Category Archives: ideas

Creating a graph of foreign relations + Google Tour Builder

Just sharing some materials from a lesson which worked well today. It’s on Italian Foreign Policy 1919 – 1940 but the activities can be tailored to any other topic.

I split the students in two groups. Group 1 created one graph to plot the German – Italian relationship and the other group created one graph for the French/UK – Italian relationship.

I also used Google Tour Builder to create a location based overview of the key events. Continue reading

Thesis / Antithesis / Synthesis for essay writing

While researching Marxist ideology for revision lessons on the Russian Revolution, I came across the idea of thesis/antithesis/synthesis as an argumentative framework.

I have since used it successfully in my classes. I think the notion of Dialectics and thesis/antithesis/synthesis fits in well with my other ideas about essay writing (they are nothing new, I’ve just recast them in my own way: TEAC).


What is dialectics?

Dialectics of any sort is a means of trying to resolve a paradox.

It’s important first of all to understand the difference between a paradox and a contradiction. Two things contradict if they CANNOT co-exist. A person cannot have a broken leg AND not-have a broken leg. That is a contradiction. A paradox is something that SEEMS to contradict but which may possibly have some middle ground. For instance” All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” or “You can save money by spending it”.

That, in a nutshell, is what dialectics does. To learn about something, it considers something that is almost its opposite, and then tries to figure out what the compromise is between the two. So perhaps you’d figure out the meaning of life by comparing it to the meaning of death. But that’s getting off-topic. a Continue reading

  1.$6748319  (back)

Some resources for a Socratic Seminar

I have used the Socratic Seminar method to increase students’ talk time and reduce the amount of time that I talk. In researching the Socratic Seminar, I have found that there are many ways to ‘skin this cat’. I don’t think there is any single ‘right’ way, as long as the students talk through a difficult question or text themselves and respect certain ground rules of discussion.

The more you do this activity with your students, the better everyone will get at it and the more powerful it becomes. The feedback from my students was really positive and I found it an excellent way to get them to think through their own and each other’s points of view.

The principle of the Socratic Seminar goes by other names too: Socratic Circle, Fish Bowl Discussion and The Leaderless Discussion (by Ron Ritchhart).

Below are some resources I have used, and some of the instructions I wrote on the white board.



Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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

  1.  (back)

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

  1.  (back)

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.

Continue reading

  1. See more at:  (back)

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:

IMG_4945 (Copy)


Continue reading

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