Thursday, 26 May 2011

GCSE Maths - Statistics lessons

Teaching GCSE Statistics?  Download two sets of free activities here, on the football and the web.

Just when you thought it was all statistics activity - the perfect source of data!  Download teacher's notes for AQA or Edexcel and use with the data sheet.  This exercise covers shape of the Distribution, Time Series: Moving Averages, and Measures of Spread.

All online for this Wikipedia Statistics activity.  Download teacher's notes for AQA or Edexcel and use with the data sheet.  This exercise covers Bar Charts, Pie Charts and Pictograms.

Have a go at these lessons and let us know how you get on.  There's plenty more from our GCSE Statistics series.

Collins Education Blog

Primary literacy - More storytelling ideas

Almost everyone can tell stories. How many times has a child or an adult approached you to tell you of what they’ve just seen, heard, done, read etc? We’re all doing it but without realising and it’s one of the most fundamental and timeless skills humans have.  There’s a cornucopia of ideas for activities based on storytelling. Try some of these out and marvel at the spoken word:


Objective: Understand that tone and expression can affect meaning.

This is a great activity to see how tone of voice affects the meaning or intention of a story. Talk about the different ways we speak and how tone and expression is used differently to convey meaning. Use a simple piece of text from a story which doesn’t have any particular aim. Experiment with different ‘voices’ and ask the children to say what they think is the meaning of the way it’s said or what the intention is. You could even begin with something as simple as ‘Would you like to try one of my lovely apples? In a friendly tone, the speaker is being generous, sharing or kind. Sarcastically makes it sound like the recipient has already tried something else. In an eerie voice you get the witch from Snow White, whispered you get the idea that they are secret. This could be extended to telling a story in different ways, whispered, shouted, mysteriously etc.


Objective: Compare and evaluate different forms of communication

Ask the children to imagine that they are an ancient tribe of humans who haven’t yet developed a language. Tell them that they are to imagine there is danger nearby and they are moving on but to protect any tribes coming behind they want to leave a message. How would they do it? In groups decide on what they want to say (without speaking to each other!!) and work out how they will leave a lasting message.


Objective: To be able to communicate ideas and information effectively

Children are very good at making up stories, the problem is that not many of them are as good at writing them down. This activity will give them the chance to tell their story but without the difficulty of writing it. They will still need to plan their story as they would for a written one but they will be developing the story orally rather than in writing. Extend the focus by giving them a time limit to work to and maybe encourage them to use props to help. This activity is like the storytelling equivalent of being a stand up comedian. They may think they can do it but it is a challenge. Encourage good preparation, discourage memorisation and remind them of using different voices to bring added emphasis to their storytelling.  To crystallise evidence of their work record their story as they tell it and give them a copy to listen to. Ask for their own evaluation of their performance,  You could extend this activity further into an evening session with parents volunteering to do storytelling ‘sets’.


Objective: Understand that myths and legends may be based on real events but that retelling changes the information.

Storytelling has a fascinating history spanning many cultures and civilisations. Ask the children to investigate storytelling in these cultures and civilisations, looking for examples and for the reasons why they chose to do this. You could role play the passing of time for a Native American tribe and the passing on of legends and traditions from the old to the young through the generations. This could lead on well to how myths and legends change over as they are embellished by the new storytellers. This is a form of Chinese whispers and you’ll begin by giving telling one child a recount of a brave deed. Include numbers, sizes and other things that could be exaggerated. The next day, ask them to tell the story to another child and repeat the exercise until the end of the week. Put the original story up on the board with the last storyteller facing away from it. Listen to their recount while looking at the original and highlight the differences.


Objective: Listen carefully to a story and predict where it is going. Be able to add to the story by continuing or changing its direction.

We often do this activity as a written exercise but have done it around the campfire of residential trips. Throw in a setting, a character and a brief plot. For example: Many years ago in the distant, beautiful land of Nog lived a farmer and his son. Times were hard as there had been famine in the land for three years. On the board write questions that will prompt the continuation. E.g.:

•    What was the setting like?
•    What are the characters like?
•    What is the problem?
•    Are there any other characters?
•    How will it all end?
Sitting in a circle, ask the children to continue the story, trying to maintain the flow and a structure to the story. Again, record the story and listen as a class, evaluating their performance.

And finally, when you’re all exhausted from all the story telling and have lost your voices, put on a story tape or CD and listen to how the professionals tell a fine story! 

Dave Lewis
Portsmouth High School Junior Dept

Friday, 20 May 2011

Scottish Schools - Help your students learn about the world of work

Learn about Working in Publishing at a Glow-meet with Leckie and Leckie

Glow is a virtual learning system being used across Scotland to transform learning.  This week our team at Leckie and Leckie, Scotland’s leading educational publishers, are excited to be taking part in ‘Glow – World of Work’, a new initiative from Learning and Teaching Scotland designed to support Scotland’s young people in education and employability, using interactive online sessions.  Our team will be talking about Working in Publishing and taking questions from students tuning in all over Scotland.

Join Martin and the team at Glow Meet with Leckie and Leckie this week.

Collins Education Blog

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

KS3 English - Creative Writing using drama

My ‘be a better teacher’ resolution last September was finding a way of encouraging my Year 9 class to be more independent with their creative writing. What does often seem to make the difference between engaging and mediocre is the focus on detail and taking the time to do some establishment for the reader – using ‘show don’t tell’ to make the reader ask questions and become intrigued.  Because I teach some GCSE Drama as well, and Drama students need to know about establishment of setting and character through audience observation, this year I decided to cross over the skills and see if it helped.

So, I enlisted the help of one of the more confident ‘performers’ in my mixed-ability Year 9 class. He was briefed beforehand on what I wanted him to do, which was, basically, to role-play the word ‘Waiting’. He was to simply stand at the front of the room and we were going to watch him to see what he did. He could inject any mood he wanted; anxiety, impatience, fear, excitement – the choice was his. He could decide where he was and what / who he was waiting for. The rest of the class were in pairs and their brief was to observe and jot down everything – gestures, facial expressions, movements -  every tiny detail from our willing performer.

Five minutes of this yielded an average amount of detail of a side of A4 full of notes. We then discussed who this person might be, what they were doing, what they were waiting for and so on. Our volunteer explained what his actual context was – most of the students were miles off but that wasn’t the point. They came up with some amazing ideas, elaborately subtle and really creative, which they then used to write the first paragraph of a piece called ‘Waiting’, using only the descriptive details they had collected to ‘show not tell’ their central character’s mood. They produced some lovely results and seem to have completely grasped the concept  - and I managed to not interfere at all!

Sarah Darragh
English Teacher

Monday, 16 May 2011

A Level Business Studies - Leadership lessons at the National Maritime Museum

What has the National Maritime museum got to do with Business Studies?  More than you’d think.  The Salford City Council website pointed me in the direction of the NMM website where I discovered quite a lot on offer for schools across the key stages.

In particular, for A-Level and Applied A-Level Business Studies, The Leading Lives Study Day offers an innovative approach to delivering some of the key principles of the A-level and Applied A-level Business Studies specifications.  Each interactive study focuses students on the compelling story of either Elizabeth I or Ernest Shackleton, two very different leaders in Britain’s history.

There are also some free online resources on the topic of What makes a good leader, examining leadership and management skills through the story of Horatio Nelson. 

Download Teacher’s Resources including activities, quizzes and activity cards, that provide an insight into how the modern business world can learn from history.

Collins Education blog

All - Can twittering enhance school practice?

Are you using twitter yet?  Thousands of teachers up and down the country are apparently now using twitter as a channel to share ideas and have discussions with other teachers.  It’s now also being used for regular training sessions on particular (voted for) topics.

This is an interesting article about UKEdChat, a weekly congregation of teachers on Twitter, started by Colin Hill, a year 2 teacher at Birkdale Primary School in Southport, who had seen it working for US teachers.

From the article, Glen Gilchrist, Head of Science at Newport high school says: "I have Twitter running on my laptop all the time. When faced with a question about pedagogy during an 'out of specialism lesson', like maths, I tweet the question and within minutes have the answer. Whether you need inspirational classroom management techniques or want to discuss Bloom's Taxonomy, there's always an audience at UKEdChat."

Read the whole article here What do you think?  Are you tweeting yet?  If so don’t forget to follow us!

Collins Education blog

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Secondary Citizenship - Using today's news in your lessons

How did Colonel Gadaffi get his mandate to rule in Libya?  How would a move from first-past-the-post to alternative voting affect decision-making in the UK?

Showing pupils how the news affects our everyday lives makes them sit up and listen! News is not only authentic, but often controversial and challenging.

There are tons of free downloadable resources for your Citizenship classes on Citizenship Teacher, including their two new topical lessons on leadership and dictatorship, to help you raise important issues which link directly to what's in the news this month.

Go to the site to download them now.

In one lesson, students elect a class dictator and question concepts of democracy. In the other they consider the events unfolding in the Arab World, including Egypt, Libya and Bahrain, and reflect on the nature of dictatorship.

Collins Education Blog

A Level Sociology - Gender and Identity video

Sociologists are very interested in gender and gender socialisation.  They look at ways in which people learn behaviours associated with different genders.  They have also researched whether a person’s gender can affect the types of opportunities they have in their lives.

This is a useful video to introduce your class to the Gender topic, as part of the Culture and Identity unit.

Collins Education blog

Monday, 9 May 2011

A Level Psychology - Memory crossword

Here's something useful to help your students who are revising Memory, as part of Cognitive Psychology.

Get your class to have a go at this crossword on Memory in every day life.  The answers are on page 2 so no peaking!

Download and have a go now to see who's got all the answers or who needs to do a bit more revision.

Collins Education blog

KS3 Geography - Changing fortunes on the High Street

Have you seen our brilliant new KS3 Geography case studies from the Geographical Association?

This 8-page resource about changing fortunes on the high street includes up-to-date information on this topical theme and 10 activities for you to do with your class.  Get cracking now!

Shop, or they start to drop...
Changing fortunes on the High Street

Take a walk down any ‘High Street’ – whether virtually, or in person – and you’ll notice signs that all is not well in many towns: they will say ‘To Let’.  The High Street faces real competition from out-of-town retail parks and the steady growth of supermarkets, both in number and in size. There is also the growing trend for people to shop online, combined with a reduction in many families’ finances which has affected customer confidence.

Download the whole thing and use now!

We'll be giving away some more like this so join our Geography email list and get two more free case studies.

Also, let us know how you get on using this case study and any suggestions for us.

Collins Education Blog

KS3 History - measuring significance of historical events

Why do we remember some events in history and not others? Why are some events regarded as important at the time but not now?

This is what the 2010 Secondary Curriculum has to say about Significance:
  • Key concept 1.5 Significance: Considering the significance of events, people and developments in their historical context and in the present day.
Here’s an example that might help us explore this. Everyone remembers the Titanic – the unsinkable ship that hit an iceberg in the Atlantic on its maiden voyage to America in April 1912. At the time this was a devastating event, over 1,500 people died. It was also a big shock to British pride. It is credited with originating the saying ‘women and children first,’ as there were not enough boats for everybody. People still talk about the Titanic today, and not just because of the film!

Yet how many people remember HMS Birkenhead, the troop ship that sank on its way to South Africa in 1852, with the loss of around 450 soldiers?

HMS Birkenhead was carrying about 650 men, women and children to South Africa. Most were new recruits. About 3 miles off shore, at 2 in the morning, the ship hit a rock. It too, like the Titanic, had a series of watertight compartments designed to keep it afloat – in fact it was the first steam ship to do so.  In an attempt to get off the rocks the captain reversed the engines, making the hole much bigger. In 15 minutes the ship sank. The captain gave the order to abandon ship. Only three of the boats could be lowered.

Lieutenant-Colonel Seton, the senior army officer, ordered all ranks to assemble on deck and stand to attention, while the women and children were put in the boats. The men waited as the ship went down. Most died, although some managed to swim the three miles to shore through shark-infested waters. It really was the first example of ‘women and children first!’

Queen Victoria praised the bravery and discipline of the men, and ordered a memorial built at Chelsea Barracks. The King of Prussia paraded his army and in an order of the day demanded his soldiers be as brave as those on the Birkenhead. On the 50th anniversary, Thomas Hemy, a famous Victorian painter, produced a painting of the ship going down, which would have been found on most Victorian classroom walls. About the same time Rudyard Kipling, the ‘poet of Empire,’ wrote ‘Soldier an’ sailor too,’ about the event. So the event obviously had an impact both at the time and at the turn of the century. Yet no-one today remembers the Birkenhead. Why?

There are several sets of criteria for measuring significance – such as those from Ian Dawson, Partington, Christine Counsell – and it is important that students have the chance to ‘measure’ significance against these criteria. Yet it is equally important that they have the opportunity to develop their own criteria for measuring significance. That, after all, is what history is really about.

Alf Wilkinson
National Subject Lead for History, 2010 Secondary Curriculum

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Secondary Maths - Simply take ...A set of mini whiteboards

This is an activity that could be used to improve students understanding of evaluating expressions when substituting integers in expressions.

Using a class set of mini whiteboards, ask each student to
•    Write the numbers 1 to 6 in a column on the left hand side
•    Write a different algebraic expression in terms of x next to each of these numbers
•    Evaluate the expressions using the allocated number as the value for x
•    Calculate the total of these six values

Now ask the students to rearrange the number 1 to 6 to get
•    The maximum total
•    The minimum total

This allows differentiation as students can make the expressions as complicated as they wish.

They could write each of their expressions on cards, which you could collect and use in another lessons allocating appropriate expressions to individual students.

Sue Briggs
Previously a Maths Advisor in Somerset

GCSE Science - What's changing in the new specifications

If you're in a world of confusion about the new GCSE specification have a look at our Collins New GCSE Science blog, containing articles on what is really changing in the new spec, how to handle controlled assessment and how you can use Bad Science in the classroom.

Written by Science Advisor Ed Walsh, the articles try and make sense of the changes and offer some suggestions on how you might tackle them.

What do you think of the new specs so far and how are you preparing for teaching in September?  We'd love to hear your thoughts, here or on the Science blog.

Collins Education Blog

GCSE English - Stand up for Shakespeare

I have to admit that, in the past, I was rather prone to keeping my students sitting down in class. Especially when teaching drama texts. This may be because my attempts at using drama in the classroom usually ended up resembling a scene from ‘Lord of the Flies’; it may be because I am a control freak; or it may be that I just hadn’t been trained in how to teach drama. However, a couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to receive some training on active approaches to teaching Shakespeare. It was brilliant! It provided me with simple ways to use drama to complement the teaching of English but in the controlled and focussed way I had always failed to do before.

This year I want to get my GCSE students standing up for Shakespeare.  They will be studying the theme of Love For the ‘Shakespeare and Literary Heritage Controlled Assessment’, focussing on ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and a selection of poetry.  With the on-going pressures on students from controlled assessments, I want to make this unit as interactive as possible- they have and will have to spend enough time sitting down and writing about it in silence afterwards! Here are two of the techniques I plan to use.

1 - Firstly I have decided to look at ‘Last Words’. This involves each student in the class taking it in turns to read out the last word in a line from a section of the play. Once everyone has had a go, they do it again but add actions. This is a very simple but effective way of focussing the students on language choices and of spotting patterns in imagery, rhyme and rhythm.

2 - The second technique is ‘Walking the punctuation’. Students are given an extract from the play and have to walk around the classroom whilst reading the extract out loud. The trick is that when they reach a full-stop, question mark or exclamation mark they stop and turn 180 degrees before walking again, whereas if they reach a comma, colon or semi-colon they just make a brief turn and carry on walking, without stopping. This is a great way of helping students to consider the pace and rhythm of speeches and dialogues, which they can then develop by linking to the content and the mood of the characters.

Both of these techniques will need to be developed by more traditional text marking and annotation to help students fully analyse the language. But they are excellent ways in to the text and that is so important. Shakespeare often seems mind-boggling for students but if they can stand up, pull it apart and interact with it, hopefully it will become that bit more accessible before they sit down again and write about it.

Naomi Hursthouse
Advance Skills Teacher
Steyning Grammar School

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Primary Literacy - Making Story Writing Fun and Challenging

There are not many pupils that will say they love writing and there are probably fewer teachers that love marking it! I’ve just done an assessed piece of writing with the children and I see the same problems in all of their work. You can get them to plan all you like but when the writing starts, getting them to stick to the plan all the way through to the conclusion is a nightmare.

You can tell the point at which they feel they’ve done enough - I’d be a rich man if I had a pound for every time I’ve read the end of a story where the characters have a cup of cocoa and go to bed or wake up part way through the story to find it’s all been a dream!

So what’s the answer to making writing fun and sustaining their concentration?

I’ve experimented with several ideas over the years and some of the best I’ve found involve either shared writing or writing that is done in a format that the children enjoy.

You can tell the regard in which story writing is held by your class when their initial question is ‘When I finish, can I draw a picture?’ This often means that the work is rushed to get to the enjoyable bit, so why not ask them to draw the picture first then write about it?

Another writing method we use is the shared story.

We began by using an exercise book. The teacher would write the opening lines of a story and the child would continue it, returning the book to the teacher after a paragraph had been completed. This worked well until books got lost and all the work with it. We looked around for an alternative and hit upon the use of blogs.

If you want to follow this route, set up WordPress or other blog provider’s accounts for each child that is participating and give them the log in details.

Begin the story for the child and ask them to continue it.  Alternate regularly completing sections of the story. You should each choose a different colour font to be able to differentiate between the authors and to enable you to monitor how much each author is contributing.

If you set up the spam filter to remove all spam you won’t have any unwanted comments appearing on the blog. This way you can use the comment facility to be able to tell the child how you think the story is progressing. From time to time, discuss the story verbally with the child so that they can discuss ideas.

Other free blogware is available and some allow you to keep the blog private although in all the time we have operated the system we have never had a comment come through the spam filter on WordPress that wasn’t from an accepted source.

By using blogware, we are sure that the story won’t be lost and the story can be continued in school or at home. Parents like this method too as they can log on and see the child’s work and the comments from the teacher.

Dave Lewis
Portsmouth High School Junior Dept