Top Tip #45!

Make your expectations clear!

Back at the beginning of the year, I set my Year 9s the task of creating posters for homework. I thought that my simple comment that ‘The best will be put on display’ would be enough to encourage them to produce superb works of art that would rival any ‘shop bought’ geography material.

Instead, I was presented with nearly 60 scruffy, black and white A4 sheets packed full of text but with very few illustrations, as if they’d all simply copied and pasted off of Wikipedia – not what I had imagined they would consider posters! All but three went straight in the bin.

This time, having realised I need to be a bit more explicit in what I wanted them to do, I gave clear instructions which left nothing out, with half the class doing ‘Causes of Climate Change’ and the other half doing ‘Effects of Climate Change’. I also included the added incentive of them presenting them to the class afterwards and – hey presto! – aren’t they brilliant?!?


The only downside was that this was for a cover lesson and I missed all the fun!


I was very excited this morning as today was the first time I would vote in a General Election. Not because I’d simply never bothered before but because, not being a British citizen, I’m not allowed to. In fact, I’m not even allowed to vote in my own country’s elections as I don’t have an address there.  As such, I always find it odd how so many people who do have this right don’t use it. My vote was only going to be in the school’s Mock Election, but it was still exciting and I’d been looking forward to today for weeks!

I was amazed at the work my school put into it all. There have been hustings and campaign posters, assemblies, debates and canvassing of form rooms over the past few weeks. As a form tutor, I have also been able to take my students through how Parliament and the electoral system works, which was all the more interesting for them after I pointed out that most of them would be able to vote for real in the next General Election. Today there were ballot boxes and wonderful voting slips and the ‘polling station’ was as true-to-life as you could possibly make a dining hall. A huge effort by both staff and students and it was very impressive! And the results were in by 3pm.

I was going to vote when I took my class down during third period but two sixth formers came to escort them instead and I stayed behind to go through exam results with a couple of students. By the time I did this, my class were returning and I jumped straight into the full swing of the lesson.

It was only after school ended that I realised that polling had closed AND I’D FORGOTTEN TO VOTE!!!

Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to try again in five years…    :-/


Down on the farm!

Today I took my second lot of Year 7s on a real ‘field trip’ to a wonderful local farm which has run school visits for many years, to conclude their ‘Farming’ unit. Despite the threat of downpours – and many students being very ill-prepared even though three members of staff reminded them yesterday of what they needed to bring/wear – a great day was had by all.

The farm visit booklet I created for the school.


Local residents!






The piglets we saw back in November, now all grown up.


Love my wellies!


Not amused…


Top Tip #44!

Make every day special!

One of the first things I did when I got my very own classroom was to divide my whiteboard into sections with blue masking tape, which framed the main writing space. One section is for the date, one is where I write students’ names for rewards or sanctions during a lesson, and a third has the words ‘Today is…’

For the past 15 years or so I have written special observance days/weeks/fortnights/years in my new diary. It’s amazing how many of these are geography-related: Earth Day, World Population Day, Environment Day, International Mountain Day, World Wetlands Day, Fairtrade Fortnight, and so on. And, of course, the UN assigns a special theme to each year which always fits in with the geography curriculum. Now, whenever there is one of these special days, I write it on the board and my students absolutely love it. In fact, if I haven’t written anything, they ask if there is anything ‘special’ about the day, so I know they have started really looking forward to this. They often now tell me if it’s a special day, as well, and some have even asked if they can have their birthdays written on but I have to draw the line at that!

It was a bit of a chore at first but now it’s part of my automatic first-thing-in-the-morning routine and I know that although a very simple thing, this has really sparked my students’ curiosity and opened their eyes to the world that little bit more.

By the way, it’s ‘Teacher Appreciation Week’!