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Can Teachers be Creative? By Jo Debens Can teachers be creative, particularly at GCSE level, without losing integrity? This is the question that often faces teachers. That dilemma between being innovative, engaging, active and enjoyable, balanced against standards, academic rigour, making progress and ensuring excellent student outcomes. I write from the point of view of a secondary teacher and Head of Geography, in a school of a challenging context and where accountability, the 'O' word, and teaching quality are phrases banded around every day. Our students come from a wide variety of backgrounds, and with hugely varied needs. Many find learning difficult, many lack social and life skills, many find themselves unmotivated and lacking ambition to engage with either their education or their future, whilst others are pushing themselves and their ability in a relentless drive for success. Catering for all this is the challenge and also the fun part of the job! I sometimes think that teaching GCSE becomes too focused on core knowledge and rote memory, at the expense of deep learning and experience. Whether this is due to a lack of curriculum time, the demands of the exam syllabus, the government or school management, there can sometimes be a tendency to 'teach them what they need to know to pass the exam'. But I would rather children had deeper learning, that they figured things out for themselves, and that we created a culture of lifelong curiosity and love of learning. It is our role to take 'required information' for exams and to empower students to make connections that are useful. So I like to think that my teaching, and my department, has a healthy mix of creative and innovative teaching balanced with more traditional styles. Keep it varied, like a diet. I'm not saying we always do something 'all


singing all dancing', and there is a time and place for every kind of teaching and learning. So I'd like to share some of my favourite activities. This is mostly from the point of view of GCSE Geography, but can easily be used at other key stages and adapted for other subjects. Messy learning: Messy Rivers - The idea is based on enquiry. Many of my students found it hard to visualise the stages of a river moving from upper to lower course, and how the relief, river profile and sediment changed along the way. So I collected a variety of sediment of different sizes to simulate this. Students worked in groups and were presented with an A2 piece of paper and felt pens, some laminated keywords (e.g. processes such as attrition, landforms such as waterfalls, etc.), and a bag of sediment (including sand, silt, shingle, larger pebbles, sticks, and a laminated picture of some boulders and larger material - I wasn't going to give this!). Then I simply asked them to use their knowledge and produce a sketched and annotated river profile with keywords and sediment lined up in the correct places. It worked very well and the students really gained a good grasp of how the river system changes. It became clearer and more

UKED Magazine Apr 2014  
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