Monthly Archives: November 2012

SOLO lesson 5

Two weeks into the use of SOLO I feel there is a need to review how the process and idea is working for my pupils. So with all year groups a starter with a survey to see how this approach has impacted on their learning. The survey is made in the unit flipchart and issued at the start of the lesson.


More detail on the survey results in future posts.

With all year groups a chance to zoom in to a national scale and look at the structure used to organise the three countries (UK, Kenya and Japan). The exercise allowed the use of a range of maps and pupils needed to extract information of matching areas.



So a table was used to model answers before the table groups set to work.


At this point answers were checked before individuals moved into the extension question shown. Classes correctly identified that they were now at a multi-structural level and how we could extend their answers.

In some classes a graph was used to plot understanding at the start and end of the lesson, or a graph was used at this point to measure progress in the subsequent lesson 6 when the extended piece would be prepared.


That busy week …

Sorry to any loyal readers… a week on. Last Tuesday I was tired and a slight dip after the highs of the #TMEssex experience. Staff from school who’d attended gave very positive feedback. SOLO lessons continued with some good momentum and pupil confidence is building in using terms to describe work and identifying “feed forward” ideas to move work on. Digital leaders team met up and went off in their sub-groups to work on own projects – I am. So proud of their progress in gaining independence.

I left school after notice that my PM observation had been moved to this week. So preparation as usual that evening but checked that I had clear instructions translated for Thai pupil.

Wednesday – form worked on the latest news quiz and I’m always encouraged by the general knowledge of several characters. Then it was time for my observation lesson. The observer arrived about 17 minutes into the lesson missing the pupil survey I’ve been doing this week to review pupil progress in the first two weeks of SOLO (see separate posts). We shared the international following this blog has linked to their lessons. Graphing knowledge and confidence before and after activities again reinforced short term progress, unfortunately the observer left before this (22 mins in room). The lesson felt good with lots of progress for both myself and TA working with Thai pupil for the first time today (later feedback disagreed – areas to work on…). An “up” day after the positive feeling from the observation to start the day. Lots of surveys, peer assessment with pupils questioning how to improve or how had they and a peer given their work different SOLO stages. Using reading out with groups as concerned about literacy levels of Year 7s (supported in workshop later). Line management meeting reinforced all the recent events I have been involved in and the positive contributions they are having in my teaching. Then workshop where Year 7 literacy levels and attainment potential was explored. Afterwards feedback on the observation – I was gutted and the day’s high crashed. Spoke with my mentor and HoD and after a while I sent in a request for a full lesson observation. A low evening I admit.

Thursday – pick yourself up and start again. Lessons were ok but yesterday’s fire was missing. An afternoon that was filled with a borough minibus test and then leaving lessons for Friday. When I would be off to travel North …

Friday – a slight lie in, prepare Monday’s lessons and then packing for my trip to Edinburgh with Promethean as a teacher advocate. A good flight and bus ride to the hotel. The evening was dinner and lots of chatting to get to know the group who had met last year. It was great to gather information about Twitter confidence as I would be presenting about this on Sunday morning.

Saturday / Sunday – lots of talk, shared ideas, gelling as a group and trying out technology. This was a great opportunity and I’m so glad I applied. On Sunday I led on two topics: pupil digital leaders and using Twitter. I enjoyed presenting to the group and reusing materials I had prepared for previous events and a new twitter presentation which was mailed and shared with a teacher in. N. Ireland who was presenting to staff this week. An afternoon visit into a cool Edinburgh city centre and the wishing others a good flight as we went our separate ways to: Shetland,Southampton, London, Stansted and N. Ireland. Facebook and twitter has already seen lots of shared chats and sharing of resources.

And then there was Monday …

A busy week …

Saturday 17/11 to Sunday 25/11 – a week in the second half of the Autumn term, bound to be impacted on by germs (it’s the time of year!). Somehow, over the last few months my online networking has brought a wealth of opportunities, they seem to focus on the month of November and this week has been a good example.

Saturday 17
Meeting for the first time in London for the ICT group of my subject association – the Geographical Association. It’s taken me 25 years to become an active member of the GA. I’ve contributed online resources before but after applying earlier in the year I was awarded with a place on this group. Daunted at whether I’d have enough to offer and nervous for the first offline meeting I arrived early. Once the meeting started I felt welcomed and soon found lots of ways to participate, while in awe of some of my fellow group members achievements. The highlight for me was where we brought ideas to the group. Suddenly my twitter networking and wide use of apps came to the fore, and I felt I had a lot to contribute. More details to follow on this in future posts.

Home after a diversion to Shoreditch to visit my cousin who is providing a Japanese pub food menu for Brewdog. A pub where beers are respected and what a range on offer. Chatted to my cousin, some lovely JFC and a walk back to Liverpool Street station through Brick Lane and Spitalfields – what a great atmosphere and so much going on – clearly an area to explore more.

Sunday 18
Last minute tweets and emails with co-host of #TMEssex Martin Burrett (@ICTMagic) so that Monday’s event would go as smoothly as possible.The anticipation was rising. Ooh a slight fly in the ointment a bursitis forming on left elbow that would have to be treated respectfully.

Monday 19
Teaching first with a suppressed (just) excitement about the event ahead. Three year groups and four lessons where SOLO lesson 5 took place (see separate post) to come. We reviewed the learning and impact of SOLO so far in 2 weeks – lots of positivity from the groups. In my non contact time rest had a part to play because pace was going to be vital today. End of the school day, some marking and preparation.
Then off to the city of Chelmsford, I arrived too early really but this allowed a chance to stand reflect in reception before all three hosts met to review our setting and tech. checks. At this point my role felt slightly superfluous but I helped where I could.


What a great setting – comfy seats and tech with great support and of course Martin had the toy camel. About 5 audience members started to arrive, I chatted to people and found out if they were Teachmeet first timers; introduced speakers I know to Martin for tech setups. People I have met online were greeted for the first time offline and soon there were many people enjoying and tweeting about the great food provided by Tom Sherrington (@headguruteacher) our host and his school KEGS.

6 o’clock approached – time to start. Tom introduced the evening and he and Martin took the lead. First on the fruit machine ….. Me- 7 minutes on SOLO through the topic of Digital Leaders. I ad hoc-ed slightly and involved my audience and I’d like to publicly thank; my Head of Department Phill Crossley (@pcrossers); James Abela, fellow teachmeeter and Digital Leader fan (@ealweb) and finally Vic Goddard (@vicgoddard) a well known Headteacher who was on the telly! They volunteered answers, then found themselves stood at the front with me and demonstrated the art of linking facts by holding hands in public – thanks for being good sports. Pictures were taken by audience members – search #TMEssex on twitter if interested. Later I got to do my short 2 minute Digital Leader talk – again the audience had to stand, the related tweets were entertaining, but the key thing is that I believe the point about Digital Leaders being applicable in most schools was made through action not rhetoric.

Other speakers? Oh yes, we had many, the quality was fantastic and the best Teachmeet I have attended yet (biased? Yes, but even so…) many new ideas to follow up on,a chance to meet many who have inspired me online before or I will be looking to more in the future.

By the end – physically and emotionally wrung out and that elbow(remember) was throbbing but, we had done it. We put on an excellent CPD event, the only question now,when shall we do it again?


Tuesday…. Will have to wait as I need more sleep – a busy week indeed …

SOLO lesson 4

Lesson 3 (previous post) had seen my Head of Department sit in with a year 7 group to look at ideas he could apply. His key observation- the need for a grounding in the terminology and symbols – see first lesson which has been shared as a flipchart with the department.

We move on apace to lesson 4 where pupils start to be involved in setting their own marking criteria linked to SOLO. Still no hexagons, a key aspect in the sequence of lesson’s now being blogged about by Paul Berry (see previous post).

Linking activities between lessons has become very overt in this sequence of lessons. Our starter was a return to annotate the pics from last lesson. Most recall was at a uni-structural stage and some discussion ensued – see Year 7 example below.


The focus today was to be on marking information onto maps accurately. We have decided as a department to return to more traditional mapping skills as many of our pupils have a lack of sense of place.


So we returned to the textbook (Foundations) and a copy of the main map was shared with the class. It limits the amount of information, and hopefully this will develop a stronger use of maps in future work. Before starting though we needed to determine a SOLO based marking criteria which allowed peer marking. The pupils in year 7 in particular had clear ideas already about this. We identified how they would mark and initial and day the marking as “Sir”does so it was clear who the peer marker was.


The map task was time limited. I use a variety of flash based timers which I found online- the novelty value of how the timer will end can be a distraction at the end of a task but does promote pupil interest. I circulated the room giving prompts on how seas could include other terms e.g. Channel and ocean. The work rate was very encouraging.


The peer marking was successful and invoked quite a lot of table based discussions. We started to identify the idea of feed forward feedback to allow improvement of future pieces of work.

Lesson 4 with years 8 and 9 included a return to the SOLO symbols image sheet and sharing recall. Also a key facts based table quiz was used to promote teamwork and remind how we already know a range of facts.



These quizzes provided a good opportunity to use the interactive nature of the board to match answers to locations.

Writing to compare features in different locations became the focus for Years 8 and 9. We recapped the use of directions in Relational answers. Headings were provided and I circulated to support and/ or prompt as required.



Now I need to identify opportunities to use HOT maps as recommended by others including Lucie Golton, John Sayers et al. from Twitter’s growing #SOLO community. Also the mighty hexagons and linking facts need to enter the arena.

Please if commenting, which image size works better – as lesson 3 or lesson 4?

SOLO net spreads…

This series of blog posts about my use of SOLO has provoked questions from others, see comments linked to lesson 3.

Posts to check – a similar follow my development approach is seen in Paul Berry’s blog. It will be interesting to match ideas, resources as both of us progress with our classes.

I am pleased to have had my work with Year 7 classes accepted as a performance management foci for this year and I am keen to bring more colleagues into the classroom to experience the SOLO approach. I have also been given leave to initiate an action research based pedagogy group to investigate the teaching strategies mentioned online especially and look at trialling aspects in school so that whole school recommendations can be formulated. This is an exciting time for me professionally.

Primary colleagues – there are lots of examples of SOLO in the primary school from New Zealand – are there UK practitioners (or others globally) following this development? I can see this community growing to reach wider phases of the education community.


SOLO – lesson 3

OK, so our third lesson is going to link to the department’s textbooks as a resource but encourage the pupils to engage with the images and develop their use of key language. A starter activity with the lesson’s keywords displayed on arrival. Groups’ approach to this varied, some depended on strong individuals, some discussed and shared and some didn’t look!


The class were asked to volunteer to define a term and name an example. Based on their answers additional facts were discussed including types of water – fresh and salt; relative %s of water on Earth; states of elements inc. solid and liquid; and many more- this activity in several classes was extended because of the info shared. Many words were common to all three year groups with additional words linked to Tectonics for Kenya and Japan. The terms are crossed off as this was done to indicate what we had covered.


The lesson instructions linked back to the starter and how they would be expected to use those terms. The move to a national scale focus was emphasised.


Classes were issued an image with SOLO symbols to identify features. The textbooks and text read by the class acted as a additional source of information and exemplars of Uni- and multi-structural labelling were identified. Links were made to how we had moved our answers to Relational in the previous lesson Pupil confidence with the terms was encouraging. This activity had been encouraged by a blog post by Keven Bartle (@kevbartle) who had used an image with SOLO symbols with an A level Sociology group.


As the image shows discussion in pairs and groups was encouraged before annotating the diagram, this had varying levels of success and group discussion is an area to develop further as a skill.


A rough pupil survey was used to look at the number of Uni and multi structural labels and pupils self evaluated which stage their work was at, the survey showed in two year 7 classes that a second image was labelled more effectively after feedback on the first. Even where there was more low level chat progress was made but not as well as the more focused class.

The use of discussion was successful, but as noted is a skill to develop further. Demonstrating progress provides a good prompt for talking with the group.

I was able to feedback to the groups how their lessons were being blogged and other teachers from around the world were feeding back on their progress as well as mine as a SOLO practitioner.


Teachmeets – who hasn’t heard of them?


I expect that most blog readers are amongst the educators that have heard of or attended or presented at Teachmeets. I maybe wrong – please comment. An informal gathering for those that seek their own CPD often and are connected with other educators.

This week I had an opportunity to present at Teachmeetipad (#tmipad or #teachmeetipad). It was organised by Anthony Evans of St Aidan’s Primary, Seven Kings, Ilford. He had run the first TM I attended 4 years ago when I sat in awe of the ideas and presenters.

#Tmipad was great as about 70 educators working across education from Reception to HE shared ideas with commercial organisations / sponsors ( not usually a TM feature). The iPad focus meant that many app ideas were shared but also how technology linked to lessons under Ofsted and the importance of pre-planning before purchasing equipment.

On a personal note it was great to meet people whose work online I’d read or followed their exploits on Twitter. There was also a tie-in with TMBrum organised by Daniel Harvey on the same evening, timing at both ends meant this did not come off – to my knowledge. However, two presentations of mine with speaker notes provided we represented inBirmingham while I sat in the hall in Ilford.

Nick Novak took a great pic as I was speaking which became my new profile picture onTwitter (see below)the badge links to my posts about Digital Leaders.


Why the advert for Teachmeet Essex at the start of the post? Therein lies another post – getting involved in Teachmeet organisation. ( to post soon).

SOLO – lesson 2

Thanks to all those, especially on Twitter,who have given me feedback,retweeted or favourited the first post about this new terms’s work using SOLO.

So the idea has been introduced to the classes. Our second lesson looks at the location of the unit’s country (7: UK/8:Kenya/9: Japan). An opportunity to bring in another interest and idea that two of us are experimenting with – a teacher iPad used as a secondary teaching source with apps. Myself and the Head of Department both own an iPad2, and we are developing the use of apps as another teaching source. In my room I have a digital switch box (self funded), to enable quick switches from PC or iPad sources.

The starter activity includes a recap of the SOLO taxonomy symbols from the last lesson, what evidence is required in terms of facts and written style – list,sentences, paragraphs. Where pupils had been absent from the introductory lesson it allowed them to see what we were talking about as well.

The learning objectives – to be able to describe location at a range of scales and to use a range of maps. With the year 7 classes earlier in the week this started from a world map with country outlines on the IWB. We looked at three words: continent, Ocean and country -which is the odd one out?discussion led to ordering the terms and identifying the term seas to match ocean as country does with continent. Then a discussion on the 8 main compass directions. I made links between these key words and how the compass directions could help to make our descriptions more detailed.

Using the Key Geography text series we looked at the location on different scale maps. A text box with symbols for Uni-structural, multi-structural and relational were provided on the IWB to demonstrate how a more detailed answer could be constructed. Pupils volunteered facts we had discussed from the maps and these were recorded on the IWB. When the class were confident a SOLO stage had been attained we reviewed the evidence and discussed why the evidence was sufficient. Gradually a relational paragraph was recorded and keywords underlined to emphasise the need for geographical terms. Pupils recorded this as a model answer of a global scale location in their exercise books.

The photo shows one of the Year 7 examples.


A second map was used to describe the location at a continental scale or national scale. pupils developed their own description starting from Uni-structural. On checking several students answers the need for accurate literacy skills were re-emphasised especially for Capital letters for names.

In most of the Year 8 and 9 lessons, which happened after my presentation at Teachmeeetipad apps used included Globe and Statetetris. Globe is not reliant on the interment and allows a virtual globe to be spun, zoom in or out so countries,continents and oceans could be discussed in combination with compass directions and location cold start with the UK and its relative size could be compared. Statetris was used with one class looking at Japan to demonstrate the game and complexity of the regions.


Pupil responses varied. Using the SOLO symbols provided a framework but more confidence is needed to extend written answers.

I feel a need for hexagons and maybe even dominoes coming up.

SOLO – a longer term use and evaluation begins

OK, several people have read my previous blog posts about the SOLO taxonomy. You may have followed the #geogsolo discussions on Twitter involving the memorable Saturday lunchtime where we had a conversation including tweachers from;
– Virginia, USA
– several UK locations
– Abu Dhabi, UAE
– Melbourne, Australia
– Auckland, New Zealand
All of this and discussions with the science, PE and English SOLO crowds meant I trialled individual lessons last summer which I shared with my Head of Department.

So it’s the second half of the Autumn term (UK) and now it’s time to move my focus with classes at Key Stage 3 from literacy skills to making progress and developing an integral model that they are full participants in.

So the decision is made to trial SOLO as an approach across the Geography department at Key Stage 3. Staff training and shared IWB Promethean ActivInspire flipcharts will be needed that I will lead on.

The second unit for each year group is the study of an area of the world. Year 7- the UK; Year 8 – Kenya and Year 9 – Japan. We study a range of themes across the countries including location of places at a range of scales.

OK two lessons (one week in) what have we done? ( later decided to just post about first lesson)

A standard format differing only by the country studied. The introductory lesson starts with a plain A4 sheet to identify own prior knowledge with an emphasis on “secret squirrel” and not sharing answers with others. The classes in all cases focused well from the individuals who said – wha write if I don’t know anything? Reassured that a start of a unit that was perfectly ok. Others wrote a range of facts, even surprised when told that anything goes … Japanese cars for example. The sheet was then turned over, a resource to return to later.

Lesson details were now shared:


An introduction to SOLO as an idea and simplified history including a reference to Pam Hook, New Zealand, Twitter and sharing about it at Teachmeet Essex on the 19/11/12. Then we moved onto watch the clear YouTube clip on explaining SOLO taxonomy using lego. by Emily Hughes.

An idea that was easy for all classes to relate and easy for me to add to anecdotally from a lego user and father’s perspective. The video was paused after each stage and some discussion took place and links were made to expectations for written answers in class from single words to lists to simple sentences to paragraphs. The extended abstract skills that several of most classes were capable of was praised – …” If only we could get you to use words as comfortably and creatively as you do with lego bricks!”. The plenary of the taxonomy within the video was used with some groups but not with others.

Then back to the 5 stages and how Sir would be using the terms but the symbols are what we will use in flipcharts and on their work.


Now to return to our facts from our sheets, each pupil was issued with a tracking sheet. They were to enter the lesson’s date and identify which stage they felt their knowledge is at the moment. Some additional questions were asked on when they were crossing the unistructural / multi structural boundary – this provoked some good discussions across table groups and the classes. We have several pupils new to the school whose EAL needs vary, the following pictures include the original sheet and two translations in Thai and English / Romanian. I have moved away from putting translations onto the whole class flipchart and now provide a translated or side by side language comparison copy for TA’s and the child – currently I use Google Translate which may not always be accurate but which allows me to engage these pupils sooner (if thy can read their native tongue!).




The concept of using the sheet to compare progress at the end of the unit is introduced and the classes sheets and initial thoughts sheet held by the teacher in their Planning/Assessment records. An additional form of evidence involved an informal survey and plotting of stages now.


The graph’s outcomes are then compared with the classes projected levels for the year indirectly and a prediction is made where they are capable of reaching by the end of the seven week unit. A link is also made to the first report cycle – if they feel at the end of the unit they are still Pre- or Uni- structural then report comments will pick up on a lack of involvement and input in their learning (subject to professional judgement).

Plenary questions return to identifying the 5 stages and what they involved in the Lego clip and class written work expectations. In 9 lessons the amount and quality of pupil discussion and involvement was very encouraging.

This lesson has been shared with three departmental colleagues, two have had direct training about what SOLO involves in our interpretation so far. The idea has also been shared with a drama colleague to look at application to practical drama skill acquisition as well as written work developing detail at GCSE.

What did you learn at school today, Dad?

Yes, I get to ask the what did you do? question of my 14 year old but usually I’m asked about my day too. Do I really share all my developments about SOLO etc? No but he’s aware of my Teachmeet presentations and has watched them on YouTube several times and can feedback about them – not an outcome I ever expected.

So, what have I been doing since the museum trip before half term?

It would be fair to say that life and learning has been busy. I will post about each separately as they appeal to different groups of people.

SOLO, Teachmeet presenting, preparing for, tweeting, iPad apps, meeting more people, offering to be involved, training with digital leaders and teaching staff.