This post outlines my rough plan for meeting Year 7 for the first time. It is hoped that readers will find something useful here. Before the description begins – I must add that this is the rough outline – we’ll just have to see what happens at the time!
The first unit is called Amazing Places and the aim of the first lesson is to define what makes a place amazing. This takes two forms, the first has a 140 character limit, and the second a 50 word target.
Before the lesson, exercise books are placed on the desks and the Flickr slide show below is played on screen while music plays – usually a mix of the Manics, Sterophonics, Tom Jones and Feeder. I will meet each students at the door, telling to sit where they like for now. The task on screen is to think of at least 10 adjectives about the places being described. Personally, I always have something to do and keep the start of my lessons very similar. I expect students to come in and start learning, the first lesson is no exception. This also gives me some time to watch behaviour: who do I need to chat to quickly? Why one is shy? etc
Next, I welcome them to the school, to Geography and to my classroom. I introduce myself and tell them that the only thing they need to remember about me at the moment is that I’m Welsh. The rest they will figure out as we go. Then quite a tight routine:
Register and seating plan. I need seating plans to learn names and manage the group. On calling the register I ask them to answer with an adjective that describes the place (the music has stopped, but slideshow still goes). I write their first name down and ask for pronunciation corrections etc. I remind them that I’ll move them if it will make their learning more effective.
Expectations. With any new class this is what works for me: ‘Hands up if you haven’t been in a school before?’ Reactions range from deathly silence to a little giggle to a few brave hands raised. ‘That means that you all know how to behave in my classroom. I expect you to learn hard and do your best. The rest you’ll learn as we go along’. I then get all classes to write down their expectations of geography and what they expect from me in the front of their books. If it’s something private, they use a post it that I can remove. I find this very useful. At the same time, the front of the exercise book is written in – name and group is all that’s needed.
After this, we chat about the activity. I explain where it is and the fact that I think it’s amazing place – any guesses why? This goes to the heart of personal geographies, imagination and understanding places and spaces.
Time for a reminder about the main task. Here I plan to use some Post-It notes in order for pupils to collaborate (I don’t believe that you must use technology in order to collaborate). We plan to watch a few videos. During which they are to think of as many phrases, adjectives etc as possible. Pupils write them on to the post its and stick them in groups. Pupils can get up at any time. The videos are embedded below in the order I play them in. Between each one, a quick reminder about the task. Pupils can ask questions and work with each other as they like.
I usually introduce the homework at this point. I use John Davitt’s Learning Event Generator here. The task is to describe their amazing place. A place that is personal to them. Bring in a photograph and produce a description in the style chosen by the generator. I think that it’s important to set high expectations of out-of-class work straight away. They will have two weeks in which to complete the task.
I then ask the class to write their two definitions of what makes an amazing place. This sets the expectation that the class is expected to apply their thinking and learning, and also allows me to remind them about how to organise work. I’ll mark this work as soon as I can – following up those that didn’t complete (trying to find the reason why). I also try to create a Wordle of their expectations of myself to share at the start of the next lesson.
The end of the lesson reflects on the two styles of writing. What was difficult about the task? Which style was easiest to use? What would have made it better?
Here we end with another homework task that is optional but linked to the Vivo reward system: create a better definition of what makes an Amazing Place and email it to me. I use a photograph of how I’d like each desk to look before they leave.
- I try to avoid the use of PowerPoint, but have a technology rich lesson.
- Collaboration is modelled, but in a non-tech way
- The important of writing and communication is prominent.
- I don’t start with ‘What is Geography?’ We just start doing it! also avoid the importance of geography as I truly believe that the subject will speak for itself. Many of them have already done Geography (some with us during transition projects).
- The concepts tackled are big. I don’t believe in dumbing down for ability or age, as I believe that, explored in the right way, all students are able to grasp the ‘sense of place’ concept.
- I like teaching at a high pace, so this approach may not suit all.
- This is just a plan – student comments or recent events may provide some additional material.
- This lesson is all about setting high expectations of learning. Behaviour will follow and I have found that treating the class in this way works for me.