Archive for November, 2012

Sticking My Neck Out!

It’s been three weeks since I started on my foodie science journey with ‘That Group’ who thanks to @TrueEnglish365 I will now call 9B4.

The first week was one of ups and downs, as I started with ‘The Science of Cooking.’

I introduced the project with the idea that we would learn about Science through cooking and we would then at the end of term get to produce our own three course Christmas dinner. However, before they could do this they had to produce a Prezi on their learning journey through the term and how Science was going to help them create this meal.

I ran the brainstormed idea via our ‘Director of Specialism’ and my NQT mentor who both thought this a brave and bold stance, and the fact that I was doing something different for my students showed my level of commitment. For me, it was actually just about not having to be so miserable every time I taught them and not having that feeling of dread when their lessons arrived.

On the Monday evening we had a faculty meeting, so at the AOB I presented my master plan with an overview of what I wanted to achieve. At which point my HoD and KS3 co-ordinator thought it a great idea and ‘let’s give it a go.’ What have we got to lose!

However, I’m not sure what transpired during the evening, but I was faced with a different situation the next day.
After presenting the idea to 9B4 (which I will come back to later), I sat in the prep room for break where I was told that ‘of course they (that being (9B4) ) will have to sit the exam at the end of term’, and you are covering all of the content for this term, aren’t you?’ At which point I said. “well no!” I wasn’t covering the standard content as that was the whole point, the traditional/standard curriculum content wasn’t working for them and would it really matter if eight students didn’t take an exam that really didn’t tell us much more than we already knew!

This went down like a lead balloon, and the comment was” I’ll take it up with the HoD”, and swoosh they were gone. In the meantime, I was left wondering what just happened.

I was later told that day, in yet another passing comment that this class would have to sit the exam at in the beginning of January just like all the rest of year 9 otherwise the data wouldn’t be accurate and that it was all about standardisation. So find a way to teach the content.. ‘I’m sure you’re clever enough to do this’. And with a further flapping of wings they were gone.

So, to cut a long story short, I was gutted to say the least, what to do? Stop what I am doing and revert to standard SoW or go for it find a way to include reactivity series and acid rain into lessons on cooking.

I had a moan about teacher assessment on Twitter that evening and the general consensus was that teacher assessment was as valuable as sitting some recall exam!

Finally after a long weekend rewriting the direction of the work, I managed to incorporate reactivity series of metals in to the issue with pans and what they were made of etc.

No! I wasn’t (and I am certainly NOT) going to give up on these guys, or the work I had already done, and unfortunately sticking your neck above the barricade often gets it cut off sometimes.

I survived the machete attack and am finally making progress with the group, and much to my surprise I now look forward to these lessons rather than the feeling of dread I used to have.

So, in conclusion, believing in myself and the students and wanting to make a difference in an innovative and creative way is the path of true Inclusive Learning. Not only have the students learnt so much, by my own CPD journey has been one of reflectiveness, self-evaluation and prepared to be dedicated to the Learning and Teaching of my students REGARDLESS of what it takes.

May the cooking (and boiling of heads), negative people and jealousy begin.

Karen 1: Rest of the world 0

Eggciting challenges’ (or maybe the egg will be on my face).

Ofsted had got in the way of SLT helping with my very challenging bottom set Year 9 group who I have previously talked about in an earlier blog (No longer Bullet Proof). Resulting in the last week of term being left to fend off the advancing lions with a chair but no whip and not being very successful, I put my great Thinking Hat on – ‘Never give up’

The use of ‘Class Dojo’, has been somewhat helpful. The initial realisation that they could see a behaviour award for both their positive and negative behaviours was an interesting side line for all of, well a lesson! However, when the more disruptive elements of the class returned to lessons, Class Dojo turned into a competition to see how many reds could be accumulated, rather than how many greens for positives. The focus of the more disruptive elements became one of ‘miss I’m on task don’t I get a mark?, I’m not shouting out? Doesn’t that deserve a mark’ and the like.

I think the lions were trying to tame the keeper; however, I stuck to my guns and awarded marks as I felt were appropriate. So my feeling on ‘Class Dojo’ is one of mild annoyance at the moment.  A discussion on twitter produced this link to another view of ‘Class Dojo’ from @kennypiper  Class-Don’tjo  who has had similar issues.   I still want to use the tool but need to refocus my attention on the positives and less on the negatives.

I spent time during the weekend before the end of term, thinking about how I could engage this group in some real world applications of science. How do I make it relevant, real, meaningful and fun?

So, in all best work avoidance I returned to my love of baking and was busy in the kitchen cooking up a storm when it hit me, well actually it was my rather typical teenage son who mumbled ‘can I help, as I liked it when we used to cook when I was little.’ Eureka struck! This was my light bulb moment. If he likes it and wanted to do it at sixteen, maybe a group of hormonal Year 9’s who haven’t had much success at anything might like it as well.

Could I link science to cooking in a way that wasn’t Food Tech (no disrespect) but still covers the scientific topics, concepts and ideas that were needed for Year 9 and beyond?

With a burgeoning idea in mind, I thought how I would introduce this nugget of an idea to the group. The last lesson of term beckoned and I was tired, so looked to the good old video to show something different. Once more inspiration struck. How about the final of ‘The Great British Bake Off?’

I found the episode on BBC iplayer and introduced the idea that next half term we might do something similar. Initially there were the moans… ‘Don’t like food tech, can’t cook, cooking is for girls’. “Ah ah,” I said, in my best Inspector Clouseau voice……. Watch and learn. (Dundun dunnnnn imagine sound effects).

The video commenced amongst the realisation that it was all men competing for the prize. We watched about half an hour when I paused to discuss what they had seen, how did they feel about the participants? Much to my delight they were starting to make an emotional attachment to the stories of the contestants each choosing who they wanted to win, commenting on the judging, and discussing in a sensible fashion whether they thought the judges were right, fair, kind, specific and helpful in their comments. (See what I did there even Public Critique gets a look in)

The more reluctant of the group now moved forward to be able to see better, others told the chatterboxes to be quiet as they wanted to listen.

We laughed through the disastrous attempts at Fondant Fancies, with much talk of comparing Mr Kiplings offerings to Brendan Lynches creations.

We looked at the calculations of creating the correct sizes from the 20cm x 20cm cake. Yeah maths and they didn’t notice.

When, in the final challenge, James Horton had a disastrous attempt at making five chiffon cakes instead of one, with one hitting the floor. The gasps were audible. Again I stopped the video, discussing what did they think he would do? What would they do, how would he overcome this? This lead on to discussions about perseverance, resilience, keeping going under pressure, problem solving and the like, with the entire group wanting to have their say. Debating and evaluating the outcome.

When the final judging took place, we held our own vote, based purely on the visuals of the finished product.

They picked up on the fact James made five cakes and was this fair?

This led into a great conversation on fair testing with suggestions on the rights and wrongs of not following the brief.

I finally turned on the result and they were all cheering for their favourite and were surprised with the winner being John Whaite, there was uproar in the class.

What they didn’t realise was just by having these conversations we were using essential science skills needed when they do any scientific experiment.

So maybe the idea of allowing them to experience the highs and lows of cooking won’t be such a bad idea!

So, to summarise the Thinking & Learning Skills they developed in this lessons were: Resilience, perserverance, debating, evaluating, justifying and some social skills; namely that it’s ok to have conversation without yelling at each and a difference of opinion is healthy.