Friday, 12 June 2015

New ideas for lackluster lessons

Is your inspiration running dry trying to keep pupils interested?
TES expert Gererd Dixie answers your questions on how to add some creativity at class time

Creativity in mixed ability settings

How can I introduce creativity in a reading class for readers of varying abilities? A typical reading project for my readers, most averse to reading, might be to read Harper Lee's “To Kill A Mockingbird"
Gererd Dixie: One of the things I know works is to use TV soaps to launch such topics as prejudice, bigotry, discrimination using characters that the pupils know well and feel strongly about evokes an emotional response which goes a long way to supporting learning. The limbic brain is the middle part of the brain that deals with our emotions and long-term memory and which asks, "What's in it for me?" If pupils watch soaps they get emotionally involved with the characters and there is real ownership of their behaviour. So if you're dealing with prejudice/racism it's best to start off using characters that pupils care about. The idea then would is to get your pupils to care about the characters in the books that you are studying. Thus evoking a similar emotional tie.

Addressing the needs of girls and boys

I am a trainee English teacher. I wanted to know how to bring creativity in the classroom when I have a class where 90% are boys without leaving the girls out?
Gererd Dixie: It helps to have a knowledge of the neo-cortex, the thinking and processing part of the brain, which is divided into two hemispheres. The left hemisphere focuses on language, logic, analysis and works in sequential manner and builds the whole from parts. Left-brain learners prefer structured tasks, explicit instructions, written information and to work in a logical linear way.
The right hemisphere focuses on visualisation, imagination, rhyme and rhythm and working from the whole picture to individual parts. Most but not all are right brain learners and therefore prefer open ended tasks, self selected tasks, working from intuition and following hunches and guesses. This is why your girls are better at coursework then your boys who generally can't be bothered to go through the whole process when they can answer the question in one sentence verbally in class.
So what can you do to cater for the boys without alienating the girls? One thing you can do is to plan some lessons from a right brain perspective. You could ask the class to provide you with an educated guess or hunch as to the answer to a question you've asked. For example - if I'm teaching about the locational factors involved in siting a reservoir I could use a left-brain approach and take each factor in turn and bore the pants off the pupils.
Or I could simply put a range of photos around the room and ask pupils to stand by the photo which they feel most represents the best site for a reservoir. By doing this I am asking pupils to make hunches or educated guesses to respond to the question being posed. Once more information has been given I then allow pupils to change their position if they change their mind about the location.
This process allows pupils to show their intuition which is often right but even when this is not the case the pupils are hooked into the activity.
The other thing you could do is to present a class with a common learning objective and learning outcomes and provide them with a menu of tasks from which to choose. A nice touch would be to actually use a restaurant menu format to do this.

Thinking outside the box with ICT

I'm training to teach ICT - some units of which are very creative, but others are less so e.g. spreadsheets - any ideas for making the less creative units more so?
Gererd Dixie: How about this - take your class down to the hall and draw out a big filing cabinet using string or rope making sure each filing draw is clearly labelled with a specific category. issue pupils with descriptor cards and get them to go and stand in the appropiate filing draw. No doubt some pupils will get the classification wrong but this will provide ample fodder for discussion.
Do you have any technology tips to help bring out my creativity in history lessons?
Gererd Dixie: One thing that I have seen work really well in lessons is where pupils are provided with an opportunity to vote on issues being discussed in the lesson. Examples of the ‘classroom response/voting sytsem’ are - Activote, activ-expression and ezclickpro. For example if you were voting about who would be the best person to take over the throne from King edward the Confessor you could use such a system. I believe they are expensive but it might be a wise ‘whole-school' purchase which you might be able to book up on occasions.

Subject-specific ideas

Could you point me in the direction of some ideas for cross-curricular PE lessons?
Gererd Dixie: The first thing that comes to mind is the link between sport and politics/history. Eg. Jesse Owen’s famous victory in Munich during Hitler’s time, the boycott of British athletes in the Russian Olympics during the Cold War. The boycott (no pun intended) of the England cricket team playing in South Africa during the Apartheid period, The use of the Olympic platform made by Michael X when giving his Black Power salute. The list is endless.
I would also imagine that there are numerous links between PE and biology - in terms of biorhythms, diet, exercise, health etc but I guess these are the obvious ones. How about getting pupils to plot major sporting teams on to a map. Alternatively you could explore the link between science and sport posing questions about the degree to which it is possible to compare modern day performances with those that took place in the past.
I’m an NQT English teacher. Do you have any tips to help me make my lessons more fun for pupils?
Gererd Dixie: How about designing some ‘dingbats’ for your pupils? These are pictures and words that together help to create a key term or phrase.
If you have seen ‘Catchphrase’ you will know what I mean. For example in my geography lesson I would draw a picture of two cola cans and ask them which rainforest bird this represents – answer Toucan. How bad is that! If you Google ‘dingbats I am sure you will come up with loads of ideas. It would be even better if your pupils could design these themselves. I find this is an excellent way of getting pupils to learn key terms and phrases and have used these in Year 7 classes right the way through to Year 13s where the terminology gets a lot more complicated.
If you want further ideas on creative starters and on how to cater for right brain and left brain learners etc then read Section 12 of the Ultimate Teaching Manual’ available from all good book shops.
One thing you could do is to get your pupils to plan their own starters and to have a go at delivering these in front of an audience – then evaluate the degree they were able to teach and make themselves heard. A bit of empathy never hurt anyone. Hope I have given you a taste of the sorts of things you could do.

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