Stumped on how to make lessons more interesting? Teachers share their ideas, including X marks, delve into delta, be a blockbuster and ring the changes
Ages 7 to 11
I use an interactive whiteboard for all lessons and have developed the following idea as a plenary fun game or mental oral starter to revise previous work — the children all love it. I’ve made a large noughts and crosses grid and display on it what we are doing.
We have two teams of boys v girls who can only claim their square if they complete the challenge correctly. I ask a pupil to come to the board, pick a square and complete the challenge, and they then drag the appropriate symbol into place on the board. Just as in noughts and crosses, the winning team is the first to get three in a row.
This is a simple game with endless possibilities.
Sharonlisa Freeley teaches at William Austin Junior School in Luton, Bedfordshire
Delve into data
Data collection can be difficult to arrange as a full-time class teacher and subject leader.
Try adapting the key stage 2 database units of work so the pupils collect and analyse the data with you. Explain the type of data you need — for example, pupils’ opinions on reading and writing. Have them work in mixed ability groups to design a questionnaire, conduct the
survey by interviewing pupils across the school, create a database with their own fields and enter the results. I arranged for Year 3 to investigate reading while Year 4 gathered information about writing. The pupils then analysed the data and created bar graphs and pie charts of the results. The work was displayed in a central location to be shared with the other pupils.
Catherine Caldwell is deputy headteacher at Weston Primary School in Hertfordshire
Ages 8 to 11
Be a blockbuster
Using film is a great way to capture pupils’ imaginations. I have made my own films to introduce new topics, with the help of Windows Movie Maker. I created a video of myself as a secret agent who pupils needed to contact to obtain information for a mission.
The video showed me (in black tie and jacket, of course) explaining the mission to them. When the person on screen asked a question, I would answer it from the classroom. Pupils thought this was great fun, and they produced some excellent newspaper reports based on the mission. Although using Movie Maker can take a little time at first, quality short films can be produced in the classroom with a little practice.
Martin Van Hecke is a Year 6 teacher at Higher Lane Primary School in Bury, Manchester
Ages 11 to 14
Why not have a display board that pupils can design themselves and publish on the popular myspace.com website? The idea is simple but effective (and free!) and helps boost social interaction, creative thinking, and organisational and technology skills. At the end of the week, I take a digital photo of the display which might include posters, original designs and decorations, and add it to the gallery. Each pupil has ownership of the board for a week and can also choose the song that plays when internet users visit the site. The pupils get a real buzz when I beam their display live from the internet on the projector. For obvious reasons, I manage the webpage myself and do not disclose personal details such as names or contact details.
Justin Talbot teaches at West Moors Middle School in Ferndown, Dorset www.myspace.com/7jt
Ages 14 to 18
Ring the changes
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em... The rule in general is to switch off your mobile phone in the classroom. But these sometimes cursed gadgets can have an educational purpose. An exploration of your mobile’s menu will reveal copious tools to help with learning, and the following activities work well in English. They can be done individually, in pairs, in groups or as a class activity if you have a data projector and speakers. Everything can be checked by the teacher. Voice recorder: use this to practise talking at length about an exam topic, to compare pronunciation with a teacher’s, to check speech volume and to simply hear what conversations sound like. No mobiles in the exam room, though. Photos and video: these are excellent for learning tenses and descriptive language. Pupils can choose what to film and photograph. Notebook: pupils can enter problem spellings that can be practised anywhere without using paper and a pen. This can also be done by saving a text to your outbox.
Ben Cope is an ESOL teacher in north-east London
Ages 14 to 16
I have recorded a five- to six- minute monologue of useful quotes and arguments for each topic pupils have covered in RE to help them revise for exams. These tracks are uploaded on to the school’s virtual learning environment. where pupils can download them on to their iPods and MP3 players. It was pleasing (if slightly amusing) to hear pupils had been listening to my voice on the way to and from school. The pupils liked this idea and, with next year’s cohort, they will design their own revision podcasts, with their best ones replacing my attempts. With any Windows package there is a sound recorder option. This is found in the accessories folder under entertainment. For under £10, you can buy a microphone headset that plugs into the back of the computer. The only problem is that the files can be quite large, as they save as Windows Media Audio (WMA). You can easily download a converter, such as iTunes, which allows you to convert them to MP3 files.
Chris Wheeler teaches RE and PSHE at Ashton on Mersey School in Cheshire
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