Teacher Geek

Because life’s too short for worksheets

By: Rachel Jones


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Products specifications
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Size: 254 x 184mm
Pages : 160
ISBN : 9781845909864
Format: Paperback
Published: May 2015

What can you do with a pack of marshmallows and some tinfoil? Create innovative, engaging learning opportunities; if you embrace the teacher geek mentality.

What was your best lesson like? Rachel Jones thinks that her best lessons have happened when she’s been brave enough to wonder, ‘What might happen if …?’ and done something a bit different. That is what Teacher Geek is all about: making the most of the resources you have at your disposal, and shaking up your thinking about what will inspire, engage and motivate learners. A teacher geek will look to exploit all potential learning opportunities, and be comfortable with taking risks by working with resources from outside their subject area.

You have nothing to lose by trying a few new ideas out in your classroom. What is more, a little teacher geek thinking can make lesson planning a whole lot easier. Here Rachel shows you how to blend edu-geeky analogue and digital teaching techniques, and offers suggestions on how to inspire your students, revitalise your practice, and gain the rapt attention of your class. Teacher Geek shows you how to turn your passion as an educator into real results in your classroom. It is all about celebrating a real love of teaching and learning. It doesn’t matter whether you have access to the latest technology, or whatever else you have at your disposal, it is all about creativity, confidence and celebrating achievement.

And – let’s face it – there is more to life than worksheets.

Suitable for all teachers.

Picture for author Rachel Jones

Rachel Jones

Rachel Jones, who loves sharing ideas, is a Google Certified Teacher interested in creativity and innovation in the classroom. She thrives on trying new things and engaging and empowering students. Her blog was a finalist in the 2013 EduBlog awards and was recommended by The Guardian as a must-read for 2014. Rachel is a regular blogger for The Huffington Post and a lively contributor on Twitter @rlj1981. She also curated Don't Change the Light Bulbs; a must-read anthology of mantras, lists, aphorisms, advice and activities from some of the UK's most switched-on educators.


  1. A must for every teacher's library.

    Rachel's book is a must for any teacher looking to reinvigorate their classroom. It's packed full of easy to implement ideas that can transform your teaching from ordinary to out of this world. As a new Year 7 tutor I have taken away many of the ideas to use with my new tutor group as a way of ensuring we have something interesting to do over the year, all the while building on their engagement and curiosity.

    Don't let the title fool you - this isn't a book for geeks, it is for everyone and her background in tech is complimented by her down to earth approach and easy to follow how to guides.

    This is one to dip in and out of when looking for inspiration and not perspiration. The book is easy to read and has a great layout so you can find your way around for ideas in a flash. Go on, be brave, give some of the ideas a go. You'll amaze yourself.
  2. Rachel Jones encourages the reader to share her passion and enthusiasm for learning combined with the use of IT in lessons to inspire pupils and improve learning outcomes. Rachel discusses some interesting ideas on planning learning interventions to promote outcomes. Although I have reservations about writing on desks, floors and windows, the sections on creating planning walls, shifting furniture to create a focus for learning and systems to celebrate work and progress are very good.

    It is clearly evident that Rachel has the confidence and experience to extend learning opportunities and boundaries for learners. She discusses at length the need to ensure that safeguarding (prevent) is a priority when using technology in the classroom and as a means of sharing learning and achievement. Readers will find the -˜top geek tips' at the end of each chapter particularly helpful. Overall, a book with many ideas for effective practice, to challenge and support teachers and support staff at all levels to extend their delivery styles of learning.
  3. Shows teachers how to make the most of resources already at their disposal and embed ICT in lessons. Also emphasises trying out new ideas, to inspire and motivate learners.
  4. In the many and heated debates of the online educational community, the narrative is of a 'battle' between those teachers who favour direct instruction, and those who feel that children should have an element of control over their own learning. If you were to base your impressions of our education system solely on what you read online, you might imagine that there are only two types of schools: ones where children are filled up with knowledge by teachers telling them what they need to know, and ones where children are set adrift from their teachers, left to engage themselves in a freeflow mayhem of group work and self expression. Happily the truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. (Or at least it does in the hundreds of schools that I have visited over the last decade through my work as a teacher trainer).

    I loved this book. While I use quite a bit of teacher talk in my own teaching, I also regularly hand over the reins to the learners as well. And this book is positively stuffed with ideas about how to do just that. It is a pick and mix selection of all the things you can do as well as telling your learners what they need to know. I work mainly with highly motivated adults, and even when we are fully grown it is hard for us to concentrate on a teacher talking to us for long periods of time. This book does not suggest that you should never talk to your learners, but what it does do, and what it does very well, is to give you lots of alternatives for when talking is not enough, for when your children are still not 'getting it', for when your voice is broken and you are completely exhausted, or for when you just fancy trying something different. This book is about the sheer reality of being a teacher - that constant search for a way to get through to the children in your care, so that they can learn. One of the frustrations with our education system for me as a parent is that my own children often know what they are being taught already, because they are avid readers outside of school (as I tried to explain in this blog post). This book gives the teacher lots of ways to get the learners to show you what they already know, and then to play around with that knowledge in order to build independent learning skills.

    The 'F Word' is out of fashion in education at the moment, or at least it is in the narrative that takes place online (that's 'F' for 'fun' by the way, rather than for anything more fruity). We are regularly reminded that sometimes learning is hard work and boring and that children need to develop the ability to persist when the going gets tough. While these things are obvious to any educator, it is also true that a diet of grit and grind starts to dull the desire to learn after a while. All work and no play makes Jackie a very dull girl indeed. 'Fun' need not be an end in itself (although I'm not entirely sure why it shouldn't be). But when we are having fun, we are more relaxed. And when we are more relaxed, we tend to learn more easily. Being playful, particularly with ideas, is a key element in developing creativity. Above all else, this book is about the playful ways in which Isabella Wallace and Leah Kirkman have inspired their learners to learn. Throughout my reading of the book, I found myself smiling in recognition at the many brilliant suggestions, or thinking about how much my children would love to learn using the techniques described. Although I've been in education for 20 years now, and I've met and shared strategies with thousands of teachers over that time, there were lots of ideas in here that were brand new to me. These are ideas that I can now pass on to other teachers, which is all part of how collaborative learning works.

    As I read this book, I began to consider the different names that we use when we talk about children in the context of a school. For some, they are 'pupils', for others they are 'students', but in this book they are 'learners', and that seems entirely fitting. The focus here is less on what the teacher does, and more on what the learners do. It is worth remembering that, just because you taught something, that does not necessarily mean that your children learned it. Or, as Walter Barbee once memorably said: "If you've told a child a thousand times and he still does not understand, then it is not the child who is the slow learner."
  5. As a teacher, I'm usually a bit wary of books written by other teachers suggesting how I could teach because books can sometimes come across as though teachers don't know how to do the job properly. This book does not take that stance. If anything, it has captured the sense of community that can sometimes get forgotten in education and can be perceived as a motivating, positive read.

    As I worked through the introduction, which muses on what a Teacher Geek is, it feels as though I was in the author's living room sharing a cuppa and bouncing ideas; the energy that can be generated through dialogue is alive in the pages of Teacher Geek. It is written in an accessible style, picks up on themes many teachers will identify with and offers an abundance of ideas and tips to try out in classroom practice, with a good balance between analogue and digital suggestions.

    A powerful aspect of Teacher Geek is that Rachel offers examples and experiences from her own practice which creates a relationship with the reader. I get the impression that Rachel has not made a concerted effort to do this but rather that it's a positive side effect of her writing and is what she'd probably say if she were with you in person. She is clearly a creative practitioner who isn't afraid to try out different ways of doing things such as reading texts aloud in darkness or building exam writing technique collaboratively through musical chairs. Humbly, Rachel notes that the activities she suggests are based on her experience and viewed through her lens as a practicing teacher - she doesn't advocate it as exceptional outstanding practice but supports her ideas with what she has observed in her own setting.

    For example, when discussing the reading of texts aloud she recognises that although she can't be inside her students' heads, the writing produced from this exercise is of good quality. The mixture of ideas supported by anecdote and discussion of practice generally all contribute to the conversational, rather than dictatorial, impression of the book.

    Personally, I find the examples interesting and useful but my review is influenced by my primary background and perhaps a lack of exposure to working creatively. However, I think Teacher Geek is a refreshing read for all practising teachers. As someone newer to the profession, I have found it an interesting read with plenty of content to inspire my own practice. If you're classroom based, I'd recommend. I don't usually enjoy hints and tips style books but this was a pleasant surprise and will certainly be useful for future reference.
  6. Rachel Jones is one of those teachers who always has an idea; and moreover, will never be afraid to try it ciut in the classroom, even if it's radically different from anything that students will have seen - or she has done - before. She loves technology and thrives on creativity, and knows that her students do, too; gimickry for its own sake has no place in her practice, and whilst she's happy to take risks and experiment, only innovations that are demonstrably effective will make their way into her daily teaching toolbox. Here, Jones opens that toolbox and invites any interested fellow professional to have a delve and find something interesting. "Life is too short for worksheets" she declares; and whilst not every suggestion she makes will appeal to all teachers, the underlying message is one with which few educators would disagree.
  7. I am always on the look out for new techniques and ideas to try out in the lesson and have accumulated a number of different books over the years to that end. 

    had previously brought "Don't Change the Lightbulbs" which Rachel had edited so I was eager to get my hands on her new book "Teacher Geek"

    I have often been described as a teaching geek by friends and colleagues due to my interest in all things teaching and learning and my students have started to refer to themselves as my guinea pigs as I do tell them when I am trying something new or different. HOwever Rachel has taken being a teacher geek to whole new level in this book. 

    From the very start Rachel doesn't tell you how to do your job or bog you down in extensive research to back up her ideas, instead she just uses her experience in the class room speak for itself. She doesn't suggest that if we all do everything that is suggested in the book that we will have outstanding lessons every time, but she does suggest activities and ideas that will help the students learn and progress in a more exciting and interesting way. This book seems to be more about igniting a teachers imagination and giving them the confidence to take a risk in their teaching, even if it does go wrong the first time round. 

    Some of the highlights in this book for me and things that I am going to try in September include:

    Entry Music: I love having music in the lesson and try to find ways of using it as more then just background. I have in the past used music as a timer for an activity, however I had not thought to use it as a way to ensure the students settle quickly. The ideas (and such a simple one) is to have a piece of music playing as the students enter the room, by the end of the piece they should have all their equipment out and be getting on with the starter activity. The music could link to the lesson or it could be something soothing for the more energetic groups or even something up beat to get the blood flowing.

    Collages: I used to love making collages as a kid, so many Saturdays were spent around my Nana's kitchen table cutting and sticking and I had not thought to use it in my lessons for some time. This activity is create to find out what the students already know about a topic or their understanding of a concept. Also makes for some great display work. Rachel even shows how you could create these collages online if you have the facilities. 

    Key Word Points: It seems like a constant battle to get the students to use key terms in their extended answers, they often explain around the term without actually using it. This activity means that key terms are given a points value, the easier it is to include the term the lower the point value. The students then write a response trying to get as many points as they can by using the key term in the correct way. These responses can then be peer marked and moderated and the point score awarded rather then a grade. 

    There are so many more ideas that can be found in this book and if you haven't already got a copy then I highly suggest it gets put on your summer reading list.
  8. -˜Ok, hands up -¦. Who is a geek? No correct that, who is a Teacher Geek?'

    For those of you who work in the classroom leading the learning of others, I hope that you all are. Education needs teacher geeks like us who are perhaps slightly obsessive about teaching and learning and are always on the look out for new ideas, tips and tricks to try and to include in out teaching toolkit. 

    In Rachel Jones' new book, Teacher Geek, she emphasises just tweaking one's teaching can make a significant impact upon the learning of students. Written in an engaging, yet informal style, Rachel takes us through key areas of teaching and learning encouraging us to use everything to hand, from technology and the classroom to setting written tasks with a twist. The toolkit offered here is a real mix of unique and innovative thinking to reminding us of some of the more traditional teaching methods which still have a place in the modern classroom if applied correctly. All are certainly worth trying and experimenting with finding out what suits your teaching style. Regardless of what your teaching style is there will be something here for everyone.

    What I particularly like about this book is that is it clearly written by a current practioner who understands the pressures of the role of the modern teacher and the need for updating one's teaching methods yet realises the difficulties that we face in terms of the lack of time to explore new ideas. This can help explain that the ideas in this book are very easy to implement with the emphasis upon tweaking rather than radical overhaul with the constant focus upon improving the learning of our charges.

    The book is very readable and accessible with each chapter full of ideas with clear examples and can be read in a short space of time. This enables you to read the book in small chunks guaranteed to make you think about your own work and what you can tweak to maximise your impact. A highly recommended book which deserves a place on every CPD bookshelf. 

    See the original review here.
  9. A thoroughly enjoyable read that prompts any teacher to trust themselves and challenge their students. Every chapter seeks to support the reader and breeds confidence in a profession that so often questions itself. Practical, informative, enjoyable; what's not to like?
  10. I love this book and I want to do everything that Rachel Jones describes. I want my graph theory class to build graphs out of marshmallows and BBQ skewers and we'll do that. Amidst all the pressures that teachers face, of marking and administration and everything else that we do, it's easy to forget the fun we can and should have as teachers. Reading Rachel's book reminded me of the fun of being a student and of the fun that I can have as a teacher. Within a short space of time, my copy will be dog eared and sticky-noted with lots of marginal notes describing the things that have worked for me and the things I want to try next.
  11. Rachel Jones is one of the most respected teachers on Twitter and in the world of educational blogging. This book shows just why that respect is deserved: it is practical, grounded, warm and human. The book, in fact, is Rachel!

    Rachel celebrates the -˜teacher geek' whose passion and enthusiasm for their subject, and for learning (both their own and others'), motivates and inspires them. She shows how to -˜create sparks of interest that light the fires of learning', sometimes through the use of ICT, sometimes by using what you can pick up in the charity or pound shop.

    Rachel's advice is to be brave, take risks, creatively tweak and adapt resources (including our environment, images, sound and music) so that they serve as a -˜hook for learning'. By being flexible and imaginative we can put a new spin on things, think differently and adopt a new perspective, while still being ourselves. This book will make a difference to teachers.
  12. From vibrators to vibratos (yes, you read that right), Rachel takes the reader on a fascinating tour of her pedagogic world in this how-to guide with a difference. Be you an 'analogue geek' or a 'digital geek' teacher, there's plenty here for you to think about, try and learn to enhance your classroom practice. Although some of the ideas in the book are not for the faint-hearted or those teaching within a highly regimented school (get out while you still can), each chapter brings gifts for the beginner geek.

    This is a permission-giving book whose core message is 'recapture your classroom'. It won't be to everyone's taste and nor should it be. But if you've ever discerned the inner desire to draw on desks or wondered wistfully what it would be like to write on windows, this is most definitely the book for you.

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