Contribution tokens

CountersUsing counters or some other type of token, pupils should collect a token when they contribute in a discussion or group activity.

Each token could equate to some kind of reward.

This is particularly effective if you have pupils who are engaged with the school or class reward system but often choose not to participate in group discussions or activities.

You could develop it so that other members of the group decide whether the contribution was worthy of a token.


Photocopier is an activity that is useful when you want a pupil to end up with a copy of something. This could be a map, a diagram, a piece of text, or anything that suits you.

An example would be a science lesson where you want all pupils to have a diagram of a heart drawn with key words added. Pupils visit you as you have the only copy. You allow them to only see a small amount of the diagram or a key word before sending them back to their partner or group to draw a copy of it. Pupils return repeatedly until they have an accurate ‘photocopy’ of the diagram. It should include accurate spellings of key words and look the same as the original.

This can be done individually or in pairs or groups easily.

This type of activity works well when you want pupils to engage more with something perhaps when it would have been easy to just give them a photocopy in the first place. The repeated visits to the original and limited time should mean that pupils become competitive, wanting to complete their copy before their peers, in addition to having a greater understanding than they perhaps would have just by sticking in a sheet.

EMW: Early Morning Work

To create a calm classroom environment as pupils arrive in the morning, introduce Early Morning Work. Pupils enter the room, follow the directions on the board, and work on the task they have been directed towards.

Ideas for EMW:
Times tables
Basic maths operations
Write down an adjective for every letter of the alphabet
Countdown maths or letters
Countdown conundrum or anagram

EMW can be organised to suit any age group and fit in with your curriculum. You may want to encourage participation by rewarding pupils for participation using a reward system that they are engaged with. Pupils could complete tasks on a mini whiteboard or book to keep track of their EMW. You may just want them to complete tasks in their rough books or something similar.

Carrot lessons

Wee Free MenThis idea is based on the Terry Pratchett book, The Wee Free Men, where teachers come to the village and set up lessons in tents. People then decide what education they want and gain education in return for vegetables and eggs. It is taken from an example lesson shown to me when I was studying for my PGCE at the University of Cumbria in Lancaster, but I can’t remember the name of the particular tutor.

The more the class get used to these types of lessons, the better the results will be.

Preparation lesson: Become an expert
Pupils become an ‘expert’ in a topic, e.g. Anglo Saxon homes. The class is split into several topics so you may have 4 or 5 pupils becoming experts in the same topic. Pupils use resources, e.g. books, Internet printed information, Internet access to learn more about their topic. At the end of this time, they should be confident enough to teach others this topic.

Tip:If you do this on a different day to the main carrot lesson, pupils may go home and research further on their topic.

Carrot lesson: Ask an expert
I set the classroom out with tables in a circle with one seat on each side of each table. I split the class into ‘teachers’ and ‘learners’ and half of the ‘teachers’ with a mixture of expertise on topics sit on the outside of the circle. The other half become ‘learners’.

Learners have a sheet, booklet or book to collect information. Teachers have their original information and a whiteboard and whiteboard pen to help them with their teaching.

I give each teacher 5 minutes to teach the learner sitting opposite them. When the time is up (I have a timer on the board) the learner moves on to learn about a different topic and the teacher teaches a new learner. I repeat this 4/5 times so that each learner has an opportunity to be taught each topic.

When those teachers have taught, each pupil who has been learning the topics collects 5 laminated carrots. They then distribute their carrots however they choose to the teachers who have provided them with the best, most interesting education. They can give 5 to one teacher or 1 to each teacher. It is up to them but I always emphasise that carrots are for good education and not for friends! I also ask learners to ask their teachers questions.

Pupils then switch roles. Teachers become learners; learners become teachers and the whole process is repeated.

We collect the number of carrots on a ‘carrot spreadsheet’ so we can keep track of our carrots in each carrot lesson. The aim is that the next time we have a carrot lesson, they receive more carrots. Normally pupils realise that they didn’t use their initial ‘becoming an expert’ lesson effectively and in general pupils receive more carrots in a later lesson.

For pupils who were absent in the initial ‘becoming an expert’ lesson are placed at an ‘information station’ – a table with resources about one of the topics – where they become an expert in that topic for the first part of the lesson. They are then able to become a teacher and earn carrots for the quality of education they are providing.

For lower ability children, I pair them up with another child so that they are able to fully access the content of the lesson and don’t become disengaged.

See lessons are particularly good for humanities topics but could be used in any way where pupils are required to learn about something in particular.

Stars for independence

This idea is taken from Talk Less Teaching and I have found it to be particularly effective at encouraging independence.

Give each pupil 3 stars at the start of the day/lesson.

To encourage pupils to solve problems independently and avoid running to the teacher at the earliest opportunity, promote C3B4UCME (brain, book, buddy, boss).

When a pupils asks a question that they could have solved themselves, take away a star. Soon, you will notice far fewer questions that could have been solved independently.

You can associate a reward with the stars, e.g. the number of stars you have remaining at the end of the day/lesson could equal the number of house points they are awarded.

Raffle tickets to encourage participation

RaffleDuring the lesson/activity:
To encourage engagement in a group activity, use raffle tickets or a similar token. A raffle ticket could equal a house point or something else that acts as an incentive.

Pupils should be aware of how the raffle tickets are used prior to activities beginning.

Throughout the lesson/activity, move around the room awarding raffle tickets for excellent work, ideas, contribution or initiative – any quality that you want to promote and encourage.

End of an activity:
Award each group more raffle tickets than members. The group then need to agree who deserves most raffle tickets for their contribution. They are then distributed however the group chooses. Pupils need to be trained how to do this and to avoid giving raffle tickets to their friends.

At the end of the week, you can hold a raffle for a small prize or just use the raffle tickets as an equivalent for house points or another reward that fits into the school behaviour policy.