Thursday, 3 March 2011

Top Tips

My main role here is in training and sharing ideas with teachers around how to make their classrooms more child friendly, inclusive, and accessible for children with special needs.  Some of these ideas never seem to get put into practice, some get tried but are hard to keep up, and some work like a charm.  These are the top 3 Guyana tried and tested simple, easy and effective ideas.

  1. The 'Magic Box' - This began as a way to try and make sure everyone is participating when doing training sessions with teachers.  We decided to get all teachers to put their names in a box, from which we would pull out names at random to respond to questions or feed back after group work.  Names that have been chosen got put to one side until everyone had had a turn.  The box quickly evolved into a labelled, decorated 'magic box', with the teachers shouting an enthusiastic chorus of 'hocus pocus' every time a name was picked.  I am now baffled as to why any teacher of facilitator would try to work with a group without using some kind of random system to choose who should respond to questions.  Teachers and pupils have really taken to the idea, and I also now use this in every training session I do.  It is great for pace, good fun, and keeps everyone on their toes.
  2. 1, 2, 3, Eyes On Me - Rappers, rock stars and children's entertainers have known for years that a call and response routine is a great way to get everyone excited and in sync.  It works for teachers too.  The primary school (or grown up) version is that the teacher says '1, 2, 3, eyes on me' and the pupils respond '1, 2, eyes on you'. For teenagers it might work best to make up a more relevant call and response routine.  One of the biggest challenges for many teachers, myself included, especially with teenagers, is getting them to pay attention and listen.  The call and response trick seems to work like a charm, and in a friendly and positive way.  No more 'we can wait here all day', 'it's your own time you're wasting', and the other classic empty threats we all remember from our school days.
  3. Set questions or tasks that start easy and get harder - Differentiation is difficult and time consuming, and to teachers in Guyana it is a new and unfamiliar concept.  The education system is based around all pupils doing exactly the same work, whether they finish it in ten seconds or two hours.  Differentiation can be a tenuous concept for teachers in the UK too, and is often forgotten or done badly.  It was certainly something that was always talked about, but little understood, when I was in teacher training.  The simplest way I have found to explain how to do differentiation in practice is: when giving class work, start with easy questions that review previous knowledge, move on to slightly more challenging ones that address the new content, and finish with an optional task to stretch the thinking of the quicker workers.
What are your best teaching or facilitating tips?