Blank Sheet Summary

Last week when attending a conference fea38478898-stock-vector-light-bulb-character-in-moment-of-insight-turing a talk on short and long term memory, I had a lightbulb moment. I realised that the revision I am doing with my students focuses upon developing impressive revision resources such as posters, cards and notes with coveralls and motivating my students to read and memorise the material but then I started to ask ‘how do students actually check that this information is being registered in their memories?’

So for the past few lessons I have trialled a very simple way to test memory recall – the blank sheet summary. After stude59707158_2378210682460170_830716807567376384_nnts completed a ppt or coverall sheet, I gave them 5 minutes to read through, highlight, make notes (whatever it is that students do when revising) and then on a blank sheet of A4 paper they had 5 minutes to write everything they could remember from that topic – no structure necessary just a summary of brain on paper. Once finished, the students then shared with a partner what they had remembered and added in any missing information in a different colour.60258585_2378210719126833_1699873284671143936_n

The students found it extremely useful as a method to consolidate what they could and could not remember. The A4 sheets were filled with information within minutes, demonstrating short term memory was on point. In two days we will do the same test again to see if the information revised is embedded in longer term memory…

This strategy is by no means ground breaking but sometimes the simplest changes can have the biggest impact. An extra ten minutes per topic to consolidate learning and enhance memory recall might make all the difference in the exam. Fingers crossed!

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When in Rome…

I travelled to Rome many years ago with my family and since then I have always wanted to take students there – call it No. 1 on my Teacher’s Bucket list. 298983_248143781900923_773827034_n[1]The history, culture and religious undertones that floods through Rome is just captivating and inspiring. The problem was organising such a big trip! Now maybe it is the philosophy teacher in me but sometimes in life it feels like a window of opportunity opens…well that is exactly what it felt like on a college conference at the end of last school year when I got talking to Claire -a local R.S. HOD who mentioned an upcoming college trip to Rome in 2019. Spotting this opportunity I just casually said ‘Oh well if you need anymore to join you just let me know.’ Well you guessed it…in September I got the email that invited 10 of my students to join them on a 5 day trip to Rome (and me of course)!

Now I don’t know if any of you have organised such a trip before but it is like opening Pandora’s box of tasks from collecting payments, passports details, organising a presentation evening, sending endless emails and updates to students and parents, not to mention filling out all the paperwork, risk assessments and codes of conduct…my list went on. image1 (003).jpegMy saving grace was Claire, who had not only run a similar trip before but organised all the Rome elements from itinerary, accommodation, to transport and trips. Before we knew it the date had arrived, we were all packed and ready (wearing our Rome hoodies, armed with passports and even some homemade cookies and flapjacks from one Mum) and off we went to the airport.

We met the other college at the airport, seamlessly went through customs, had an amazingly easy flight and we were in ROME! Once bags were collected, we met our tour guide and coach and headed to the Catacombs were we wandered through the maze of underground tunnels, studied the art work and remaining visible relics and listened to the history of the many Christian Martyrs and pontiffs once buried there (with some still remaining). Once leaving the labyrinth of passageways (I would not want to get lost down there!) and re-entering the warmth outside we made our way to our hotel.

Up the winding roads towards our hotel, we were surrounded by epic views of Lake Albano, the Pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo and Rome itself. Our hotel, Villa Palazzola a 13th century Cistercian monastery, was absolutely breath-taking! What a privilege to stay somewhere that housed monks and friars for centuries. Once unpacked we settled in for the evening, lounging on the beautiful terrace together whilst the students played cards.

Continue reading “When in Rome…”

Revision Support

The exams are on the horizon, so starting revision early is crucial. Here are the Revision Textbooks, Guides and Workbooks that might help:

Highly recommend for assessment support:

For a full review of the Revision Textbooks see: Revision Guides: Which ones are worth your money?

Revision Workbooks: These are brilliant for testing your knowledge with short questions, topic support and exam style questions (click on the links below for Amazon).

OCR A Level Religious Studies: Philosophy of Religion Workbook

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OCR A Level Religious Studies: Religion and Ethics Workbook

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OCR A Level Religious Studies: Developments in Christian Thought Workbook

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Here is an overview of the Revision Guides:

I have created these Revision Packs for my students containing quizzes, glossaries, summary sheets, essay tips and possible exam questions. It also provides space for notes and outlines the spec requirements. Everything you need to get your revision off to a flying start! If you would like a Revision Pack (for a small charge) please click on the image below:

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For support with Exam Stress check out: How to cope with Exam Stress

Messages from Above: OCR Updates

With tight budgets, it is not always possible to attend a lot of conferences, courses and training but I always keep an eye on the OCR CPD feedback sessions, especially when they are more local to Scarbados (e.g. Leeds – London or Manchester make it a very long day!). So I couldn’t wait to attend the session run by Hugh Campbell on ‘Understanding the Assessment’ and really get into the minds of the examiners…until my train was delayed by nearly two hours and my body was finally shutting down with every bug going. I ended up in bed. Worry not though, as a very kind colleague of mine sent me all the information in the post!

The Headlines:

  • Better responses showed a holistic approach – wide ranging knowledge from the whole course (synoptic links are good but make sure they are linked back to the argument/ question).
  • Effort was made to read around the course material and demonstrated assessment of primary sources (I use a few primary sources and often have students take a quote or snippet of information from them but assessment of these or wider reading…who has the time with such a full spec?).
  • Still evidence of ‘Blue Peter’ answers – problem with showing model answers (is there an alternative for demonstrating essay technique?)
  • Prevalence of ‘comparing’ rather than evaluating/ assessing (I think this is a really good point. I think sometimes students think that comparing thinkers such as Plato and Aristotle equates to evaluating, when actually they are just comparing A to B. Assesment needs to take place as to why A is more convincing than B etc).
  • Still issues of asserting rather than assessing – X says this Y says that and therefore X is right with no sense of why X is right (again I think this is a really valid point. Students often state the views of thinkers and if the view of that thinker is negative e.g. Dawkins this means it counts as evaluation. In fact all you are doing is asserting the view of someone else. Assessing means weighing up why their view works or does not work.)
  • Better responses sustained a line of reasoning. Thread the argument from paragraph to paragraph – building from one point to the next.

Overall Tips:

Continue reading “Messages from Above: OCR Updates”

“You can’t be religious and a humanist”: Humanism Explored

It is always a struggle to find R.S related trips and speakers, that would engage a group of teenagers but also be relevant to the spec. When I attended the NATRE 20:20RE conference in Cheshire this October (I highly recommend!!) I went along to a session run by Luke Donnellan who was representing the Humanist Society. As I sat and listened to the array of views, reminiscent of Bertrand Russell, 2017-05-23-LW-v1-Humanists-UK-staticDawkins and Freud, I started to think about the topic of Secularisation in the second year DCT. After speaking with Luke at the end of the session, he pointed me in the direction of the main Humanist website (Humanists UK) and the possibility of arranging a speaker to run a session with my students for FREE. This was sounding better and better…not only would a humanist perspective link to the spec, it would also provide my students with a wider knowledge of different perspectives and challenge their understandings… all for free!

After contacting the head office via the contact details provided on the website, my request was answered within a day with the possibility of a speaker who could travel to Scarborough (we are a bit out on a limb here!) This possibility paid off and within three weeks of attending the 20:20 conference, my students had their questions ready and their notebooks at hand for our Humanist speaker. It really was as easy as that to arrange.

The session was split into two main sections: ‘What is Humanism?’ with Q/A and ‘Does God hate women?’ – a personal interest of our speaker, who knew we were studying gender, feminism and the role of women in the church as well.

Highlights (don’t forget these are the views of our speaker and how he interprets humanism into his life and practices):

Continue reading ““You can’t be religious and a humanist”: Humanism Explored”

Autism Awareness: How aware are you?

world-autism-awareness-day-vector-9417568Alongside my teaching at Sixth Form, I lead a small team who are dedicated to developing teaching and learning, staff wellbeing and CPD in college. Part of our vision for CPD this year is to offer staff a selection of lunchtime sessions ranging from ‘managing workload’ to ‘wellbeing in the workplace’, which staff sign up to depending on areas they wish to develop. This week we were extremely lucky to have a specialist practitioner from the Inclusive Education Service within North Yorkshire to speak with staff about Autism Awareness.

Here are the highlights…

Students who have autism often:

  • Are good visual learners
  • Have good rote memory
  • Work best with routines
  • Have strong interests
  • Pay attention to details

However they might struggle with:

  • Delayed processing time
  • Distracted by seemingly irrelevant details
  • Understanding language and its meaning (often taking a literal approach)
  • Difficulties using and interpreting tone, inflection and volume
  • Unable to generalise learning skills
  • Difficulty reading social situations
  • Often struggle to understand what others are thinking and feeling.

How can you support a student in your class who has autism?

  • Focus on the Visual: Incorporate visual activities into your lessons, write activities and instructions on the board, use visual structures like planners or tables to help organise their thoughts and focus attention.
  • Routine: Be conscious of changing seating plans or sudden changes with routine such as an activity that involves moving around the classroom- if you know this is going to happen, speak with the individual student the previous lesson so they are prepared.
  • Idioms  – speak literally: avoid using idioms were possible (I use these far too much!) e.g ‘put your head in the sand’, ‘off the top of my head’, ‘on the right track’, ‘bookworm’, ‘brainstorm’.
  • Group Work: Be conscious about group or paired work, be mindful about who you put them in a group with and provide extra support with the change of routine and social interaction.
  • Too much stimuli: students with autism often have difficulty processing sensory information so be aware of asking them to look and listen at the same time or write and listen (such as with a PowerPoint) or look and speak…give them processing time. Also be conscious that colour, texture or touch can be overwhelming…e.g. check if things like PowerPoint backgrounds are okay.

This of course only offers pointers to consider when teaching students with autism. As Lorna Wing OBE (leading founder of the National Autistic Society in the UK) says “If you have met one person with autism…you have met one person with autism.”

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For more information, ideas, resources and research linking to autism check out: National Autistic Society and Autism Education Trust