First Week Back – Year 13

It’s time to Moth-ball the shorts. Pack away the sandals (never, ever wear sandals in educational settings! Nobody wants to see your feet in school). Cut down the drinking to two beers on a week-night (or half a bottle if wine is your thing). It’s back to school time.

Those long halcyon summer days are over. That week you spent in Greece may live long in the memory but it’s time to get back to reality. Get on Amazon and order twenty packs of pens, 6 packs of sticky notes and that well-meaning teacher planner that will, by October, be full of doodles of creative ways to escape the third staff meeting of the week and a list of acronyms you have long since forgotten what they mean. It’s planning time!

Yes, the bitter-sweet days of July when you put on Bowling for Columbine and convinced yourself that next year would be different are a distant memory. The promises that you made that you’d get a year’s worth of planning done over your six week holidays have long been forgotten, just like the strange odour from the Chemistry staffroom.

If you are daft enough to check your email over summer, you’ll already see the tell-tale data. Congratulations, by the way. A grades, ALPs, Value Added, none of it matters. You guided the next generation through to their next destination and they will never forget you…(not sure if that’s a good thing or not?). You’ve changed lives. And now you have to do it all again.

I always find that the greatest development of students comes in that summer between Year 12 and Year 13. In the recent past, AS exams could be argued to be the cause of that change. The A graders whose confidence was buoyed. The C graders who surprised themselves. And the students who really needed that boot up the backside to get into gear. That group were always my favourite. That was the group who realised the enormity of the year ahead, and most, would turn it on. I’ve never been a big believer in labelling a student at a certain grade until well into Year 13. They develop. They learn. And, amazingly for Senior Leaders, at different rates.

So, what would I plan for my returning cohort. Well, apart from preparing myself for new hair colours, tattoos, discussions about how organised they are going to be this year, or just general chit-chat about how wonderful our respective summers have been apart, I get them started on revision.

What? Revision?

Yes. Revision. More importantly, I want to see what they can recall from the previous year. I also give them the ‘pep’ talk about how well the outgoing Year 13 have done, then dropping in that they got better results in their mocks than those they have replaced. I expect big things of them. Every year. Whether it’s true or not.

Lesson 1 (1 Hour)

Aim: Review Y12 and Revision planning

The big welcome back – if you do an analysis of mocks, this is the time to highlight the top performers. I used to have three posters on my wall ‘Methods Masters’, ‘Education Experts’ and ‘Family Friends’ that highlighted the top 5 performers on the mocks/AS. I found it gave those students a sense of recognition, plus it gave others a target to aim for, whilst also highlighting those that they could work with to help them. Students tended to refer back to the poster, often jokingly, throughout the year, so I knew they were paying attention.

In AS years, I would give students a breakdown of UMS or an analysis of their performance from e-AQA. With the change to linear exams, I hold back the mock analysis to the first lesson. I usually give students their mock scripts back with some feedback and specific targets to improve as a piece of homework. Go back and correct your mistakes is my instruction. That takes 10-15 minutes and gets them settled down after a summer away from each other. They know I mean business from day 1.

The next section, I ask them about revision. How did they revise? It still surprises me to this day how many student revise by either re-writing notes or trying to read their notes. Those who re-write, I ask why? Those who read, I ask how they felt looking at page after page of black text on white paper. Then I suggest ways they could revise more effectively. This is usually the talky bit…so I have included a PDF of what they are presented with below:

Skills in Sociology Session 1

Getting students to be organised for the year ahead is a huge challenge. But setting the standard early on it is easy to monitor. The best feedback I get from this session is when I show students my teaching notes in one folder and ask them to revise that. Ask them how they feel. Demoralised, overwhelmed, panicked are the usual responses. Showing them that notes don’t have to be black on white is useful. However, showing them my own drawings usually brings a certain amount of entertainment as my three year old twins have better artistic skills… as Martin Holborn once said to me (name dropping) – don’t give up the day job!

To act as a plenary, I would give students the option of constructing their ow form of notes based upon:

a) the lesson

b) an area of weakness from their mock

c) an area from the previous year they didn’t understand.

Less students go for the Cornell notes and often that requires a demonstration from myself. Most will try and copy what I have already displayed on the board, but…small steps.

Lesson 2 (1.5 hours)

Aim: Explain the difference between crime and deviance

I always start Year 13 with Crime. I know some leave that until last, but for me and my style of revisiting content, I always find crime is the area students struggle most with, yet get better results on. The advantages of doing crime first are that it gives them more time to clarify misunderstandings: the number of approaches is a big leap from Year 12, globalisation is more pronounced in crime, concepts such as victimology need second explanations.

This is very much an introductory lesson on crime. As a Starter I get students to list as many crimes as they can (this can be very enlightening!) and then board blast their responses trying to get at least one response from each student. It’s also worth asking students how many crimes they have on their lists and maybe picking a few from the lower end first. It gives them a sense of accomplishment if they get a question right, plus, there is always they one student who knows a bizarre crime that dates back to the Magna Carta (dying in Parliament and not being able to eat Mince pies on Christmas day are personal favourites). This can be followed up with weird laws around the world – to illustrate the social context of deviance.

Secondly, I look at what constitutes crime what is deviant, what is both criminal and deviant and also what is criminal but not deviant. I use Venn diagrams to get a bit of Maths in, but it’s always interesting to see what students believe is deviant behaviour. You can also give them scenarios that illustrate criminal or deviant acts. My favourite is asking them if I came into work in my Speedos would that be criminal or deviant. It’s slightly concerning how many of them think it is only because I’m a teacher.

From this point I would look at some of the social factors that define deviance: Age, Gender, Ethnicity, Social Class. Whilst it is similar to revisiting norms and values in the beginning, more capable students notice that deviant behaviour differs on class. The Tory party leadership race and it’s seemingly bragging rights about drug use is a perfect example of class differences. Hopefully, you won’t be ringing safeguarding after this lesson.

As assessment, you could either hand out a series of scenarios and get students to discuss criminal or deviant behaviour. Lots of examples to use here for time, gender, sexuality etc. Examples of Alan Turing and Nelson Mandela are particularly powerful to students.


Lesson 3 (1.5 hours)

Aim: Introduce Durkheim’s views on Crime

I always follow the same format when doing Crime: Theories, differences based on characteristics, media, globalisation, then control and punishment. There is a method to my madness as doing theory first allows them to apply these ideas to the social characteristics. It also gives me an early opportunity to recap on their previous knowledge.

Starter: Leave the term Functionalism on the board (centre) and ask student to recall as many terms/ideas/theorists as they can linked to Functionalism. Stick a timer on an interactive whiteboard – 10 mins max. Then a quick ‘around the room’ to see how many key concepts/ideas/theorists each student has. Slightly controversial, but I always start with the person with the lowest number. As I go through the class I ask probing questions and within another ten minutes or so the board is full of Functionalist concepts. Those who had few have more, those that got the tougher concepts have a bit of status. Everybody’s a winner.

The key things to focus on from the board-blast are Durkheim and having a positive approach to society. This leads into a bit of exposition about Durkheim’s ideas of Boundary Maintenance and Adaptation and Change.  Teaching in Liverpool as I have been, the concept of Boundary Maintenance can then be reinforced through a series of images. Hillsborough, Rhys Jones, Anthony Walker, James Bulger are four of the images I use. Others…Manchester Bombing, 9/11, Lee Rigby, Grenfell, sadly in recent times the list gets longer. Get the students to discuss what happened in the aftermath of these events. What can they remember about the media coverage? What laws changed? You could give them articles to discuss or even show twitter feed reactions (be careful on that!) but student quickly pick up that heinous crimes reinforce social boundaries and bring us together. Having taught in Liverpool for a long time, some of the student’s own stories about their families in these incidents sometimes is more powerful than any text book.

Then I move onto Durkheim second Function. Good set of images for these: women’s liberation, Stonewall, Apartheid/American Civil Rights Movement, more contemporary…Extinction Rebellion. Students need to understand that deviance can lead to positive changes. That the law is not always fair. Again, articles and discussion.

At this point, I often leave them to research different movements to get a better understanding of how deviance leads to social change. It’s quite good for shaking the cobwebs off Durkheim and getting students to see him not as a conservative force, but as somebody who promoted evolution of society.

Lesson 4  (1 hours)

Aim: Analyse and Evaluate Durkheim’s view of Crime

The second shorter lesson of the week is one in which I look to wrap up Durkheim ideas. As a starter, I would use the following, adapted question from a previous AQA paper:

Outline and briefly explain 2 functions society performs for society (4)

This gives me time to settle students in and check whether their learning is retained. This is a simple peer assessment task with a couple of options put up on the whiteboard from an adapted mark scheme. This can be monitored quite easily by checking on answers/marking of the peer verbally. Takes no more than 10 minutes of the lesson.

The main body is to introduce a discussion of what harm does crime do to society. Students can openly discuss their ideas (some may go off on an archaic tangent) but I would board blast their ideas before introducing the idea that Durkheim viewed crime as a warning sign that society is not functioning correctly. It is important to ask students at this point – why? Why does criminal behaviour affect the functioning of society? What are the impacts of criminal behaviour? It takes some prompting to get students to get the point, but sociology is about discussion and exploring why things happen.

On a lighter note, I introduce some of the other minor functionalists points of view, such as Polsky and Davis’s ideas on pornography and prostitution. This usually elicits a few responses from students – particularly if you ask is pornography useful for society! I’m aware that my teaching style may not work for everyone here, but part of my appeal as a teacher is being just on the edge.

In evaluating these ideas put forward by Durkheim, Polsky and Davis it’s worth looking at the SCALE model that was adapted for Tutor 2 U. Ask students the following:

Strengths – What are the strengths of the research?

Criticisms – What are the criticisms of the research?

Alternatives – What are the alternative explanations?

Limitations – What does it not explain?

Evidence – Is there any further research to support/criticise?


That would be my first week teaching Year 13. Hopefully my advice is useful, as this was my first entry it was a long one so you can understand my own teaching methodology. Future instalments, hopefully will be as little less exhaustive.

Best of Luck for the new term

The Sociology Guy.






About the author

Sociology teacher trying to change the world one cohort at a time. Sometimes flippant, often miserable, but always focused on opening the eyes of students to the complexities of the world we live in.

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