What Makes Learning Fun: Two Year 7 Students’ Perspectives

Two weeks into term, I interviewed some Year 7 students in order to ascertain which strategies used in lessons they have especially enjoyed.  Among them were Ross Haggart and Victoria Ashton.

Ross Haggart is a fan of History and Learning Power.  He vividly explained to me how in History, the starter activity captivated the class’ imagination, with an outline of a dead body on the classroom floor, as the students entered.  The class had to use their imagination and noticing skills, in order to determine what type of job the ‘character’ may have had.  To aid them with this, a leather pouch, some pottery and a dice were used as props.  Questioning featured heavily in the lesson, as the students were asked to consider what the ‘character’ did for a job, the possible causes of death and what hobbies they may have had.

In a recent Learning Power lesson, Ross described how their main activity involved a set of pictures relating to famous people.  For this activity, the class were asked to spot the difference – once again, putting their noticing skills into practice.

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Victoria Ashton listed PE and English as her favourite lessons, “so far” (in her words).  For PE, Victoria described how she and her classmates had to pretend they were a flamingo, in order to test their physical balance and strength.  Whereas for English, she enthusiastically spoke about the use of a still image that was to be used as a springboard for a piece of descriptive writing, as part of a baseline test.

It became apparent very quickly that Year 7 students have not only been immersed into BLP habits but that they are definite aspects of learning that they enjoy.  In more general terms, the following aspects of lessons were commented on, by our learners, as strategies that make learning fun:

  • An engaging settler, perhaps something unexpected
  • The use of pictures or images to explore, discuss or ‘decipher’
  • Clear and concise explanations provided by teachers
  • Learning through games or through problem-solving opportunities
  • Improving on previous work
  • Rewards

In general, it was fantastic to hear our new starters comment so enthusiastically on their newly embarked-upon secondary school experience.

Cindy Long- My Favourite Lesson!

Written by Cindy Long in 7E

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Roughly two weeks ago I had a very motivating, enjoyable and fun packed English lesson! Every minute I was thoroughly gripped and could not wait to learn more. However, as well as it being a very intriguing lesson, I also learnt quite a lot too! Firstly, we kicked off with a challenging starter in which we wrote a detailed prediction of what we thought the ‘SOW’ would be for our new term. This excited me as I love using my noticing skills to infer new topics. Moreover, as a stretch and challenge task we were told to summarise our prediction in just fifty words! Then, later on in the lesson, Miss Stewart introduced us all to an AMAZING acronym. AFORESTER is its name; however, for each letter there is a word and for each word there is a meaning. Importantly, they were all key features that are needed in a successful speech. Furthermore, a little bit later we were given the challenge of writing our very own persuasive speech. This was the main activity of our captivating lesson.

I always enjoy a demanding challenge when it comes to my English lessons and I embrace every opportunity to explore my inner creativity when it comes to writing!

Katie Few- My Favourite Lesson!

Written by Katie Few- 7A

sampleMy favourite lesson was in ICT when we learnt how to make QR codes. It was my favourite lesson because it was the one I found the most interesting and we were given the opportunity and freedom to make our own QR codes. The lesson started by going through a presentation with our teacher telling us how to make a QR code and what they are used for. The main activity was to make one or more QR codes and download them onto our year 6 welcome presentation. The main things I learnt were:

  • to use a QR code safely and responsibly;
  • to make sure I have the correct website;
  • and when I or even you scan a QR code it takes us to a website quicker than finding it independently .

I think these are the key things I have learnt because they are the ones that have stayed in my mind and are the most useful.

Goffs ICT Department @GoffsICT

Interested in Training to Teach?

Fancy teaching in East Herts or the Tring area? Whether you are considering a career in teaching or considering a change of career, please think about applying to the East Hertfordshire (and Tring) School Direct Partnership for a future shaping tomorrow’s citizens!

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What is the East Hertfordshire School Direct Partnership?

School Direct initial teacher training (ITT) with the East Hertfordshire School Direct Partnership (run by Goffs School) offers an exciting opportunity for highly talented and high achieving graduates who wish to pursue a career in teaching. There are five schools in the partnership that work together to design, develop and implement practical school based ITT programmes that will allow successful candidates to gain ‘hands-on’ teaching experience whilst studying with our higher education partner, the University of Hertfordshire, to attain ‘Qualified Teacher Status’ (QTS). Moreover, all partnership schools aim to nurture the next generation of outstanding teachers and school leaders.
Schools in the partnership
The partnership includes some of the leading secondary schools in East Hertfordshire, including Goffs School and Cheshunt School, which are both located in Cheshunt, as well as Sheredes School and The John Warner School, which are based in Hoddesdon. Our partnership also includes Goffs Oak Primary, which is near Cuffley and Tring School in West Hertfordshire.
Do you know of any interested ‘potential’ teachers?
If you know of anyone interested in joining the teaching profession, please inform them about the partnership. Information on becoming a trainee and how to apply can be found on our sister website: http://www.teachineastherts.wordpress.com. We can be followed @TeachHerts on twitter.

Challenging Misconceptions of Islam: Basic Advice for Parents and Carers

In May a survey of 6,000 schoolchildren was published by Show Racism the Red Card that concluded many students hold widespread misconceptions and negative attitudes towards British Muslims. The research found that 35% of the 10 to 16 year olds questioned ‘agreed’ or ‘partly agreed’ that ‘Muslims are taking over our country’ whereas only 41% ‘disagreed’. In addition to this worrying misconception, most students surveyed believed that Muslims make up around 36% of the population – when in reality the figure is closer 5%. And, sadly, 47% ‘agreed’ with a statement suggesting that there are poor relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in England.

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The Grand Mosque in Mecca. Muslims aim to visit this at least once in their lifetime – so long as they are able to financially and physically.

Although this survey does not – in any way – reflect our own school, it does raise obvious concerns about what students know and understand about Islam and British Muslims as well as how these misconceptions come about. Moreover, it also suggests that as teachers, governors, parents and carers we should all be aware of what Islam is and what it means to be Muslim, especially if we are to promote tolerance, respect and community cohesion within the school community.

Of course, one bulwark against Islamophobia is educating students about the religion in RS lessons. This is arguably the case at Goffs where all students are taught the life of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in Year 7 as well as the five pillars of Islam, which are the key foundations of the Islamic faith. However, it is also important that teachers in other subjects are constantly aware of misconceptions about Islam – even if they do not come across as malicious or even Islamophobic – as they could create misleading perceptions of Islam that eventually lead to Islamophobic views. Furthermore, it is also important that these misconceptions are avoided at home, too.

A good way of challenging misconceptions is to fully understand the language used to describe Islam and Muslims and to challenge the use of that language when it is misused. For instance, a key example is the use of ‘devout’ and ‘jihad’. These two words often get invoked to refer to extremists and a minority of Muslims committing terrorist attacks, but in essence they are not negative things. Although the former term might not seem controversial, some British newspapers have been censored for referring to extremists as ‘devout Muslims’.
Firstly, a ‘devout believer’ is someone who has a strong commitment to a set of basic religious beliefs, ideas and/or principles. A ‘devout Muslim’ could be someone who is committed to their faith: perhaps praying five times a day; fasting during the holy month of Ramadan; regularly going to mosque and having a strong sense of Islamic identity. It is also important to stress that many of these basic values correspond to British values, such as justice and equality (exemplified by the third pillar of Islam – charity). Moreover, in the UK, the Muslim community upholds the importance of British laws. For instance, Muslim scholars have argued that Muslims living in majority non-Muslim countries must adhere to the secular ‘laws of the land’ and have no excuse for breaking those laws. Therefore, we should not mix the terms ‘devout’ with ‘extremist’ as they mean two very different things.

Perhaps the more controversial argument centres on how we use the term ‘fundamentalist’; some commentators suggest that a ‘fundamentalist’ merely has a strict adherence to their faith whereas others equate it to extremism. In many respects the former usage could be seen as completely benign, but due to confusion with this word, especially in the media, it may be better to refer to ‘devout Muslims’ when discussing those that take their faith very seriously, in order to avoid any association with illegal or violent extremism.

(C) Sun Newspaper

Secondly, another key misconception is the idea of ‘jihad’ being extremeor bad per se; interestingly, some scholars have argued that all Muslims are jihadis in the same way that all Christians are followers of Christ. For many Muslims, jihad is simply the religious duty that they have to maintain the religion. This is best explained through a translation of the word from Arabic, which literally means “to strive, to apply oneself, to struggle, to persevere”. It can be argued, then, that jihad itself is not a controversial issue when thinking about Islam. It does, however, become an issue if interpreted as a defence of extremist views, such as sympathy with terrorist acts or highly illiberal attitudes towards other faiths, homosexuality and so on (this is where schools’ PREVENT training is vital).

Furthermore, another key element of jihad is distinguishing between the ‘greater jihad’ and the ‘lesser jihad’. The former relates to the personal spiritual struggle that Muslims have to adhere to their faith whereas the latter is the defence of Muslims and the faith from aggressors. It is the ‘lesser jihad’ that has been hijacked by extremists despite the actual rules of ‘lesser jihad’ stipulating that innocent people must not be harmed, ‘enemies’ should be treated with justice and that jihad is a form of defence and not aggression; for example, the Holy Qur’an states, ‘Fight in the way of Allah against those who fight against you, but begin not hostilities. Lo! Allah loveth not aggressors’ (2:190).

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Zayn Malik – photo from Wikipedia

Lastly, when challenging misconceptions of Islam in school as well as potential Islamophobia, it is worth considering common stereotypes. For example, students in majority non-Muslim schools may associate Muslims with the minority of extreme and radical preachers often featured in tabloid newspapers as opposed to practising Muslims (and all round British heroes) like Mo Farah, Amir Khan and Moeen Ali. Moreover, there are plenty of examples of Muslims in pop culture, which is often not associated with Islam, such as Zayn Malik – formally of One Direction – as well as Muslims presenting popular news programmes, such as Mishal Husain on BBC Radio 4.

In conclusion, we can challenge misconceptions of Islam in school by:

  • being aware of the key beliefs of Muslims;
  • using the correct terminology when discussing Islam;
  • and, importantly, challenging stereotypes and highlighting examples of Muslim role models in British society.

Maximising Your Child’s Potential

Posted by Iolanthe Rodman

When a school starts to look at what really works for ‘gifted and talented’ students, the temptation is  to look for a quick fix or a set of requirements which, if implemented, will magically lead to effective provision for able students to attain the highest grades. In reality, schools that are really effective at getting the most out of all their students’ abilities start one step back from this and take as their starting point the purposes of education generally, the role of their school in maximising those abilities and how that relates to the students’ themselves.

Importantly, high achievement is only reached when the right opportunities are in place and when the individual student is confident and motivated enough to respond to them; this should be the case for all students.

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Students are articulate and must be heard

If we are to maximise students’ abilities, we should listen to them discuss their learning. Their have views on their own learning and can help to shape the overall learning offer. This really works when these pupils are at the centre of the learning process taking responsibility for their learning. This is a personalised approach and in sharp contrast to the type of cohort led provision in which students are seen as being a homogeneous group with common needs and common issues. The overall requirements for the cohort which underpin this personalised approach are:

  • Formal recognition of students’ abilities and talents
  • Planned learning opportunities offering high levels of challenge on a daily basis
  • Progress in learning in a way that reflects the stage of learning rather than the age of the pupil
  • Access to enhanced learning opportunities offered outside of normal classroom provision
  • To be seen as a child with social and emotional as well as intellectual needs

Active Citizenship – Goffs ‘General Election’ Results 2015

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© Nevit Dilmen via wiki commons

By Daniel Chichester-Miles

As voters up and down the country cast their ballots in the General election recently,  May 7th saw students at Goffs School in Hertfordshire get their own taste of election fever as 11-18 year olds in the Cheshunt school held a mock election of their own to select which party they would most want to see in Downing Street for the next five years.

Assemblies were held for pupils in each year group leading up to the vote, to learn about the process and some of the key policies of major parties, with members of the school community encouraged to find out more on the internet and news channels in their spare time.  This culminated in Sixth-formers setting up polling booths in the dining room and acting as election officials as students streamed in to make record their votes.

Enthusiasm and turnout ran high with a variety of opinion ranging across the different age groups. This is important as at Goffs we believe it is important to couple academic achievement with a firm awareness of life outside the classroom. An understanding of how our country is governed and our democracy works is obviously a key part of that.  Students said they found it exciting to have the chance to share their thoughts even if it didn’t effect the result of the Broxbourne constituency itself, which was held by Conservative Charles Walker.

The results however, did not entirely mirror the political scene nationally.

While the Conservatives topped the poll, they were closely followed by UKIP only a handful of votes behind , Labour in a respectable third, while The Lib Dems and Greens came a distant fourth and fifth respectively.

How to Help Your Child Cope with Exam Stress

Exam Hall. Credit: Wikicommons

Exam Hall. Credit: Wikicommon

Worried about your child in the run up to exams? Concerned about stress and/or anxiety issues? There are quite a few links giving advice on exam stress coping strategies in the article below (re-blogged from the Guardian Teacher Network). The article is for teachers, but can be useful for parents wanting to help their children cope with exam stress.

Exam stress? There’s an app for that… | TES New Teachers. – Is another useful on blog on helping students with exam stress. Originally published on the TES website. It was written for teachers, but includes practical points.

From the Guardian…

There are some lucky people who relish exams. They enjoy the pressure and, in some bizarre way, it brings out the best in them. For the rest of us mere mortals, however, tests are a source of anxiety and stress.

At a time when schools are already struggling to cope with demand for support as councils cut their youth mental health services provision, it’s even more essential that this year’s exam season goes as smoothly as possible. So as exam season hots up, we have a range of lesson ideas and resources to help you ensure your students keep cool.

One of pupils’ main worries is that they won’t be able to remember everything when they get into the exam hall, according to Elevate Education, an organisation that offers study skills advice. It recommends a number of techniques to help settle students’ nerves including: creating mind maps of information rather than writing out notes over and over again; explaining a topic to a parent or friend; and avoiding a last-minute cram outside the exam hall because it will only lead to higher levels of stress.

Continue reading…