therefore I think too hard

adapted from animation on the BBC bite-size website

adapted from animation on the BBC bite-size website

Tomorrow is the day of the interview (aspiring science AST) and today I’ve spent… well… mostly laid up in bed with a neck so sore I can’t really face the front at the moment. Hopefully hot baths, deep heat and piles of painkillers will do the job for me.

I’ve been getting fairly wound up about it (and have been taking it out on poor Simone I’m sure) it’s the whole unknown that’s bugging me. I like to know as much as I can going in, so the guidance of Difference Between Mixtures and Compounds is such a little amount of information my brains been going off on mad tangents. Are they at the start of a unit? The end? Is it revision? What do they already know? Ah me! Attempts to find out have failed, and the last interview was postponed because of the #uksnow so I guess it was time to shut up anc crack on with it!

Things I already know. It’s a mixed ability Yr 8 group. I was told in an email that I’d be teaching Yr 8, and I know from the school website that they’re mixed ability in years 7-8. I know I have to differentiate up and down regardless. I know that I’m teaching the Difference Between Mixtures and Compounds. Chemistry – yums. I know the behavioural policy of the school thanks to the website. I know sort of what they follow at KS3. I’m getting myself proper prepared. I’ve even bugged the twitterverse (thanks go out to @_MisterG for the advice)

So, I’ve been reading the national strategy for KS3/4. I teach post 16 at the moment, so it’s been a year and a half since the PGCE and any KS3 teaching at all. I think I can bring in some scientific thinking (describe how the use of a particular mocel or analogy supports an explanation) then year 8 3.2 Chemical Reactions

– recognise that materials can be made up of one or more kinds of particles

– describe the type and arrangement of atoms in elements, compounds and mixtures

– describe and develop a particle model…. compounds and mixtures (elements)

So planning the lesson. I think I’m going to go with this as a general lesson on the difference between mixtures and compounds:

Lesson Title: The difference between mixtures and compounds


Settler Activity:

On the board a question is posted with a large image. Starter activity is designed to transition students from where they’ve been before the lesson into the lesson itself. Is supposed to set the ideas for the lesson starting, to begin thinking about the subject at hand.  I’ve got one about explosive metals, poisonous green gas and a portion of chips. This may change (feedback really very welcome). This usually is only a five minute thing while students get into lesson and get themselves ready, there is potential to expand on the settler and turn it into a starter if the students are enthusiastic enough for it.

Task during settler: ask students to write their names on sticky labels with a drawing of themselves that tells me something about them and stick it to their blazers(!). This is to help me get to know the class as quickly as possible.


Starter Activity:

Students are popped randomly (if they don’t have assigned groups already) into groups of about four and given magnets, sealed containers of iron filings, sulphur and a mix of iron filings and sulphur. They have five minutes to make as many observations about the three sets of materials as possible. Summary of information added by a student to bubbl.us (if I have internet access – if not I’ll make a little mind map for it).

Demo of making Iron Sulphide. Compare changes in physical appearance and properties. Add to bubbl.us

What do you think the learning objective for this lesson is? Write up student derived learning objective.

What do you think the particles of these materials look like? volunteers to draw on the board – may require reminders from year seven work.



Part one: Element, Mixture or Compound?

In their groups students are given a small selection of materials and have to decide which one is a mixture, which is a compound and which is an element. Must be able to qualify this.

Part two: model and presentation

Students will be given a card cut out of a test tube, and an envelope with cut out ‘particles’ inside. They have to choose one of the containers of material they have been given to classify and represent the particle layout in a test tube (relating particle theory of matter to model for mixtures and compounds) write on the top what it is and whether it’s an element, mixture of compound. Show students a model (maybe iron, sulphur and iron sulphide) Students present ideas to each other in small group presentations

Part three: Definitions (v. short) In pairs define mixture. Now in groups of four can you improve on this definition, as a whole class can we improve on this definition? Repeat for compound



1. Analogy wall (Group)

Over the course of the plenary the groups are given post-it notes and asked to come up with analogies for mixtures and compounds. For example – the ingredients for cake in a bowl is a mixture, but when it is baked the cake is like a compound… students to feel free to come and add analogies to the board throughout plenary. If time allows questions can be asked about analogies (eg. in this analogy what does X represent? Which bit is the compound?)

2. Making notes (Individual)

Under the two headings Mixtures and Compounds students are to write the key points of the lesson in their book. Can add diagrams if they so wish to. Should leave a good space between headings. After 5/10 minutes students offer key points and they are summarised on the board. Students given time to amend their own notes to add anything they might have missed.



Mixtures of compounds

Jelly in water

Not questions or tasks but problems that are set around the room to ponder and maybe offer ideas on! More something to think about than anything.


I’m not yet sure what to do for this, whether or not to make up some reminder cards for people who are struggling with concepts and maybe some definitions cards too. Hmm….



Music in lessons – I like it! And think I’m going to use it in this lesson too. Background music sets a noise level, if I can’t hear it the students are being too loud. I never expect silence in a classroom (it’s creepy), I ask for quiet while I’m talking but that’s about it. Plus, when you want their attention, hit the mute button and watch the heads pop up wondering where the music went. I have some rules though, I don’t play classical. Students don’t love it (I also don’t love it) I won’t play music with lyrics (I have made exceptions to this on the odd occasion but as a rule of thumb..) I find some nice cheery non offensive electronica like Four Tet does the job quite well. Funky enough to be uplifting without sending them nuts. Dirty Three Ocean Songs is a mellower alternative.

there’s quite a lot there, but that’s OK, it’s better to have too much and selectively crop than to have too little and desperately fill I reckon.

So there, that’s what I think I’m going to do. I’m going to tie up the loose ends, try to get some sleep and hope that my neck pain eases. I’m not going to worry about it anymore. It’s out of my hands anyway!


therefore I tweet

fail whale removed

fail whale removed

Twitter will ruin my life, or make it awesome, or, some sort of happy medium. I’m hoping for a happy medium.

What is twitter?

The way I explain twitter to the students is like this:

You know the ‘What am I doing right now’ on facebook?


Twitter is like that, but better. Facebook is dead by the way, it’s all about twitter now.

Last year you said MySpace was dead and it’s all about Facebook now?

And I was right, you have to move with the times kids!

But rather tragically the students can’t access twitter at school yet (YET!).

To people who don’t know what the what are you doing right now box on facebook is, or indeed what facebook is (I hate facebook) a better explanation is:

Twitter is a social networking tool that asks the question; What are you doing? and you answer in no more than 140 characters

140 characters may not seem like a lot, but it’s perfect, in fact according to Stephen Fry – Twitter Guru:

I love how Twitter confirms my all too often assaulted belief that most humans are kind, curious, knowledgeable, tolerant and funny. The absurd constraints of the 140 character tweet seem oddly to bring out the best in wit, insight and observation.

The New Adventures of Mr Stephen Fry

You update what you are doing right now, whether it’s making a cup of tea or perfecting the personal learning network, as long as you can cram it into 140 characters you can tweet about it. People can follow your tweets if you are interesting enough, and if you find anyone else interesting, you can follow theirs. It’s all very simple. Really!

Why teaching and twitter?

If there’s anything I would love for my students to be able to do it is work well collaboratively. It’s horrible hard work getting some of them wanting to be involved, and getting some of them to let go of all control and ego. It’s the same for teachers. At about 70% of the CPD events I’ve been to I find myself texting under the desk in the middle of some awful powerpoint presentation that Hell Is Other Teachers.

Which isn’t fair, but it sometimes seems like teachers don’t want to let go of what they have and *gasp* share! Or, they desperately want everyone to know how brilliant they are compared to everyone else. I’m not even going to pretend that I’m entirely exempt from this either. It seems to be a teacher flaw. Twitter seems to be able to cut through most of that, 140 characters leaves little room for ego, and a dedicated following makes you more inclined to share. I sometimes get the weird social outsider feelings on twitter, but I think that’s more to do with my own paranoia than anything.

I mostly follow teachers, science types, my housemates and Stephen Fry. I’m building up my follow list very slowly indeed because I don’t want to be overwhelmed by material. But so far, I’m getting a lot from the teachers.

There’s hundreds of excellent teachers out there who all want to learn to do this better, who are engaging in web 2.0 and a whole host of other whizzy shiny things, who want to use it effectively, not just for the sake of having a new shiny toy to show off, and who are a great wealth of help for the sorts of problems teachers come up against all the time.

Twitter is an ideas generator, a sounding board, and agony aunt and quite frequently a bit of fun. For teachers, I think twitter is a fabulous way of working with teachers you might never meet, who can refine your ideas and get the same back. It’s proving to be true e-collaboration.

Twitter for students?

If you are lucky enough to have twitter unblocked at your school (and I envy you) then there’s plenty of scope for things you can do with twitter in your classroom. Very simply I’d love my students to be able to follow Charles Darwin:

Darwin: Explorer and Scientist and Dude.

Darwin: Explorer and Scientist and Dude.

On a larger scale with a little imagination the possibilities for twitter are endless or nineteen at least.

How do I use twitter?

That’s up to you, there’s a massive number of twitter applications around at the moment. At school on my mac I use tweetdeck but for some reason this doesn’t work on the computer when I bring it home. I used to use Twhirl but tweetdeck has much more functionality, I can stream searches based on locations or subjects, I can monitor twitter trends to see what is current (a lot faster than waiting for the news to come on) I can group people I’m following and separate out direct messages. Tweetdeck is useful. There’s a billion (it seems) different applications for location, statistics, to help you find people to follow, to monitor who follows you, to tweet from anywhere, to upload photo’s to shorten url’s, to tweet from your phone if you like. Rather than list them here I’ll direct you to the twitter fan wiki which can tell you far more far better than I.

So I twitter, I’m a little addicted, but am finding it extremely helpful at the moment and hope it’ll become even more so as I figure out new ways to use it. Do you twitter?

therefore I’m tired

I think I’m defecting from edublogs, I’m going to run both at the same time and see how it goes. This is my first post here, while I have a play with the layout and such. Don’t mind me.