Teacher Talk: The Spark Elections 2017

At Spark, we think it’s important for the teachers to talk to you, as students and parents, about the work we’re doing in our lessons. Spark is about useful, honest and fun education. We’re always looking for ways to link our work to the real world. One day our students will be adults and we hope to give them the understanding and skills they’ll need when we get there. That’s why over the last couple of weeks in English we have held a Spark Election with our Year 9 students.

Speeches

 

A lot of our students find the idea of writing and giving speeches terrifying. Not only is this a key skill students will have to demonstrate during their GCSEs, but many job interviews will ask students to give presentations. Talking in front of others confidently is something we all have to do at during our lives. This is what makes it such an important topic for us to cover at Spark.

We started by thinking about persuasive writing. Looking at speeches by others helped students understand how techniques like rhetorical questions and repetition can be used to get your point across. We compared speeches by Barrack Obama and James Corden (as his well-known character Smithy) to see how even comedy and political speeches use these techniques.

 

Political Parties

 

Once the students were happy with how to use different persuasive techniques, it was time to start thinking about writing a political speech. As a class we talked about what political parties are and what they do in our country. It was important for us to understand fringe parties too. Our political parties wouldn’t be mainstream. We split our classes into groups and gave them a fictional political party.

Splitting the classes into groups meant that they would have to work as a team – not just to write their speeches but to complete their manifesto and agree on policies for all of the important areas of politics. They were able to consider and explore different opinions on tax, education, health, immigration and crime among other ideas. It was fantastic to hear as students started to think about the wider implications of their ideas. Each group had long discussions on what public opinions on their ideas might be before they agreed on policies!

 

Campaign Speeches

 

After the policy decisions had been made and the speeches written, it was finally time for groups to deliver their speeches. The nominated Party Leader from each group introduced the speeches and every member of the group needed to speak. The speeches were all very impressive. It was clear that not only had the groups worked hard to write an effective speech, but they’d deliberated over policy details to try and increase their chance of winning the election.

Voting and Results

 

After the speeches, it was time to vote. Every student received an ballot paper to cast their vote.

After counting the ballots!

We wanted everything to be as close to a real election as possible. The votes were all anonymous and counted up to discover the winners. You can watch one of our winning speeches below!

So… why political speeches?

 

Over the course of the two lessons our Year 9 classes learnt how to write and present speeches effectively. They evaluated each other’s speeches and completed a self evaluation to help themselves when they next cover speech writing. Our students also had a crash course in how our democracy works. In fact, they participated in it! Spark is all about preparing our students for the future. Exploring politics at the same time as speeches gave our students a glimpse of real world issues.

In a time when so few young people take an interest in politics, hopefully our work will encourage future voters to take notice. One day they could even be putting their speech skills to working in politics themselves. I can’t think of a better outcome than that!

 

CSI Spark: Creative Science Investigations

This week we have turned to our resident physicist and Head of Science, Nic, to learn all about CSI Spark. It might not be quite what you’re thinking – let’s dive in and see exactly what our Year 7s and 8s have been investigating.

What does CSI stand for?

 

Something exciting has been happening in the Science department here at Spark Academy.  Over the past 7 weeks, we have been doing science a little differently for Years 7 & 8.

As many of you may be familiar with, CSI – that is, Crime Scene Investigation – is a long-standing television show that shows us just how important science can be in fighting crime. CSI at Spark, however, stands for Creative Science Investigation. 

 

The Structure of the Earth

 

In our first topic, students investigated how the Earth was formed, how earthquakes affect buildings, and how Earth has changed over time. Volcanic activities and tectonic plates have changed the very make up of the Earth, as well as its atmosphere. Students have modelled their own construction ideas by building structures from sweets and jelly. Their ‘buildings’ were tested to see if they could withstand earthquakes (simple shaking), which allowed our students to discuss the idea of stability and mobility of buildings in earthquake prone zones.

Iceland’s volcanic eruption in 2010 at the Eyjafjallajökull volcano became the focus for two of our lessons. Students gathered information about the eruption, the issues it generated for the people of Iceland and the wider global impact on air travel and tourism. In true ‘Blue Peter’ style we made our very own model volcanoes – and erupted them. Students used a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and white vinegar (along with colouring for effect). We discussed the premise of a preliminary investigation and the students investigated the quantities of substances to be used (to maximise effect) before erupting their own volcano.

When looking at the atmosphere students tried a simple electrolysis experiment. By passing a small potential difference and current through graphite pencils in a solution, they generated hydrogen and oxygen gas. We then used the gas test to see if the gases collected were indeed the ones we had suggested. Hydrogen gives a squeaky pop when a flame is held to it and oxygen will re-light a glowing splint.

 

What makes CSI different?

 

The students have really taken to the more practical element of their lessons and enjoy asking questions. They are always keen to find out what practical or investigation they may be doing next! Teaching theory hand in hand with practical demonstrations is making our CSI lessons both fun and educational.

 

Giving our students an edge…

 

The emphasis is on learning through the enjoyment of creativity and hands-on activities. The ability to write scientifically about any investigations they carry out is an essential part of the new Science GCSE. However, students will need the practical skills base to be able to write about their investigations successfully.

The UK is struggling to recruit the engineers of the future, and the wholly academic GCSEs may not provide important practical skills. We hope to build vital practical and investigative skills our students will need to give them to have a competitive edge in a highly skilled jobs market. CSI is science for the engineers, scientists and researchers of the future – and it all starts at Spark.

Student Spotlight: Eren Mirza

Spotlight On…

At Spark, our goal is not just to help our students with their immediate academic goals. Our aim is to help them develop and plan for their futures. We like to keep in touch with our Alumni so we can hear about all of their successes. We thought you might also be interested in hearing a little about what they have to say.

So, that’s why we thought we’d ask a few of our Alumni to be in our Spotlight. They’ve taken the time to answer a few questions about their time at Spark. This week we’ve been catching up with Eren Mirza…

Which subjects did you study and in what years?

 

I started Spark Academy midway through my GCSE’s to aid me in Science, and continued with tuition for Chemistry for my A-levels.

Why did you choose to study with Spark?

 

I chose to study with Spark mainly because the classes had a warm feel to them; light-hearted and fun, making it much easier to ask questions when I was confused about the more complex topics.

What was your favourite part of studying with us?

 

My favourite part about studying with Spark would have to be… Mital! That’s because having a teacher who is easily approachable and comfortable to talk to was essential for me. Needing a tutor in the first place was a sign that I found it difficult to get help in school when I needed it. A friendly tutor really made the classes more enjoyable.

What are you doing now?

 

I’m currently studying Chemistry at the University of York and have just finished my first year there.

Do you feel like Spark helped you to achieve what you wanted to achieve?

 

Definitely! I’ve always wanted to pursue a degree in science but Spark Academy certainly gave me a push for Chemistry, it was especially helpful to have feedback on my personal statement during application times.

What advice would you give students currently at Spark?

 

My advice to current students would be to make your notes interesting! Whether it be in school or when you’re being tutored, ultimately the work will be as entertaining as you want it to be. Whether it be sketches, posters or songs try and vary it up a little and you’ll find even Half Cell Redox Equations have a fun side to them.

 

Check out Eren’s cool video on macromolecules which is suitable for A-level chemistry here:

To find out how Spark could help you, visit the rest of our site and book in for your free trial today!

What is Class Dojo?

This week we’ve turned to our Primary and E-learning specialist Vikz to learn more about Class Dojo. We’re finding Class Dojo is fantastic during our lessons – hopefully you’ll all be just as impressed!

What is Class Dojo?

 

Class Dojo is a fun interactive way for you to earn points while enjoying your lessons at Spark. Class Dojo is an innovative way for teachers, pupils and parents to connect with each other over behaviour management while you go about your normal day to day learning.

 

How does it work?

 

At Spark you can earn many points many ways. The points that you collect and earn go into your class points and these can earn you Spark Goodies. Soon there will also be an elusive spot available as Student of the Month for those whose hard work can be seen from the points they’ve earned!

Every time you do something great at Spark you will be rewarded with either team points or individual points.

All the points at the end of the academic year will help to calculate awards and prizes for each year group and subject. When our amazing awards evening comes back around in July, students and parents will be able to reap the rewards of the fantastic contributions and hard work put in all year round.

Some of our classes have already made a fantastic start on their Dojo points!

How can I earn points?

 

There are lots of ways you can earn Dojo points in all of your subjects.

Some points apply across all subjects, such as being on task or working as a team. There are also subject specific points: in English you can earn 2 Dojo points for getting all your spellings correct every week, in Maths 2 Dojo points can be earned for explaining an answer during lesson time; and being safe in a science practical can also earn you 2 points. The more classes you take with us, the more points you can earn.

A surefire to earn Dojo points is to always bring your homework in and try your best every week. Furthermore,one of the wonderful things about Class Dojo is that it allows teachers to reward everyone for their own individual contributions and hard work.

 

What can I earn with all my points?

 

Dojo points will be tallied up at the end of the year and you will unlock rewards. We will be announcing the rewards in the near future, so make sure you stay tuned to Spark Ideas to find out!

 

What is an Avatar?

 

An Avatar is a little creature that represents you in the world of Class Dojo. This creature can be any creature that available at the time. You will soon have over 70 characters to choose from and there are more being added all of the time!

Happy ‘Dojo-ing’!