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

What is ‘understanding’?


    I was tweaking our Year 10 unit (Geographies of Human Wellbeing) using the KUD criteria (Know, Understand, Do). This scaffold, created by differentiation guru Carol Tomlinson, has been around for a while.

    • Students will KNOW: (often represented in bulleted forma
      t) facts, dates, definitions, rules, people, places, vocabulary, information.
    • Students will UNDERSTAND : (best stated as a sentence which includes concept-based thought), Essential questions, theories “Big” ideas, Important generalizations, thesis-like statements
    • Students will DO: (represented with verbs), basic skills, communication, planning/organisation, thinking skills, evaluation, working collaboratively, skills of the discipline: mapping, graphing, collecting data, show p.o.v.

    ICapturet was a really interesting exercise to represent the unit in a mindmap, it focussed my mind on what it was exactly what I wanted the students to understand from the this unit. The concept ‘understanding’ is hard to pin down.

    David Perkins in “Teaching for Understanding” (1993) defines understanding as follows:  Continue reading



      Please-climb-that-tree1Despite the efforts of the Individual Needs Department at my school, I still usually see Differentiation as a difficult to incorporate add-on.

      I’ve been looking into the work of Carol Tomlinson and she has the following refreshing perspective on Differentiation;

      Differentiation is not a set of  strategies, it’s a way of thinking about  teaching and learning Strategies are tools to accomplish the goals of differentiation. They are no more differentiation than a hammer and a saw are the house they help to build. a

      Here is a good summary of approaches to teaching and learning which will enable all learners to succeed: Continue reading

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      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

          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)

              Continue reading

              SAMR, TPACK and the EduTech Quintet, with Ruben Puentedura

              On Friday the 15th of May, I attended a full day workshop with Ruben Puentedura, the man behind the SAMR model. All his slides can be found here.

              Continue reading

              My view of History


                I wrote the following for our Middle School Newsletter:

                As a History teacher, I am always interested to hear about the different experiences people have with studying History. During parent-teacher interviews, some parents shared with me that History bored them to tears because they were forced to rote learn endless streams of dates and facts. Others told me how much they loved History all through High School and that they still read History books and watch many documentaries. It is hard to pinpoint exactly where a love of History is fostered, but one thing is clear to me; an interest in History does not come from dry facts and figures, it comes from the compelling stories, different perspectives, and the problems of interpretation. Continue reading

                IB DP History Workshop Melbourne: the New Guide 2017


                  From the 2nd of May to the 4th of May 2015, I attended a three day IB DP History workshop in Melbourne. It was a very busy and well attended event, with over 300 hundred participants in total and 35 history teachers from all over the southern hemisphere in our workshop.
                  Below are the notes I’ve taken for each day:

                  • IB DP Workshop Day 1, A general overview of the changes in the new course. How to construct a course. Big changes to Paper 1: Four instead of five sources, new OPVL, new question specific mark schemes.
                  • IB DP Workshop Day 2, overview of changes to Paper 2, new mark bands. We did a lot of trial marking. Grades were often higher than we expected. There is more ‘positive’ marking.
                  • IB DP Workshop Day 3, IA has been completely overhauled, three sections now. Also looked at approaches to teaching and learning.

                  Continue reading

                  IB DP History Workshop, Day 3

                  Three day IB DP History workshop, Category 3, Day 3
                  Melbourne. 02/05/15 – 04/05/15.
                  Workshop leaders: Colin Aitken and Jenny McArthur
                  Group page on Google+ (closed, invitation only)

                  Notes for Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3

                  Continue reading

                  IB DP History Workshop, Day 2

                  Three day IB DP History workshop, Category 3, Day 2
                  Melbourne. 02/05/15 – 04/05/15.
                  Workshop leaders: Colin Aitken and Jenny McArthur
                  Group page on Google+ (closed, invitation only)

                  Notes for Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3

                  Continue reading