Pop-up museum

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.

  1. Create small groups within the class, who will create their museum exhibits together.
  2. Provide each group with an envelope with a few key ideas, pieces of information, maybe a website or an image to investigate further.
  3. Each group are given a tablecloth and have access to tools and resources to create museum exhibits based around their topic.
  4. 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.
  5. Once pupils have become ‘experts’ at their topic and they have made any exhibits they want to, they arrange their items on their table.
  6. As each table has a different set of exhibits, you have in no time at all, created a pop-up museum.
  7. 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.

Making learning ‘stick’

My basic teaching philosophy

In my teaching, I always seek to facilitate learning and increase independence. I like to promote teamwork within the class and I like pupils to have the opportunity to learn for themselves, not just find out answers when I stand at the front of the room and tell them. After all, what’s the point in that?

In order to do this successfully and avoid passive learning, you have to provide the right environment and resources. We live in a technological world and the current pupils we teach are all too happy to simply ask the web for the answer to a problem without really thinking for themselves. Whilst I am not in any way against technology (I am head of computing and am a keen advocate for the use of technology in lessons), I want pupils to at least have the chance to think for themselves, communicate with their peers and attempt to solve problems before asking Google.

An example of making learning ‘stick’ in a primary history lesson

In one activity I taught this week, I wanted my class to order the main periods in British history from the Bronze Age to the current day. I could have just given them a sheet with this information on, but what would the likelihood be of any of them being able to recall these facts later on that day, let alone next week? Highly unlikely I thought!

So instead, this is how I carried out this activity that meant that at the end of the week, they were able to recall these facts:

  1. Each group were given a set of historical period cards.
  2. I gave them a period of time to discuss with their group the order they thought the cards belonged in.
  3. Each table ordered the cards after coming to a consensus with the members of their group.
  4. I asked each group which time period they believed was first and last. We found that we had a consensus here – a good start!
  5. I then asked which period came after the Bronze Age – here we had vastly differing opinions amongst the groups.
  6. At this point, rather than giving them the correct order, I gave each group a tablet computer and an extended period of time to find the correct order. This encouraged teamwork and those who worked effectively with their peers ended up with more cards in the correct order than those who had struggled. (If you don’t have access to computers, the information could be provided in the form of text books or information from the web printed and placed around the classroom.) Whilst some pupils chose to search each time period individually, those who chose to search instead for an online timeline of these periods found the answers to their problems more speedily.
  7. Once the time was up, we went through the order together as a class. Those who had any cards in the wrong places were encouraged to move the cards around so as to have a full set of cards in the correct order.

The pupils enjoyed this activity and several days later, when I asked them to recall the correct order, collectively they were able to do this.

By creating activities that are memorable and involve discussion with peers and pupils actively participating in the learning, it makes sense that the learning ‘sticks’.

Promoting teamwork during activities

One of my favourite tools to do this is the Class Dojo app – an online reward system. I edit the rewards to promote teamwork and make sure that the app is visible on my board during these types of activities. Additionally, I use raffle tickets to reward characteristics of learning, such as teamwork or independence, depending on its suitability to the activity.

Using QR code to increase engagement

The children we teach are constantly surrounded by technology. They are used to finding out instantly what they want to know at the touch of a button, as most of them will have a smart phone or tablet to hand. QR (quick response) codes can be used effectively to engage pupils, who may prefer to engage with their phones and social media as opposed to their work, especially for homework.qrcode

Some teachers may find the idea of introducing QR codes into their teaching as daunting, or perhaps even unnecessary, but when you consider how easy they are to generate, combined with the high interest from pupils that they generate, I would recommend their implementation as a fantastic way of increasing engagement in learning.

What are QR codes?

A QR code is like a bar code and it contains information. You can easily generate your own to show information you want them to see. When they are scanned by someone (a pupil) that information will be displayed to them.

How QR codes can be used:

There are plenty of websites that allow you to create your own QR codes. I use http://goqr.me/ but there are many other alternatives.

I tend to use QR codes in two ways: to take a pupil to a website and to display a piece of text.

You can add printed QR codes to your displays to link to class blogs or additional information. Additionally, they can be used as a way of increasing engagement and communication with parents by displaying QR links to topics being studied in class. You could send home printed QR codes of these topics to parents if your classroom environment or school routines (e.g. maybe parents don’t wait by the classroom to collect their child) prevent you being able to display the QR codes in a place easily accessible to parents.

QR codes in lessons:

If you are fortunate enough to have access to a class set of iPads or tablets, or your school allows pupils to use their own devices, then a simple QR scanner app would mean that you could introduce QR codes into your lessons, instantly making them seem more appealing to pupils. You could be setting what could be seen by many as a fairly mundane task, e.g. answering questions, but the technology element would elevate its interest to your pupils.

You may have heard of QR treasure hunts, where pupils answer questions from QR codes around the school. Websites like this: http://www.classtools.net/QR/ make a QR treasure hunt an easy lesson to organise. The most time-consuming element would probably be putting the QR codes up around the school! Adding a small incentive for completing the task first, (e.g. house points, raffle tickets or something that fits in with your own school’s behaviour system) you may find that pupils who would normally struggle to complete tasks, will be more successful in this activity due to its competitive nature and the added element of moving around the school.

QR codes for homework:

You can use QR codes in a similar way to how you would in a lesson. One way would be to give them a sheet with printed QR codes that lead to questions being displayed. They then bring their answers back to school or write them on an answer sheet that you provide them with.

I find that pupils are much more likely to visit a website that I provide to them in the form of a QR code, than as a URL. You avoid typos this way and the time spent in accessing the homework is reduced (something that will also appeal to your pupils!).

Sometimes I produce a sheet of QR codes that lead to additional websites that aren’t necessary to complete the task but are related to the topic we are learning about. I find pupils are more likely to engage with this additional information when they can scan it on their smart phone and browse at their leisure than if I give them a list of websites. If you provide a list of websites, pupils will have an idea from the URL what it is you are asking them to access. However, if you provide a sheet of QR codes with no additional information about where they lead, they will be far more likely to visit all of them, therefore engaging with far more material than they might initially choose to.

Flipped or blended learning

If you are in an environment where you are able ‘flip the classroom’ (supportive parents, engaged children, home access to internet etc.), you may find the use of QR codes a useful tool.

You could generate QR codes that link to videos, photographs, websites or texts and if not providing a hard copy of these to your pupils, you could always add the QR codes to your school’s VLE (if you have one) so that they are stored for future use.

More exciting than learning from text books!

text bookI recently read an article by Doug Belshaw (5 ways to make’ textbook lessons’ more interesting) which made me think about what I do in my classroom.

Text books contain a wealth of information that shouldn’t be overlooked. A more ‘old-style’ way of learning (‘turn to page 27 and answer all the questions’) can be turned into a far more exciting experience with a competitive element.

You can do this type of activity with any subject. I have used it in Science, History, Geography, RE and reading comprehension (making answering mock SATs reading questions more interesting).

To make this activity more competitive, provide the questions one at a time and reinforce the idea that they can’t have the next question until the first is correct.

How I do this in my classroom:

I take questions (perhaps from text books; perhaps some of my own) and have a set of them for each group cut up so that each question can be handed out individually. I also tend to have the questions on brightly coloured card (partly because I am a primary teacher; partly because it makes it easier to track which question each group is on).

I have a range of information that I arrange around the room. The information contains the answers for the questions, so there is no reason why all pupils can’t achieve. I have information on tables (maybe text books) and other information (from the internet) on walls, doors, and any other space I can find around the room.

I provide all groups with the first question. They then need to answer this and either tell me or write it on an answer grid before showing me. If correct, I then hand over the next question. There are obviously many ways of doing this, but one way I like to engage the lower ability pupils in mixed ability groups is to assign them the job of telling me the answer. I normally give them some kind of title (e.g. ‘the question collector’), as this elevates their importance within the group, and seems to increase their competitiveness.

Bizarrely, pupils don’t seem to realise that all they are doing is reading through information and answering questions, and instead become really engaged and extremely competitive. They really want to ‘win’ and beat all the other groups. They improve their skimming and scanning skills when it comes to finding the information; they learn what they need to know and are more likely to remember it as they will remember the activity. This activity allows them to take more responsibility for their own learning, increases independence and it is easy and quick for me to organise and facilitate.

This is an example of a style of lesson that easily adapts to a range of topics and subjects and doesn’t take days of planning to arrange.

With this type of activity, where I am trying to encourage effective teamwork, I will very often use a reflective activity at the end to evaluate how well they have individually participated, such as using raffle tickets, where I assign each group a number of raffle tickets or house points (more than children in each group) and they have to discuss who deserves them. I find pupils to be very honest and realistic when doing this, but obviously this takes some training.

Use of computers / tablets for research in lessons

SurfaceA 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.

Last Man Standing

whiteboard 2This 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.

  1. 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).
  2. After the time is up, one member of each group stands up.
  3. 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).
  4. 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.

Mini Whiteboards

whiteboardUsing 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.

Wristbands for group work and jigsawing

wristbandsI 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.

  1. Pupils are in groups and learn about a topic or concept.
  2. Pupils form new groups with a representative of each topic from each of the original groups.
  3. All pupils should have learnt about each of the topics.
  4. 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.

 

Photocopier

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.

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.