23rd Mar 2018 #005

I think it is fair to say that the pre-release booklet is very straightforward. Although many teachers have been concerned that the booklet is biased towards those that optionally choose to teach Water as part of The Challenge of Resource Management module, the initial lesson on water covered in the unit is sufficient background knowledge for pupils.

You can access a student work booklet below. This is very detailed but it will get pupils well on the right track, independently. Suggested teaching time from AQA is 5-6 hours, although I think if pupils complete this booklet they will be able to get through the material in more like 3-4 hours of teaching. I only have 7 lessons left with my class before study leave and I do not intend to spend more than 4 on the issue evaluation. Please share this booklet with your pupils and adapt as you see fit. Remember that AQA does not allow their booklet to be shared unless on password protected areas.

The student booklet includes some potential questions. I would be very surprised if the 9 mark question does not centre around the argument for and against the reservoir. Especially when compared to previous A Level AQA pre-release exams. I think we can also expect a simple 2 mark question describing the rainfall patterns and an explain or suggest question to why we are facing water stress in the UK

GARD are strongly against the reservoir at Abingdon. To what extent do you agree with their views (9 marks)

I have no doubt the OS map has been included with the aim of getting pupils to suggest the area of the proposed site. I have spoken to the exam board to see if they can take string into the exam to help with measuring distances, the answer is no!

Further questions may look at social, economic or environmental impacts/opportunities and I would expect a task asking for some form of visual data to be completed. Pupils may also want to consider why water use is increasing in the UK (not linked to population growth) and how we might want to manage water stress.

I will post a practice paper in due course. I intend for my pupils to do 1 single mock exam paper. Please do get in touch if you have anything you would like to contribute towards issue evaluation preparation.

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16th Feb 2018 #004

The Education Endowment Foundation

I was fortunate last Saturday to attend a lecture at UCL from Sir Kevan Collins, the Chief Executive for the Education Endowment Foundation. The EEF is not something I had particularly come across until last week but I am now in amazement at the research and resources that it has. 

The EEF essential runs a large number of education research studies and publishes on their website open access. Perhaps the most interesting part is how the research is organised, judged on the basis of effectiveness, cost and security of the research. Ever since my PGCE I have felt I should access more research than I do and this is a quick and easy way to keep up to speed with some of the evolving areas of interest in education. 

Their Learning and Teaching Toolkit is possibly their most interesting work. For cost effectiveness the most productive things we can do in secondary schools is give effective feedback (8+ months of progress), teach meta-cognition (also 8+ months of progress) and set meaningful homework. We teach meta-cognitive skills from Year 7 upwards at my school and the improvement in study skills, sleep habits, diet and exercise patterns is clearly positive. More schools clearly need to start teaching meta-cognitive skills but having the capability to do so can be difficult. This is something that I hope many PGCEs around the country start to tackle. 

It probably comes as no surprise that the research shows that if money is no object to a school the most effective practices to put in place is to reduce class size (+3 months) and provide one-one tuition (+5 months), but neither provide the same impact as the low cost activities. I have been interested recently to meet some teachers from Shanghai and Singapore where class sizes of 50 are the norm but teachers only spend up to 12 hours per week in the classroom so they have more time open for CPD.

The impact on my practice from the EEF lecture is that I intend to try and implement the following: peer tutoring between the Y10-11 pupils to improve revision skills and discipline to study, text messages to parents (no more than once per week with test and revision reminders) and more collaborative tasks in pairs e.g. joint question planning. In total this should accelerate progress by 11+ months, simple as that really...

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9th Feb 2018 #003

The GCSE MIndset

I have always been a big reader and since becoming a teacher I have read a huge number of books and journal articles. This has developed throughout my career, initially starting with lots of teaching "idea" books that helped shape my lesson planning, feedback, AfL, assessments etc. In my early teaching years my top two books that I kept going back to were The Secret of Literacy by David Didau and Outstanding Teaching: Teaching backwards by Andy Griffith. I highly recommend both for any Geography teacher.  More recently I have been reading leadership books and I have developed a keen interest in pupil and staff resilience.

This week I read The GCSE Mindset by Steve Oakes and Martin Griffin. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It has left me with some many ideas for my year 10 and 11 classes. If you are a form tutor of Y10 or 11 pupils you will find so many useful activities in the book that you can implement into form period to make your pupils more organised and reflective about their learning. The VESPA model in particular is an interesting way to look at motivating pupils and I encourage you to explore it!

I plan to integrate this and some of the other models suggested to get my pupils planning their revision more effectively and measuring how much time they are spending covering each topic. The button below will give you access to topic check sheets for all of the AQA or IGCSE topics. I get my pupils to rate their knowledge across the subject areas before planning their revision around their weakest topics. Measuring how much time is spent revising seems to be very motivating and satisfying for pupils. With half term just around the corner, I am encouraging pupils to plan their Geography revision but nothing more. I feel at this stage they all need a rest before the intensity ramps up in the coming weeks and months. 

 

I have found from teaching AQA this year that the Living World seems to be the topic that pupils are struggling most with, in general. Urban Issues and Challenges seems to be pretty straight forward, and although I am still teaching the Changing Economic World the pupils seem to have a good grasp of it. The Challenge of Natural Hazards seems to be the other beast of a topic that pupils need to revisit and the fact that this was the topic we covered first means that many of the pupils see it only as a distant memory. 

At this stage of the year I am spending a lot of time focusing homework on skills for paper 3 and also practising 9 mark questions using sample question from the exam board and other revision resources. Hopefully, this will pay off in the summer exams! 

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This week I posted on Twitter the key dates for AQA. Rather than aiming to panic people I thought it a timely reminder of when everything is taking place, I have just given the dates to my pupils that very morning.

We are 44 days from the pre-release at the time of writing. The pre-release comes at a somewhat awkward time as we go on Easter break on the 16 March. I intend to set a pre-reading pack for my pupils to complete over the Easter break (probably something around 50 pages worth, compared to about 150 pages I would set for my A-Level pupils) and then plan a learning pack for them to complete when we are back. I will release this pack on our website. Having taught AQA A Level for a number of years I am relatively relaxed about the pre-release because it appears to be nothing more than a watered down version of what we did at A Level. Last year’s pre-release for Geog 4B was North African Migration to Europe and the previous year was on Fracking. My money is on something climate change related this year – maybe a link between population growth and efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

So that gives us 102 days until paper 1, 121 days to paper 2 and 127 days until paper 3. 83 days between the pre-release and the exam is not much, but I think pupils can be comfortably prepared for this section of the paper in 8-10 lessons. Hopefully, the time will be available in your teaching schedule to do this. I ran a Twitter poll this week to see what everyone is teaching as their final module. I am currently teaching the Nigeria section of the Changing Economic World. I hope to be finished a couple of weeks before Easter break to give time for some intensive exam prep and then the pre-release and further paper 3 prep and revision. With 52% of the votes, it looks like the Challenge of Resource Management is the most popular option to finish the GCSE with, followed by the Changing Economic World with 27%. I was on an AQA course recently that recommended that if you were running out of time to teach the content you should run the Challenge of Resource Management module as a homework pack…maybe the level of content to be covered should be more realistic! We start teaching the Challenge of Natural Hazards in year 9 and then teach the rest over the 2 year GCSE period, using just the 2 years is a squeeze!

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key dates.PNG

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26th Jan 2018 #001

Getting ready for 1-9

As we build towards the first set of GCSE 1-9 exams in Geography several thoughts come to mind when preparing pupils for the exams. I am sure most of you will have put your students through their paces with mock exams either before or after Christmas. We have the particularly cruel process of starting mock exams the first day back after the Christmas break which I cannot help but think is to ensure they do not achieve what we would expect as a process of motivating them.

Spreadsheets that are nicely colour code can be seen in most schools now but reflecting on my classes mock grades and their targets I wonder if the target grades mean anything in light of unknown grade boundaries and expectations for what is required to achieve each said boundary. We have gone for the following (albeit simple) grade boundary solution:

Grade 9 – 90%

Grade 8 – 80%

Grade 7 – 70%

Grade 6 – 60%

And so on… Although this may seem very unscientific, we have found our mock exam distribution largely correlates with our data from the last 3 years, and as a result I am content that these boundaries can be used as a predictor.

I expect most of my pupils to be able to achieve 1.5 grades higher than their mock exam with the best and most hard working going up a couple of grades and the worst looking at a single grade or static movement.

AQA have now released 3 sample papers and on a course I recently attended with the exam board they confirmed that the first set of SAMS papers are more difficult (in terms of the wording of the questions) than would be expected in the summer exam. Apparently, the 2-subsequent batch release of papers is more accurate of what we can expect.

The 9 mark questions seem to be particularly key to get the 8 and 9 grades and paper 3 looks to be the highest risk area. I plan to spend the next month intensively preparing my pupils for the skills exam and you can download an overview of some of the content I am covering here.

Finally, I want to leave you with this paper analysis below which gives an interesting insight into what kind of questions we can expect to be worth what marks. I will publish some exam predictions in due course.

1 mark

State

Name

Give

Draw

Measure

2 marks

Describe

Outline

Suggest

Calculate

Identify

State

3 marks

State

Justify

4 marks

Describe

Give

Explain

6 marks

Explain

Suggest

Examine

Discuss

Assess

To what extent

Justify

9 marks

To what extent

Assess

Evaluate

Justify

Suggest

Explain

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