A member of staff said to me at INSET last Friday that all they wanted from INSET was to take away at least one idea to make their teaching better or their lessons more exciting. I agree and this was my favourite idea: a pop-up museum. This came from an inspirational talk from Mandie Haywood, a headteacher from a primary school in Telford. Not only did her school sound like a great place to work – always reinventing the curriculum to make it relevant to today’s learners – but their lessons and activities sounded like so much fun and reminded me why it was that I had chosen to become a primary school teacher. Also they make incredibly good music videos, like they did with this one to celebrate Tim Peake’s space adventure.
I will certainly be using this idea in the future. So here it is:
The pop-up museum
For a lesson with some element of investigation and research, where pupils are being asked to learn about something they haven’t previously had experience of, this is ideal.
- Create small groups within the class, who will create their museum exhibits together.
- Provide each group with an envelope with a few key ideas, pieces of information, maybe a website or an image to investigate further.
- Each group are given a tablecloth and have access to tools and resources to create museum exhibits based around their topic.
- Time is provided for pupils to research – maybe using tablets or the web to gather more information. Alternatively books or pre-printed information from the web can give groups a head-start.
- Once pupils have become ‘experts’ at their topic and they have made any exhibits they want to, they arrange their items on their table.
- As each table has a different set of exhibits, you have in no time at all, created a pop-up museum.
- Pupils are then free to browse the museum, reading the information and looking at the exhibits at each table.
Ideas to extend this:
- Maybe QR codes could be used to link to additional information about the topic.
- Use homework or projects to provide additional time for this project.
- Write recounts of their ‘visit’ to the museum. Perhaps even open it up to different year groups or classes.
- Other year groups could also create their own pop-up museums at the same time so that the entire school are able to experience a wide range of topics.
A few years ago, I attended an INSET with Chris Moyse (@ChrisMoyse) about independent learning. One of the things I took from it was the use of computers for research within lessons (I think pupils had been asked to find specific answers to questions). In the scenario given, pupils had to find answers to a range of questions in the context of a Science lesson and given the opportunity, pupils would go straight to the computer instead of accessing the other resources provided to find answers. Their skills when it came to the effective use of a search engine were slightly lacking and as a result, pupils who had opted to use the other resources provided (printed information and books) were far more successful in the task.
A great focus in my teaching is in creating an environment that benefits and encourages independent learning, and in facilitating learning, without me constantly standing at the front talking at pupils.
I am fortunate in that I have access to tablet computers for use in class, without having to relocate to a computer room. Bearing in mind what I learnt from Chris, in research-based lessons, I provide a range of resources (books, printed information, sometimes a list of websites etc.) but I also provide access to a few (2 or 3) tablet computers. Whilst sometimes I find that it is beneficial to provide each group with one or more tablets, in the type of lesson I refer to, I limit the time pupils can access the tablets for to a 5 minute period. (I provide stopwatches for timing, and if the IWB isn’t needed for other uses, I have the number of interactive stopwatches that I have tablet computers displayed on the board). This means that all pupils in the class are aware when they can access the internet if they choose to. They write their names down on the board so there is an obvious order to the computer time, and groups can decide whether or not the use of the computer is beneficial to them. I often find that pupils initially opt for the internet, but soon find that their time is more effectively spent finding out the information in other ways.
This is an activity that can be used at any point of a lesson, in any subject, to check understanding of a topic. I find it particularly useful in Science.
- Pupils work in groups within a short time period to write down everything they know about a specific topic on one whiteboard (you could use paper).
- After the time is up, one member of each group stands up.
- Go around each group and they must say one thing from their list. They cannot hesitate or repeat anything already said. (If they do, they are out). Emphasise the importance of excellent listening skills (to avoid repetition).
- The last group with a person standing wins.
This is a very simple and very speedy activity that allows you to ascertain where pupils’ understanding is and how to move it on. It also focuses on listening skills and encourages effective group work.
If you encounter problems with participation, you could combine the activity with the ‘String web group work’ activity as an immediate visual clue as to who is struggling to fully participate in the activity.
Pupils are engaged as they want to win. I often provide house points or raffle tickets to the winning team.
Using mini whiteboards isn’t a revolutionary idea but I find that sometimes teachers forget that they have this resource to hand.
They are great for AfL in that you can immediately work out who understands a concept and who needs support, especially if you introduce basic rules, such as not showing the teacher the board until you say “Show me!” or count for them to show you. Encouraging pupils to do this will give you a more accurate understanding of who needs more help, as in a larger class, it can be easy for pupils to copy the correct answer from a fellow pupil without you seeing.
I use whiteboards constantly in Maths lessons, but I also encourage the use of them constantly in other subjects. Giving pupils the opportunity to draft ideas, mindmap or use them to support other pupils (consolidating their own understanding) will create good habits and should help pupils to produce a higher quality of work.
I find wristbands to be particularly useful when I am including jigsawing in my lessons. They are great for grouping and pupils love them! Rubber wristbands are easily found on the internet. I bought mine from Ebay.
- Pupils are in groups and learn about a topic or concept.
- Pupils form new groups with a representative of each topic from each of the original groups.
- All pupils should have learnt about each of the topics.
- Pupils go back to their original groups to share what they have learnt and consolidate their learning.
All red pupils learn about a specific topic or concept, whilst pupils with a different coloured band learn about something else. It is then easy to form new groups with pupils of each different colour. They are then able to share their knowledge of each topic or concept so that by the end of the time, all pupils should have learnt everything you need them to.
Problems can occur when pupils have not spent their initial learning time effectively as this can mean that some groups do not benefit from all the knowledge you intend them to gain. Ideas for overcoming this include pairing up pupils (particularly effective for lower ability pupils); giving each group time to discuss and summarise their topic before imparting what they have learnt on the other groups; providing the newly formed groups with additional resources to support them in learning about the additional topics that they weren’t originally responsible for.
I find that providing additional time at the end for the original groups to reform provides an opportunity for pupils to reinforce and consolidate their understanding of the different topics. It also prevents any pupils being disadvantaged by being in the second group with any pupils who may have originally been disengaged in their part of the information gathering.
Using 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.
During 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.
This idea is taken from Talk Less Teaching and I have found it to be extremely useful.
To encourage all members of a group to participate, use wool or string during the discussion. Every time a person speaks, they take the ball of string/wool. This tracks who is participating easily from a distance for the benefit of the teacher, who can view participants in the different groups and ensure every child is taking an active role in the group. It also has the benefit of making all pupils aware that the teacher can track their participation easily so they are more likely to feel under pressure to take an active role rather than sit back and let the other members of he group do all the work.
You could reward pupils (e.g. with raffle tickets that are used to enter them in a prize draw. Alternatively, with house points or equivalent) by giving each pupil a reward equivalent to their contribution, e.g. 4 raffle tickets for 4 contributions.
This is an idea I came across in Osiris Educational‘s Outstanding Teaching: Engaging Learners. When gathering ideas and discussing as a group, each group has a piece of paper with a circle in the centre. They put all ideas they generate on the outside of the circle. These are initial ideas and the group don’t have to agree with everything written down.
The next stage of the activity is to come to a consensus. They discuss the ideas they have generated. Any ideas that they all agree on are written inside the circle.
By the end of the activity, the circles should be filled with ideas that pupils have narrowed down and come to a consensus on.
Helpful for improving thinking skills and developing group work.