Moving to the Activate scheme of work for KS3 science

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My followers on here know I’ve been a long fan of Wikid Science from the Science Learning Centres/ASE.  However the scheme never lived up to the promise of a constantly adapting scheme of work in the cloud.  Instead the wiki vanished and links were moved to diigo, and if you look closely you could see the tumbleweed blowing through the resources.  The lack of updates for the new National Curriculum (in a timely fashion) meant a move to another scheme of work.  In an ideal world I’d make my own but as second in a school, I have many demands on my time outside of teaching.

I visited our partner school within our academy trust and they had opted to follow Activate. I discussed the reasoning with them, looked at the resources and invited the sales rep into school (it also makes sense for schools in the same academy chain to follow the same scheme to allow for movement of staff).  I was impressed with the incorporation of literacy and numeracy into the scheme, both of which are going to be increasingly important at GCSE level.  I was also impressed with the Kerboodle platform which offers the accompanying resources, cloud based planning tools and also pre/post teaching assessment tools.

Unfortunately I can’t give a complete review at this stage because I haven’t been into school to pick up the teachers guides (they were delivered while I was on holiday) but I have started to plan so I can give you my first impressions

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The good

  • The science content is more prominent in this scheme and there seems to be less of the airy-fairy material that was in Wikid
  • there are supporting resources online for each chapter of the textbook (and there is a decent textbook!)
  • Kerboodle – the online textbook (for teachers) means I don’t have to carry the textbook home, although I have only bought paper copies of the teachers guides.
  • There are literacy key-words and tasks created with a literacy focus
  • There is a lot of self-marking assessment material within Kerboodle
  • Interactive materials for whiteboards are included in Kerboodle

The bad

  • The book and supporting resources do not show much differentiation and the units I’ve checked so far don’t include enough materials to mix and match for different abilities
  • The lessons are very rigid – and aren’t structured in a way to adapt them easily for different lengths of lessons (some of mine are 100 mins)
  • Kerboodle uses admission numbers to make sure pupil records are unique – but as of the end of term there was no way of uploading them securely (this may have been fixed by now – I haven’t checked)
  • some of the topics seem a little more dry than the wikid topics that had a theme (however rubbish) to link content together.
  • access to Kerboodle is subscription based so there is an annual charge (hence the online tests to keep you hooked).

These are just my first impressions – I’ve only started planning my first lesson, and have only had access to the textbook/Kerboodle for a few days.  I will be posting more – and letting Oxford know exactly what I think of their scheme :)

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BTEC Level 1 (FLT) one of the best kept secrets in science teaching…

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I don’t get why Pearson aren’t singing about this qualification.  It’s a level one qualification and it so it has limited appeal but there are a number of reasons that heads of science should pay attention to this qualification.

  • It is portfolio based assessment with NO examination.  This makes it suitable for learners with SEN (or possibly EAL students)
  • It is worth slightly more than an F at GCSE, which makes it appropriate for SEN and LA students.
  • It is on the list of approved qualifications for 2016 (and of course 2015 if you want to run it in a year)
  • The certificate can be taught in a year (I know this from personal experience)
  • You (the teacher) design the assessment tasks so can be personalised for teaching groups

There are however a number of downfalls to this qualification:

  • paperwork – you need to track every assignment and keep central records that others can access (I have 12 assignments covering the certificate qualification).
  • quality assurance – someone has to take the OSCA lead internal verifier qualification otherwise you will be subject to mandatory sampling.  Someone in the school has to act as a quality nominee (exams officer?) who will get a visit and a grilling as part of the QA process.
  • Assignment briefs MUST be verified before using and at least 50% of the marked work must be internally verified as well (and your policies must explain how this will work).
  • The qualification is pass or fail.  A new version could be in the pipeline that has pass/merit/distinction grades (there was such a version before QCF!)

I’ve been running this qualification since it was introduced as it suits the needs of many of my learners (I’m currently teaching it alongside GCSE as some of my students have target grades above an F).  I’ve uploaded many of the resources I have used and will continue to upload resources/assignments as I make them.

I’ve included some screenshots of the Edexcel site that show you where to find the specs for this qualification.

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Let me know if you have any questions or you see any teaching resources that appear to be missing and I’ll do my best to help.

 

#ASEchat summary – Published schemes of work – how do you choose and use them in science?

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I opened the chat by asking “Published schemes of work – how do you choose and use them in science?”  Viciascience responded by saying he imagines that every school has a standby set of textbooks and others joined in by discussing their purchased schemes (see chat transcript for details).  ViciaScience asked the going rate for a KS3 scheme and GregtheSeal responded with the figure of £3000.

Deepexperience1 suggested we get out those textbooks for the 1950s and Cleverfiend responded by saying if there is a match with content then why not?  Deepexperience1 went on to say that modern schemes relied too heavily on worksheets, and cleverfiend replied by saying that being in special measures at his school had resulted in a move away from worksheets.  MissWatford confirmed that they are used for last minute cover work whilst gregtheseal said they good for independent research.

Some chatters had an issue with the length of lessons not being matched to their schools, for example two chat participants had 100 minute lessons.  TFScientist thought that a department made scheme is best, then you get a format for your lessons and everyone is invested in the scheme.

ViciaScience suggested that iBooks might be the way forward with cheap publishing and purchasing costs.  Gregtheseal suggested a crowd-sourced book published through iTunes. HRogerson told us that most publishers are supporting ebooks (although many require a subscription rather than purchasing them), Hodder are letting you buy ebooks through Amazon.  It was felt that there was an issue of quality control when crowd sourcing materials and despite many of the ASE members having been involved in writing schemes in the past, there wasn’t a single scheme that received universal praise from chat participants.

ViciaScience asked about a central skeleton scheme of work and Cleverfiend raised the prospect of another QCA scheme being a bad idea.  Some people like the idea of a scheme and HRogerson pointed out that at least the QCA scheme being widely adopted let you mix and match resources from different sources.

a reminder: how to request your observation notes from Ofsted

I recently wrote some posts about requesting your evidence forms from Ofsted.  One of the benefits of being in special measures is that you get plenty of attention from Ofsted.

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Despite having been jointly observed and receiving feedback by my head, I still wanted to see my observation notes and what had been written about my lesson.  I’ve attached a copy of the feedback (part of a section 8 monitoring visit) so you can see what you get back.

S5 evidence form

All it takes is a quick email:

The address you need to use is ‘informationrequest@ofsted.gov.uk
The email I sent is below – I included a scanned copy of my driving licence
I would like to request a copy of the S5 evidence forms completed during the recent section 8 monitoring inspection of my school.  Hopefully the information below will help you to identify the forms in question.
Name:
Home address
Contact number
School
Date of lesson
Time of lesson
Year group
Name of inspector
Subject
Details of lesson content
I’d be interested to hear from other people that have requested their observation notes like me :)

 

My science GCSE revision/support site – your help please

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When I started running GCSE science alongside our existing L1 BTEC Applied Science (FLT) I realised that my students would need a little bit of extra help if they were ever going to pass the exam. Many of them (remember I teach in a special school) struggle to remember what we did last week, so the chances of remembering what we over two years seems very ambitious.

I thought I had a solution – a supporting website that I could put on video and revision links, not a revision guide (there are plenty of paper revision guides available) but a supplement to what happened in class.  I registered the domain and set up a website and I thought I was ready to go.

Unfortunately there was one thing I overlooked.  My own time.  I had misjudged the amount of time that being a school leader in a special measures school would consume.  I teach a 60% timetable, am the second in the school, and my workload means that I’m out of the house for almost 12 hours a day as well as working at home too.

To protect my sanity something had to give, and it ended up being the website. Unfortunately, as with many things in life, the further behind you get the harder it is to catch up.  With that in mind I have two choices open to me:

  • drop the site and allow the domain to lapse
  • find a sucker volunteer (or several volunteers) to contribute to the site

It’s over to you – if you think this is something that your students would find useful then feel free to contact me if you have time to contribute.   Alternatively if you feel that this is a waste of time (or that there is something else out there that will serve my purpose) then leave a comment below.

Image © wenday on Flickr

Free science literacy resources from the author of William’s Words in Science

IWWcells‘ve written before about William’s Words in Science (here) and his resources for cells (here) and food/digestion (here).  While at was at the ASE annual conference last month I met the author, Dr William Hirst in person.  I was pleased to see him selling his excellent resources at his stand, and more importantly I was pleased to see other people buying them.  If you haven’t seen his resources, read my reviews linked above and visit William’s site (if you buy anything, be sure to tell him I sent you – note I don’t receive any commission or financial kickback, I just happen to rate his resources!)

More importantly while I was at his stand I discovered that William has many free resources that are available for any one to download from his site.  These resources showcase the strategies that are used in his books and can be used to drop into your lessons.  I would like to hope that some of my readers will try the resources and feed back to William (contact details are available on his site).

If you want an idea of what is available, William gave me permission to host a selection of these resources here – alternatively bookmark his site which will be updated more often than this blogpost.

Williams Word Games in Science

 

#ASEchat summary – How are you developing the numeracy of your students

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With the promotion of maths and science (together with technology/engineering) as STEM subjects, no one can deny the links between science and maths and the importance of maths within science.   The question arose “How are you developing the numeracy of your students?” which was posed to ASEchat participants.

Cleverfiend (who was leading the discussion) opened by saying he got positive feedback from Ofsted for using mathematical terms and units when talking about lungs.  MrsRWood shared her numeracy placemat https://www.dropbox.com/s/5vc7q58pbne83a9/Numeracy%20Placemat.pdf which met with universal approval from all taking part.  MrsRWood explained that it was extremely useful when having to explain what the mean is for the 100th time!  A publication was mentioned as a useful resource – “AKSIS Getting to Grips with Graphs” for those who are able to access a copy, perhaps at work.  ashl3ylaw said they are working with the maths department to create a similar resource  working with the maths department.  Others reinforced the importance of collaboration between maths and science departments.

No matter what discipline you teach there is no getting away from maths, ViciaScience pointed out that ratio and proportionality are the bedrock of some biology topics whilst others referred to statistics in A-level. DrDsScienceDays pointed out that orders of magnitude are useful all the way up to KS5.  Ange_K1 pointed out that lots of students could use a calculator but forgot to press = at the appropriate points so made mistakes, others saw that too in their lessons.

The topic changed to graphs and what level in maths would include the skills of choosing axes and labels etc for drawing a graph in science.  Hrogerson said that drawing a graph every lesson had helped improve grades for one group.

NeedhamL56 referred to an app from @NPL  about fundamental physics constants.   TeacherChemist said “I like to get students to draw graphs by hand to appreciate scaling rather than relying on Excel”.  Ashl3ylaw gives the maths department some real data to use when they teach the skills in their lessons. A_Weatherall referred to the triangles that are used when teaching formulae saying he doesn’t like them because they hide the underlying maths, and other chat participants agreed.

ViciaScience suggested the Merlin plugin for biology stats for Excel available from http://www.heckgrammar.co.uk/index.php?p=10310

NeedhamL56 recommended the old National Strategy materials for working with graphs available at http://www.nationalstemcentre.org.uk/elibrary/resource/7395/aspects-of-how-science-works and Cleverfiend said a lot of the mini-booster materials (from the old SATS days) were very useful.

There was discussion over lines of best fit in science and maths, and whether they should be curves or straight lines.  Again it was agreed that maths and science departments should be talking to each other.

The final word comes from ashl3ylaw who says their solution is to have a physicist teaching maths and a mathematician teaching physics!

The full transcript of the chat is available here