My thoughts on “BTEC First in Applied Science Book 1” by Rebeka Hasan & Michelle Moran (Hodder Education)

btecbook I came across this book as a result of someone posting messages on the TES forums.  I decided to check out the book, especially as Hodder make this very easy – you can sign up for an E-inspection copy and get access to the book on screen for 30 days.  Whilst this does not give the same experience as flicking through a paper copy, it does provide a very useful insight into the book. (Click here for more information)

It is interesting to see that the book is quite different from the Edexcel one.  Note that I say different, not better.  How you rate the book will depend on for what you intend to use the book, and the teaching styles of the department.  The emphasis of the book is more of a teaching resource than a reference resource.  As a result there is less factual information and content in the book, but more ideas of assignments.  For those that are serious about the vocational aspect of BTEC, the book also links topics with appropriate science careers, and is probably worth keeping a single copy in the department for this reason alone.  I’d rate the quality of the assessment tasks more highly than Edexcel book (especially P1,M1,D1 of the core physics module! If you’ve got the Edexcel book you’ll know what I mean!)

As I said above, how useful this book is will depend on how you deliver BTEC within the department.  The Edexcel was more of a traditional text book matched to BTEC, almost with assessment material added as an afterthought.  The Hodder book feels much more like a teaching resources, and has more teaching sequences that you could use with students, or that students could follow independently.  Of course using the text book as the primary teaching method could mean significant investment in a resource that could be out of date as soon as the specifications change again.

Would I buy the book?  I think in my last review I made my dislike of text books obvious.  Whilst they are useful for cover lessons or occasional use, I can’t imagine a modern and forward thinking department using text books as the primary teaching method.  I’d recommend science departments to check out both of the BTEC books and buy a set that most suits the use to which they will be put (e.g. cover lessons)

Using Delicious(.com) to search for useful teaching resources

This is a piece I wrote for the regional newsletter of the Association of Science Education.

Using Delicious(.com) to search for useful teaching resources.

Delicious is a social bookmarking site owned by Yahoo!  You can save, share and discover bookmarks with other people.  Because the opportunities to interact using this service are quite limited, it is often allowed in schools where other social sites are filtered out. Delicious is extremely useful for teachers and can be used in two main ways.

Saving and organising your bookmarks.

When planning lessons from home, if I find a resource that will be useful to me in future I save it to delicious (sometimes with a note of explanation).  This means I can access my list of bookmarks from home and school.  I now also have an online backup of my bookmarks in case my laptop dies.  When you save your bookmarks you can choose if you want them to be private or public.  Public bookmarks are very useful because you can share them with colleagues and even students.  All I have to do is give students the web address to my delicious page  (delicious.com/fiendishlyclever) and they can look through my bookmarks to find the site they want.  More tech savvy teachers can embed this list on the school VLE as a way of sharing links very simply with students.

Searching for new resources and information

People only bookmark sites that are worth revisiting.  Searching the collected bookmarks of users from across the world should return better and more useful sites than just searching Google.  Simply visit the delicious.com main page and use the search box at the top.  Search results (example below) also show how many people have bookmarked each site and key words (tags) added to the bookmark when it was saved.  The search will also return any sites that match the search query in your personal collection.  (There is a save button next to each bookmark so you can save it to your personal list if you find the site useful)

Whilst many teachers do use Delicious to save and share links, many forget that it has tremendous value as a search tool.

Teaching students to cooperate and correcting unacceptable behaviour

It’s easy to lose track of personal and social skills when faced with Fisher Family Trust targets, IEP targets, predicted grades and the other hurdles that we have to try and get students to jump.

I work in a special school.  All of our students have very different needs, some can’t read or write, some are autistic, some have other disorders but most have problems with personal and social skills.  As teachers we have a duty to improve the social skills of our students, as well as working on the academic skills.  This poses a problem for teachers in all settings, though smaller group sizes and higher staffing ratios mean that special schools are able to devote more time to developing these skills.

Last week I took my tutor group to Matlock Bath for the day.  It was pleasing to see them getting along as a group (although they don’t always!).  Not only are they better at cooperating with each other now than 30 months ago but they look out for each other around the school (well sometimes!).  It wasn’t an easy journey, nor are they where I would like them to be.  To get here I’ve followed my students around school being sworn at, spent hours on the phone to parents, and listened in detail to the complaints of other staff & students about my boys.

What tips would I give to others in the same position?

  • Be consistent
  • Don’t threaten without being prepared to follow through
  • Model good behaviour and spell out what you expect to see
  • Praise and reward good behaviour and cooperation
  • Plan opportunities for students to work together into your lessons (and be prepared for the times they don’t cooperate!)
  • Plan lessons in detail and include a range of activities
  • Give students chance to take on responsibility
  • Keep the lines of communication with parents open and work together
  • Don’t expect too much – remember progress will be in small steps
  • Don’t get stressed – and don’t take bad behaviour personally.  It will be a learned response and chances are other teachers will be having the same problem
  • communicate with other teachers and find out what works and what doesn’t for your students
  • stay calm. Save shouting for special occasions. Don’t get drawn into arguments.
  • take ownership of any sanctions you impose and similarly any rewards.
  • use teaching assistants and other adults effectively (you need to do this to get a good Ofsted lesson observation grade!)
  • above all treat your students with respect.  Take an interest in them – a relationship built on mutual respect and understanding is one of the most powerful tools you can have.

I hope this list is useful to some of my readers.  Feel free to add comments with suggestions of your own, or to ask any questions.

Image “Foot Action” © Puck90 on Flickr