Over to a local school on Thursday this week for a network meeting organised by Rob Lodge. Rob has been organising these meetings for Norfolk teachers for many years, and they are always useful, so it was good to be able to go along and share some of my recent work, and also have a 20 minute journey to an event rather than one of three or four hours.
There was plenty of interest in the meeting, some of which may form a separate blog post. It was good to meet colleagues new and old, and also have the chance to wish a happy retirement to John, who I've known for many years.
There was some good sharing at the event, which had a range of activities. Some of you may be thinking of organising a local network meeting at your school ? This could be themed around a particular issue, or perhaps based on the Teachmeet style of event with short inputs from everyone. This could be cheap twilight CPD, or a more organised city-wide event. Over the last few years I've been fortunate to be invited to work with a number of events where all the geography teachers from a particular area were gathered in one place for a day.
I think it's vital that teachers meet face to face around a table where possible. In this age of competition and league tables, collaboration is more important than ever, particularly given the slow removal of advisory support.
Here's what we did at the network meeting so that you might get some ideas for organising your own.
Tea and coffee and biscuits on arrival. I put out a display of GA publications and other bits, and there were some freebies for everyone: a Digital Explorer mug, GeographyalltheWay pen, Mission:Explore bookmark etc.
We started by pairing up with somebody we didn't know and sharing something geographical that had happened to us that week, and I shared a picture of my daughter holding the Olympic torch, and the geographical connections that the Olympics has, as exemplified in my Londinium MMXII document, for those who haven't yet seen it.
We then told the other delegates about the person we'd just been talking to, and what their geographical connection was.
We then did a speed-dating activity where each person got to meet the other delegates and swap an idea that they'd been working on recently.
I showed what I'd been doing with Rory's Story Cubes and the idea of story cubes generally....
I picked up ideas on: a unit on researching using the Internet which looked really useful and came complete with a worked example and peer-marking sheet, some work on the 'mantle of the expert' (as featured in the Oops book I blogged about recently), a set of cards with key words and connectives to encourage sentence construction (a manual version of David Riley's Triptico 'Word Magnets' resource), an activity with slides which had limits on slides/words etc, an idea of dialogue between two pupils where one of them has to knock on a door and persuade the other to support their campaign (this came with an activity based on the Malaria no more campaign), a memory challenge with associated card sort, and one colleague had posted a series of videos of geography songs and I then realised I was in the presence of Mr. Sims ! (see earlier blogpost)
One of the ideas I liked best was to go to a sports shop and buy some Captain's Armbands. They're currently £1.50 at Sports Direct. If you're teaching in a school with sport's mad boys in particular, there is a great sense of the need to perform if pulling on the armband, and leading others...
Rob then talked through the new OFSTED framework from September. We were split into groups to discuss the 'geographical implications' of the new judgements. What would 'Good geography' look like and how could it contribute to a whole school judgement ?
Schools that had recently had OFSTED inspections (of which there were three) shared their experiences and observations. There was mention of the need for multicultural developments, better use of LSAs, an appreciation that 'behaviour' didn't just refer to disruption, the need for marking to become a dialogue with an appreciation that students had responded to comments, and the importance of developing independent learning.
There was also mention of the importance of data, with Rob's old classic that it's like underwear: 'what it shows is interesting, what it hides is vital'.
We then had an input from a guest speaker, and someone who was a real expert in what she was talking about. The session was on Literacy and the Global Dimension, and was led by Fran Nantongwe, Outreach Co-ordinator from NEAD, Norwich.
I have blogged about NEAD before, having done some work for them in my time. In fact I wrote a supporting letter for the Paul Hamlyn funded project that Fran is currently working on, while working at the GA.
What was particularly good was that Fran was not a geographer, but was discussing issues which are relevant to all geographers. As Graham Butt has said before in his work on literacy in geography, all geography teachers are also literacy teachers.
Fran provided some really useful suggestions on tackling poor literacy.
She took us through an activity with a geographical focus, on the Sichuan Earthquake of 2010, and provided a range of nice ways to target literacy while keeping the geography angle.
We were then joined by Katy Jones from the Norfolk branch of CPRE, to tell us of an excellent opportunity for Norfolk schools to take part in a photographic competition with the theme of 'Norfolk: a changing landscape'.
I then did a quick update on the work of the GA's National Curriculum Review group, and talked about the use of apps to support fieldwork.
Colleagues then continued to discuss ideas for the coming year, and do some planning.
I had to leave at this point to collect my son from school, but it was a really useful day, and nice to be involved from a different perspective.
I am grateful to Rob for the organisation, Tom and colleagues at Neatherd for hosting and all colleagues who attended.
So, when is your next network meeting ?
Why not organise one ready to kickstart the new academic year ?