Why simple is often best

Sometimes planning hinders my lessons. I know this sounds like an oxymoron but often the best lessons I teach are those where I go in with a vague idea and let the learning dictate where the lesson goes.

Last term the two best lessons I taught were as follows:

Year 8 – Bard Idol

In Year 8 we were studying control in the Middle Ages and had done a classic lesson on William and 1066. The kids finished the card sort I had planned very quickly leaving 20 minutes left. One student happened to ask how we knew this story and I mentioned Bayeux and then went on to discuss how history was passed on orally by bards. This made me think – could we recreate this. Quickly I whacked some Gregorian chant on the whiteboard (thank you YouTube) and explained that we would now hold a bard competition, where students had to tell the Hastings narrative in the most entertaining way. The class snowballed the competition from 4 to 8 to 3 finalists. Finalist one began and the magic happened, as he began walking around the tables, all hand gestures and rhyme. The other two finalists followed suit and suddenly a stupid idea produced outstanding learning for all as they walked out discussing the key points of the narrative. Winner

Year 7 – What have you learnt this term?

I teach a bit of ICT in Year 7 and had one lesson left this term. I didn’t want to start something new but wanted to challenge the students. 5 minutes before the lesson (it was after an open evening – well that’s my excuse) I had an epiphany that I would do something with independent learning. Quickly I knocked together a PowerPoint slide with a picture of the school and a nerd, then quickly I dumped in the things they learnt this term and added custom animation to ensure that the words flew from school to the nerds head. The starter was demoing the slide and then I told the students they had to recreate this and show what they had learnt. They were stumped and I refused to help, but within 10 minutes a few of them worked out the basics. After another 20 minutes most had worked out custom animations, but were unsure how to make the words appear and disappear appropriately. Thinking on my feet I slipped ‘clues’ to the students by writing down keywords on the board. By the end most students had done in successfully, they had considered what they had learnt and progressed their ICT skills. Win. The plenary was a quick student led lesson where the ‘class experts’ showed the rest how they did it. For five minutes planning the outcome was superb.

I obviously know that planning is fundamental for successful learning, but occasionally maybe it isn’t!

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