09 March 2015
Two strategies to bring the buzz back into teaching by Nadia Morad
Picture the scene –it’s Friday, the end of an exhausting week and there’s just one lesson to struggle through before the bell marks our unanimous celebratory cheer. And then it starts all over again.
Monday morning blues…mid-week overload…the ceaseless march towards the weekend.
As stress and exhaustion threaten to overwhelm, how can we teach original, innovative lessons? And when education becomes synonymous with target grades, exams and league tables, where is the place for creative teaching?
Creativity is an essential tool to bring back the buzz into the classroom, particularly with widespread low morale, at present. Incorporating creativity does not need to increase workload or the time spent planning lessons. Instead, creative teaching should re-invigorate a dull classroom, covering necessary topics in a memorable and worthwhile way. So how can this be done?
Edward De Bono: ‘Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.’
1) Thinking Hats
- Divide the class equally into six groups.
- Give each group one coloured hat. Each colour represents a different approach to tackling the topic.
- Each group must explore the topic from the perspective of their hat.
- Ideally, six coloured hats (which can be pinned to a board, making an eye-catching display when not in use.)
- Or, six different coloured pieces of card/ material if you want to adapt the activity (eg) rainbow cards.
Why do it?
- It’s great for kinaesthetic learners as students can rotate around different groups.
- It fosters skills in group work and the sharing of ideas.
- It encourages higher-order thinking.
- It can help a tired teacher with behaviour management, as each group can elect a team leader who is responsible for keeping their group on task.
NB: If you have a very energetic and rowdy class, you could establish a rule of group members contributing an idea only when holding the hat, passing it around the group. This can be presented to the class as a way of ensuring that all members have an equal opportunity to participate. However, it also doubles up as a means to protecting your ears, particularly if there are six over-excited groups trying to shout their idea the loudest!
Eleanor Roosevelt: ‘Great minds discuss ideas.’
2) Put a post-it into peer-assessment
- While pupils finish a written activity, walk around the classroom with post-it notes or small stickers held subtly in your hand.
- Surreptitiously, place a post-it/ sticker on the back of the chair of a couple of students. The selected students will be encouraged to share their work with the class.
- Post-it notes or stickers.
Why do it?
- It avoids over-use of the ‘star and wish’ style of peer-assessment.
- It keeps students on their toes and the rush to see who’s been selected can bring the classroom to life.
- It encourages full class peer-assessment.
- It ensures all pupils work to the best of their ability on written activities.
- It creates variety in the contributions to class feedback, meaning no student can be too passive or dominant.
NB: Using post-it notes to select students to share their work can be a simple and effective opportunity for differentiation. When using this method, I’ve discovered that even very reserved students are thrilled to see a post-it on their chair, as the unique method of selection provides assurance that the teacher has already judged their work to be accurate and valuable.
As we edge ever closer to the summer exams and the fatigue that accompanies them, we must keep reminding ourselves that creativity, enjoyment and achievement interlink. It’s vital that students see a creative classroom as a bridge to good quality learning and the development of essential skills. Igniting a spark of enthusiasm and curiosity for learning is of far greater value than obsessing over exam technique. Yeats captures this concept beautifully in his metaphor as: ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.’
See also The Creative Classroom part 2
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