Tag Archives: ideas

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What would this look like if it were simple?

The notion of “complexity bias” seems to be around a lot in blogs, pinterest posts and Twitter, but I have not been able to find a lot of academic research into it. In fact, the only common definition seems to be this one: “Complexity bias is a logical fallacy that leads us to give undue credence to complex concepts.” It a ubiquitous definition, and could perhaps come from Farnham Street blog, but it probably doesn’t.

“Complexity bias” is such an engaging idea though because feels like it make sense. So while I have not found anything beyond blogs to back it up, I do think it is useful to me because it is something that I do in certain situations and contexts: I overthink things, I want everything I do to be amazing, well thought through, complete, wonderful and the best. But sometimes that stops me from just doing things quickly. Perfection is the enemy of good.

I made the little poster below in Adobe Spark, and I often look at it when I indulge myself again in the fog of complexity thinking. It was inspired the article: “The 1 Question That Helps Me Beat My Procrastination” , by Haley Goldberg.  The one question you ask yourself is: “What would this look like if it were simple/fun/easy?” Continue reading

Getting students to talk about pages in a textbook

I try to get the students to talk through their understanding and ideas as much as possible. Some days I’m more successful than others.  It can be challenging to deal with long text book passages and making the info on those pages ‘stick’. The other day I tried a new activity, I call it Study Group Tabata. Tabata It worked well. It is roughly based on Ron Ritchhart’s MicroLab and allows students to talk through new information from a textbook, and then work towards answering a central question. It can be adapted to any subject.

  • Aim of the task:  To understand a complex issue (in this case Gleichschaltung in N*zi Germany) and then answer a central question (“How successful was Gleichschaltung?”)
  • How: Break down the complex issue into elements. (In my case, political parties, trade unions, regional states: This was based on pages and topics in the textbook)
    • Activity:
        • Groups of three.
        • Student 1 discusses subtopic 1 for 45 seconds.
        • Student 2 discusses same subtopic 1 for 45 seconds.
        • Student 3 summarises subtopic 1 and highlights the key issues and knowledge. Student 3 could be a note-taker too.

Continue reading

PD Bingo

Here is a great way to diversify the professional development offerings at your school. During Term 3, I held a ‘PD Bingo’, based on an idea by @nbgreene, found via @cultofpedagogy (also see bottom of post).
This Bingo poster contained a mix of 24 teaching ideas, strategies and PD choices. The aim was to inspire staff to try new things, and to get a sense of what they found easy or challenging to implement in their classes or in PD. I got the Bingo sheet printed on A2 size and hung it in the staff room for 3 weeks. Here is what it looked like:

Many staff members participated and it got some great conversations going. Below is an analysis of the results: Continue reading

Building an argument tower with thesis, antithesis, synthesis

Today we built an ‘argument tower’ in class. The idea was found by my colleague Sara, on this AP Word History blog, written by Jonathan Henderson. There are also a few Tweets about “argument towers”.

I used the ‘Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis‘ argument structure to help students construct an effective paragraph or essay. You can also use “Contention – Example – Evaluation” etc. Works for English, Philosophy, Geography or any area where students have to argue something.

What’s needed: Continue reading

Revision Twister

This worked well with my small IB History class. The students created the questions and ran the game themselves. It’s a bit gimmicky, but they had fun and hopefully it was a bit of a break from the endless practice essays and note taking at the end of the year.

Questions can be found here

And PPT with circles (PPT smart art) here: Revision Twister PPT Continue reading

Revision activities posters, made with PPT SmartArt

I created a list of independent revision activities for my students. Our parent teacher interviews are coming up and I wanted to have a list of activities which students can complete by themselves at home, as well as give parents study tools to suggest to their children.

I used SmartArt in MS PowerPoint to create a handout for my students. You can download the PPT itself, and use it to customise the SmartArt and make your own handout.   Continue reading

How to be an Essay Writing Jedi Ninja (Poster with Canva and Thinglink)

Over the years I have honed my essay writing teaching skills and I’ve distilled it to 5 top tips:

  • RTBQ
  • TEAC
  • Signpost
  • State and Evaluate
  • Find the golden thread

Rather cryptic, I know, but my students know what it means. I made a poster using two cool sites: Canva and Thinglink. Canva is fantastic for making professional looking posters and Thinglink adds an interactive element to images and text. Hover your cursor over the image below to see the explanation of my cryptic but very good essay tips.

Oreo Plate Tectonics

A great way to explain plate tectonics and simple plate movements is by using Oreos. This is based on a lecture by Dr Bob Lillie of the Department of Geosciences at Oregon State University. I found the PPT online at the Oregon State University website  but frankly, the internet is quite full of “Geo-reo activities”

Here is the PPT: ImageOreos Plate TectonicsI have changed the PPT a little (mainly to get rid of Comic Sans, I get a bit twitchy whenever I see that font).

The kids responded really well to this activity. There is nothing better than some hands-on activities to make information stick. The students were like little Pavlovian dogs; salivating while moving the “plates” around on the “magma”. After 15 minutes of playing with Oreos they gobbled it up in 1 second flat. Added lesson: delayed gratification!

Causes of WW2, Hexagons!

Hexagons are better than circles or squares because hexagons fit together in many ways. Much has been written about Hexagon Learning, and this activity is my interpretation of it. I have used it twice in my classes and both times have been very successful. The best thing about this activity is that it gets students discussing and arguing about the Causes of World War 2. They have to come to an agreement about how to arrange the hexagons and because the possibilities are endless, many different versions will arise.

Below are three Word Files. I hope they speak for themselves.


Continue reading

Histedchat 12/02/14: A succesful History classroom

This was the first night of #histedchat for 2014. We had many participants and some great discussions.

The questions were as follows:


Time went so fast that we skipped Q4, pity really, because I’m genuinly interested in what other history teachers hang on their walls. Might be something for a future chat.

Below you find all the Tweets sent in the Histedchat hour. I did try to make a Storify but that site just never ceases to frustrate me. Hard to get all the tweets in, many double ups, glitchy site… the annoyances just never stop. I “harvested” the tweets below by copying and pasting them from Tweetchat, which is a live site that shows all tweets in a certain hast tag.  I hope you find the Tweets easy to read and interesting. See you all in #histedchat in two weeks.  Continue reading

Kuhlthau, the research process

uncertainposterHave you  experienced that moment where an academic task or question seemed so big that it made you slightly anxious? I have, and I see my students go through it too. Research essays, the IB Extended Essay and the IB Internal Assessment are all big academic inquiry processes where students are required to research and grapple with a large amount of information that has to be distilled and synthesised into a coherent and sophisticated argument.

Professor Carol Kuhlthau has researched the research process. I find her notion of the “uncertainty principle” very interesting and recognisable. She describes it as follows: 

“Uncertainty is a cognitive state that commonly causes symptoms of anxiety and lack of confidence. Uncertainty and anxiety can be expected in the early stages of the information searching process. Uncertainty, confusion, and frustration are associated with vague, unclear thoughts about a topic or problem.

As knowledge states shift to more clearly focused thoughts, a parallel shift occurs in feelings of increased confidence. Uncertainty due to a lack of understanding, a gap in meaning, or a limited construct initiates the process of information seeking”

(Kuhlthau, C. C. (1993). Seeking meaning: A process approach to library and information services. Norwood, NJ: Ablex., p. 111)


Below is a visual representation of the uncertainty experienced during a research / inquiry process: Continue reading

Hexagon learning: making and justifying connections

This week I tried hexagons with my students. It worked really well.hexagon

The beauty of following inspiring educators on Twitter is that you benefit from their ideas and knowledge. I first saw Hexagon learning on @jivespin’s blog, which led me to David Didau, NoTosh, SOLO (HookEd), Chris Harte and TheLearningGeek. All explain how these versatile hexagons encourage deeper thinking and rich conversations in the classroom. Hexagon learning can be used in ANY subject and for any topic.  Continue reading