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Sentence Sorts for Teaching A-Level Sociology – How Useful Are They?

Matching exercises or ‘sentence sorts’ simply involve students matching the concept/ sociologist/ perspective/ method to a definition/ statement.

Simple example:

Decide whether the sentences are below are Functionalist or Marxist – simply write ‘F’ or ‘M’ next to the sentence.

1.            Education reproduces inequality by justifying privilege and attributing poverty to personal failure.

2.            The education system plays an important part in the process of encouraging individuals to have a sense of loyalty and commitment to society as a whole.

3.            The teaching of subjects such as history enables children to see the link between themselves and wider society.  The National Curriculum, with it’s emphasis on British history shows pupils that they are part of something larger than their immediate social group.

4.            Although school presents itself as being meritocratic, the hidden curriculum produces a subservient workforce, who accept hierarchies of power.

 The easiest way to format these is simply as above – a title, brief instruction, and anywhere from 10 (or less if you like) to 20 (more is probably too many) statements/ definitions. You might like to use a grid (as in example 2 over page) for paper versions as it provides a more obvious space for students to write into. For more difficult topics, provide a jumbled list of concepts at the bottom.

Obviously if you’re designing your own, do the answer version first, then just delete the single or short-phrase answers. Numbering the definitions/ statements makes feedback easier!

Topics matching exercises work well especially for

  • After Functionalism, Marxism and Feminism, or all the perspectives for any of the topics within A-level sociology.
  • For material deprivation/ cultural deprivation and social/ cultural capital in class and education.
  • For the main changes with different waves of education policy
  • For strengths and limitations of any research method – one of the best I’ve seen is a range of sentences which are either strengths or limitations for either lab or field experiments.
  • Any sub-topic that’s very conceptual – such as childhood within the family.

Different ways of administering sentence sorts

  • Personally I still like the one-side of paper method – simply needs about 12 definitions/ statements and students just write in the concept/ method or whatever next to it.
  • These days of course, you can always put sentence sorts online – Quizlet, or Socrative work very well for this.
  • A way of adding in ‘stretch’ to this is to add in a third column in which you ask students to ‘give an example’ or ‘the opposite’ or to provide supporting evidence, or even criticise the concept/
  • NB The ‘gap fill exercise’ – don’t be fooled by a gap-fill paragraph exercise, it’s basically just a matching exercise/ sentence sort in disguise.

Three examples of Sentence Sorts for A-level sociology

The examples below show three typical applications of this method…. perspectives, ‘match the stat’ (which is quite good to introduce a new topic) and concepts. Unforunately they don’t format very well on a blog, but they’re just to give you an idea – they’ve all been designed to fit on one side of A4 paper. 

Example 1: Sociological perspectives on the role of education

Sort the following statements into either Marxism, Functionalism or Feminism, simply write in F/M or Fem….

  1. Girls may follow the same curriculum as boys, may sit side by side with boys in classes taught by the same teachers and yet emerge from school with the implicit understanding that the world is a man’s world, in which women take second place.
  2. Education reproduces inequality by justifying privilege and attributing poverty to personal failure.
  3. The education system plays an important part in the process of encouraging individuals to have a sense of loyalty and commitment to society as a whole.
  4. The teaching of subjects such as history enables children to see the link between themselves and wider society. The National Curriculum, with it’s emphasis on British history shows pupils that they are part of something larger than their immediate social group.
  5. Classroom interaction reflects the sexist attitudes and male dominance of the wider society.
  6. By transmitting and reinforcing the culture of society to new generations, education helps to ensure the continuity of rules and values.
  7. Although school presents itself as being meritocratic, the hidden curriculum produces a subservient workforce, who accept hierarchies of power.
  8. The classroom is a ‘mini-society’ which provides a training ground for the wider society and eases the transition from childhood to adulthood.
  9. Education has an important role of society reproduction, meaning that it is involved in the reproduction of new generations of workers appropriately schooled to accept their roles in capitalist society.
  10. Schools help to abridge the gap from the ascribed status of the family to the achieved status of society as a whole.
  11. Schools promote the shared value of achievement – at school young people are rewarded for academic achievement with good exam results. This, in turn, socialises young people for their adult roles.
  12. The education system is the main agency for ideological control. People accept their situation in life because at school they have learn that capitalism is just and reasonable.
  13. The hidden curriculum, including the social relations in the classroom and the attitudes and expectations of teachers, prepare girls for male domination and control.
  14. Schools prepare pupils for their roles in the workforce. Most are trained as workers and are taught to accept future exploitation and are provided with an education and qualifications to match their future work roles.
  15. The hidden curriculum produces a fragmentation of knowledge so that ordinary workers do not become educated and overthrow the ruling class.
  16. Schools reinforce gender inequality in wider society.

 

Example 2: Key facts and stats about families and households in Modern Britain

Match the stat to the question. All of these issues come up at some point over the next eight weeks of the course. 

  1. What percentage of marriages end in divorce?  42%
  2. How many children do the average family have? 92
  3. How much does it cost to raise a child to the age of 18? £230,000
  4. What is the average age which women have their first child? 30
  5. When did rape in marriage become illegal? 1991
  6. On average, how much more money a year does it cost to live a year if you are a single person living alone? £250,000
  7. What percentage of households with children in are single parent households? 25%
  8. What proportion of relationships consists of same-sex couples? 152 000
  9. What percentage of men have been victims of domestic violence? 13%

OBVIOUSLY I’ve given the answers here, the numbers would be at the bottom, I’ve also been lazy and missed out sources.

Example 3: Key Concepts in the sociology of the family

Concept Definition
Birth Rate The number of babies born per thousand per year.

 

Civil Partnership

 

The legally or formally recognised union of a man and a woman (or in some countries two people of the same sex) in a committed relationship.
Co-habitation Two people living together in the same household in an emotionally intimate, committed relationship without being officially married.

 

Death Rate The number of deaths per thousand members of a population per year.
Emotion Work Thinking about the emotional well-being of other members of the family and acting in ways which will be of emotional benefit to others. For example, hugging and reassuring children when they have nightmares, organizing Christmas and birthday parties so that everyone feels included and has a good time.
Individualisation The process where individuals have more freedom to make life-choices and shape their identities because of a weakening of traditional social structures, norms and values. For example, secularization means people have more choice over whether they should get married or simply cohabit.
Instrumental Role The provider or breadwinner role which involves going out to work and earning money for the family – the traditional male role within the family.

 

Matrifocal Household A family structure in which mothers are the heads of household and fathers have less power and control in family life and the allocation of resources.

 

Net Migration

 

The difference between the numbers of people immigrating to and emigrating from a country.
Nuclear Family A man and a woman and their dependent children, either their own or adopted.

 

Patriarchy A society where men hold the power and women are excluded, disadvantaged or oppressed.  An example of a patriarchal society is one which women are not allowed to vote, but men are.
Primary Socialisation The first stages of learning the norms and values of a society; learning basic skills and norms, such as language, and basic manners.

 

Serial Monogamy Where an individual has a string of committed relationships, one after the other.

 

Social Construction of Childhood The idea that the norms and values and social roles associated with childhood are influenced by society, rather than being determined by the biological age of a child.
Toxic Childhood Where social changes, especially the invention of new technologies, does increasing amounts of harm to children. For example, the internet and mobile phones results in screen saturation with increases anxiety and reduces attention spans.

NB – If you print this off, the grid format is much easier on the eye than the non-grid version. 

 

How useful are sentence sorts in teaching and learning sociology?

Open question.. please do lemme know what you think!

 

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Seven Transferable Skills Teachers Can Take to Other Professions

  1. Producing engaging written and audio visual resources
  2. Emotional sensitivity
  3. Evaluation and decision making based on standardized criteria
  4. Presentation and communication skills
  5. Facilitating participation
  6. Simultaneous independent and collaborative working
  7. Reflexivity, which incorporates flexibility.

Seven transferable skills which teachers can take with them to kinder careers

Given the depth and breadth of skill which teaching requires, combined with the unbearable amount of stress which teachers are expected to soak up, teaching is without doubt one of the most undervalued professions in the United Kingdom, and I’m fairly sure this is also the case in pretty much every country outside of Scandinavia.

Evidence for this (at least in the UK) lies in the fact that 30% of teachers quit within five years, and the thought of quitting is no doubt at the forefront of the majority of teachers’ minds towards the end of a long summer holiday; and no, a six week summer holiday is not enough compensation.

Just in case you’re one of the hundreds of thousands of undervalued teachers thinking of moving on, here’s a list of transferable skills which you can use to promote yourself to your next employer….

  1. Producing written and audio visual resources that engage a differentiated audience for a sustained period (over month or years) – teachers are required not only to produce quality written ‘work sheets’ which are clearly written and structured, they also have to incorporate a range of audio visual (video/ podcast/ websites/ online tests) within these in order to engage learners. A related benefit is that teachers tend to have both sound levels of knowledge in their specific fields and excellent spelling, grammar and punctuation.*
  2. Emotional Sensitivity – working with vulnerable children requires teachers to pick up on the special needs of students early on, which may not be communicated verbally by the students themselves. An extremely useful skill when working with a range of colleagues and clients in any profession.
  3. Judgement and decision making – the ability to evaluate students’ work according to standardized criteria and provide constructive oral and written feedback to help students/ colleagues/ clients improve their performance in a timely fashion
  4. Presentation skills – teaching requires the ability to present complex information in clear, concise and accessible manner, communicating the goals of lessons clearly to participants at the beginning of a particular session. It also involves the use of humor, analogies, examples, metaphors, stories, and delivery methods other than lecture or PowerPoint to engage an audience.
  5. Facilitating participation through small and large group discussions – teaching involves doing a range of pair-work and discussion work in groups of 3-6, with feedback being given to the whole class. Teachers are experts in making sure everyone feels like they are participating and having a voice.
  6. Independent and Collaborative working – teaching involves both working independently to plan lessons/ mark students work, while simultaneously working collaboratively with colleagues to share information about students in  order to deliver the best outcome for students.
  7. Reflexivity – The ability to continually reflect on one’s own performance and respond to constructive criticism based on feedback from peers and supervisors in order to improve one’s own performance. All of this has to be done within the context of shifting parameters of educational policy, so one also has to pick up new skills and knowledge in order to respond to systemic changes.

Sources and comments on other people’s lists of teaching transferable skills 

I derived this list from the two lists below. Mine is better, but thanks to those who gave me a leg up!

Gina Smith from Branden University suggests the following list Of Top 20 Transferable-Skills:

  1. Active Listening
  2. Complex Problem Solving
  3. Coordination
  4. Critical Thinking
  5. Diagnostic Tests
  6. Grading
  7. Instructing
  8. Judgment and Decision Making
  9. Learning Strategies
  10. Lesson Plan Development
  11. Problem solving
  12. Management
  13. Monitoring
  14. Multitasking
  15. Reading Comprehension
  16. Relationship Management
  17. Service Orientation
  18. Speaking
  19. Social Perceptiveness
  20. Time Management
  21. Writing

How useful is this list?

To be blunt, I don’t find this particularly useful – somehow the list manages to include too much information and not enough specificity both at the same time. If you were going to write a new C.V. in order to transition out of teaching, you would probably include all of the above words, but you’d be better off re categorizing them so you had fewer key-skills.

Whoever it is who writes the ‘Life after Teaching Blog’ provides the following five basic transferable skills for teachers:

1. strong written and oral communication skills

2. strong interpersonal skills

3. demonstrated ability to work independently

4. demonstrated problem solving skills/ability to learn new things quickly

5. demonstrated ability to work under pressure/in a fast paced, deadline-driven environment

How useful is this list? 

Well it’s better than the above list because they’ve thought about the key ‘skill sets’ better – personally I think this is a nice, general list, and full disclosure, this guy also has another list of ’12 skills which teachers have’ which helped me a lot with writing the above post!

If, like me, you’re also thinking about quitting teaching, do get in touch.

*If you call me out on my own slightly dodgy grammar it WILL NOT be appreciated, in fact, regard yourself as having received a virtual slap if you’re one of the smug.

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How I Structure A-Level Sociology Lessons

Below is an overview of broad structure I use to teach every topic in the A-level sociology syllabus, and it’s my first post directed at sociology teachers rather than students.

I typically stretch the structure below over four hour long lessons in a week (I think the norm is 3-4 lessons in most schools and colleges), meaning that lesson one would be an ‘intro lesson’, lessons two and three ‘exploring lessons’ and lesson four the formal or informal ‘assessment lesson’.

NB – the week long, 3-4 lesson structure doesn’t work for all topics as some topics within A-level sociology are too short or long, but for shorter topics, you can stretch this structure over just one hour long lesson, just cutting out a few stages (or get students to do some of them at home) for longer topics (perspectives) you can just split the perspectives up.

Any of the stages can be extended or reduced, or omitted as time allows/ doesn’t allow.

Some people might balk at the idea of such a generic structure, but there’s a lot of variety within each section to mix things up.

If there’s enough interest in this sort of thing then ‘ll post some specific examples of a week’s worth of teaching for certain topics. It’s probably worth mentioning that I use ‘learning packs’ which integrate all of this btw.

Also, you might note, I’m a big fan of note taking – you can make this as creative as you like, but it needs to be done!

Lesson one – introducing the topic/ stating aims/ getting students thinking/ Clarifying difficult material/ note taking.

  1. State Aims/ Provide an overview of the topic
    • Normally on a PPT.
    • Could take the form of a ‘question’
    • For difficult topics you could even spend 20 minutes lecturing.
  2. Getting students thinking –
    • Find out what students know already – simply provide a question, they think up quick answers… or further questions!
    • Provide a data response with questions
    • Do a true/ false activity
    • If possible provide some questions that link back to previous, related topics.
  3. Preferably outside of the lesson – students do their own notes/ or a grid/ or simply answer questions – Provide Hand-outs/ text books with core knowledge
    • Getting students to structure their own notes is the most effective way of them learning.
    • If you’ve got them, you could use ‘learning packs’ with analytical questions.
    • I use summary grids all the time at this stage. Research has shown that all students love summary grids, although there’s no actual evidence to support this.
    • Quite a nice activity is to get students to compare notes/ suggest improvements/ even vote on the best set of notes.
    • You could of course do NOTE TAKING IN THE LESSON – 20 minutes once a fortnight/ once a week is hardly a crime against humanity (just a crime against OFSTED).

Lessons two and three – first informal assessment/ data responses/ researching, exploring and discussing

  1. First wave of Assessment for Learning (PAIRS/ GROUPS) – assessing concepts/ explanations/ evaluations (NOT elaboration at this phase)
    • Sentence sort – e.g. match the perspective to the statement.
    • Gap fill
    • Ranking – I’m sure you all know about cards
    • Brief summary writing – show a question on a ppt, include 10 concepts underneath, get students to write a brief paragraph in answer to the question (one of my favourite activities)
    • Quick posters passed round – different pairs take (for example) one of Marxism/ Feminism/ Functionalism – first pair add in concepts/ second pair evaluations/ third pair selects the most important idea (there ar lots of other versions)
    • Quick group quiz – of course, you could get the students to write the questions too.
  2. Video or data or music response case studies! Normally individual work, focusing What these suggest about a question/ concept
    • Get students to watch/ read/ listen the ‘item’
    • Discuss as a whole class or in groups – any of – what concepts does this demonstrate/ what perspectives does it support criticise/ etc…
    • If we’re doing methods/ education, this where I’ll do Methods in context planning activities.
    • If you’re watching a video, you can easily set it in advance, and show a brief clip at the beginning of a lesson to lead into this.
  3. Exploring in More Depth/ researching something in pairs or small groups (the easiest way to include Stretch and Challenge) – students basically produce something and then share it with the rest of the class
    • Straightforward web-search with question sheets
    • Produce a nice poster for the wall.
    • For anything about social policy – a ‘what would you do?’ type activity.
    • Write a letter to a government minister/
    • Actually go out and do some research
  4. Feedback findings to the rest of the class or to another group
    • If I’m doing full-on class presentations, I’ll always be selective.
    • I also get students to upload whatever they’ve done to a Moodle Forum so their work can be access later.

Lesson four – informal or formal assessment

  1. Second wave assessment for learning – more complex that the first wave earlier – covering most of the topic or sub-topic
    • Define these concepts, and explain them questions
    • Complete Venn Diagrams to show differences and similarities
    • Outline and explain questions (taken from the exam)
    • Marking and improving exercises (based on what they’ve previously done!)
    • Essay planning tasks – using essay planning grids
  2. Formal Assessment Work – Focussing tightly on the exam, without notes (usually done in the following week)
    • Moodle/ Socrative Quizzes
    • In-class Short answer tests
    • Essay paragraphs – focussing on explaining/ elaborating, analysing or evaluating
    • Once every term – a full on exam
  3. Extension work – simply provide links to…
    • Reading
    • Music link
    • Twitter etc.
    • Further questions…
    • My blog! Or a blog!
    • They blog?