Stations which is a great venue.

This event we are being greeted with refreshments on the gundeck of HMS Victory to start, and then the event will kick off properly soon after in the Princess Royal Gallery of the National Museum of the Royal Navy which is a first for us. If you have never been to a teachmeet then the format is a very relaxed affair as far as we are concerned. Teachers / educators / enthusiasts can sign up to just come and have a listen or to provide a presentation on any topic they feel can benefit others. Presentations are informal and either 2 or 7 minutes long. It is a way of sharing ideas, tools and resources for any subject and any age range. Whether you are primary or secondary regardless you will find something useful to adapt to your own situation.

And this time we are very excited to have Tim Rylands providing a keynote talk which is fantastic and something to look forward to.

I seem to have been cajoled into providing cupcakes somehow, and there will be other refreshments available during the evening. Following the event there is the chance to take part in Laser Tag at Action Stations if you wish (and to try to knock David Rogers off his pedestal) and then go for some follow-up food at Gunwharf Quays. All very informal and casual (no dress code he he) but a good chance to meet others and chat.

Rising Stars logoFinally we are pleased to be being supported by Rising Stars who are kindly donating prizes which can be won in the evening – so get there! These will be vouchers that can be used for their resources.

 If you are interested then sign up on the wiki, no pressure to do anything other than come and listen! Sign up here

TLA Berkhamsted – TeachMeet


The Herts Beds Bucks TeachMeet was the pre-event to the TLA conference Berkhamsted. The first thing I liked was that it felt as if Nick Dennis had been waiting for our arrival before kicking off. Greeted at the door, ushered in for refreshments, sat down, then click. On. Very efficient. After an overly long journey it would have been easy to not quite focus, but there were so many different presentations and nano-presentations that I was happily engaged. At some TMs I’ve been to, it’s felt like there hasn’t been a balance in terms of subject / pedagogy / topic – sometimes they feel too primary focused for me (a secondary teacher) or sometimes they are only about using a new piece of kit/tech. So it was refreshing to have a balance.

The one thing I will be trying asap from #TMHBB is the Sentence Auction idea. It was explained from point of view of an MFL teacher trying to improve grammar/vocab use through peer assessment but I see no reason why it couldn’t apply to other subjects. This is the premise:

1) Before lesson. When marking books, teacher copies out an example sentence from a variety of books. Some sentences are correct, others are incorrect.

2) In lesson. Group students, and give each group a set of each of the sentences you copied out (a mixture of right&wrong examples). The group then has to debate which answers are correct or not, and choose which ones they wish to ‘bid’ on in the ‘auction’.

3) Each group is given a budget of x amount (say £500) and they can allocate this budget to bid on different sentences.

4) Show the sentences one-by-one (e.g. on the board / on screen) as if exhibiting items at an auction. Groups then have to decide whether they wish to bid to ‘purchase’ said sentence. (You could even take this up a notch and link to MFL if you like by asking students to bid in a foreign language 😉 .)

5) At the end of the auction, once each group has purchased their sentences at whatever cost, you then reveal which ones are correct. Depending on how difficult it is to determine the correct ones you could actually assign a value to each sentence. Then reveal whether the groups had bid correctly for the right sentences, and decide whether they would have made a profit or a loss had this actually been real.  The team to make the most money from having correctly identified and purchased the right sentences is the winner.

I think this could be a great tool for GCSE, perhaps especially for picking out key facts / processes / place-specific detail for learning case studies. And I will be trialling it as such in revision sessions with Year 11 after Easter. It will be time-consuming, and we were warned that it can take the whole lesson doing this, but it is AfL and reinforcing. So I liked the sound of it. Something to try, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?Vincent van Gogh