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Sunday, 20 April 2014

Reflections of my Most Memorable Lessons

am a thinker,  my mind is constantly mulling over something. All day and all night I think. I have always been a bit like this but it seems to be worse the older I get. I also do much of my thinking when I'm away from school at half terms etc. I wouldn't say I worry I just think, contemplate and mull constantly! At the moment these thoughts are mainly about my Mum (who has Altzheimers), my two daughters, one of whom is pregnant whilst the other is about to go for a job interview, my husbands new business (driving school) my Grandson (whose school recently had a bad Osted report) and obviously my job. My blog has become a good way to turn my reflections, my school ones anyway, into something useful. 

My recent thoughts about school have been about some of my most memorable lessons. They are all memorable for different reasons but perhaps the most common theme is the fun I had teaching them, or in facilitating them, and the pleasure my pupils seemed to get out of them too. They are my lesson 'teaching moments' the ones that make it all worth while! 

Murder Mystery - this was a writing stimulus lesson culminating from a Literacy unit about mysteries and detective stories. It was with a boy heavy, reluctant writers, year 6 group. In the lead up to this lesson we had read a selection of detective stories about some of the great detectives and watched many clips from detective films and tv programmes. The detectives that proved the most popular were Columbo, Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple and for the fun factor Inspector Clouseau. 

The children were greeted at the end of break time with the classroom door taped off. They had no idea what was happening. My TA and myself told them there had been an 'incident' and that when we entered the classroom they were not to touch anything as they would be entering a crime scene! There was a real initial buzz of excitement. All of them, except for one knew instinctively it was a set up but completely fell into the role play without prompting. Upon entering they were greeted by the taped outline of a body. They were then put into groups and were set the task of solving different clues. They were given hair, blood and textile samples (taken from the scene) as well as interviews of witnesses and fingerprints. They rotated around each set of clues recording their groups results. After every group had analysed their results they a prime suspect was agreed upon. The results were revealed to great excitement. The pupils were then set the task of writing their own murder mystery. This took place in the next lesson.

Viking Thing

This lesson was with a lively year 3 group as part of a topic based upon the Vikings in our local area. A Viking 'thing' is a Viking assembly where all of the town would get together to discuss major issues. A place called 'Thingwall' which is very local to our school was actually the site of a real Viking assembly. 

This lesson was also very ably supported by my TA who along with me stayed 'in role' for the whole lesson. Each of the pupils was given a Viking, first and family name, by which they were addressed for the whole lesson. They had researched their 'character' in the lead up to this lesson and knew where they lived, what job they did and who their family members were. The purpose (objective) was to understand some of the reasons that the Vikings left their homelands. 

Upon entering the classroom the scene was set. A message was delivered (by the TA) a tyrant King was on the rampage through the region taking everything for his own. Money, land and property. The villagers had a 'thing' to decide upon the best action. They were given the following options: 
Stay and surrender - giving over their possessions etc and agreeing to work for a new king. 
Fight the tyrannt King and his army - in the hope of winning and sending the survivors on their way. 
Flee - leaving for another country (England) and starting again. 

Once the options were given the pupils got together in their family groups to decide what they should do. They all had to agree the best course of action for the whole family. The 'in role' discussions were brilliant. The pupils were genuinely in role and discussing the options quite seriously. 

Just as they thought they had decided what to do a new 'message' arrived. The tyrannt king along with his army was enslaving those who chose to stay and murdering those who decided to fight. Off they went again to decide and on their return they had to try to persuade the rest of the village to agree with them. This led to a whole class debate! By the end of the lesson the pupils had a real understanding of some of the reasons Vikings left their homelands.

Potions Class

This was a maths capacity lesson with a year 3 class. The objective was to recognise non standard and standard units of measure for capacity and to read a variety of scale. It began with a problem. A wizard had cast a spell on the classroom which meant that all break and lunch times would be cancelled unless they made a magic potion to stop the spell. Teacher, TA and other supporting adults were dressed as witches and a huge cauldron was placed in the middle of the room, complete with bubbling sound effect. 

Each, maths ability group were given a part of the potion to create, which was differentiated. They were told the potion had to be absolutely accurate if the spell was to be broken. They worked together as a group adding carefully measured quantities of various concoctions (food dye worked really well here) some groups had to add large quantities and others very minute quantities, some groups worked alone and others with an adult adding to the differentiation. There was a real buzz in the room with all pupils really engaged in the measuring and reading of scales as they knew it had to be absolutely accurate. 

Once the group concoctions were complete they all had to be added one by one to the class cauldron in the middle of the room. Each group had to describe how they had created their concoction. Sound clips played as each concoction was added which provided lots of tension and realism. 

Once the class potion was complete a pre recorded video clip was played telling the class the spell had been broken because the potion was so accurate and they were promptly released for break. The class erupted into a huge cheer!

Richard the third 

This lesson was completely impromptu and resulted from the news that Richard the thirds skeleton had been found underneath a pub car park. It was again with year 3, year 4 in our school study the Tudors so I knew it would provide a great foundation. 

I set the scene very dramatically by telling them about the War of the Roses and the lead up to the Battle of Bosworth. They were totally enthraled by the debate between the historians and how some believed Richard was not the villain he was portrayed as. I described the tension as the skeleton was revealed bit by bit and those watching waited with bated breath to discover if Richard had actually had a 'humped' back or not as they believed if he didn't then maybe all the other things said about him may also not be true. I made them wait to discover this too, which added to the whole drama of the lesson. The discussion about the hump back also led to a whole side discussion about the way somebody looks doesn't determine whether they are good of bad. At the end of the year when I asked the pupils, as I always do, which lessons they had enjoyed the most, not enjoyed etc The Richard the third lesson came out as overall favourite lesson for the year! 

Howard Carter and Tutankhamuns tomb

This lesson was to launch a topic on the Ancient Egyptians and was with a year 6 class. The objective of the lesson was for the children to begin to understand some of the rituals behind Egyptian burials and the fears behind their openings.

The classroom was once again closed off. The windows were covered with black paper (to block out light) and several tables were covered with a black cloth creating a small, darkened tunnel. The pupils were then, in pairs, allowed into the room armed with a torch. They had to crawl through the tunnel collecting clues along the way to determine who was buried in the tomb. Placed in the tomb were a selection of artefacts and hieroglyphics, each containing a clue to the identity of the occupant. 

When everyone had passed through the tunnel the pupils got together in groups of four to reach a conclusion. We then got back together as a class and watched part of a documentary on Howard Carter and the opening of Tutankhamuns tomb. The pupils enjoyed the tunnel and clues, this then meant that they watched the documentary with much greater interest and understanding.

The Minpins

This was not really one lesson but actually a few. If was with my current year 2 class and was part of a topic called 'Down in the Woods.' The topic was originally called Teddy Bears Picnic but as I have 22 boys and 12 girls I decided to rebrand. I have read many Roald Dahl books but must admit until this year had never read The Minpins. I stumbled across it on Pinterest and am very glad I did. The story is set in the woods so fitted in really well with my topic but even better it includes a monster called The Spittler, which appealed greatly to the boys in my class. It also contains 'miniature' people that live in trees and it was this that led to a real 'magical teaching moment.' We had been reading the book over several days when I decided to create a 'Minpins' door in the beautiful tree that stands outside my classroom. This was again a Pinterest idea. 

The children came into school as normal, then we settled down to read a few more pages of our book. After a while I suggested we go outside to see if we could spot any Minpins in our tree. After a couple of minutes the door was spotted! The excitement was unbelievable, the children were chattering away, looking up into the branches to see if they could spot any Minpins. At the end of the day the children dragged their adults over to show them. The writing that came out of that lesson several days later was amazing! 

I hope these lessons provide you with some ideas for lessons in your own setting or at least lead to memories of some of the great lessons you have taught. 

I have purposefully not added 'lesson plan' links for this blog as the ideas are probably best used as a basis and adapted to your own classes needs and any objectives you may need to cover. I also have to be honest and say that my lesson plans are very brief and in some cases non existent. This is because my best lessons often evolve. I believe that creativity flows and cannot be recreated as a result of a finely scripted lesson plan. Well that's my excuse and I am sticking to it!