2011 From Trainee to Tutor.

As I  finish work for the holidays, having handed in my notice ready to start my first college position in January, I thought I’d take this opportunity to look back at the year and reflect on the highs and lows and everything that I’ve achieved.

Decemeber 2010

This time last year I was looking forward to starting a PGCE placement at the Leeds College of Building where I was expecting to teach Functional Skills in Maths, English and ICT. At this point in the year I thought I might end up working an ICT Tutor as I’ve always had a keen interest in e-learning and computers however it turned out that apart from two classes I never really taught ICT. This probally turned out to be a good thing as I had forgotten nearly everything that I had learnt about databases and spreadsheets from when I was at college. Apart from the odd math’s class I spent most of the year teaching Functional Skills English which was a struggle to start with as I’d just been diagnosed with dyslexia so my confidence in my English language skills and my own expectations of my ability to teach the subject was at an all time low. However with a bit of practice and an inspirational mentor these feelings soon vanished and I began to love being infront of a class .

Febrauary 2011

I originally registered Gemma Teaches in 2010 with the intentions of using it as a reflective blog for my PGCE placements. However blogging in that capacity didn’t really take off as I wasn’t truely comfortable with sharing my teaching highs and lows at such an early stage in my career. February 2011 saw ‘Gemma Teaches’ reborn as a lesson ideas/resource sharing blog. My first post Cranberry Flashcards descirbed a free electronic flashcards generator and contained ideas for using the software with your students.

Later in the month I attended an interview for a CELTA course as I knew the job market was going to be tough and I wanted to increase my qualifications in order to give myself the best possible chance of gaining full time employment at the end of my PGCE. As part of the interview I was asked to produce a five minute lesson and teach this to the rest of the interview group. This provided the inspiration for my second blog post Celta Interview Teaching Task – Descriptive Writing.  I was sucessful in gaining a place on the course for July but was unabled to attended as I started a full time teaching position before the course began.

April 2011

In April I completed my PGCE placement and was coming to the end of the course. I began attending interviews for my first full time teaching post and two interviews later I secured my first position.

During my PGCE I developed one of my favourite lessons ideas,  ‘Teaching writing skills using popular films‘. I have used regulary throughout the year with great sucess.. Other popular lesson ideas are listed below:

An Ipod based math’s lesson

Band Night – an ICT and English based lesson

June 2011

In June I started my first full time teaching position, teaching Functional Skills Maths and English to disaffected 16-19 year olds at a training provider in Doncaster. However, as the centre was brand new and there was a lot of competition in the area, by August I had been moved to their Rotherham branch and began teaching literacy and numeracy to unemployed adults. Teaching this age group was at first out of my comfort zone as I had never developed an interest in teaching adults however as I began to settle into the role I began to appreciate the differences between teaching young people and adults. The adults actually wanted to be there and would get on diligantly with their work without any fuss or aggrevation. On the other hand the young people at the centre had already been kicked out of school and college and behaviour management was a constant battle. I’m glad I only occasionally had to cover the odd foundation class.

A few of my favourite blog posts to come out of my role at Rotherham were:

Focusing on the positives – a lesson designed to increase the self-esteem and confidence of your learners

My favourite piece of kit – ideas for using post-it notes

On your mark, get set, go – a reading comprehension game

September 2011

After the summer break I returned to university to study a part time MSc in Multimedia and E-learning. During the first semester I have been introducted to a wide variety of e-learning software including the assessment web sites Lino It and Answer Garden. A comprehensive list of the software and technologies that have been shared through the year can be accessed on my ‘Teach Meet’ post.

November 2011

In November I graduated from the PGCE.


December 2011

After six months in my current role I felt ready for a new challange. Two applications later (two seems to be my lucky number with jobs)  I was invited to my first interview and I was lucky enough to secure the post. After completing my notice period January will see me start a position as a Tutorial Learning Mentor at Barnsley College. Alongside teaching studies skills I will be supportng students to overcome barriers to learning and supporting them inorder to succeed with their  A Levels. In preperation for this post I  have already started a new Diigo site where I have bookmarked useful study skills websites including sites containing tips for writing reports and essays. As well as sharing this site with my students I might analyse the effectivness of bookmarking as a study tool for the research project that I need to complete next year as part of the MSc.

2011 has seen a lot of changes and I’m sure 2012 will be just as interesting. As the new year approaches I am looking forward to continuing on my journey as an eduactor and wonder what the year will have install for me? Hopefully I will be able to keep you all updated through this blog as I have really enjoyed communicating and sharing my ideas with you all. I hope you have had as much enjoyment reading my posts as I have had writing them for you.

Class of 2011

Today saw me graduate from the PGCE in Lifelong Learning at the University of Huddersfield. Here’s hoping that the class of 2011 is a lucky one and that today’s graduates look forward to long and sucessful careers in the education sector.

Charity Abseil

Today I took part in a charity abseil at the University of Huddersfield. It was a lovely sunny day and the atmosphere at the jump site was exciting although there were a few terrified jumpers screaming as they were lowered over a building edge 100ft from the ground. Over a hundred students and staff took part in the event raising funds for four fantastic charities; Barnardo’s, Dewsbury, Batley and District Society for the Blind, Cancer Research UK and The Forget Me Not Trust. Before the event I’d raised £93 and I haven’t stopped fundraising yet.

Here are a few photos from the event:






















After the event I was interviewed by the University of Huddersfield for their webpage. Click here to view the video.

For more information on the charities involved please click the links below:

Forget Me Not Trust

Cancer Research UK


Society for the Blind of Dewsbury, Batley and District

Teaching writing skills using popular films

I have just started teaching a revision course for the L1 Functional Skills writing exam. After spending most of last week’s session boring the students to death with a pile of worksheets I promised the students that I’d make this lesson more appealing.

The sessions was based around the topic of planning skills and as I’d heard about a constantly successful lesson based on film trailers which had been really well received by the students I decided to adapt the idea for my session. From previous encounters with the students I knew that they all enjoyed watching films so I decided to base the lesson around planning a film review.

A week early, the first group that I taught this session with, had completed a free writing exercise with their normal tutor based on  the film Hancock so I decided to build upon this activity and based my session around the same film.

The warmer was an A-Z Quiz that I’d found on Skills Workshop. In order to prevent copying and to promote individual thinking skills I split the class into pairs, giving one student having a worksheet based on the A-Z on famous people and the other student the A-Z of film names. To add a bit of friendly competition I gave a prize for the first student to complete their sheet.

I introduced the lesson by talking about the planning process and why it was it’s such an important stage of the writing process.

After discussing planning strategies the class then went on to complete a card match activity looking at the stages of writing and describing each process.

We then discussed the activity of writing a film review. To support the class with their writing we began by refreshing our memories about the film by watching the film trailer.

After this had finished I then had a number of large sheets with the headings for the film review:

The main story lines are?

The best bit is?

I enjoyed watching this film because?

I would recommend this film because?

I explained to the class that we were going to generate ideas as a group to help them complete their individual film review. Each pair was then given one of the headed sheets and began writing their ideas on post it notes and then sticking them to it. The afternoon group wanted to work as a production line so they each wrote a few sticky notes and placed them on to their sheet, they then passed it down the line and continued adding notes to the next sheet and so on until they ran out of ideas.

Once the sheets were complete we discussed the answers as a class and then placed on to tables at the side so they could be referred to it if the students developed writers block whilst completing their film review.

The students then completed the individual film reviews and presented them as a class (there was only time for this with the second group)

In the second group all of the students hadn’t watched Hancock so we based the exercise on the Men in Black instead.

Planning your Writing PPT

Alphabet Quizzes

Writing Process

Film Review

Creativity Workshop – Food

I recently took part in a creativity workshop at the University of Huddersfield. I was placed in the food group and we were given the task of producing a bank of creative numeracy, literacy and ESOL resources around the theme of food.

We rose to the challenge and had a fantastic day showing off our home-made resources.

Rebecca, Kate, Gemma, Christine

The Food Table

Celebrity Shopping Baskets

As I’ve just started teaching numeracy to students aged 16+ I decided to create a maths related resource. I wanted to produce a worksheet related to my learners interests and as they are all teenagers and are interested in popular culture I was inspired by the idea of celebrity shoppers.  It’s currently the RBS 6 Nations and as I teach in Leeds, a city where rugby is more important than football, I chose Mike Tindall as one of the shoppers as he is captaining England for this tournament. The other two celebrities are Cheryl Cole, as most of the learners are attracted to her, and James Corden as all of my learners share his sense of humour.

For the first task the students have to match the shopping basket to the celebrity. The worksheet becomes progressively harder as the students need to use their  ICT and numeracy skills to research the cost of the food contained in the shopping baskets and then add up the total amount. I like to embed life skills into my lessons so further tasks look at budgeting money as the learners to roll a money dice in order to produce a budget and then use Asda online to work out what they could afford and how much change they will get.

If you would  copy of the worksheet I produced it can be found by clicking on the following link.

Food Worksheet

My colleagues also produced a lot of interesting and creative ideas. A summary of which are contained below:


Animal Biscuits

Using the internet research animal facts and write sentences about your findings.

Use alliteration to tell your partner more about the animals – for example Leroy the lovely lion was lonely.

Use one of the animals in your packet as a basis for a story.

Think about the sizes of the animals and use for maths related activities.

Strawberry Laces

Make letters and words out of them.

Make shapes – measure the perimeter and area of the shapes.

Explain what they are to an alien (describe the ingredients, texture, shape, the way they make you feel etc)


Kate brought in a world map and a collection of food including chocolate, lychee and bananas. The learners could pick a piece of food and then answer questions about it including;

  • Take a piece of food and try to guess which country it comes from. You can eat it if you want to.
  • Imagine you are someone from that country. Write a piece about a day in their life. Use what you already know and the internet to research your piece.
  • What have you found out about your country? Was the food fair trade or not? Use the internet to find out more about your country and fair trade.


Dodge the Pulp

Christine’s Instructions

I made a game board to depict food as a game.  I use the tomatoes which were squashed and were forfeit or dares.  The eggs were fried eggs and they were forfeits or if you landed on these you would go back two places.  I used ladders to moved the players on through the game quickly as if you landed on these you could go down the ladder.  There were 15 hand-made forfeit cards which you took if you land on a tomatoes. I  drew squares on a board and then coloured them in with contrasting colours in this case green and then added numbers up to 100.  I made counters out of buttons and added two coins one silver and one bronze and the bottom I stuck on coloured tissue paper red and green to make them distinctive and added a dice.

Game Cards

Being interviewed for the University of Huddersfield 2011/2012 post graduate prospectus

Today I took part in an interview for the University of Huddersfield 11/12 Post Graduate Prospectus. I was asked about my background, my opinions on the PGCE and what my plans are for the future. The interview will be available via the universities website but in the mean time here’s a sneak peek from todays filming.