One teacher started with topic boxes which children explored. They were given the starters: what I know, what I think, what I wonder. During class discussion, their questions and ideas were recorded. Together the ideas were linked to curriculum areas which remains on display and is updated. Children choose an area of learning from the poster. Homework tasks were organised via a flexible homework grid. One child brought in a model of a tornado scene. Children than added questions and comments on post its. The child who had made the model then took the lead in answering questions, teaching the class.
This approach has led to high levels of enthusiasm, engagement and excitement. Children are very aware of their coverage and challenge themselves. They take responsibility for their learning and feel they have ownership over it. Children come up with a wide range of creative ideas.
Another teacher started the topic with a homework task, to gather experiences and information, putting artefacts on display. Class discussion generated lots of questions which made children excited and engaged. Children were put into groups of ‘experts’ who worked as teachers and shared their knowledge and experience throughout the topic. Children were very engaged and learnt from each other. Parents were involved throughout.
One teacher gave children the theme of Romans but children planned the detail. Other themes were treasure hunts set in real life contexts and immersion in set up contexts like ancient and modern Greece in 2 separate classrooms. One classroom was turned into a castle. This particularly helped lower achievers understand the topic.
Another teacher planned a starting session by turning off the lights in the room and pretending there had been a power cut, asking children what they could use as a light source. The investigations that followed led to questions being written to ask older children. Children were motivated and focused.
One school did a ‘Weather around the world’ topic. They used pictures which the children asked questions about and said what they would like to find out. They also looked in a weather box and tried to decide what the objects were. Children were enthusiastic and wanted to set up the equipment.
Another teacher doing a rocks and soils topic started by asking children what they would like to know for their homework. It was decided then to focus on fossils, so many were brought in. She then asked children to write their ideas in special books, showing what they knew and what they would like to know. Children wrote letters to suggest ideas and plan out what they had to do. Children were buzzing for every lesson for 6 weeks. Much home learning took place and all children returned their homework. Parents were involved in the planning and were asked for their ideas. Some parents came in to say how much their children were loving the topic and doing extra.
I sent planning home to parents to get some ideas for the upcoming term as it is hard to get information from the children. One parent shared that her son was in Afghanistan and she was worried about the child’s feelings about it.
This led to work on Afghanistan, the army and writing letters. We sent boxes and letters and the child opened up and talked about it, where communication was usually difficult. This led to a better relationship between the brother and the child, gave him confidence and gave the mother piece of mind.
One teacher gave the children animal pictures of the animals in Farthing Wood. They were then given different subject areas and were asked to come up with ideas and activities for the subjects. The next time, children were given skills lists. They then matched their ideas to the various skills. The teacher said she felt they were now addressing the children’s needs and not what we assume they need to know. Activities were better than teachers’ ideas and were more fun (e.g. finger puppets of animals).
Another teacher gave the children objects from a museum to talk about and discovered that they already knew what she had expected to cover in the first few weeks of the topic. Instead the children told the teacher what they wanted to know. Part of this is them having to get used to the fact that you might not know and things have to be googled together. One of the problems was the children’s tendency to come up with mainly art ideas, so they needed to be steered.
Claire Hodgson | firstname.lastname@example.org
Tower Hamlets, London
Stella Smith | email@example.com
Stella Smith | firstname.lastname@example.org
Pauline Hill | email@example.com