In a recent discussion on twitter, I suggested that one thing I would love to see more of are blogs by teachers discussing their lessons. Picking them apart and explaining their thinking. Showing how they put the pedagogy they espouse into practice. I have tried to do this once myself (A glimpse inside) and found the process a useful reflection. So, here we go again.
I picked this lesson because 1) it is fairly typical of how I teach and 2) I found the view of the class afterwards quite surprising. This is a year 9 class on the first year of their two year GCSE course. They are just starting the Landscape unit which will look at river and coastal processes. It starts by looking at diverse British landscapes. I want them to:
- be able to name and locate the significant features of the British landscape. Both upland and lowland areas,
- be able to describe how landscapes vary across the British Isles,
- be able to explain the factors that influence the appearance of different landscapes.
In Monday’s lesson we focused on that first objective. They created a map showing several upland and lowland areas and annotated the map to describe the features. Their homework was to learn the locations and a fact about each place.
This is the second lesson which took place on Friday.
We started with a quick quiz. An outline map on the board with the numbers 1 – 10 showing the location of some of the areas they looked at last lesson. They tried to name each one, answers on the next slide, checked their own work and gave it a score out of 10 which I could see as I circulated the room later. Most did very well. We will re-test in a couple of weeks. The idea is to help secure the information. It makes it much easier to discuss different physical processes and examples if they have an existing knowledge of the places discussed.
I showed them a series of images of different landscapes. For each one they said if it was upland or lowland. They wrote down the characteristics of the area in a table as we went through. I pointed to salient characteristics I wanted them to focus on (exposed rock upland areas, more biomass in lowland ones etc.).
I then posed the question – how could we divide Britain into upland and lowland? Where would we place the line? I gave them a moment to discuss it in pairs and then called on people that I wanted to explain their answers.
We moved on to look at why there are these differences in characteristics and I showed them a geological map of the British Isles and another showing the extent of glaciation. I used questioning to draw on memories of work they did in Year 8 (further retrieval and the purpose of our spiral curriculum) and I added further information. I wrote up a few key ideas on the board as we went.
The task they were then set was to place a ruler across a map of Britain from north to south. They used their iPads to find an image to represent the landscape at 2cm intervals. They used these images along with the information from today’s lesson to answer the question “How and why do the landscapes of the UK vary?”. They had a success criteria for this task which spelt out what an excellent piece of work would include:
- Named examples
- A sense of sequence
- Discussion of the role of geology and glaciers
- Use of specific processes
I did consider giving them the images of the different places to use but I wanted them thinking carefully about the location of different points across the UK to develop their location knowledge. I don’t often have them use their iPads in the lesson and I wanted to make sure that they were an effective tool and not a distraction so I carefully modelled how I wanted them to locate and select suitable images. I also give them a strict time limit.
At the end of the lesson a number of public told me how much they enjoyed the lesson. Now, our kids are very polite and will usually go out the room saying “thank you” but they don’t often feel the need to leave a little review. I was surprised that this was a lesson they particularly enjoyed because it largely consisted of 1) a test 2) teacher talk and questioning 3) a substantial written task – these aren’t usually things that are held up to be examples of things pupils find fun.
I can only assumed that the subject spoke for itself. There is something inherently enjoyable about looking at our landscape and understanding the processes that created it. The sense of accomplishment is enjoyable in itself.
So here’s a challenge for any teacher-bloggers out there. I’ve shown you mine, now you show me yours.