History is an ever-evolving subject and there is always something to read, watch or listen to in order to expand your knowledge as a practitioner. Around two months ago on Twitter I had seen several soon-to-be trainee teachers looking for ways to develop their knowledge and it made me consider how I use my ‘downtime’.
At a time when curriculum development is having a much needed revamp, where architects of curriculums are moving towards a progression model that focus on a domain of knowledge, rather than what will be on terminal examinations, it is now that we can really evaluate what we choose to include (and not include) in our everyday teaching and learning.
Most teachers will say that they are creative every day, citing how they respond to the dynamics of groups and situations which arise. However, it is good to have a reminder about the deliberate use of strategies to promote creative teaching / learning; refreshing our memories, or even meeting new options to give a creative boost to our classroom. Here are five you can use right away:
1. Creative peer feedback
When visiting a school in the Scottish Highlands, I was really impressed with a feedback hot-seating activity.
The pupils had created their own Success Criteria for designing a den, after a morning of intensive work they were asked to form a group to do their hot seating. A pupil volunteered to show their work first; the rest of the group then offered comments and questions linked to the Success Criteria, based on Tickled Pink (good features) and Green for Growth (points to develop). They were able to ask open questions like “Can you explain why you would choose to use the materials in that way?”
The pupils were really engaged in the process and took complete ownership of it giving a greater depth of dialogue and thinking to peer feedback.
A dramatic inquiry-based approach to learning, this is a great way to immerse children in the classroom experience. The teacher plans the fictional context with tasks and activities to complete, enabling them to gain a deeper understanding and experience of the topic. Pupils are cast as experts in working for a client on a commission, and complete a variety of activities, such as pupils becoming a CSI team to solve the murder of Thomas Becket.
I have seen this used in a wide range of contexts, from a class taking on the design of a National Heritage site for a local attraction with Year 7, to helping the United Nations to solve the Syrian Crisis with Sixth Formers. This Dorothy Heathcote-invented strategy is a powerful medium in the classroom. Find out more at: www.mantleoftheexpert.com
All set for a very special delivery from our client @DragonsofWales for our Mantle of the Expert. The children will become experts at caring for and raising a baby dragon. #primaryrocks pic.twitter.com/5oG43Khhf0— Teacher Glitter (@Teacherglitter) August 9, 2018
Show your class a TED Talk on a topic which they can relate to. This stimulates curiosity and puts them in the Learning Pit (www.jamesnottingham.co.uk/learning-pit), ideal given that cognitive conflict is key to engagement. Work with the pupils to create the success criteria for an attention-grabbing TED talk. This will guide their work and give the opportunity to self or peer assess.
The pupils then get the opportunity to research and prepare their own presentation. Build in some drafting and peer feedback to produce the best possible piece of work; ask their partner to review the work using the criteria; give two stars and a wish to improve the work.
The next stage is time for the pupils to work to redraft and improve. Then they need to practise the delivery of the talk - keep it timed to help them. Giving an opportunity to try out their talk with their partner offers another opportunity to improve the work and model the ongoing learning process. You then need to give a sharing opportunity to reduce the number of competitors to five. This way, you can ask a ‘celebrity judge’ to come in, listen to the talks, and give feedback. Find out more at: https://www.ted.com/talks.
4. Gold fishing
One of my all-time favourites, this encourages a diverse range of contributions to a whole-class discussion. Split your class in half. Group A gets one argument to prepare from a set of resources; this contrasts with Group B, who get the opposing argument and resources. This works well with historical debates like “Field Marshal Haig deserved his title of Butcher of the Somme”.
The two groups get a set amount of time to prepare five key points, which will enable them to talk for two minutes (use a timing which is age-appropriate - this was for Year 9). Once they have had the preparation time, arrange two concentric circles of chairs in your classroom: the inner circle facing towards your classroom walls, the outer circle facing in.
Group A sit on the inner circle chairs, while Group B then sit on the outer circle chairs so that they are in pairs sitting opposite each other. Group A then have two minutes to talk and convince their partner that they have the ‘best’ argument. Group B must listen only. Group B then gets their two minutes to convince the A partner that they have the best argument. I then get the B group to move two chairs clockwise and repeat the process. This is repeated twice more. The pupils then must switch arguments using the same talk protocol. This time they get feedback from their partner on what they many have missed. This will be a very noisy section of the lesson.
I then ask the pupils to return the furniture to the original format and take their seats. The next step is to reflect on why I may have chosen this activity - they will come up with the need to listen effectively, developing their views and reasoning. They are then fully prepared to debate the questions as a class, and write up their judgement with quality reasoning.
5. Get your perspective specs on!
When working with pupils to get a deeper understanding of different historical viewpoints, these can be a great tool. Get your pupils to design and make some ‘perspective specs’ - genuinely outrageous glasses. Then model the process with them, looking at a source like Henry VIII’s court spending. Ask them to consider what it tells them about Henry VII and his style of government? Then, in pairs, put the specs on. Half the class are to be Henry VII, the other half Henry VIII. How would they view the source differently or the same?
The physical act of putting the specs on helps pupils to understand that perspective and interpretations of the same piece of evidence can be very different. This time to explore ideas in their pairs will give them confidence in feeding back ideas as a bigger group. I usually record their views in two columns on the board to gain a collaborative class view on perspective.
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The infamous saying “tax shouldn’t be taxing” is something that I feel rings true for its synonym, to assess. Assessment is a key element of teaching and learning, both in its summative and formative forms, and enables for a review of progress. Assessment is most valuable when it translates into effective feedback which supports bespoke, personalised future-learning, both empowering students to take ownership for development and equipping teachers with the ability to facilitate this. However, with full teaching timetables, a growth in the amount of assessments set within schools, and the melting pot of other duties, it has become even more pertinent to find ways to make assessment and feedback not only effective, but also efficient.
When it comes to traditional subjects - the ones that have been taught and used effectively for centuries without the use of technology - the co-existence of old and selective use of the new seems to be the best way to innovate the curriculum. As we get to grips with the ‘new’ GCSEs and learn more about the workings of the mind and memory, check tests, dual coding, factual recall and retrieval practise are all making a comeback.
Coming to a classroom near you… Virtual Reality (or simply VR), the immersive learning experience that enables students to see, feel, and smell the past! Sound a bit futuristic? Well, VR is here to stay. Various incarnations have been used in films, medicine, science, art, leisure, and now it’s making its way into schools.