Author Archives: LEM

The First Thing I Tell A New Class.

Hi everyone. My name is Mr Liacos and I’m going to be your Science teacher this year. I’m hoping that you’ll enjoy Science. We’re going to do pracs, theory work, assignments, and other things, and by the end of the year you’ll know a lot more than you do now!
Now even though I’m you’re Science teacher, I also consider myself to be one of your English teachers. Probably the most important thing you learn at school is reading and writing, and even though you can all read and write, the more practise you get, the better you get.
So, I like Science and I like learning about Science (I became a Science teacher after all!), and I’m hoping you like Science too, but even if you don’t, I want to use the time in class to keep developing the two most important skills that anyone learns in school: reading and writing. You will use your English skills for the rest of your lives in every aspect of your lives.
So, whenever you’re answering questions, or writing down the observations you made in a prac, or completing an assignment, I don’t want you to concentrate just on the Science, but also on the English. I want you to try to write everything in your best English.
I don’t just want a correct answer, I want a well-written correct answer!
What I’m going to do is regularly ask you to read out what you’ve written to the rest of the class and I want to comment not just on whether your work is correct but also on the English. This way you get to practise your English more AND you’ll be able to teach others about the work we’re doing. You’re not just going to learn stuff from me, but you’re going to learn stuff from each other. This class is a learning community, and we are all going to contribute to everyone’s knowledge.
Finally, let me say this. Quite often, kids used to say to me, “sir, I get it, why do I have to write it down?” The science is often the easy part. It’s the English, the good English, the well-expressed English that is the difficult part. But it’s the most important part and the part that cuts across every subject and it’s the part that will help you more than any other part. So do your best. I’m looking forward to a good year.
So let’s begin…

Note to Teachers:
After, say, a prac, I usually get 4 or 5 kids to read out their answers to Question 1. I will then give feedback (mixed with praise where appropriate). I then get 4 or 5 kids to read out their answers to Question 2, and so on. This takes a bit of time, but it’s worth it.
I’ve been teaching like this for quite a few years now and it has been received very positively by my students. They get to show off their work to the rest of the kids, they get to hear “best-practice” answers from other kids which lifts everyone’s standards, and kids who may not have understood something first time get to hear the answers from their peers. Everyone wins. And that’s how classes should be!
After watching a Shedding Light program, I do the same thing with the worksheet answers. Students are asked to read out their answers. This reinforces the fact that what they write has to be understood by an audience, they practice their English, and they all learn from each other. And they’ve all got a much higher chance of learning a concept if they’ve heard it 4 or 5 times!
Epilogue: Even though I start by emphasizing literacy, it usually isn’t long before I start stressing the importance of numeracy. If you browse the Shedding Light worksheets, there are a lot of questions that require numeracy. I also make a big deal about numeracy, but I start with literacy.
So, try it out!

Statistically speaking, people are highly likely to misinterpret statistics!

Statistics are not easy to understand. They speak broadly of a whole population but say nothing about individual cases. I was watching a show on TV recently that reported that a study has found that in 70% of households women do more of the domestic duties (cleaning, cooking, ironing etc.) than men. A male commentator then rubbished the study, saying that he did nearly all of the housework, so it was obviously wrong!
But 70% means 70%, not 100%. If the study surveyed 1000 households and found that in 700 of them, women do more of the work, then that equates to 70%. In 300 households, men do more of the work (or do the same amount of work). Finding an exception to a majority doesn’t change the underlying statistics.
Statistics say nothing about individual cases, only about whole populations. So assuming that a set of statistics accurately reflects what’s going on in society (which is an assumption that you should always be careful of making), individual cases will vary.
However, politics (including societal politics and work-place politics) is not necessarily about accurate statistics. Politics is about winning people over, so people will often argue about what a set of statistics tells us about our society and what we should do. The interpretation of the statistics is often far more important than the statistics themselves.
So in commenting on the above statistics, some might say that “woman do more housework than men, so things could be better in terms of equality between the sexes”, or more emphatically, “woman are burdened with far more of the housework in society. This is unacceptable…” However, others might say that “the reason that woman do more household work is that they are more likely to be home due to children-related reasons which is completely their choice…”
General statistics are important, but the biggest arguments in society involve why something is the way it is and statistics don’t necessarily have the answers. So, always be careful about not just the statistics themselves but how they are interpreted!

Still Useful Four Decades Later

For a long time, teachers taught knowledge that they had acquired to students who had not yet acquired it.
With the internet, we are no longer necessarily taught by teachers who are in a classroom with us, but we can easily search for, read up on, and learn stuff from people anywhere on the planet.
This is my first blog post that I’m writing just to test out the software. No-one has directly taught me how to do it, but I am indebted to the many talented people who have written fantastic articles on the internet describing how to set up blogs and websites.
Having said that though, I couldn’t have done anything without the ability to read, to write, and to do mathematics, and these things I learned from my teachers.
So, if I learned how to set up a website (and to make Science videos) without actually attending a class for these things, what role will there be for teachers in the future (beyond teaching the basics)? With the amount of information on the internet, do we need teachers anymore? Well, text books have been around at least since 1980 when I started high school (and I’m told even earlier, but who cares, right?), but my teachers were still an essential part of my education.
The way kids (and all of us) learn stuff has changed a lot (and it will continue to change a lot). The use of videos, for example, has exploded over the past 10 years because it is now so much easier to show them from a computer. A lot of teachers are using the Shedding Light videos to take care of the actual instructional side of things.
However, students still need great teachers to guide them, to encourage them, to set high standards, to help them to set goals, to give feedback, and to teach them the skills that they do not yet know that they will need in the future.
Interestingly, when my teachers taught me to read, to write, and to do maths, I did not realize just how useful those skills would be even decades later. A lot of what we learn is like that.
So, teachers are invaluable!