Christmas Teaching Ideas For Every Subject

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

Christmas is less than a month away and our students are understandably excited. Soon it’ll be time to relax and go at our own pace for a few weeks.

The excitement of the festivities can cause students to become more and more distracted as the holiday season draws closer.

Perhaps there’s a solution to this?

Try incorporating these Christmas-themed ideas into your lessons this month.

#1: Design a Christmas Card

With a subject-specific theme, of course. Examples like these should provide some inspiration:

  • Mathematics: Get the students to write an encrypted message inside the card using modular arithmetic, calculus or any other topic they’re working on
  • Science: Design the cover of the card by building a Christmas tree out of element symbols and equations, or even labeling the internal organs of a reindeer (Biology)
  • Geography: Draw a map of Santa’s trip to your country, showing latitudes, longitudes, meteorological information or anything else that’s relevant
  • English or languages: students draw and quote scenes from Christmas literature (e.g. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens)

Can you think of others?

#2: Build a Christmas scene

Easy to do: you only need simple materials like cardboard, colouring pens, scissors, glue, straws, toothpicks, cotton wool (for snow), plastic bottles and other disposable materials.

Get your students to build a Christmas scene with a subject – specific theme.

Perhaps a textile maze for Santa to run through is the perfect D&T project. Or maybe a board game based on a toy manufacturing company works well for business and economics (include paper money, Monopoly-style). How about at miniature Christmas tree equipped with lights and sound as a project for physics?

For exam classes, try an advent calendar with a past-paper question each day. The following day could include a new question plus an answer.

#3: Analysis

Anything Christmassy can be analysed from a subject-specific perspective.

Take mince pies, for example:

  • Home economics: make and bake them!
  • Chemistry: Draw the structural formulae of the chemicals found in a typical mince pie
  • Biology: Describe the enzymatic breakdown of the carbs, lipids and proteins in mince pies
  • Business: How many mince pies does a bakery need to sell to make a profit?
  • History: what is the historical context of mince pies?

Perhaps this can be cross-curricular? A while school project? Multidisciplinary? Good for a large notice board or school event.

Please add any ideas below.

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Mock Exams: Preparing Your Students The Right Way

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

For many of us the next few weeks will be very eventful. Christmas is just around the corner and we’re all looking forward to spending time with our families and enjoying the festivities.

Don’t miss!

For our final year students, however, the festive period will be very busy. They’ll be preparing for mock examinations in IGCSE’s, GCSE’s, ‘A’ – Levels, IBDP subjects and others. Many, unbeknownst to us, will also be topping up their revision time with private tuition and extra classes. 

The pressure is on: as it should be. 

My view point has always been that if students are going to give up a whole Christmas break revising and studying in this way, then they need to be doing it properly. 

As teachers, I feel we have a duty to train and monitor our students thoroughly as they get ready for the most difficult exams they’ve ever taken. 

In many schools, students are simply told that they have mock exams coming up in January and that they’d better revise or else! But is this really fair?

We sometimes assume that our students are old enough to take responsibility for their own learning. Sometimes we are content to take a back seat and let the students take ownership of their own revision.

snacking

I believe that standpoint neglects the true needs of our learners in terms of guidance and assurance. By adopting the idea that we can leave these kids to their own devices over the Christmas vacation, we are essentially being negligent in our duties. 

So how do we make sure that our students are really making the best use of their time? What can we do to truly help them achieve success in the mock exams?

#1: Provide Past-Papers

We must not assume that our students can, or will, find past-papers online.

We must not assume that our students can, or will, find mark schemes and model answers online.

a guy sitting

Consider doing the following:

  1. Print out booklets filled with past papers and mark schemes. Give these to your students just before they set off for the Christmas vacation. Perhaps set the papers as a homework? Between 10 and 15 past-papers usually suffices.
  2. If you’re conscious of the cost and/or environmental impact of printing so many past-paper booklets, then simply share the pdfs with your students. You can publish these online via your school’s VLE or even set up a padlet or bulk e-mail. 
  3. Encourage your students to complete the past-papers under timed conditions: this will train them to answer efficiently without leaving blank spaces.
  4. Provide the examiner’s reports for each exam paper: these offer rich information which the official mark schemes don’t offer. Show your students how to use these.
  5. Just prior to the mock exams (i.e. just after or just before the Christmas break), consider holding some past-paper ‘clinics’. These can be run after-school if class time is taken up with whole-school exams. Use these clinics to go through the mark schemes to specific papers. Whilst you’ll be sacrificing some of your time, the pay off is that you’ll be helping your students immeasurably and at exactly the right moment for maximum impact. 

#2: Teach your students how to revise

Just recently I held a very active Year 11 revision class. It was a summary session on polymers and plastics. 

Providing material for revision: such as websites and printed summaries, I gave the students a menu of options from which to complete their topic overviews:

  • Mind-mapping
  • Flash cards/revision cards
  • Writing bullet points
  • Recording notes on their phone (spoken verbally)
  • Creating a website summary
  • A Google slides presentation
  • Build a game or quiz
  • Past-paper question hunt
  • Anything else they could think of

Sessions like this encourage the students to find out what their preferred methods of revision are. They also show students new methods they may never have thought of before. 

studying with com

 

Try to increase the frequency of revision sessions like this as the terminal exams approach. Use tried-and-tested methods you already know about, and draw upon the ideas of your students for new creative inspiration. 

#3: Do your students know when to revise?

Have you done the research yourself? How many hours per night should students be revising? Are morning sessions better than afternoon sessions? How many breaks should they have? When should they have breaks? What should they eat? When should they eat? When should they sleep, and for how long? 

Surprisingly, the vast majority of educators do not know the answers to these questions. As a consequence, our students are often misguided and left to figure all this out by themselves. 

Whilst research in the area of effective revision and knowledge retention can be conflicting, there are many startling consistencies. I’ve summarised this research in my ‘Mock Exams Preparation!’ infographic below. Please feel free to share this with your students, colleagues and parents. They need to know this information!

mock-exams-richardjamesrogers

#4: Monitor their revision over the school vacation

Yes, I know that we’re on holiday too. 

Yes, I know that we deserve a break too.

What I’m suggesting is not massively time-consuming, but it will have a MASSIVE impact on the success of your students. 

Set up some kind of online journal, where the students can record a few sentences each day describing what they revised. Consider the following ideas:

  • Make the journal open for all students to see, maybe by creating a Google doc that every student has access to. This will provide other students with ideas as the vacation progresses and they see what their peers are revising. It also adds a thin layer of accountability, as it’s easy to see who hasn’t added to the class journal. Use your judgement of your students to see if this is appropriate. Maybe ask them for their opinion about it before you set it up. 
  • Make the journal closed, perhaps by setting up a Google doc for each student that you can check each day. Maybe an e-mail system works better for you: where students e-mail you a few sentences each day. 
  • Market the idea as a ‘help tool’: an online journal where students can record what revision techniques worked well for them that day, and ask any questions they have. The other students in the group can then answer those questions, comment on the suggestions and the teacher can even offer written guidance too. This ‘collaborative’ form of journaling can have an amazing motivational effect, and can even raise students’ enjoyment of your subject. 

There’s one experience in my sixth-form schooling that I’ll never forget as long as I live. It shows the impact that a dedicated teacher can have on his or her students.

on the bike

It was Christmas 2001. I was 17 and getting ready for my mock exams, but I was slacking off. One week into the holiday and I hadn’t done any ‘AS’ – Level Physics revision.

Then, the telephone rang. I picked it up and to my shock and embarrassment it was my Physics teacher.

“How’s the revision going, Richard?”

“Err, err, it’s going okay, sir” 

“Do you have any questions so far?”

“Err, no I think I’m good”

“Okay then. Don’t forget that the exam is only 10 days away”

“Okay. Thank you, sir, bye”

“Bye Richard”

If ever there was a wake-up call in my life, that was it. I was embarrassed to have to lie to my teacher. The revision wasn’t going well – I hadn’t done any.

That day I pulled up my socks and went at my studies like a steam train. It was the phone call that did it – a call from someone who cared. Someone I respected.

Sometimes a little bit of pain does a lot of good. Left to my own devices I would have crammed my Physics revision into the last few days of the holiday. 

Summary

  • Provide plenty of past-papers, mark schemes and examiner’s reports. Crucially: go through the papers when the students have completed them.
  • Teach your students the science of good revision. Feel free to share my infographic with them!
  • Monitor revision over the Christmas vacation (very powerful!). Set up some kind of online journaling system that suits your students. Ask for their input on it before you set it up. 

 

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Don’t miss the Christmas Giveaway for 2017! From 25th – 29th December, Richard’s book will be free to download on the Amazon Kindle store globally. Merry Christmas and enjoy (and tell your friends)!

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Developing Independent Learning Skills: Teaching Our Students to Teach Themselves

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

The ability to learn independently is a key aspirational skill of all of our students; or at least it should be.

Not only do our top students need to learn how to study independantly when they get to university, but all of our students need to be prepared for careers that may not yet exist.

Empower students through marking

When you first meet your advanced learners, or when they are starting out on their ‘independent learning training’, empower them with encouraging comments on their work.

Take this recent example of mine for instance:

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“Excellent advice!”

This work is from a final year IBDP student. She’s done a good job of finding and filtering relevant information by herself. I’ve praised the things she’s done well, and offered tips on how to extend her research.

Over time, the amount of written comments I give on this kind of project work/research will definitely decrease. This is only needed in the initial stages.

For her next piece of work, peer assessment and some verbal feedback from me may be all that she needs to be encouraged to keep on track and continue to improve.

Design project work with a creative outcome in mind

Here are some ideas for group and individual projects:

  • Create an infographic about a particular topic, to be displayed on the classroom wall
  • Create a class presentation, perhaps on Google slides, to be presented to the class at some future date
  • Create a website summary of a topic
  • Build a model or a demo to show the class
  • Create a dramatized play/news report about a topic
  • Create a song/rap
  • Create a stop-motion animation of a process
  • Create a spatial Learning activity (kids might need some training for this one: see my blog post here for help)
  • Create a leaflet or brochure, to be distributed to another class or Year group (cooperate with other teachers on this one – perhaps a leaflet exchange is a good idea)

Can you think of more to add to the list?

Use Imaginative Evaluation

When people think of an ‘evaluation’ they’re often drawn to their early memories of their Science lessons at school.

In those kinds of evaluations students have to decide what worked well, what didn’t work well and what changes could be made to methods and equipment to make the experiment better next time.

With Imaginative Evaluation, students use their ingenuity to think of what they could do better if there were no limitations in terms of equipment, time, resources and technology.

In an attempt to create the innovators of tomorrow, Imaginative Evaluation aims to get kids thinking about what technology, currently not available, that they would invent to solve the problem they’re facing.

This excerpt from my book shows a planning and evaluation form that can be used with any assignment, in any subject, to encourage Imaginative Evaluation:

Slide1

Slide2

Slide3

Build things

Get your students to build what they are learning in some way. You don’t need fancy equipment: straws, bottle caps, crumpled paper, cardboard, paints and even plastic bottles can all be mashed and mangled together by students to create amazing models.

I’ve used this technique across my teaching in Science to get students to create everything from atomic models (a recent example is given below) to makeshift ‘eco gardens’.

Can you think of times where you could use this technique in your curriculum area?

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Spatial Learning: A Powerful Teaching Tool

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

It was a cold October morning in North Wales. I was a fresh, Newly Qualified Teacher at Denbigh High School. 

Young and inexperienced with rose-tinted goggles: I was mindful of my responsibilities as a new Science teacher. Expectations were high.

When the Deputy Head of the school suddenly asked to observe one of my Year 9 Physics lessons I knew I had to perform well. As a thriving school with a great reputation, Denbigh definitely set the bar high.

My Year 9 kids were typical 13 and 14-year-olds. Some days they were great and some days they’d just had enough. Keeping them on-task was a challenge for an unskilled teacher like me. 

Frantically thinking of ideas for this major lesson observation that was coming up, I thought about how to keep the kids interested whilst maintaining challenge at the same time. I was going to be teaching a lesson about series and parallel circuits, but I’d made the mistake of not ordering circuitry and equipment from my Science technician. A class practical was simply out of the question at such short notice, and the circuitry was booked by a number of other teachers that day anyway. I could only order enough equipment for a class demo.

What on Earth was I going to do?

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“Excellent advice!”

Simulations and online learning was out of the question – this was 2006 and kids didn’t have the right mobile devices and they didn’t carry laptops. Online resources were also limited.

I felt uneasy about taking the kids to the computer lab, even though it was available. My Deputy Head wanted to see me teach, not watch the kids work on computers for 40 minutes (or so I assumed).

In a moment of despair and perplexity I was suddenly given a flash of inspiration: what if I could turn the lab into a giant circuit? The kids could become ‘model electrons’ and could walk around the classroom holding up little signs, pretending to be flowing around a circuit. I could even hold up a sign saying ‘cell’, and a few kids could be model ‘switches’ and ‘bulbs’. Hell, it might just work!

The day comes

I frantically printed a class set of A4 signs – just simple sheets which said ‘electron’, ‘switch’ and ‘bulb’ in big letters. 

‘This crazy idea might save my day after all’, I thought!

The kids came in and sat down. Back then I hadn’t mastered the art of giving students something quick to do as soon as they enter the door (see my three A’s in my book). I got right into this activity as a starter (which turned into a semi-main body of the lesson). 

robot

I lined all the kids up and gave them each a sign. Most of them would pretend to be electrons and a few would be switches and bulbs (‘switch on’, ‘switch off’, ‘bulb on’ and ‘bulb off’ signs were given to these pupils). 

The desks were arranged in rows, so I started with a series circuit. I explained the route the kids had to take and they started walking, holding up their signs. They smiled and giggled along the way. When the ‘electrons’ passed the ‘bulb’ it ‘lit up’, and when the ‘switch off’ student held up his sign, the ‘electrons’ stopped moving and the ‘bulb off’ sign was held up, proudly.

To my astonishment, the kids absolutely loved it. More importantly: they understood the concepts of the lesson brilliantly. They completed a short worksheet after the ‘circuit walk’ (which they all could answer with ease) and then I gave my short circuit demo with actual wires and bulbs and switches. 

Feedback

My deputy head was very impressed. She praised my creativity and said that the ‘circuit walk’ was very effective.

Not bad for a freshy who prepared in rush!

That day I became a hardcore Spatial Learning fan. Fast forward to today and all of my students will tell you that I use spatial learning in almost every lesson I teach. It’s effectiveness speaks for itself.

But what is Spatial Learning?

There are many definitions and interpretations of spatial learning on the web and in various books. Some of this pedagogical mumbo-jumbo can be really confusing, but I believe I’ve nailed it down to one sentence:

Spatial Learning is when students use bodily movements to express themselves, solve problems and model situations. 

Spatial Learning has both general and specific applications. I’ll now go through some great examples that illustrate the power of this excellent teaching tool. 

Here’s a quick video I made about Spatial Learning:

A human graph and true or false?

Do you want to know the opinions of your students on a subject matter? Maybe you’re taking a survey (e.g. which day is the best for canteen food). Maybe you have a list of multiple choice questions and you want a fun way to get the kids through them.

A human graph might be the right tool for you!

What if you just want to quickly check your students’ conceptual understandings (e.g. as a plenary)? You could ask some true/false questions and get the kids to raise their hands, or you could use a way cooler (and more fun) method! 

Choose one wall to be the ‘True’ wall and one to be the ‘False’ wall.  Once you’ve asked the question, get the kids to walk to the correct wall. It’s that simple! Just make sure that the kids walk back to the middle of the classroom before each question. 

This great illustration from Pop shows you the steps to take for each of these activities:

Human graph and true or false

Body numbers

Do your kids need to express numerical answers sometimes? Maybe they need to work out a percentage or a fraction, or translate numbers from one language into another. Maybe they need to express something in Binary Code. Well it’s time to put pen and paper down and get your kids moving!

Turn your students into ‘human numbers’ by following Pop’s beautifully illustrated instructions:

Human numbers

For double and triple-digit numbers you can put students into groups for added fun!

Modelling

The vast majority of the Spatial Learning I do involves modelling a situation, concept or solution. Like the example I gave earlier about the electrons travelling around the circuit, the students actually become the things that you’re teaching about. 

I find that almost everything I teach can be modelled spatially in one form or another. 

I’ll provide some examples to show just how easy it is, with just a little creativity, to turn any monotonous textbook paragraph into a living, breathing, exciting and stimulating task. 

Modelling example one: Diffusion

Textbook definition: Diffusion is the passive movement of liquid or gas particles from a region of high particle concentration to a region of low particle concentration. The speed of diffusion of any given particle is dependent on its molecular mass. This means that a particle of ammonia, for example, will diffuse faster than a particle of hydrogen chloride as ammonia is the lighter of the two particles. 

Modelling activity: As you can see, the textbook definition is rather hard to swallow. So, to jazz things up a little, you can turn the students into ammonia and hydrogen chloride particles and tell them to diffuse! In this activity, the students simply walk across the classroom at different speeds, depending on which molecule they are. Quick, easy to do and a nice break from writing, reading and listening to a lecture. More importantly: it’s really useful as a tool to help kids understand this concept.

See this illustration I drew below (my art work is dire compared to Pop’s, so I hope it’s understandable!):

Spatial Learning Diffusion Richard James Rogers

Modelling example two: A Typical Home Network

In an attempt to show you just how pliable spatial learning is, I’ve designed a task for a subject area I don’t specialise in: ICT

Concept: A typical home network may be wired, wireless or a combination of both. Hardware components process and convey the data message from from part of the network to another.

Spatial learning task: For this task you need moving and stationary students. The stationary students stand at predetermined positions in the classroom (you can put signs on desks or on walls to help). These students represent the hardware. The rest of the students are the ‘data message’, and they move from one component to another. I hope the illustration below helps you to see just how easy this is to implement and how much fun it can be. Students should shout out the name of the hardware component they reach at each stage as they walk around the room. 

Spatial Learning ICT Richard James Rogers

Can you think think of ways to use modelling in your subject area?

Further reading

My debut book is filled with great spatial learning and active engagement tips. After the enormous success of that book I’ve decided to work on a new book that will be released mid-2018 which goes into even greater depth and breadth about the range of classroom management tactics available to teachers. Also, if you’re looking for a great book to build up spatial learning skills in small children, then I strongly recommend Julie Dillemuth’s Lucy in the City:

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Also, a great manual for designing great spatial-learning activities is Dr. Thomas Armstrong’s Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom (highly recommended):

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Vocabulary Values: Helping Students Learn Key Words

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati 

“Feedback functions formatively only if the information fed back to the learner is used by the learner in improving performance.” 
Dylan WiliamEmbedded Formative Assessment

A half-term has ended and so much has happened already! New students, new classes, new systems, new parents and maybe even a new school. 

walking around wt laptop

If you’re like me: following a British/American academic year, then you’ve probably given your older kids some mid-term exams. In my case, I’ve already had a parent’s consultation evening in which I could discuss the results.

This time of the academic year is a great opportunity to assess your students in some way. It allows you to identify problems early on, so that you can ‘nip them in the bud’, so to speak.

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“An AMAZING book! 5 stars!”

One key problem area for many students is their use of subject-specific language in examinations. Mark Schemes for external exams, such as iGCSEs, GCSEs, ‘A’ – Levels, the IB Diploma and many others, are often very rigorous with no room for compromise when it comes to key words.

In short, if students don’t use the correct subject-specific terminology, then they perform poorly in examinations. This is a problem that native English speakers often face, as well as students with English as an Additional Language (EAL). 

What follows next are my top three strategies for helping students learn key words. I hope you find them useful, and if you have any strategies that you really like then please do comment using the form at the bottom of the page. 

#1: Vocabulary Journals

I already have a number of students who I’ve identified as needing one of these. It’s such an effective way to boost confidence and performance, but it does require a bit of organisation and leadership from the teacher. Here are the steps:

Step 1: Tell the students to get a special notebook. It doesn’t need to be fancy. Just a cheap spiral bound one will do just fine. 

Step 2: The students should divide the first page into three columns:

  • Key word
  • Meaning
  • Pronunciation

For example: Moment, The force applied to a lever multiplied by the distance from the pivot, mo-men-t

For an EAL student you can include a fourth column:

  • Translation

In this column, the student can write the word in his/her native language.

Step 3: The students should write down the key words they learn every week into this journal, along with all of the other information.

Step 4: CRUCIAL! The key words and information must be CHECKED every week. Check the words, the meaning and the pronunciation (you can even get the students to say the words to you – this reinforces their memory of the terminology). 

Woman reading

For native translations you may have to simply trust the students with that one. You could possibly spot check these every so often with an MfL teacher, but that’s not always possible (e.g. if the native language of the student is Japanese, but the school doesn’t have a Japanese teacher).

To save you time, you could get small groups of students to check each others’ journals. This would also work well with groups of EAL students who all speak the same native language. 

JOUNALING IS SUCH A POWERFUL TEACHING TOOL, BUT IT IS SELDOM USED BY TEACHERS! Make use of it!

#2: Play Vocabulary Games

I’m a HUGE advocate of these. They are so much fun, and can be used by students of almost any age! Here are may favorites:

Splat

This quick game is so easy: all you need is a whiteboard, whiteboard markers and class of kids. It’s a great game for consolidating key vocabulary, and is perfect for E.A.L. learners.

Splat

Here’s a short video showing a quick clip of me playing ‘Splat’ with my students (I will include some more lengthy clips soon, but this is a good start):

Mystery Word

Another easy game. This time, students randomly pick out written words from a hat (or cup, beaker, container, etc.), and then they have to explain their word to the class (without saying the word). The students who are listening have to guess what the word is.

Mystery word

Who am I?

A very simple game. All you need are post-it notes and a class full of energized students! Great fun. Perfect for reinforcing key vocabulary and concepts.

Who am I

There are some more games that you can play with too (no pun intended). Details can be found at my blog post here. Also, if you’re looking for a great book filled with practical and easy-to-implement vocabulary games, then check out this great book (one of my favourites): Vocabulary Games for the Classroom by Lindsay Carleton and Robert J. Marzano. 

vocab games for the classroom

#3: Highlight key words in your marking

Mai's wprkThere’s a number of ways that this can be done:

  • Refer to key words by writing questions on the piece of work (e.g. what’s the name of this part?)
  • You could highlight less technical terminology and get the students to make it more technical (e.g. ‘movement energy’ becomes ‘kinetic energy’)
  • You could circle key words that are spelt incorrectly and get the kids to look them up online or in a dictionary, and change the spelling
  • You could do some peer assessment and get all the kids to write down words spelt or written incorrectly on little bits of paper. These words can then be your ‘feeder vocabulary’ for the games given above.
  • Your school may have it’s own strategy for key words, so check that first!

 

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The War on Masculinity in Schools: A Growing Epidemic?

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati (and some images have been sourced from Pixabay.com)

Updated on 25th October 2017

NOTE TO READER: The author wants to make it clear that all people should be respected regardless of gender, sexuality, race or religion. As civilized people, we should be tolerant towards those who are law-abiding and have different opinions, behaviors, cultures or beliefs to us. This article acts as an introduction to the issue of gender-identity education in schools and childhood and the effect this has had, and is having, on masculinity and ‘manliness’ in some cultures and countries. 

Five years old and I was glued to the TV watching WWF wrestling. The wrestlers’ muscles, their machoness, their swagger, their attitude, their power – I wanted it all. I even had the toy wrestlers and the ring, and I and my brother would fight it out (often literally, which really annoyed my mum).

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I was a boy, for sure. No-one could tell me otherwise. At that age I didn’t really like to play with girls and I opposed everything deemed ‘girly’. I hated the colour pink, and I would never, ever play with girls’ toys.

At that time I was surrounded by good male role-models. As a child of the eighties, I was lucky enough to enjoy ‘film night’ at my dad’s house every Saturday. Me, my brother and my dad would watch movies like ‘Predator’, ‘The Terminator’, ‘Enter the Dragon’, ‘Lethal Weapon’, ‘Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves’ and ‘Die Hard’. 

The male heroes of these movies were presented as strong, intelligent, caring, brave and moral men. They stood up for people in need, they weren’t afraid of bullies or opposition and they did what was right, no matter what. These traits of masculinity were further embedded by the instruction of my father, and later by the great coaches and instructors I had in Shotokan Karate classes (which I still do to this day) and the Army Cadet Force. 

Army cadet
Me as a 14-year-old Army Cadet instructor

My coaches were not misogynists or chauvinists. They wanted me to do well. They encouraged me to fend for myself and not to rely on my parents too much – to take on the role of a contributor and a leader, to help my parents out and to be a good role model: a male role model. A man of courage, morality and decency. A person who worked-hard, but who would never disrespect someone who was underachieving or who needed help. 

I was secure in my identity as a boy and a young man. My early childhood was filled with good male-role models and I didn’t need special classes or training to know that I was a male. My security and identity as a ‘young man’ happened naturally, as it does for almost every boy. In fact, my Year 2 teacher once made me sit exactly on my seat with a very convincing threat: “Richard, if you sit on another seat you’ll turn into a girl!”. I stayed put! It worked!

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“An Amazing Book! 10/10”

Fast forward to today and we’re looking at a totally different dynamic. The teacher who said those words to me 30 years ago could get into some trouble for saying those same words today. This is concerning.

The Feminisation of Society?

A number of high-profile individuals have spoken publicly about the feminisation of men in recent times. One such person is Camille Paglia, Professor at the University of Arts in Pennsylvania, who stated in an interview for the Wall Street Journal that “What you are seeing is how a civilization commits suicide”. In the interview, she makes the point that ignoring the biological differences between men and women risks undermining Western civilization.

Some critics blame the cosmetics industry, saying that adverts portraying the modern man as prim, pretty and preen like a woman are contributing to the feminine behaviors that so many are now observing in modern men. Most notably, Tomi Lahren, political commentator at Fox News, went so far as to say that “growing a beard and wearing a flannel shirt doesn’t make you a man if you still can’t change a light bulb,” before concluding that ‘helpless’ young men now prove to be “slim pickings for women”. She also caused a storm with this very thought-provoking tweet, suggesting that millennial men would be unfit for military service :

But is there any truth in all of this subjective criticism of modern men? What does science have to say on the matter?

Biological Male Parameters

In a study completed last year, researchers discovered that the grip strength of a sample of college men had declined significantly between 1985 and 2016. In fact, it has declined so much – from 117 pounds of force to just 98 pounds, that it now equals that of older Millennial women. The average college male now has an equal hand strength to a 30-year-old female.

Alongside this concerning decrease in male physical strength, sperm counts and testosterone levels continue to plummet. According to researchers, sperm counts in men from America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe have fallen by a whopping 50 percent in just under 40 years. Testosterone levels have shown a similar trend, falling by 1% per year since the 1980s.  Another study of Danish men revealed similar results, with declines in testosterone consistently above 10% among men born in the 1960s, compared to those born in the 1920s.

High five

For some men, the shame of discovering why they can’t conceive a child is almost unbearable. A number of my friends and former colleagues have had the bombshell of “You’re infertile” dumped on them mercilessly by a doctor. One of my friends sadly took to alcohol after finding out why he and his wife couldn’t conceive a child. Soon after, the alcohol took his life.

As infertility clinics pop up left right and centre across the world, not enough is being done to address the emotional consequences of male infertility on couples and on men, in particular. The root causes of such drastic increases in male infertility are also not being addressed or even questioned by many of the doctors who are all too happy to cash in on the booming business of fertility treatment: making huge profits in the process.

Some scientists are even warning about the threat of human extinction in the near future, as sperm counts show no signs of rising. 

So what’s happening in schools?

One may think that there should be a massive drive to provide provision for boys in schools and encourage positive male development, especially when one considers the evidence just mentioned. Men are becoming increasingly effeminate; so surely the schools must be doing something to address this issue, right? Surely there must be a drive to increase the profile and understanding of masculinity with projects such as male-identity classes, increased provision for competitive sports and a big drive to provide nutrition in schools that offers wide-spectrum support for developing boys and girls. 

In fact, in Western cultures, the exact opposite seems to be happening. The feminisation of men and boys is at best tolerated, and at worst: encouraged. 

Who do you think should be a guest speaker at your 5 year old’s class? A doctor? A policeman? An ambulance driver? A firefighter? An author? A company manager?

How about a drag queen? Surely a man with makeup, high heels and women’s clothes who looks like he (she?) just walked out of a nightclub sets a brilliant example for others to follow. It’s so progressive!

transvestite-147346_1280

Sarcasm aside, that’s exactly what happened at the Brooklyn Public Library in Park Slope,  New York City when kids were invited to ‘Story Hour’ delivered by a lipstick-wearing guy. Now there are plans to expand this model across the UK, as a new drive has been set up to get drag queens into British primary schools to read stories to kids. Apparently, this is all in aid of LGBT(QLMNOP……) awareness.

With questions such as “Who wants to be a drag queen when they grow up” (to which a number of small children raised their hands), and songs such as “The hips on the drag queen go ‘swish’, ‘swish’, ‘swish’, all day long”, one can’t help but wonder if the world has gone a little mad. Was this drag queen event intended to inform the children about one minority lifestyle choice, or was it intended to promote and advertise the lifestyle of a drag queen?

This also got me wondering: should kids as young as three really be exposed to this kind of activity/event/propaganda (I’m not sure what to call it. Watch the video from the Associated Press and judge for yourself).  Shouldn’t young kids be focussing on learning their times’ tables, language acquisition, playing with toys, playing with their friends, developing ICT skills, developing social and interpersonal skills and acquiring subject-specific content?

The ‘victimhood narrative’

Dr Joana Williams, a lecturer in higher education at Kent University, is one of a number of academics who has spoken out against the kind of gender-biased and gender-confusing influences that seem to be permeating our schools. 

Dr Williams argues that schools, universities and feminist campaigners, which should be promoting women’s rights, are now doing more damage than good. 

In her new book, titled Women vs Feminism: Why We All Need Liberating from the Gender Wars’, Dr Williams argues that “fashionable” modern feminism involves telling young women that misogyny and sexual harassment are commonplace. She claims that teaching young girls that there are insurmountable barriers in life caused by the widespread ‘toxic masculinity’ of men causes a ‘give up’ attitude to be embedded which stops girls from persevering in life. Additionally, as if in a confirmation of the Orwellian ‘newspeak’ predicted in the epic novel, ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’, Dr Williams states:

“So if someone pays you a compliment [you are told] that is outrageous. You are told it is not a joke, it is a sexual attack, it is “everyday sexism” or  a micro-aggression.”

One has to wonder how this ideology affects boys and young men, and their sense of confidence in relationships. Do young men feel empowered to approach a girl and ask for a date these days, or are they afraid that they’ll be labelled a ‘misogynist’? Only time will tell what the long-term effects will be.

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The War Against Boys

Christina Hoff Sommers, author of ‘The War Against Boys, explains how boys are getting a raw deal and how good intervention programmes can have a dramatic and positive effect on the attainment of boys in school. She argues that boys are behind girls when it comes to performance in exams, and she offers some compelling reasons why it’s high time to start addressing this problem. If you’re looking for a very interesting and informative watch, then this video is for you!:

Gender Identity vs. Sexuality

One issue that many in the ‘gender fluid’ community cannot answer fully is this – how do you inform small children about drag queens, lesbians, transgenders and all of the other sub-categories without touching on the subject of sex and relationships? Does a drag queen want to have an intimate relationship with a woman, a man, a transvestite or what? Discussions and ‘story hours’ featuring LGBT issues can’t help but involve the topic of sexuality – the two are intertwined.

Should small children ever be taught about about sex? Shouldn’t the gender binary: a biological male and a female in a relationship together, be equally taught and discussed in schools? After all, that is the reproductive unit that conforms with nature’s rules. Shouldn’t gender-identity education be taught alongside sex-education, when boys and girls are going through adolescence and are better able to process the information being presented to them? Once again, is it really necessary for small children to learn about drag queens and so-called ‘gender non-conformists”. Can small children really understand and process these concepts?

yin-2730339_1280

With sperm counts falling sharply around the world for the past three to four decades, isn’t it in the interest of human survival to value and cherish the traditional family unit above all others?

Some high profile individuals have vehemently spoken out against the homosexual influences that some would say are permeating school communities around the world. Take Fred Nile, New South Wales MP and conservative morals campaigner, who stated: My observation is that teenagers are going through sexual development and [it] can be quite dangerous, I think, to promote homosexuality in schools to children,”

Fred goes a step further than me: warning about the dangers of pervasive homosexuality promotion with teenagers. Once again, the difference between ‘promoting’ and ‘informing’ is a crucial consideration here.

Who wears the trousers?

In an apparent act of typical teenage defiance, a group of boys at Isca Academy in Exeter, England, decided to wear skirts to school as they were banned from wearing shorts. As the mid-July temperatures soared higher than they had since 1976, boys at Isca were noticeably annoyed that their female counterparts could wear cool skirts.

When they protested that the girls were allowed bare legs, the school, probably in the tone of sarcasm, said the boys could wear skirts too if they chose. So on Wednesday 21st June, a handful brushed off the embarrassment and did so. The extent of the rebellion increased on Thursday when at least 30 boys wore skirts.

yin-2730344_640

The media frenzy was soon picked up by major UK and global publications, including the London Guardian, the Independentthe Telegraph and even ABC news in Australia.

Why the widespread coverage of this story? I guess it is an interesting story of masculine (?) defiance in the face of ‘tyranny’, but why the global attention? Was this really such a high-profile story? Was this an unmissable opportunity for the ‘progressives’ to jump on the gender-identity bandwagon to further confuse people and promote a particular agenda? Perhaps this was just too juicy a story to miss, and news outlets knew that people would be interested. Great for sales?

The War on Fatherhood

Taking this further, the war on masculinity doesn’t end with male identity in schools.

Fathers do one of the hardest jobs in the world. My dad was a role model in every way, often going the extra mile to make sure I was fed, clothed and safe. That wasn’t always easy for my family.

Nowadays, in an apparent act of psychological warfare, the role of the father is often reduced to the image of the beer-guzzling Homer Simpson layabout-type. Take Jezebel magazine, for example, which shows no apparent bias with this comment:

Father’s Day means a lot of things for a lot of different people. Maybe you were lucky enough to score a great dad, the kind that made you pancakes on weekends, coached your soccer team and sang off-key to Bob Seger on long car trips—but always, unmistakably loved you.

And maybe Father’s Day means something totally different to you. Maybe your father passed away, maybe he was abusive, maybe he was never there to begin with. Maybe he was this douche (man-degrading video follows):

For the latter group, Father’s Day is often a painful reminder of what others have but you don’t, and those stories deserve to be told, too.

So what does Father’s Day mean to you? Share your stories—the good, the bad and the ugly—in the comments below.

A balanced invitation? I tend to disagree. Lauren Southern, a rare voice of reason in our confusing world of gender-skewing propaganda, summarises the war on fathers brilliantly in this short video (WELL WORTH A WATCH):

 Conclusion
  • Gender identity classes should be taught in schools. We should teach our young people to be tolerant and accepting of gender-fluid individuals. However, does the promotion of minority gender identities (e.g. transgenders) above the traditional gender binary serve any purpose except to confuse young people further?
  • I think it’s unnecessary for three-year-old kids to learn about the gender identity issues of minorities, but it is appropriate for gender identity classes to be given to older kids who are better able to process the information and make more informed decisions about their lives.
  • Now, more than ever, young boys and girls need positive male role models in their lives. Not chauvinists and misogynists, but hard-working, principled and decent individuals who undoubtedly identify themselves as ‘men’.
  • Any education on gender identity presented in schools should be thoroughly regulated and designed with a proper curriculum focus and should aim to inform about gender-identity. Such a programme should never aim to promote any gender-identity minority.
  • More needs to be done to determine the appropriate age at which gender-identity education should begin. Perhaps it is best delivered to adolescent teens when they already know the scientific basis of sex and the indisputable role that the ‘gender-binary’ plays in the propagation and survival of the human species.
  • Fathers should be respected just as much as mothers, and the important role that fathers play in the traditional family unit should be taught through a school’s PSHE or social studies program
  • Alongside sex-education, health education is vital so that the issue of falling male sperm counts can be addressed. The role that WiFi, cellular devices, food additives and pollutants in the air have on sperm count, though not properly understood, should be presented through project work as an exploration for all high-school students to work on. A number of factors are undoubtedly leading to plummeting sperm counts globally, and the survival of the human race is dependent upon fixing this problem and raising awareness of possible contributing factors.

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Falling Behind Your Teaching Schedule: Prevention and Cures

An article by Richard James Rogers (Author of The Quick Guide to Classroom Management)

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati (a former student of mine, and a key illustrator in my book). You can e-mail her at popslittlespace@gmail.com if you’d like her to do some beautiful illustration work for you!

The start of a new academic year at any school is usually very hectic, especially if you’re starting somewhere new. With fresh classes, new systems, new students, new workload demands and a new timetable, it’s easy to become overwhelmed.

out-of-control

Falling behind on your teaching schedule (i.e. the topics you’re supposed to cover and when), is easily done. Sometimes it’s unavoidable, like when the floods hit Bangkok in 2011 and schools were closed for two weeks, or when you have to go on a residential or field trip. Sometimes it’s a symptom of getting used to life at school, and adapting to new changes.

Don’t feel guilty

Falling behind schedule happens to every teacher at some, or multiple points, in our careers. Don’t beat yourself up – accept what’s happened and use the prevention and cure strategies in this article to solve the issue quickly and easily.

Fundamentals: The Curriculum Map

In order to know whether you’re behind schedule in the first place, you’ll need curriculum maps set up for each of your classes.

A curriculum map is basically a long-term plan for each class for the whole academic year. It doesn’t have to be fancy – even a table drawn on paper is enough. However, a good curriculum map should show the topics you intend to teach each month, or week, of the academic year. These topics should be linked to the textbook you are using in class or the syllabus you are following or both.

 

making plans
A curriculum map doesn’t need to be complicated

 

Once your curriculum maps are set up, and you know what you should be teaching and when, you can start using these prevention strategies which will enable you to keep on schedule for the rest of the year.

Prevention Strategies

These can be used at any point in the year, as you may be behind, or ahead of schedule (a topic for another blog post?), at multiple points during the academic year.

Set time aside each week to plan ahead

When I first qualified as a teacher I used to plan my lessons day-by-day. This was not a good strategy, as I found it hard to gain a long-term focus for my planning, which sometimes caused me to fall behind.

Now I set aside time every Sunday afternoon to plan all of my lessons for the week ahead. However, I don’t just simply scribble activities into each and every box in my planner. I ask myself these five questions for every class:

  1. Let’s take a look at the curriculum map. Am I on schedule?
  2. Where are the kids up to now?
  3. Where do they need to be by the end of the week?
  4. Has anyone missed any lessons (including me?). How can we catch up?
  5. Which new activities or games should I use this week, which I haven’t used for a while? (Great ideas for learning games and differentiation tips can be found here, here and here).

always learn

Going through these five steps allows me to not only plan lessons which are enjoyable, tailor-made and meaningful, but also allows me to keep up with the pace of the curriculum.

I addition to this, some extra strategies are sometimes needed to fully answer to above five questions. Let’s take a look at those strategies now.

Set up a marking timetable

I know this is probably not a popular way to phrase a sub-heading, but please stay with me and you’ll see the immense benefits that this strategy has.

For this current academic year, I am teaching 8 different classes. Obviously, I see those classes at different points during a typical week, so I spread out my marking as follows:

  • Year 11 on Monday
  • Year 9 and 10 class 1 and 2 on Tuesday
  • Year 13 on Wednesday
  • Year 7 and Year 10 class 3 on Thursday
  • Year 12 on Friday

Okay, so you get the idea of what a marking timetable looks like. How does this help you to keep your teaching on schedule?

discussing-homework

  1. You’re constantly checking the students’ books to see if they have covered exactly what you think they’ve covered. Sometimes it can be easy to lose track of where your kids are at, especially if you have multiple classes to teach. Sometimes planner or VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) records are not enough – you need to check if the kids have actually UNDERSTOOD what you taught them.
  2. It doesn’t take long to do if you do it each day and spread it out. A quick glance may be all you need to see where the kids are at.

My grandad was a very keen and competent gardener. He lived by the Little And Often Principle: “I do a little bit of gardening, every day, so that I don’t have a load of weeding and pruning to do every Sunday” is what he used to say.

I like that idea.

Make sure that your marking timetable fits in well with your school’s homework timetable (if they have one) and your free-time.

Other benefits of having a marking timetable are as follows:

  1. You’ll get to know the writing, presentation and artistic styles of your new students really quickly.
  2. Checking through the students’ books and homework yourself is one way to quickly memorise new names
  3. It allows opportunity to provide written and verbal praise, which helps you to build rapport

Set meaningful and robust cover work

Whether you’re out on a school trip, ill with the cold or attending PD overseas, your cover work should aim to minimise re-teaching when you come back.

instructional software

Some teachers fall into the common trap of setting work that keeps students occupied or entertained, rather than work that challenges the students or covers new material.

It is understandable why some teachers are reluctant to give new content as cover work – if you’re a subject specialist who’s away from school, then it’s likely that your class will be supervised by a non-specialist.

But does that mean you should make your cover work easy?

If you want to avoid being behind schedule, then set cover work that covers some of the syllabus that the kids would normally learn if you were at school. 

For example, I was just recently away for three days on an Outdoor Expedition trip. I asked my Year 12 class to complete the End of Chapter questions on Atomic Structure – a challenging task since they haven’t quite learnt everything about successive ionization energies yet. When I go back to school tomorrow, I’ll check their books to see how far they got and to see if they could do the successive ionization energies question.

bean bags

If they could all do it, then congrats – the kids have taught themselves some new knowledge whilst I was away. I can quickly go through that question and move on.

If some couldn’t do it, then I’ll take those individuals aside during a class activity and go through it with them.

If they all couldn’t do it, then I know that my cover work was too challenging (or the kids chose to slack off whilst I was there). However, now that I know the kids really well, I can gauge that my cover work wasn’t too challenging (a skill that takes experience to master). If all of the kids couldn’t do it, then I’ll have to spend time to teach that topic to them again. 

Bottom line – Cover work should aim to teach, not just to entertain. 

Keep spares

A basic one this, and more for individual kids who have missed classes.

If you’ve handed out worksheets or paper-based homework in class, then keep the same sheets in some kind of filing cabinet or folder. When the kid comes back, you can hand him or her the work that he or she needs to catch up on.

Even better – put everything on a VLE. Good systems include Google Classroom® (which is virtually free of charge), Firefly® and Moodle®. 

Stick to the syllabus

We all want to enrich our lessons with real-life examples, practical work, field-trips, case-studies and projects (which are all great and all have their place in teaching). However, it can be easy to get carried away a bit.

tablet activity

I made the mistake of doing this in my NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) year – my first year of teaching. I was going through genetic diseases with a Year 11 Biology class, and I decided to teach them about Huntington’s Chorea when it wasn’t on the syllabus. 

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An AMAZING Book!”

Whilst it was nice for these kids to have another example of a genetic disease in their toolkit, and they found it interesting too, they weren’t going to be examined on it. I basically wasted a lesson teaching them this. 

The odd lesson here or there of additional material isn’t usually a major problem, but large periods of time need to be considered more carefully. Do your kids really need one week to complete a recycling project, or will one lesson give them enough material for their test or exam?

Plan your enrichment material carefully. Make sure it fits into your curriculum map without disrupting the flow of the main syllabus content. Ideally, enrichment activities should embed and enhance the curriculum, not digress from it. 

Use focussed resources

Have you ever produced a worksheet or resource that was designed for a slightly different course, but you had little time so you set it anyway? I’ve done this in the past, especially when I was just starting out as a teacher, and it usually has one or more consequences:

  1. There will be a question or two that the kids can’t do, and you’ll need to spend extra time explaining the theory behind those questions
  2. The kids may spend too long on the worksheet or activity, eating into valuable teaching time
  3. The kids will get confused about what they actually need to know, and what they should revise for their test or exam

poll everywhere

There is a flip-side to this though – some resources designed for the same topic but other exam boards can be used as extension material – stretching you’re best learners to excel in the lesson. Just be sure to specify though – “Everyone should do questions 1-5 in 10 minutes. Questions 6 and 7 are bonus questions if you finish early”

Behind Schedule Cures

But what if you’re already behind schedule (whether or not it is your fault)? How do you get back on track?

Play accelerated learning games

There are some activities you can do in class which speeds up the amount of content learnt per lesson. My two favourites are marketplace activities, and the Poster Game (given below). 

Possibly the most fun and competitive game I’ve ever invented for teaching new content. You’ll need space for the kids to walk/run, and the game does take some prep. However, once you (and your students) become used to playing this game you’ll find that it’s a doddle to set up in no time at all.

Poster game page 1poster game page 2Poster game page 3

Set homework

Can some of the simpler stuff be given as homework? If you’re behind schedule with your teaching, then this could prove to be a useful tactic. Just be sure to check the work quickly to make sure that no-one is left behind.

Sharing a class? Speak to your partner!

If you share a class with another teacher, then be open and honest and tell them that you are behind schedule. Two heads are better than one, and together you may be able to find a creative solution to the problem (e.g. the other teacher might be able to cover the missed material, while you progress to the next topic).

Assign extra time

This might be your only option if you are far behind and exams are approaching. Sometimes this happens through no fault of our own, and sometimes we’ve just gone too slow (which could be the result of multiple causes, some of which may be beyond our control).

it integrated

You may need to find out when all of your kids are free, and give them some extra sessions. After school, lunchtimes, school holidays and weekends can often be used.

The last resort, but still an option.

Speak with your head of department

If you are really struggling to keep up and are finding that the pace of your lessons is not adequate to meet the demands of the curriculum map (despite trying the tactics I’ve mentioned), then speak with your line manager as soon as possible. 

You’ll be seen as more mature, focussed and trustworthy by owning up to the problem than trying to sweep it under the carpet. What’s worse – a discussion with your HoD at the beginning, or multiple problems towards the end the academic year?

Your HoD should sympathize with you and offer a suite of solutions, some of which you may never have thought about. You may be going too slow because behavior management is taking up too much time, or maybe your kids just find learning a challenge in general.

Speak up and don’t be afraid. You’ll be respected for doing so. 

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Your First Few Weeks Back at School: Are You Doing These Six Things?

An article by Richard James Rogers

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati (a former student of mine, and a key illustrator in my book). You can e-mail her at popslittlespace@gmail.com if you’d like her to do some beautiful illustration work for you!

So you’ve been at school for a short while. You’ve settled in, got to know some (maybe all?) of your new students and are using the school’s new systems. You’re hopefully getting settled in and used to the new routine.

That’s great!

This article is designed to be a self-check for you – to see if you’re on track and doing the very best things you can do to be effective as you start the academic year. 

#1 Professional Intelligence Gathering

A large part of your time has probably already been spent trying to get to know your new students. I’ve personally just started at a brand new school, so all of my new students really are, well, new. 

A good way to quickly get to know your kids is to do some professional intelligence gathering. I wrote about this last week, so hopefully, you’ve already got your notebook set up! ;-D

Marking work

To cut the explanation short, you should get a notebook and keep all non-confidential information about each student you teach in there. Write down their dreams, aspirations, hobbies, ECAs, talents and significant events that have occurred, or that are coming up in their lives.

alphabetic mat

This information can then be used to generate good professional rapport – the key cornerstone of all great teaching. Kids will learn most effectively when they like and respect their teachers. There’s only one way to get your kids to like and respect you – build up a rapport with them.

Use your professional intelligence to:

  • Strike up conversations with your new students during lessons when activities are happening or even at impromptu times such as when you’re on duty or walking around school. This will show that you’re interested in their wellbeing and that you remember what they’ve said. Kids and young adults love being listened to and, deep-down, they all want to recognised and admired for their skills and abilities. 
  • Inform your lesson planning by dividing the class into skills groups for activities, or even link the hobbies and interests of your kids to the content. 
  • Speak with students when they slip up or fall behind. I remember once having a one-to-one conversation with a 17 yr old boy who wanted to be a restaurant manager one day. His attitude and focus had been slipping in class, so I had a one-to-one chat with him. I reminded him of the dream and goal he once told me – that he wanted to be a restaurant manager. The effect was profound and deep, and he quickly put himself back on track. 

#2 – Settling-In Assessments

with-ukedchat
“The book that transformed my teaching!”

If you’ve got new kids doing new courses, then you’ll need to know their strengths and weaknesses.

I recently gave my IB Year 12 Chemistry students a full IGCSE exam to act as a baseline test for the course. It allowed me to quickly identify students who needed help so that I could start tutoring and support measures to get these kids up to the right standard. It also helped me to see who the high flyers are so that I can prepare suitable extension work to push these high-achievers. 

Get some kind of assessment done at the start of the year. It will provide valuable intelligence which you can use to inform your lesson planning and feedback. 

#3 – Extra Curricular Activities

Getting involved in your schools ECA programme is a great way for you to get to know your kids, some of which you may not teach in your mainstream curriculum. It also sets you aside as a contributor to the school community, which reinforces the level of trust that your students will have in you (and you’ll need to build trust quickly if you’re at a new school, or teaching new kids). 

robot

Think of things that the kids will enjoy and benefit from:

  • Sports 
  • Languages
  • Special certification courses (e.g. CREST Award, Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, St. John’s Ambulance First Aid, etc.)
  • Crafts
  • Music 
  • ICT clubs (e.g. coding, animation, game design, app building)

#4 – Marking 

Not everyone’s favourite but, nevertheless, a staple for the new teacher at a new school. Last week I wrote about how your first few weeks should involve slightly more teacher-led marking than peer, automated or self-assessment because:

  1. You’ll quickly get to find out about your kid’s strengths and weaknesses (e.g. classwork presentation, homework completion, creativity, numeracy, language proficiency) which can all go into your professional intelligence notebook?
  2. You’ll learn new names more quickly
  3. It’ll give the parents a good impression of you when they see your comments on their kids’ work
  4. It can be used as a POWERFUL opportunity to provide sincere and meaningful praise, which will empower your students right from day one

Read my blog post here about marking and assessment strategies if you’d like some advice or ideas for ways to implement this key strategy. 

#5 – Have Energy

Are you pumped up for every lesson? Do your kids see you as enthusiastic and upbeat, or just an old bore?

be enthusiastic

Sorry for the direct statement, but it is important to make the point that ENERGETIC TEACHERS MAKE THE BEST TEACHERS.

Of course, you’ll be adjusting your activities and intensity to suit each year group (post-16 kids need more content delivered per unit time than younger kids, for example), but your energy should be high every single lesson.

Here are some tips for you to create high-energy lessons, every time:

Play Games

I mentioned some learning games last week that will help you to get to know your students (‘Mystery Word’, ‘Splat’ and ‘Who Am I’), but there are so many that you can play on a regular basis.

Here is a high-energy clip of me playing some learning games with my kids in China:

I’m currently in Week 6 at my school and my kids are already trained up and loving a variety of games that I play with them. They’re all easy to do, are inexpensive, provide deep learning and keep the students interested and focused. 

As well as the games I mentioned last week, try the following high-energy lesson transformers!:

The Poster Game

Possibly the most fun and competitive game I’ve ever invented for teaching new content. You’ll need space for the kids to walk/run, and the game does take some prep. However, once you (and your students) become used to playing this game you’ll find that it’s a doddle to set up in no time at all.

Poster game page 1poster game page 2Poster game page 3

Bingo

Got some equation symbols or mathematical problems to teach your kids? Perhaps the symbols of the periodic table is more your thing? Whatever it is, this simple game can be adapted to suit any subject.

Bingo

Vocabulary Musical Chairs

You’ll need a good rapport with your kids to use this one, as it needs to be controlled really well by the teacher (e.g. to avoid kids bumping into each other). However, it is simple, fun and worth the effort!

Vocabulary musical chair

Mystery Picture

This one takes some imagination on the part of the teacher and some training of the kids beforehand. However, it’s really, really good for encouraging higher order thinking skills.

Mystery pictures

Be Eccentric

You’ll come across as boring and monotonous if you aren’t, well, yourself. 

You don’t need to put on a fake persona. Be wacky and quirky and be yourself (just don’t break any school rules – obviously).

One thing I love to do is sing and rap to my kids. They love it! I also use voice inflexions and funny noises to make the content a bit light-hearted and funny. It loosens up the mood in the room and gets the kids giggling a bit.

One thing that I’m a big fan of is modelling. No, not the cosmopolitan cat-walk modelling, I mean getting your students to BECOME THE CONCEPT YOU’RE TEACHING.

Just last week I had my kids stood in circles and spinning, pretending to be electrons orbiting a nucleus. The week before they were spreading around the room randomly pretending to diffuse like gas or liquid particles would.

The possibilities for modelling are endless. Here are some ideas that can be applied to any subject:

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Getting to Know Your New Students: Tips That Actually Work!

An article by Richard James Rogers

Illustrated by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati (a former student of mine, and a key illustrator in my book). You can e-mail her at popslittlespace@gmail.com if you’d like her to do some beautiful illustration work for you!

The first few weeks of a new academic year can be really challenging, not least because you’ll have a lot of new names to remember!

Whether you’re a new teacher working in a completely new school, or whether you’re simply rolling into a new academic year with new classes to teach, this article will help you.

Strategy 1: Gather Intelligence

Knowing your students on a deep level is a fundamental principle of rapport building. You need to know ALL of your students’ dreams and aspirations, strengths and weaknesses and other relevant information (such as issues at home or Special Educational Needs).

This kind of knowledge or ‘intelligence’ can even be used to inform your lesson planning. See the examples I included in my book and at Angela Watson’s great Cornerstone for Teachers site here.

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Unfortunately, however, few teachers truly utilize the power of professional intelligence gathering.

The best way I’ve found to gather such knowledge is by getting a fresh notebook and setting a page aside for each student you teach. On each page write down important (but not confidential) information about each student – e.g. the ECA’s they do, their career goals, subject-area strengths, competitions they’re entering or have won, etc.

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The information you gather can be used to:

  • Inform lesson planning so that content is made more relevant to individual students, and the group, than it normally would be
  • Trigger conversations in leisurely school settings such as at the lunch queue, when you’re on duty or when you’re supporting students in a mentoring or pastoral role
  • Provide fuel for you to reinforce the credibility and brilliance of the students’ personal goals, so that a ‘hypnotic rhythm’ of focus empowers each student to
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    “The most important book you’ll ever read”

    fulfill their goals

  • Show the students that you truly care about their education and their future

Strategy 2: Marking

In your first few weeks it might be a good idea to get a lot of marking done, especially for your new students.  

Whilst you might normally do peer-assessment, self-assessment and automated assessment tasks throughout the main body of the academic year, it is worth spending a bit of extra time at the beginning of the year to do traditional, teacher-led ‘red-pen on paper’ marking.

IMG_0574.JPGBenefits of this strategy include:

  1. You’ll get to know the writing, presentation and artistic styles of your new students really quickly.
  2. Checking through the students’ books and homework yourself is one way to quickly memorise new names
  3. It allows opportunity to provide written and verbal praise, which helps you to build rapport

Teacher-led assessment

My Head of Science recently started a ‘Science Stars’ notice-board at school. Every few weeks the Science teachers pin up some examples of beautiful work. What a great way to celebrate the success of your new students whilst getting to know them and build rapport with them at the same time! 

Strategy 3: Contact Parents

If you’re a form tutor/homeroom teacher, this one is really important, but it can be used by any subject teacher too.

In the first few weeks of school it can be a good idea to contact parents to let them know how their child is getting on. 

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I’ve found that telephone calls work best, as well as face-to-face conversations, as both of these methods involve a relaxed sense of dialogue that’s not normally available through methods such as e-mail.

Benefits of this strategy include:

  • Extra intelligence, such as the student’s approach to homework in their real home environment, can be gathered
  • It puts the parents’ at ease and reassures them
  • It can be used as a motivational tool for your new students – if you’ve passed on praise to their parents then they will feel happy and will know that mum or dad is only a phone call away. 
  • It can pre-empt a settling-in parent’s evening, providing common ground and information before a face-toface meeting

Strategy 4: Play Games 

People who have been following me for some time will know that I am a big advocate for the use of learning games in teaching. They break up lessons into chunks, appeal to the multi-sensory needs of your learners and stop your kids getting bored.

card games

What could be better than that?

But which games should you use to get to know your students?

There are a number of learning games you can play at this very useful blog post of mine here. All of those games can be adapted to a ‘getting-to-know-you’ lesson, but my favourites for this specific context are given below:

#1: Splat

This quick game is so easy: all you need is a whiteboard, whiteboard markers and a class of kids. It’s a great game for consolidating key vocabulary and is perfect for E.A.L. learners. You could potentially replace key words with students’ names in a ‘getting-to-know-you’ lesson. 

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Here’s a short video showing a quick clip of me playing ‘Splat’ with my students (I will include some more lengthy clips soon, but this is a good start):

#2 Mystery Word

Another easy game. This time, students randomly pick out written words from a hat (or cup, beaker, container, etc.), and then they have to explain their word to the class (without saying the word). The students who are listening have to guess what the word is. Again, you could potentially replace the words with students’ names in a ‘getting-to-know-you’ lesson. 

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#3 Who am I?

A very simple game. All you need are post-it notes and a class full of energized students! Great fun. Perfect for reinforcing key vocabulary and concepts. In a ‘getting-to-know-you’ lesson, you might want to use the hobbies and interests of different students as the key words. 

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Personally, I feel that it’s a shame that more teachers don’t make use of simple learning games such as these. They aren’t costly, they’re simple to do and they provide so much fun and great, deep learning for your students (when applied properly). 

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New Teacher Starting at a New School? Here Are Some Tips You Cannot Miss!

An article by Richard James Rogers

Illustrations by Pop Sutthiya Lertyongphati

The events in this article are based on actual occurrences. The names, locations and, in some instances, the genders of individuals have been changed to protect the individuals’ privacy. 

It can be daunting when you start at a new school, especially if you’re a fresh graduate. Friendship and social groups will already be in place, and you may be nervous about trying to fit in, especially since you’ll be working with your new colleagues so closely.

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Your first few weeks and months on the job will be a time when your new colleagues will be getting to know you for the first time too. They may also be a little nervous about approaching you for a conversation. 

Here is a video summary of this blog post:

The trick here is to try and make one friend at a time. You’re in no rush! Relax, be respectful and polite, and slowly people will warm to you and trust will be built. 

Don’t alienate people

People respond to new social environments in a variety of different ways. Some people are shy and reserved, whilst others are confident and chatty. 

In the teaching profession, I’ve noticed that a conservative ‘middle path’ – that of being slightly reserved whilst being happy to chat with new colleagues, is the best way to go.

In my book, I describe a real situation that a former colleague of mine found himself in. He was much too cocky and intense with his humour and talk in the first few weeks of his new school year, and he annoyed a lot of people. Here is his story. 

Greg was a new psychology teacher at a rapidly growing international school in Brunei. He had come from a school where staff members enjoyed a very close and communal atmosphere: where the men played on football and basketball teams together and the women often played netball, badminton and did aerobics classes. The school was managed well, and staff were encouraged to socialise and be friends with one another. Greg was sorry to leave, but the prospect of more money and a substantially better benefits package tempted him to move on.

Greg’s new school was very different to his previous one, but it took him a long time to figure that out. As soon as he started at the school, everyone knew who he was. He would greet everyone loudly and proudly, making jokes and aiming to get everyone laughing in the staff room. He had a lot of opinions about things, from religion to politics and even which teachers in his new school spoke the clearest English, even though he had only been working there for a few weeks. At staff gatherings, including casual chats in the staffroom, he was loud and boisterous and would irritate people with anecdotes and questions, even when they wanted to be left alone. He had an opinion about everything, and he thought that his new colleagues would love him for revealing all of his infallible wisdom and sharing his sense of humour with them. How wrong he was!

 

Chapter 7 - make too many friends at a time
Greg thought he was so cool!

Greg made the inconspicuous mistake of alienating his coworkers, to the point where they didn’t even want to be around him anymore. He tried to be friends with everyone all at once, and all he ended up doing was irritating people. One member of staff even went so far as to tell him, in front of everyone in the staffroom, “Greg, sometimes I don’t know if you’re joking or if you’re just a complete retard!” This was the statement that woke him up.

Greg eventually toned things down, but it took a while for other staff members to warm to him again. Greg tried to run before he could walk, aiming to make everyone his friend all at once. What he should have done instead is focussed on making one friend at a time by taking a sincere interest in his coworkers, and gradually getting to know them.

Avoid gossip

Gossip, in all of its forms, generates distrust and is highly destructive. It is also dangerously contagious, so you really must guard against contributing to it. This is with-ukedchatan important rule to follow at all times in your career, but especially when you’re a brand new teacher.

Building trust with your colleagues takes considerable time. One of the quickest ways that you can destroy trust before you’ve even built it is by gossiping. 

Again, I make reference to this in my book as I feel it’s such an important point to make. Unfortunately, however, too many teachers fall into the habit of gossiping at all levels of the profession. I include some advice about this in Chapter 7 – ‘Working With Colleagues’, which I’ve included below:

You and I could walk into any school staff room at morning break time and, after about five minutes, we could easily distinguish between the ‘Chatty Cathys’ and the ‘Reserved Richards’. Gossips love to espouse whatever is on their mind, even if nobody else wants to hear it. They’ll tell you one funny anecdote after another, ranging from which salon they went to last week to how difficult they find the new pupil assessment software the school’s made them use. There’s also one other thing that gossips are really good at, and that’s dishing out the dirt on anyone who happens to be the topic of the current conversation.

 

Chapter 7 - gossiping
Avoid gossip at all costs!

 

Gossips, without fail, are people to completely avoid at all costs (where possible). One of the reasons why gossips are famously passed over for promotion is because they can’t be trusted with the sensitive information they’d be exposed to in a managerial role. They generate distrust, and you should be very cautious with what you say when around anyone who is a famous gossip; you don’t want to give them fuel for a fire that they can burn behind your back! Additionally, if you happen to be sat with a gossip who starts to speak negatively about a colleague or the school in general, then don’t be afraid to get up and walk away. What’s more important: having a laugh or having a job? Besides, do you really want to be sat there when everyone’s complaining about the principal and that awkward moment happens when the Deputy Head walks in the staff room?

If you’re sat with gossips, or if you’re seen to be hanging around with them and chatting with them frequently, then you’ll be associated with them in the minds of senior management. If you plan on having a long and fruitful career in teaching, then remember this golden rule: don’t gossip, and don’t associate with gossips.

You never know who might be in earshot of your gossiping. You could be walking past an open window when a colleague hears you, or even standing on duty in the lunch queue when a number of students hear you too. Gossip is just simply too dangerous to get involved in. Avoid it, period!

Be careful at staff parties

Many schools around the world enjoy a congenial and lively atmosphere in which staff feel happy and trusted. Schools like this often have social gatherings, and in your first week you may be invited along to some kind of staff party or get-together.

Be careful about how you come across at staff parties. It can be easy to let loose too much, especially after a few drinks. If you feel yourself getting a bit tipsy, then don’t be afraid of calling it a night and going home. 

I’ve attended my fair share of staff get-togethers over the years and sometimes drunkenness can cause issues. New teachers seem to be particularly prone to this. 

Remember this: Staff parties are not for partying! Do that with your social group outside of school (and far away from school) if you must. 

Know your courses and plan properly

Lesson planning can be a particularly daunting task for new teachers, especially if this is your first year on the job. 

In my book, I write about the real story of a teacher who started a job in a new school with a new set of courses to teach. She found herself overwhelmed and making silly assumptions, which landed her a spot of trouble. Let’s find out what happened. 

Bethan, a young teacher with high aspirations, had just started her new job at an IB World School. It was a prestigious position, and expectations were high. She had taught ‘A’ – Level Geography in her previous school, but had not taught the IB Diploma before. When she started teaching her new Year 12 class, she already had a high workload and issues to deal with at home due to relocating to her new school. To save time, she taught subject content on the ‘A’ – level syllabus, assuming that it equated to what was in the IB Course Guide. Since she already had the necessary resources from her previous school, she could prepare lesson materials quickly and easily.

Was this a good move on her part? By using the resources from her old school was she really preparing her students for their IB exams? The answer to both of these questions, unfortunately, is no. She was teaching content that possessed some overlap with the IB course, but it was patchy. In parts, her material was either not specified in the IB Course Guide, or was too complex. After several lessons of finding the subject too difficult, a student decided to find the IB Course Guide online. When he couldn’t find the material he had been taught by Bethan in there, he informed his parents, and shortly afterwards they sent an e-mail to the Head of School: Mr Brian.

making plans
How well do you know the courses you will teach?

Mr Brian, being a principal with some experience of dealing with this sort of issue before, wanted to verify the facts. He arranged a meeting with Bethan and asked her to go through her semester plan for that class. When she couldn’t produce one, and when she couldn’t answer the questions pertaining to the IB curriculum she was supposed to be teaching, Mr Brian was not the least bit happy. As a result of this, Bethan was made to produce detailed long-term plans for all of her classes; she was asked to e-mail the concerned parent with an explanation and she was placed under a lesson observation schedule so that her line manager could monitor her teaching. Additionally, this had the knock-on effect of reducing the students’ confidence in her as their teacher. Sounds excessive? The principal didn’t think so, especially when one considers that the parents at this school were all fee-paying, and rightly expected a good quality of teaching. All of this pressure, extra-workload, and embarrassment could have been avoided had Bethan had simply read through the syllabus for her course and planned accordingly.

You would be surprised at how different some syllabuses can be, even when they pertain to the same examination. An Edexcel IGCSE Mathematics syllabus, for example, is significantly different to the CIE IGCSE Mathematics syllabus. Make sure that you know which syllabus you are teaching, and don’t assume that it is the same as what you’ve taught before. Also, watch out for syllabus updates – new syllabuses can be very different to their predecessors.

Summary: Tips for new teachers starting at new schools

  1. Focus on making one friend at a time. Don’t worry yourself with ‘fitting in’ or ‘being a part of the club’. Be polite, offer your opinions only when asked and be friendly. You’ll soon find that your new colleagues will warm up to you and will be happy to be friends with you.
  2. Don’t come over too intense or loud. Building professional relationships takes time.
  3. Avoid gossip at all costs. Avoid it as you would cobras, rattlesnakes and poisonous spiders. 
  4. Staff parties are a chance for you to socialize in a relaxed setting. Don’t forget that you’re in the company of your new colleagues and your bosses. 
  5. Plan properly and thoroughly. Don’t assume that different courses in the same subject follow the same content. 

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