Category Archives: ideas

IB History IA workshop, Day 3

Work in progress! These are my notes from a three day workshop for the IB History IA (New course), held at Wesley College Melbourne, on June 25, 26, 27, 2016.

Day 3, Session 9, Designing an effective IA process, ideas, skills and strategies.give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the four hours sharpening the axe

No name, no school names, no city name, no student number on the front page, the IA has to be uploaded completely anonymous. Only have the title on the front page.

We discussed our current IA practices and the ways in which we’d like to change those in the future. For me, I’d like to start earlier with finding a good research question. Formulating a good question is very challenging, so as soon as this workshop finalises the online student resource, I will introduce the students to it and will use some lessons to work on the RQ.

PDF version of the poster here: Poster PDF

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IB History IA workshop, Day 1

These are my notes from a three day workshop for the IB History IA (New course), held at Wesley College Melbourne, on June 25, 26, 27, 2016.

Day 1, Session 1: Introduction and overview

It’s a full room, about 25 people, mostly Australian but also a few people from the Asia Pacific region. The workshop is led by Rajesh Kripalani, a highly experienced IB educator and an invaluable member of the IB and history teacher community, both online and offline.

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The Quality Teaching Model, Jenny Gore

Today Professor Jenny Gore came to our school to teach us about the Quality Teacher Model she has developed.  The QT model emphasises  “the importance of a strong pedagogical framework and adherence to effective professional development principles in systematically improving the quality of teaching”. a

Cc-rgy3W0AAj1E7It was interesting to listen to Jenny and I am in no doubt that the QT model is very effective. The QT model provides 18 (!) elements of “quality teaching” and provides a method of scoring/ quantifying these. It means that a teacher’s practice is observed by other teachers and the lesson is then scored using the QT model’s coding scale. Continue reading

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Coping or staying organised

I listened to a great podcast about organising yourself: Note to Self, A Neuroscientist’s Guide to Getting Organized. It’s only 16 minutes long and it’s a must-listen for any busy person.

images I have tried many ways of staying organised, many efforts not to drown, to cope, to manage, to keep everything going, to meet all my targets/requirements, to not go insane etc. There is no foolproof method, and each human being needs their own tailored system. I’ve tried Evernote, I’ve tried Pomodoro, I’ve tried pen and paper, the “4 hour workweek” and quite a few other ‘systems’ that people wrote books about but I’ve forgotten what they were called.

My current system is using the full power of Outlook and Outlook tasks. It’s been working pretty well for the last 3 years, but I still get side-tracked, overwhelmed, distracted, snowed-under etc. I’ll keep on plugging on though, and will slowly try to get better.

Things I do in Outlook:

  • I have my timetable in Outlook
  • As soon as I get an email with a due date, a meeting time or some other time in it, I make it into a meeting and put it in my diary.
  • I use categories for Calendar appointments and Emails
  • I use email rules, great tool.
  • I use Outlook tasks and prioritise by using those little flags (today, tomorrow etc etc)

Below are the key take-aways from the Note to Self, A Neuroscientist’s Guide to Getting Organized podcast website:

1. Write down everything you need to do. Everything! Then prioritize what really needs to be first. Basically: brain dump with bullet points, then go through and number in order of importance. a Continue reading

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Cultures of Thinking PD program, with Ron Ritchhart

I have become part of a semester long professional development project called “Cultures of Thinking”. It is lead by Visible Thinking and Harvard Project Zero researcher Ron Ritchhart. It focusses on creating an environment where “a group’s collective as well as individual thinking is valued, visible, and actively promoted as part of the regular, day-to-day experience of all group members.” a.

One of the key components of this program is class observation – not to evaluate the teacher but to learn and become more aware of your own habits, cultures and teaching strategies. Our first day consisted of two sessions, in the morning we were introduced to the cultures of thinking program and questioning techniques. The second was a plenary session in which teachers from four schools came together to learn about how to objectively and non-judgmentally observe a lesson and how to record data so that it is useful for the person/school being observed.

My notes and relevant resources are below.

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The forgetting curve: Interleaving vs Blocking


The audience for this post is my students. I have written it so I can give this to them on the first day. I might also make a PPT for this which includes the videos. 

Learning how to learn

You’ve been in school for a while now, but how often have you thought about how you learn? Since learning is an activity which will take up most of your time, particularly in your final years of schooling and university beyond, you’d better be good at the actual art of learning. The good news is that you can learn how to learn. The sooner you get better at learning, the sooner you will reap the rewards. So, what should you do?

You should become aware of metacognition, you need to know about ‘distributed practice‘ or ‘interleaving‘ and you must know how your brain acquires and retains information.

Let’s start with metacognition, which is the most important. In it’s simplest form, metacognition is thinking about thinking.  Continue reading

A marking retreat

We all have those times in the term where the marking starts stacking up, either because of badly timed assignments, imminent reports or extra tasks like the IB Internal Assessments or Extended Essays etc etc. I had let my marking get out of hand. The pressure was on last weekend. I had four full sets of marking and all were quite time consuming to mark. I’m at my most efficient and do my best marking just before a deadline. So, faced with a massive box of essays and assignments, I decided to go on a marking retreat to Philip Island where there is no internet, no oven/bathroom/garage/sock-drawer to be cleaned and no family or friends to distract me.

It was just me, the island and my box full of marking:

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Hivemind reading; a different way to share texts

BeehiveThanks to my students and our REE teacher, I have learnt about a different strategy to read a large text with a group. I have called it “hive mind reading”. One of my students suggested this technique after having done this in an REE class. It was fun and successful. I think in small doses, this is a nice way to change-up the sometimes necessary evil of group reading.  I did this with a boisterous group of Year 10s and they read out the whole text in perfect harmony and concentration.

This is how it works: Continue reading

Discerning the Filter Bubble

At the start of this term, my school invited Waleed Aly to speak to us. He’s an academic, writer and TV personality who is very good at making people think. He spoke to us about globalisation, but also about identity and being ‘discerning’. He argued that in this age of “infobesity“, at a time where chemical weapons in Syria are dwarfed by Kim Kardashian’s latest photo shoot, teachers are the ones who should be helping students to discern what is significant and what isn’t. He was happy that that was our job, not his. Continue reading

Dylan Wiliam on assessment

On the 29th of May we had a professional development day with Dylan Wiliam. He spoke to us about what works and what doesn’t work in education.IMG_3291

Below are 6 key points about how to improve teaching and learning according to Dylan Wiliam:

  • Stop students putting their hands up to ask questions – it’s the same ones doing it all the time. Instead introduce a random method of choosing which pupil answers the question, such as lollipop sticks, and thus engage the whole class.
  • Use traffic-light cups in order to assess quickly and easily how much your students understand your lesson. If several desks are displaying a red cup, gather all those students around to help them at the same time.
  • Mini-whiteboards, on which the whole class simultaneously writes down the answer to a question, are a quick way of gauging whether the class as a whole is getting your lesson. This method also satisfies the high-achievers who would normally stick their hands up.
  • A short burst of physical exercise at the start of the school day will do wonders for students’ alertness and motivation. As any gym addict or jogger will tell you, it’s all about the chemicals released into the brain.
  • Ditch the obsession with grades, so that pupils can concentrate instead on the comments that the teacher has written on written classwork.
  • Allow students to assess the teachers’ teaching – they are the ones at the sharp end, after all. Letting pupils have a say is empowering and, if handled constructively, is highly enlightening. (Source)

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