New job

From the photo below (which also happens to be the view from my new desk) you can see that the sun has now set on the first week in my new job.

I no longer teach basic numeracy and literacy so the focus of this blog will change over the coming weeks and months. I now work in a sixth form environment in a pastoral focused role. Instead of teaching numeracy and literacy my teaching topics are designed around the areas that my students need to work on for example time management skills, study skills, target setting and how to choose and apply for university. I will continue to update this blog regularly with lesson ideas and resources so I’m positive that there will still be lots of ideas and resources that you will find useful. I will also continue to post about my MSc and am about to start a research project into the effectiveness of social bookmarking.

2011 as a Wordle

Following on from last week’s retrospective post ‘From trainee to tutor’ I thought it would be fun to create a word cloud of this year’s blog posts. As I used Wordle to generate the word cloud the words that appear larger appear more frequently throughout the blog.

The largest three words are first, year and teaching. This highlights the fact that this is my first year working as a qualified tutor. PGCE is also a prominent word although I expect this to be significantly smaller next year. I completed the Professional Graduate Certificate in Education in June and qualified as a teacher. A lot of my posts between February and June referenced ideas that I’d learnt or tried out as part of my teaching placement. Other words that stand out are: ideas, lesson,  students. used, using, used and tool. This has revealed a lot about the way that the blog has been used. ‘Gemma Teaches’ was created with the primary intention to be used as a lesson idea/resource sharing site. The fact that these words appear regularly indicates that the essence of the blog has been maintained throughout the year. Other word that stands out in the word cloud are ICT and software. I have always had a keen interest in ICT and started an MSc in Multimedia and E-learning this September. Through Teach Meet sessions on the MSc and by collaborating on-line with other educators I have discovered a wide variety of education based software. As there is another year and a half before I finish the MSc I will hopefully continue to discover many more electronic delights that I can share with you all.  

From looking back at my blog posts for the last year I’ve learnt a lot about myself; my life moves at lightning pace, I’m always thinking about where to go and what to do next, whether this is an educational course like the CELTA or an MSc or a new career path such as I.T. Teacher, Employability Skills Tutor or Learning Mentor.  As I’m constantly looking for the next thing I’ve never really taken the time to sit back and reflect on my life and everything that I’ve achieved and the relationships that I have built therefore I am really enjoying the chance to reflect on my year.

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.

Mind Maps

Tony Buzzan

Mind Mapping is a simple and highly effective way to develop ideas and improve knowledge retention.Tony Buzzan first developed this thinking tool in the 1974 although it has only recently become a popular aid for dyslexics .

In the first video below Tony Buzzan explains the origins for this technique whilst the following video explains how  you can use the technique.

Knowledge retention

Mind mapping helps dyslexics to retain infomation as the maps makes use of images, colour, shape, size and symbols, mapping out information in a way that is easier for the learner to comprehend.

A dyslexia tutor recommended the following system:

  1. The ss  creates a simple mind map at the end of the lesson
  2. The following day the ss returns to the mind map, re-reads it and colour codes the infomation
  3. A week later the ss returns to the mind map and re-reads it

Returning to the mind map in this way helps encourages the infomation to be stored in the role term memory.

There is an interesting article about this by BBC News.

Teaching dyslexic students

As #ELTchat  were just discussing ‘Teaching Dyslexic Students‘ and November is the month for National Dyslexia Week here in the UK , I have decided to share my experiences on the subject both as a literacy tutor and as a dyslexic.

*#ELTchat stands for English Language Teacher Chat. The chat happens every Weds at 9pm on Twitter and more information about this can be found on ELTchats website.

As #ELTchat discussed there are a number of different ways that an educator can adapt their practice in order to enhance the learning of dyslexic students. Over my next few blog posts I will discuss some of the alterations that you can make and how these could affect your students. My opinions are based on my personal experience as a dyslexic and my professional experience as a literacy tutor.

Use of Colour

SueAnn tweeted:


11:06 PM

We had a dyslexic student recently who was greatly helped by using coloured acetates over her work. #ELTchat

Coloured backgrounds can greatly help dyslexics as the colour helps the text to stay in one place thus preventing it from swimming around on the page. As well as using overlays coloured paper and coloured ppt backgrounds can also have a positive effect. Cream or pastel coloured backgrounds are the most effective colours for general use like card match activities and ppts, however, dyslexics are very much individuals so you need to find out what colours works best for your learners and then print their worksheets/handouts out on these colours.

Scoptopic sensitivity (colour sensitivity) doesn’t only effect dyslexics. 1 in 10 people in the UK are dyslexic where as 2 in 10 people suffer from scotoptic sensitivity. Therefore changing the colour of your resources could have a great impact on your students learning. Scoptopic sensitivity  is rarely diagnosed in people without dyslexia therefore there are a lot of suffers who don’t know that they have the condition. I had suffered with migraines since starting primary school and had regularly been to the opticians, however scotopic sensitivity was never mentioned until I was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 26. Despite suffering from constant migraines throughout my compulsory education now I have tinted glasses and use green paper I rarely suffer from migraines.

Audio Recordings


11:10 PM

#eltchat using audio /voice recording for notes can help

As cerirhiannon mentioned audio and voice recordings can help dyslexics considerably with note taking. Dyslexics generally have weak short-term memories so copying notes from the board or from lectures is extremely difficult as by the time they have finished noting down part one down they have missed part two and the tutor is on to part three.  Since being diagnosed I have started recording all of my lectures and have a noticeable improvement in my knowledge retention and the quality of my work. I am able to listen to the recordings over and over again until I have noted down all of the information I need. Then I can turn the information into mind maps to help retain the knowledge. A series of podcasts with lesson recordings may be a useful resource, espescially as many students may not have access to a dictaphone.

ELT Chat

Below is a short selection of the tweets from #eltchat.


11:17 PM

RT @kalinagoenglish: As dyslexic learner – another thing that’s really hard are activities which require listening and writing at the same time #eltchat

11:16 PM

RT @kalinagoenglish: RT @reditho: – in truth, dyslexics r often high IQ 🙂 and visionary-out-of-box thinkers  #eltchat (wink) > 🙂

11:08 PM

We worked with a specialist in Greece-1st thing he told us, no clutter for sts on desk,board, nowhere #ELTChat

11:11 PM

RT @Marisa_C: Sharing a dyslexia checklist which I often give to my trainees #eltchat #dyslexia

11:26 PM

@Marisa_C  #eltchat cloze activities if the words needed are written in a  box to guide the student – spelling wise..depends on ss

11:42 PM

RT @TES_SEN: Lots of support for managing dyslexia in the classroom on the TES – #eltchat

11:52 PM

RT @antoniaclare: @reditho I think it’s important to look at content, point out what is good, but note areas that need sep work to focus on #eltchat

Strategies for mental multiplication

Today I taught a really successful 3 hour lesson on strategies for working out mental multiplication. Here’s how it went:

1.Ss fill in a blank 0 -12 times table grid. This is then used throughout the lesson as a reference sheet.

2.Ss then fill in the jumbled up grid at the bottom of the worksheet

3.Card match activity. Give each student a set of cards matched to their ability level. Ss then match the sum e.g 6 x 6 with the answer, 36

4.Discuss how people use a variety of ways for working out mental multiplication e.g counting up on their fingers, a times table grid, long multiplication etc

5.Split the class into pairs/small groups. Give each group a different strategy to research and present to the class. Strategies could include; traditional/long multiplication, grid method, lattice method, finger tricks.

6.Ss present their findings and explain how to use the method to the rest of the class. (My students really didn’t want to have to get up and speak in front of the rest of the class so instead they created A1 size posters and the students moved around the class looking at them whilst I explained the content)

7.Ss complete a worksheet for each of the following methods: grid, lattice and traditional/long




8.Ss complete a variety of mental multiplication based worksheets