Deputy Headteacher Shaun Allison has shared a very simple but very effective way of making sure that the comments you make to pupils do not just go in one ear and out the other. It’s one of those ideas that is so obvious that you can’t help wondering why you never thought of it yourself. Click here for details.
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.
This activity promotes recall, but also encourages pupils to see links between information, and to justify opinions. Therefore it can be a good stimulus for debate. It could be an individual, paired or group activity.
Give out packs of cards containing key information on them, then ask the pupils to sort the cards into piles. They could, for example, be given cards bearing the flags of different European countries.
These cards could be sorted on a factual basis. For example:
- Natural resources
They could also be sorted into:
- Countries I know a lot about
- Countries I’ve heard of but don’t know much about
- Countries I’ve never heard of
Or they could be:
- Countries I really hope to visit one day
- Countries I might visit
- Countries I’d rather not visit
You get the idea!
One last suggestion: give no specific directions – just tell the pupils to sort the cards as they see fit, and then discuss the thinking behind the approach they chose. This can provide some really interesting insights into the way the pupils have responded to certain topics.
This simple starter works well as a quick revision activity. From a series of topics select two words which are peculiar to each one. Present all the words to the pupils in a random order, and ask them to spot the pairs.
A more sophisticated version of this activity can be created by selecting words where the pairs are not so obvious, or where each word could potentially be linked with several of the others on offer. Pupils are then challenged to explain the thinking behind the links that they pick out.
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.
Are your pupils struggling to produce essays with clear arguments supported by suitable evidence? It might be worth getting them to try using the “Essay Map” website. No sign up required. Check out this link.