Remember this? # 1 – Collective Memory

This activity, which can be used to create a real buzz in the classroom, is actually one of the “Leading in Learning” ideas we originally looked at some time ago. It has since been used to good effect in some departments, and may well be worth revisiting in others.

Pupils work in small teams to recreate a piece of stimulus material such as a map, picture, diagram, photograph, advert, poem, sheet of music or other suitable item.  This can only be seen in a certain part of the teaching area. Each team sends one member up to look at it for 10 seconds. They then return to their groups and start to produce a copy of the original, explaining to the rest of their group what they have seen. After a set period of time (30 seconds works well), the next group member should go up to look at the image. This person will then add further details to the group’s copy. As the group members each become more familiar with what they are trying to recreate, they should start to reflect on how their version is progressing and to plan future visits accordingly. After a few turns each, the pupils are asked to compare their versions with the original, or with each others.

What have the students got out of all this?

  • They have practised observing something closely.
  • They have had to hold details in their minds and should remember them better as a result.
  • They have practised describing and explaining the material.
  • They have practised reflecting on their progress.
  • They have practised planning ahead.
  • They have developed their group-work skills.

Simple Starters # 2 – 30 seconds

This simple starter could be used either to bring knowledge back to the surface in preparation for further work on it, or to open up thinking on a new topic. It can also inject energy and pace into your lesson from the outset.

Show an image on the screen. Give the whole class a few seconds to look at it, then select one person who must talk about it for 30 seconds.


Their commentary can include any of the following:

1. A description of what they can see.
2. An explanation of what they can see.
3. Questions about what they can see.

Just two rules:
1. No pausing or padding (e.g. um … , like …, you know …, er…);
2. No repetition.

I tend to use lollipop sticks here too – everyone gets a chance to look at the picture, then one person is randomly selected to discuss it.

You could use the initial commentary to generate further discussion of the topic, or you could use it to review skills, particularly the ability to ask pertinent questions when understanding is lacking. See this page for more advice on leading discussions.