Everyone loves a treasure hunt

Last term was a knuckle-scraping slog. By the end of term the students seemed ‘full’ and unwilling or unable to take on board any more information. I’m reminded of it because I have just been to the Science museum in London, and although I was determined to spend the entire day there, having seen the range of exciting exhibits, after 2 hours my brain was leaking and I had to crawl out.
As we beckoned and cajoled the students towards the Easter break I did manage to light the fire of enthusiasm in my year 9 class with two particular lessons. One of them might be called foolhardy but I took a risk.
The purpose was for them to gather both facts and personal source evidence about rationing. The Enquiry Question centred on the variety of experiences of the Second World War at home; weighing up opinions and measuring them against the ‘stone cold facts’. However shunting a pen across the page had become a Herculean task for many pupils so I needed to make them desire the information. In a moment of pure optimism I decided to bill the whole exercise as a treasure hunt.
Each pupil was given two different coloured slips of paper. One with a fact and the other with a contemporaneous quote. They were informed that they needed to answer the question, ‘What was the impact of rationing?’ by finding relevant evidence. I thought I might be dreaming; the minute I mentioned a treasure hunt they visibly contracted into a state of high alert. This notwithstanding the fact the ‘treasure’ was a hoard of History information.
Having frequently organised Easter Egg Hunts, only to forget where I put the eggs I decided they should each hide their own two pieces of paper. Thus they could also retrieve them at the end of the game and avoid irritating the cleaners. The ground rules were that they had to allow at least a corner of the ‘treasure’ to peep out. Apart from that they could hide them anywhere. Then I let them loose, within certain parameters, on the corridor and inside the classroom. They scattered away, revelling in the subterfuge needed to secrete their evidence, without detection. After this they returned to class and grabbed their exercise books which they needed to record the information. The primary objective of discovering where others had hidden the information seemed to diminish the arduous nature of having to write things down.
Everyone swept off again, buzzing with excitement, whilst the LSA and I gawped in disbelief at the lack of passive resistance. The least motivated students simply tried to circumvent the exercise by sharing quotes with each other rather than hunting for them. They went to great lengths to hide their subversion without appreciating that their collaboration equally served my purpose. Actually a passing senior teacher on walkabout feared there was a riot in the corridor until she noticed they were all talking about History. It might possibly have disrupted everyone else’s lessons in the vicinity, but my mug was not deliberately smashed in the staff room later, so I think I got away with it.
After 20 minutes everyone legged it back into the classroom declaiming about the obscure locations in which they had successfully discovered quotes. Their energy translated into a heated discussion about the enquiry question, because everyone had different evidence. I hadn’t even dared hope for that, period six on a Thursday.
In the throes of my gambler’s lucky streak I then decided to design another risky, crowd-pleasing lesson for this class, set in a court room. The results will be outlined in another blog.

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.