The glorious differentiation wheel

I need to pay homage to the glorious differentiation wheel; saviour of my (occasional) one dimensional lessons, bounteous giver of time. I was alerted to this neat little lesson idea through Mike Fleetham’s thinking class room

It centres on creating a wheel of activities from a central oasis of content. Students choose their own activities; one which they can do easily and one which is a challenge. When they have finished they need to find others who have done the same activities as them and compare. Another task is for them to organise the tasks in order of difficulty and explain their why they think certain tasks are harder than others.

186_0_Differentiation Wheel Apr 13

It works really well based on the idea that students like to choose their own activities and will often seek to challenge themselves once they have achieved something in the first task. The simplicity means that it saves lots of planning time (can’t say fairer than that) and frees up the teacher to offer support during lesson time because the students have more ownership of the task.

I tend to use it to allow students to apply different skills for instance using a sources or sources, but you can easily write ‘Repression under Stalin’ in the central bubble and give a variety of tasks based on this content. If I’m feeling particularly on the ball I’ll base my tasks on Bloom’s taxonomy. My colleague used it for GCSE revision and the variety of tasks meant that it avoided the heavy treacle-wading sensation that revision sessions can sometimes engender.

Thank you Mike Fleetham wherever you are…


Year 9 and competition

By the time year 9 have decided on their options it gets harder to motivate some students to work. With my current year 9 class competition seems to be the key to injecting energy and focus into the lessons. The other day they needed to obtain some basic factual evidence about evacuation which they could use to compare to source evidence. I decided to type the easier ‘describe;’ questions on red paper (worth 1 mark), explain questions on blue (2 marks) and analytical questions onto green (5 marks). The information was available in a text book or online.  Each student had to gain 10 marks in order write their name on the whiteboard. They could answer a combination of cards to reach 10 but they could only take one card to their desk at a time and it needed to be marked before they collected another card.

It seems that it doesn’t matter what the competition is about, my class want to win. It was a hectic lesson as they  raced to get their work marked so that they could attain 10 and write it on the board! Simples. (No one seemed to question why it was in any way rewarding to write your name on the board…)

In future I will select certain pupils to have answers to the simple questions so that I do not disappear under a throng of gigantic, impatient year 9 boys thrusting their books under my nose.

Incidentally, when I was berating members of the same class for not including titles and dates in their class work I threatened that if they continued to forget I would obtain permission from the Head to have it tattooed on their forearms to remind them.

‘We’ve done it before, and it worked!’ I asserted.

Horror crept across their faces, ‘Really?’

I think all this tells me is that they imagine I am so lacking in humour I couldn’t possibly have been making it up.

Rewarding idea for Year 10 History

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I love my Year 10 group, they are so keen to please. They just blinked a little in disappointment when I set them revision over the Christmas period so I told them to revise Hitler’s rise to power by making a board game. I’ve done this with younger groups but it felt like a bit too much fun for GCSE. They came up trumps (not literally- but certainly snakes) Not only did they do really well in their assessment but when I let them play the board games afterwards there was a huge variety and they were really engaged. I’ve included pictures of some of them. Games included:

A version of Lotto with a Hindenburg piece who can land on any of the pieces and ask difficult questions as they travel round the board

Who Am I? with images to tuck into  headband. Victims have to ask others who they are with ‘Yes/No’ questions

Various board games with Chance Cards

Snakes and Ladders.

When they played them competitiveness drew out an enthusiasm for facts, exact dates and vocabulary which had eluded some more laid-back  students until now. I wonder if there is a market for these games…

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Munich putsch poem

It might see a bit vain but when I obliged a year 10 class to learn my rhyming poem about the Munich Putsch the results were impressive. I tried to scribe the poem ( which is stretching the genre a bit, to be fair) so that key words rhymed, therefore enabling students to learn  facts and vocabulary. I was also setting them up to learn things by heart which many have not been used to, since they got their times tables out of the way in primary school. The government steer on education, for better or worse, seems to be rote learning a lot of facts before the real thinking and application can be instigated.
The important thing is students had to come up with the last two verses themselves which made them think about key information. The outcome was a range of largely excruciating, arhythmic, and dubiously rhymed verses. In short we had a great time reading them out.
Here is an example of one verse of the poem so you get an idea
The Nazi thugs were talking,
They said, “We’ve lost our soul!”
They said “The French are walking in
And taking all our coal!
The Treaty has been vengeful,
Just Germany must pay,
And those Weimar men do nothing
So it’s time to have our say!”

And so it goes on. I won’t win any prizes for literature..

New teaching idea for the Enabling Act

As I groaned under the weight of Turkey and potatoes anchoring my stomach I suddenly felt inspired for an active way to teach the Enabling Law. It has nothing to do with turkey. Perhaps I finally felt relaxed after a long term followed by frantic Christmas preparations for a new idea to seep through.
It involves students acting out a range of roles. The key thing with this legislation is to convey the import of voting it all in. The consequences were catastrophic and students must go beyond just thinking ‘They were scared.’ They need to consider individual responsibility to society and the interplay of a complex number of reasons that went through the minds of the Weimar politicians when they handed over power to a brutal extremist. Students need to see the human face of this decision and recognise the temptation to feel helpless and hand over power to others in contemporary political systems.
I will make a series of cards reflecting the views of a range of politicians and also throw in a lot of SA bullies. They will need to mingle and have snatched conversations trying to decide what to do and then try to vote honestly. However the vote turns out will lead to an interesting discussion.
Watch this space for what I come up with.

An inspired Year 12 homework

I’m always on the lookout for new ways to teach Year 12 Italian Unification and I came across this idea using

Fake book pages make such amusing homeworks for a creative Year 12 class. My group were told to make pages for the intellectual thinkers of the Italian Risorgimento. They really got into it, showing how much they understood the beliefs of the protagonists and also their relationships with each other. They could also show how people’s beliefs changed over time. They would write a post from one of the intellectuals and date it, then write out the responses from other thinkers of the time. They could also write another post from a different date to show how the Thinkers changed their beliefs over time. Needless to say they were very imaginative and they had to think hard about the people involved and how they might respond to events which is crucial for interpreting sources.

I also got to learn current lingo for use on Facebook which will probably make me look like a prat it I use it.