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.

Focusing on the positives

I have just had a new intake of young people who are all
absolutely amazing  but are all unfortunately seriously lacking in confidence. Therefore I decided to run a session that would hopefully start to change the students perceptions of themselves.

All of these students are unemployed and have started the basic skills
course that I run in the hope of up-skilling and finding employment. Therefore I disguised the confidence building session in the guise of writing covering letters.

Today I’m going to blog about the starter activities.

The students had spent the previous session job hunting and they’d
all found vacancies that they wanted to apply for. I started the session by discussing how everybody finds it difficult to sell themselves. We then talked about how the job and apprenticeship markets are really fierce and how the students would really have to point out what is good about themselves and why they are they are suitable for the vacancies that they are applying for in order to stand out from the crowd and secure employment.

We began the session by brainstorming positive personality words such
as reliable, hardworking, punctual, trustworthy and approachable. The students then created an individual mind map detailing their positive personality traits and any other personal information that made them suitable for the sector that they are applying for; including how looking after their younger siblings related to a career in childcare.

The class then discussed how any one can write positive things about
themselves and how employers want to see examples to prove that what they are saying is true. The students then bullet pointed examples under the positive personality traits.

The students then used their mind maps as inspiration and began to
write their own covering letters.

The students really enjoyed the brainstorming activity and
particularly the opportunity to discuss and focus on the positive aspects of


My favourite piece of kit

Post-it notes.

Post-it notes are one of the cheapest, most colourful and useful pieces of teaching kit that I own. You can write on them, leave them blank, stick them to walls, floors, pieces of paper… Their uses are varied and plentiful. Post-it notes are also a fantastic tool for creating kinesthetic activities as the tutor or students could write words on the post-it notes then move them around to create sentences, questions, statements or stories etc

I  have found post it notes to be an  invaluable tool especially when I’ve needed to create fun and interactive resources against a restrictive time frame.

Recently, as part of a lesson on interview techniques to L1 and L2 learners, I used  post it notes as a way of challenging the learners to create answers to interview questions by moving the words around to create new sentences which formed model answers to the interview questions.


To extend the life of the resource, photocopy the sheet once the post-it notes have been jumbled up and laminate the photocopy. Then the students can cross words off once they’ve been used and the resource will last much longer than the individual post-it notes will.

I originally jumbled up all of the words up on the page but my learners found this to be extremely challenging therefore it is more effective to group the post-it notes by questions.

A fight between an apple and a potato. A lesson for teaching reading scales, mean average, range and bar charts.

Having just started my first full time teaching post I was lucky enough to spend last week observing my new colleagues teach. During this time I met a really inspirational maths teacher who was using the guise of a fight between an apple and a potato as a way of teaching reading scales, interpreting information from diagrams, calculating mean and range and producing bar charts. As I’m going to be teaching Functional Skills to disaffected 16-18 year olds I predicted that this lesson will go down a storm with my own learners so I decided to ‘steal’ this lesson idea and share with my readers.

  • The lesson starts off by showing the students an apple and a potato. Ask the students who they think would win in a fight and get them to brainstorm their ideas then discuss their answers.
  • Introduce today’s lesson objectives.
  • Draw various scale faces on the board with arrows to different weights. Ellicit answers from the students in order to check their knowledge.
  • Students then complete scales worksheet 
  • Tell the students that they are going to calculate who would win the fight between the apple and potato by weighing them. Whichever is the heaviest wins the fight. Discuss results.


  • In pairs give the students a selection of apples and potatoes to weigh. The weights should be recorded to use later.
  • Ask the students to look at their data and decide who they think would have won the war.
  • Introduce and explain mean average. Then ask the students to work out the mean weight of the apples and then the potatoes. Which group was heaviest? Which group would have won?
  • Introduce range. Students work out the range of their results.
  • Then the students complete Skillswise worksheet on mean averages.
  • Imtroduce bar charts.
  • Show the students a large bar chart about activities that a group of people are doing on a bus. Ellicit infomaton from the students to check their knowledge e.g where is the y axis, what should all bar charts have so we can identify what they’re about, what is missing from the bar chart. Graph – activities that people are doing on the bus
  • Ask questions that require them to interpret and compare infomation e.g how many more passengers are staring into space compared to picking their nose
  • Give each student a copy of the zombie attack worksheet. Zombie attack bar chart worksheet
  • Students then create their own questionnaire to ask their classmates.
  • Students question their class mates and make a bar chart from the results. They then create a series of questions regarding their bar charts and swap these with their neighbour. They then swap the sheets back inorder to mark the answers.

Extension and fillers

As a group – most scales use markers of 25 – throw a ball around randomly, whoever the ball lands on shouts the number out.  Use this as a way of getting the students to count up and down to 300 using multiples of 25.

Individual or small groups – show the students five objects and 5 pre-marked scale faces. The students match the objects to the corresponding weight.

An iPod based maths lesson. (Including work on 2d and 3d shapes, measurements, area, perimeter and nets)

This lesson has been created for a level 1 Functional Skills maths class.

The following ideas are for a design based lesson that uses pretend iPod headphone packaging as a tool for reinforcing learning on shapes, measurements, area and perimeter. The lesson involves students measuring various shaped packaging, recording the data and then designing and creating their own packaging.

For this lesson you will need:

1 pyramid box, 1 cuboid box and 1 hexagon box for every two students.
Pens and pencils
Nets for pyramid, cuboid and hexagon boxes
Various logos (suitable for iPhone headphone packaging)
Worksheets (iPod Worksheet 1, iPod Worksheet 2, iPod Worksheet 3)

  1. Start the lesson by revising the names of 2d and 3d shapes and the definitions and formulas for working out length, width, perimeter and area.
  2. Reveal the different shaped packaging and illicit ideas from the students with regards to the lesson objective.
  3. Either introduce the lesson objectives yourself or alternatively a fun way to introduce the lesson would be via an ‘Apprentice’ style video clip. For the extra wow factor you might want to collaborate with one of your colleagues and film them playing the Alan Sugar style presenter.                                                                                                                                                    Using one of the groups other teachers can add an extra wow factor and make the lesson a lot more interesting for the students.
  4. Once the students have been introduced to the task present them with worksheet 1.               
    Tip: To add a competitive element to the lesson you could hold a competition for the best packaging with the learners voting for the winning entries. 
  5. Once the students have completed the worksheet and packaging it is now time to move on to worksheet 2. Worksheet  2 is designed to test the student’s knowledge.
  6. Worksheet 3 is an evaluation sheets where the students comment on what went well, what was difficult and what they’d do differently in the future.

Band Night – an ICT and English lesson.

I recently observed a magnificent lesson that involved a group of students using Power Point to create a short TV advert. I thought this was a fantastic idea and all of the learners seemed to feel the same way so  I decided to adapt the lesson into a mini project for Entry Level 3 and Level 1 English and ICT students. The project is based on the theme ‘band night’ and involves the students creating their own band with their own  logo, two posters to advertise the event and a short TV advert.

Depending on the resources at your establishmets you could arrange a photoshoot for the students to take promotional photos of their band and you could also use video cameras so the students can record short interviews for their TV advert. The basic equipment that you will need to run this project is; a pack of flip chart paper, pens, one computer per student, internet access, Microsoft Word or Microsoft Publisher and Microsoft Power Point.

The project is designed to run over three 1.5 hours sessions.

Creating your own band.

In pairs the students create their own band. They need to give their band a name and decide on the genre of music that they play. Once they have decided these details the next task is to use a logo generator webiste (http://cooltext.com/ or http://www.flamingtext.com/) to create a logo for their band.

The logo will be used as part of the poster and tv advert.


After creating the logo the students next task is to work together to plan two posters to advertise the event. Once they have planned both of  the posters the students will use the computers to create one poster each


Once the students have created their poster it is now time to use Microsoft Power Point (PPT)  to create the TV advert – the advert will be a series of slides that have been set to play at a certain speed. Before they start working on the computer in their pairs the students will work together to plan their advert. Once the plan is complete they can use the computer to design their advert. For details on on how to convert the PPT to a movie file click here.

Once all of the adverts are complete you could hold a class screening and awards ceremony where the class vote for their three favourite adverts.

A worksheet that I have produced for this project can be dowloaded by clicking on the ‘Band Night Worksheet’ below.

Band Night

What’s the connection?

‘What’s the connection?’ is a fantastic literacy/ESOL game that provides students with the opportunity to explore links between groups of words.  The game can be adapted for low level learners as each word could be printed with its picture in order to help students recognise the word.

Can you figure out what these words have in common?

1.  Banana
2.  Dresser
3.  Grammar
4.  Potato
5.  Revive
6.  Uneven
7.  Assess

No, it is not that they all have at least 2 double letters..

Answer: In all of the words listed, if you take the first letter, place it at the end of the word, and then spell the word backwards, it will be the same word.