Forces Dance Mat

This is a great activity for introducing students to drawing force diagrams and resultant force. I have taken the idea directly from TES (the hugely popular original is available here) but I have made my own version in order to emphasise that the length of the arrow shows the size of the force. Obviously any music can be used to accompany it but I have always found that Gangnam Style works well (some of the students even do the dance moves as they jump about!).

Start the music, start the presentation and then jump in the direction of the resultant force. Have fun!


Motion Obstacle Course

I have just started the topic of Motion with my Year 9 students and used an obstacle course as an active way to introduce speed, distance and time equations.

obstacle course

The students set up an obstacle course in the sports hall (balance beams, hopscotch, cones, a wall to climb over etc.) Then, working in pairs, one member of each team tackled the course whilst the other timed them and recorded how long it took to complete each section. The students also recorded the length of each section using a measuring tape e.g. balance beam = 3m, hoops = 8m.

Now that the students knew the distance and the time taken, they could work out the speed at which they completed each obstacle. Finally, the students were asked to plot a distance-time graph (which lead nicely onto the follow-up lesson in which we looked at motion graphs using DynaKars).


Canva is a free online graphic design tool which can be used to make beautiful posters, infographics, presentations and many other things. It is extremely simple to use and features a vast library of templates, fonts and photographs to choose from.

My AS level biology students have recently used Canva to create eyecatching infographics summarising the structure and properties of biological molecules. I think they look great!

Squishy Circuits – Electrical Play Dough


A wonderful idea from the Playful Learning Lab at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.

Play dough is a semisolid which contains salt and is naturally electrically conductive. However, replace the salt with sugar and the play dough becomes an insulator! Both can be made easily and cheaply using flour, vegetable oil, water and salt or sugar. Students can then roll the dough into ‘wires’ or build more elaborate shapes into which they can then connect components. Great fun!

The recipes in metric units are available here.

The Squishy Circuits Classroom Guide contains the recipes as well as basic instructions and sample worksheets. There are also lots of fun ideas for using squishy circuits in electronics education on the Tinkering Studio website.

CIE Mark Scheme Abbreviations


Some students (and teachers) remain confused by the abbreviations used in mark schemes. Since completing and then marking past papers is a key element in effective revision for the upcoming examinations, I thought it timely to highlight the following conventions used by Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) at both IGCSE and A Level.

+ ,  

All parts of the answer separated by a plus sign or comma are required to achieve the mark. In the example below, the candidate must refer to assimilates or sucrose and to the fact that they lower the water potential (inside the sieve tube element) in order to gain one mark.


( )

Information in parentheses does not need to be made explicit in the answer in order for the candidate to achieve the mark/s. See example below.


Alternative answers for the same point. In the example below, the candidate can make reference to either folding or coiling and does not need to mention the tertiary structure (in parentheses) in order to be awarded the mark.


Separates marking points. In other words, semi-colons represent the number of marks available for each answer. Note, that for the example below, full marks are available just for giving the answer (300) whether or not the candidate has also shown their workings out.



Accept. The answer is not the answer the examiner is looking for but has been correctly cued by an equation or extra guidance and therefore acceptable to achieve the mark.


Any Valid Point. One point (note the one semi-colon) can be awarded at the examiner’s discretion if any other valid point has been made by the candidate.


AVP ;;

Any Valid Point. The examiner can award up to two marks (note the two semi-colons) for two valid points made by the candidate.


Reject. This is different to ‘Ignore’ (I) and is a negative marking system. In other words, a mark must be deducted from the total if a ‘Reject’ answer is given. In the example below, if a candidate wrote ‘antibodies produced by T-cells‘ they would not receive a mark (i.e. the point awarded for correctly answering that antibodies are produced is deducted for incorrectly stating that they are produced by T-cells).


Alternative wording. This is used when the responses are likely to vary more than usual. For example, instead of saying ‘less oxygen enters the blood‘ it would be acceptable to answer ‘less oxygen passes into the blood‘ or ‘less oxygen diffuses into the blood‘ etc.


Answer underlined

These are key words which must be used by the candidate in order to achieve the mark. Note that grammatical variants and spelling errors (so long as the word can be read phonetically) are accepted.


Or reverse argument. The reverse argument is equally valid.

I hope this clears up any confusion but if you have any questions about mark schemes and script abbreviations or conventions, please do get in touch.