Staple Teaching Activities
Updated: Jun 24
I had organised a conference at the end of October and had been asked to present a half hour slot on John Locke and Thomas Hobbes that would be useful to teachers who were having to present this material for the first time. At the end of the conference, we asked our delegates to fill in the usual evaluation forms and, on reading them, I was delighted to discover that some of my ideas for actually engaging the learners with this material were what people liked the best. I was asked a question by one teacher on the form that unfortunately I couldn't answer personally as there was no email address or name written on the form, so I shall answer it here.
What other 'staple' activities do you do with your students?
That is such a great question! I do have loads that I like to bring out again and again. I hasten to add that few, if any, of these ideas are unique to me. I have done the same as all of you, scavenged, scrounged, begged, borrowed and stolen ideas for the classroom in my time. I have included my top three tasks below for you to use or adapt as you see fit.
1. Entrance Tickets
I love this. I've seen it in loads of places and I have no idea who to credit with the original idea. I saw it at one time in The Lazy Teacher's Handbook by Jim Smith, edited by Ian Gilbert, Crown House Publishing (22 Feb. 2010)
This idea, as I apply it, involves the students reading the material for the lesson before they arrive. They then complete an entrance ticket which contains on it 3 things they learned, 2 things that they would like to know more about and one question they have. The question can be about something they don't understand, or it can be evaluative. On entry to the room, they fold their tickets in half and place them in a hat. We sit in a circle and the hat is passed around. Each learner takes a ticket out of the hat (not their own) and reads the question.
Those who know the answer to their question straight away, can put up their hand and answer it. The ticket then goes back in the hat. Those who think they might be able to answer theirs then get a few minutes to gather in small groups and confer with others before then attempting to answer their question, and once done, they can put it back in the hat. During this process, if anyone has the same question as another person, they can also put it in the hat once it is answered. You should be left with the questions that no one can answer and then people can get out their notes and the question can be put out to the whole class for anyone to attempt, or for you to teach.
2. Discussion Stations
I cannot tell you if I have seen this done by anyone else. I used it with a class who refused to speak in general class discussions and I was sick of silent lessons or with my voice droning on. An evaluation or AO2 question is placed on the board, usually just focusing on the challenging statement. For example: "All religious language is meaningless." I then place big posters in the corners of the room. Here there would be two: agree and disagree. But some questions allow for there to be three or even four possible posters. Students then go and stand by the poster that best fits their stance. Many want to stand in the middle and say 'I don't know'. If this is the case, I tell them that they will have to justify, philosophically, why they won't pick a side. This usually makes them choose but if not, then they are joining in the discussion so it doesn't matter. The task of the other students, is to persuade anyone who is not in their group, to join them. Students can move around at any time and as many times as they need to. If they do move, they must explain why they have moved, which argument convinced them and why. Quieter classes sometimes need 5 minutes with their notes before they start, but generally I discourage this, because the activity gets them to engage with the ideas rather than parrot them. Much better for a good AO2 response.
This is a harder one to explain but it is a useful thing to develop. I find it very useful to give students the opportunity to talk to each other whilst completing a task and this achieves it without producing loads of marking. However, it does need preparation and organisation. I will print out a quantity of arguments, points or strengths and weaknesses, cut them into strips and put them in an envelope. The task of the students is then to arrange these statements into groups or categories. For instance, if it is strengths and weaknesses of Virtue Theory, they would need to work out which are the strengths and which are the weaknesses. They then put them in two piles. If they do this successfully, then they can arrange the statements in a hierarchy from best to worst arguments. Alternatively, they can try and match a strength with a weakness so that they have an argument and a counter argument and then decide which is the most compelling of the two. None of these activities require writing anything down, but they can end with students writing a conclusion based upon their discussion. Or, they could verbally justify to the class which is the most important or significant argument that they have dealt with.
These three activities are ones that I have used successfully many times. Ofsted like them as you can find a way to engage every student in the room, and differentiation is built right in for those that struggle to speak, to write or to read quickly. I hope these are useful to you. Have fun!