SHP15: Ed Podesta

Ed is talking about teaching something new at GCSE. Following a move to Leeds he had to do this and decided to write it up as a case study for everybody else who will be going through this as the new GCSEs come in. We are planning for direction and destination, preparing for tricky situations.

Nobody likes change. We watch a great video clip of a dog being dragged on a walk to demonstrate this. If he just got up and walked the destination might be a pleasant one, and this is what we need to remember as teachers. It stops us getting stale: the better teachers know a topic, the less empathy they have for students who don’t understand (me, with American West). With new topics, it is easier to see the hurdles and it makes the process more reflective.

Scope out the spec. Read the points as well as the headings, and look at the AOs. We do this among our tables, discussing how the AOs have changed from old to new spec. We note that sources and interpretations are now separated out. Others point our an emphasis on substantiated judgement rather than demonstrating understanding. We talk about the mention of second order concepts instead of listing change, continuity etc. and briefly consider the difference between substantive and second order concepts.

Another part of the scoping needs to be looking at the content of the new course and doing the reading to prepare for it. We consider the course content for AQA’s Restoration England unit, thinking about where we would be confident in the knowledge (coffee houses, Royal Society, Great Plague) and where the trouble spots are (basically everything else, but particularly the Popish Plot and mercantilism. Discussions about the content should happen as part of the scoping, as should some kind of rudimentary planning about how long to spend on teaching each section.

Think of the preparation you need to do as a pie: Carb loading for the mountain climb. Chop it up into segments.
Logistics: when are the key dates to put in data, write reports etc and what will you need to have done by that time?
Answers: have a go at the sample papers so you have an idea about what the board wants.
Long term plan: no need for complicated schemes of work which are better matched when you have met your students. Instead…

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…something like this.

Most of your time, though, is best spent reading history. Read related textbooks, undergrad overview texts, History Today; look at Radio 4, iTunesU and YouTube. An audience members suggests Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
While you are reading…
Create tick sheets for kids on the course content – you can use this yourself to check your reading.

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Unit branding. Come up with some pictures to summarise the unit.

Snow globes and mind palaces: places in your head that you file I,portent information. A mental snow globe shelf, containing a snow globe for each key individual. We draw Clemenceau snow globes based on a reading from Walsh’s GCSE textbook, unpicking the difficult points and how they might be expressed: in the case, the idea of him being a realist.

Chronology cards (Ed’s best tip for these is to put all card 1s on one sheet and do the same with the others, then when you guillotine them they’re presorted…genius) – it’s important to keep returning to these.

Knowledge organisers. Ed references Joe Kirby’s work on these and we look at an example for a South Africa course. It includes key words and individuals, as well a important quotes and facts.

The Big Bang lesson. Every so often we can produce a show stopper that achieves shock and awe, so pick the good bits from your reading and save them for these lessons next year.

Collect human stories where possible. Ed talks about the couple who inspired the book Alone in Berlin, Otto and Elise. They wrote postcards and left them around Berlin, saying negative things about Hitler. The Gestapo eventually found them. Helps students to understand that writing a postcard was an act of defiance that could get you arrested, let alone running away from a concentration camp. We read an extract and consider what questions students might ask about it, in terms of words and context. Ed found this book by asking Mr B’s Emporium on Twitter (amazing Bath bookshop that does reading salons to give you book recommendations).

Once the reading is done, think about the corners of your classroom. Have on ongoing pub quiz at the start of your lessons to help knowledge stick. Build up banks of model answers and write mark schemes using the responses of students as the examples. The routines of your classroom are there for you to fall back on when it all starts to go a bit pear shaped. Use shapes: ripple diagrams, targets, spider diagrams etc.

At the top, start the schemes of work based on what you have taught.

Ed’s presentation is going to be on his blog or ask him about it on Twitter – @ed_podesta.

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