Category Archives: 100 ideas

A Well-Balanced Acting and Drama Lesson: 6 activities for you to try today!

“Here is the book that every drama teacher should have on their shelf” –  Sylvia Young, OBE

For a lesson that is an hour in length, you should be using about four to seven exercises.

For a well-balanced lesson, the teacher should take exercises from at least three or four different chapters. A well-balanced lesson might include one exercise from Chapter 1, ‘Relaxation and Focus’, one exercise from Chapter 2, ‘Voice’, one exercise from Chapter 3, ‘Movement’, one exercise from Chapter 4, ‘Unblocking Performers’ and two exercises from Chapter 6, ‘Objectives’.


Chapter 1: Relaxation and Focus

1.1 Releasing tension while lying down

A simple relaxation exercise in which students relax each body part, one body part at a time, while lying down.

Age: 8 plus.

Skills: Concentration, awareness, focus, relaxation and mindfulness.

Participants: This exercise can be done alone or in a group.

Time: 10–40 minutes (depending on the age group).

You’ll need: A warm room with a comfortable floor for students to lie on. If the room is cold, students should wear coats and/or use blankets to keep warm. If the floor is hard, students should lie on yoga mats or blankets.

How to: Ask the students to lie on the floor with their eyes closed. If the actor starts to feel sleepy during this exercise, they should open their eyes and try to bring the energy back into the body without moving; if they really need to, they can wiggle their toes or fingers to try and wake up.

Students need to try and bring their energy inwards, reclaiming it from others and different spaces, bringing their circle of attention in. Ask the students to notice the breath: is it slow, fast, steady, scattered? Is the breath in the chest, stomach or pelvic area? If it’s up in the chest, or even the throat, bring the breath down so that it’s lower in the body. The stomach, not the chest, should move up and down with each in- and out-breath.

Once the breath is stable, the actor can start relaxing each part of the body, one part at a time. They can start with softening the muscles in the forehead and then the eyebrows, the eyelids, the temples, the cheeks, the lips, the jaw, the tongue and any other parts of the face. It is important to spend a long time on the face as it’s one of the main areas people hold tension.

Once the actor has relaxed every part of the face, they can make very gentle ‘blah blah’ sounds, being careful to keep the tongue relaxed, as well as the face, as the sound is released. Once the actor has finished relaxing the face, they can move onto the body. Ask the students to start with the neck, allowing it to sink into the floor. Then they should drop the shoulders, noticing where the shoulders are in contact with the floor. Ask students to try and increase the contact with the floor by loosening into the ground: imagine the upper part of the body is melting into the floor. Next ask students to bring the attention to the hands, letting the fingers, thumbs, palms and wrists melt into the ground. Talk then through working the attention up into the arms, releasing the tension from the forearm, elbow and upper arm. Now ask them to work the attention down the body, releasing the mid back and lower back, relaxing the abdominal muscles and then moving onto the lower body.

Explain that people vary – some tend to carry most of their tension in the lower body, others in the upper body and others in isolated areas such as the eyelids or jaw. Ask students to reflect on where they hold their tension.

For the relaxation of the lower body, the actor can start by wiggling their toes and then relax the toes, the feet, the calf muscles, quad muscles, hamstrings, pelvis and buttocks. Once every part of the body has been relaxed, ask the actor to imagine energy flowing in through the feet, up the legs, through the hips, up into the upper body and face. Allow this energy to move freely through the body with no blockages of tension. Allow a good few minutes for this sensation to arise, and when it is time to stand up, make sure the students really take their time; firstly you don’t want them to get dizzy. But secondly it’s important to keep the relaxation that was just achieved in the body while standing up.

Variation: It’s also possible to do this exercise standing up with the back against a wall, or standing with no support or sitting down. If practising this exercise standing up, it’s important to keep the feet hip-width apart.

Tip: Students shouldn’t rush this exercise but take their time as they relax every part of the body. Anxieties and thoughts should be left outside of the rehearsal space.

The aim: For the actor to become more aware of their body and face, exploring where it is they are prone to holding tension and then releasing this.


Chapter 2: Voice

2.2 Diction and tongue-twisters

Vocal exercises to help students with speech and projection.

Age: 8 plus.

Skills: Voice, diction, speech and projection. Participants: This exercise can be done alone or in a group.

Time: 5–15 minutes.

You’ll need: A space for students to stand in a circle.

How to: Ask students to stand in a circle and to check their posture. The feet should be hip-width apart and the spine pulled up gently from the tip of the head. Start the warm-up by asking the students to open their mouths really wide and then quickly scrunch their lips up into a really tight prune shape. Repeat opening and closing the mouth like this three or four times. Now ask the students to place their hands on their diaphragms. With the in-breath the diaphragm pushes out the hand and with the out-breath the diaphragm contracts. Ask the students to think of their diaphragm as a balloon: with the in-breath the balloon blows up, filling with air, and with the out-breath the air is released, making the balloon shrink. After a few of these deep breaths in and out, ask the students to make a humming sound on the out-breath. Breathe in together to the count of three, expanding the diaphragm, and breathe out on a hum to the count of six. Explain to the students that they should choose one note and that sound should come from deep down in the pelvic area. This humming noise should vibrate the torso and lips; if it’s not doing so, ask the students to hum a little louder and deeper.

Now explain to the students that diction is very important, particularly in theatre work. Good diction will help the audience to hear and understand the actor. I find that diction is particularly a problem with younger students. For good diction, explain that consonants need to be pronounced very clearly at the beginning and end of each word. The 21 consonant letters in the English alphabet are b, c, d, f, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, q, r, s, t, v, x, z and usually w and y. Say a consonant, for example, ‘b, b, b, b’, and then ask the students to say it with you, ‘b, b, b, b’. Do this for at least five or six constants, or go through all of them if the class is older and focused. Now do the same for some constant sounds such as ch, sh and th. Now move onto some words that start and end in a consonant, asking students to really emphasize pronouncing the letters. Some examples include bed, sack, hat, tall, Bob, fizz, frozen and Jack.

After this group warm-up, give the group some tongue-twisters to work on; these can be said as a group altogether or in smaller groups. Once the group knows each other well, you can ask students to say a tongue-twister on their own in front of the group; however, they must never be forced to do this.

Tongue-twisters:

Red lorry, yellow lorry.
Red lorry, yellow lorry.
Red lorry, yellow lorry.
Red lorry, yellow lorry. …

She sells sea shells on the sea shore.
She sells sea shells on the sea shore.
She sells sea shells on the sea shore.
She sells sea shells on the sea shore. …

Round and round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran.
Round and round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran.
Round and round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran.
Round and round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran. …

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.
I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. …

Toy boat.
Toy boat.
Toy boat.
Toy boat. …

A proper copper coffee pot.
A proper copper coffee pot.
A proper copper coffee pot.
A proper copper coffee pot. …

Unique New York.
Unique New York.
Unique New York.
Unique New York. …

A big black bear ate a big black bug.
A big black bear ate a big black bug.
A big black bear ate a big black bug.
A big black bear ate a big black bug. …

Eleven benevolent elephants.
Eleven benevolent elephants.
Eleven benevolent elephants.
Eleven benevolent elephants.

Variation: You can ask the students to invent some of their own tongue-twisters.

Tip: Listen and learn from news readers, theatre actors, good public speakers (and fingers-crossed drama teachers!) to hear how they use their voices to communicate clearly.

The aim: To help students to speak with good diction.


Chapter 3: Movement

3.2 Elbow to elbow
A simple physical warm-up exercise.
Age: 8 plus.
Skills: Movement, energy, spatial awareness and group awareness.
Participants: Needs to be done in a group of five or more.

Time: 5–10 minutes. You’ll need: A room big enough for students to walk around in at a fast pace.

How to: The students walk around the room at a brisk speed, making sure they don’t bump into anyone or anything. Encourage the students to use up all of the space in the room and to change direction frequently. The teacher will call out a body part. Let’s say ‘elbow’ to start with, and the students run towards someone and touch their elbow to someone else’s elbow. This doesn’t have to be done in pairs; there can be groups of three or more touching elbows, although you will find the group will naturally gravitate into pairs. After everyone has found an elbow to touch their elbow with, the teacher calls ‘go’ and the students walk around the room again. After a few moments, the teacher calls out another body part – hand, for example – and the students race to touch their hand to someone else’s hand. Good body parts to call include knee, hand, thumb, foot, shoulder, back, little finger, wrist and ankle. Be careful not to call out any inappropriate body parts.

Tip: Don’t let anyone feel left out in this game. If someone is hovering around feeling like they can’t join a pair who are already touching elbows, encourage them to go over and make a three. This game is about inclusion, not exclusion.

The aim: To warm students up physically.


Chapter 4: Unblocking Performers

4.4 Yes, let’s!

A fast-paced group improvisation exercise.

Age: 8 plus.

Skills: Listening, spontaneity, imagination and improvisation.

Participants: This exercise needs to be practised in a group of five or more.

Time: 5–10 minutes.

You’ll need: A space big enough for students to walk around in.

How to: Ask the students to stand in a space in the room and then initiate an

action by saying something like ‘Let’s bake a cake.’ Ask the class to reply with

‘Yes, let’s!’ and then they will all pretend to bake a cake. The students can

shout out any idea they like; nothing is too crazy. Perhaps someone might

call out:

‘Let’s wash a lion!’

‘Yes, let’s!’ the class will call out.

And everyone will wash a lion.

Then someone might call, ‘Let’s all be aeroplanes.’

‘Yes, let’s!’ the class will call out.

And everyone will pretend to be aeroplanes. The game continues like this.

Theming: This game can be themed. Let’s imagine that you are leading a fairytale workshop. In this case, the game could be played as above, but instead

of the suggestions being random, they are suggestions which meet the theme

fairy tales. For example, someone might say, ‘Let’s all climb a beanstalk.’ The

class is to reply with ‘Yes, let’s!’ and then they will all pretend to climb a

beanstalk. The students can shout out any idea they like; nothing is too crazy,

but ask them to keep to the fairy-tale theme. Perhaps someone else might

call out:

‘Let’s blow down the little pig’s house.’

‘Yes, let’s!’ the class will call out.

And everyone will blow down the little pig’s house.

Then someone might call, ‘Let’s clean the fireplace.’

‘Yes, let’s!’ the class will call out.

And everyone will pretend to clean the fireplace. The game continues like this.

Tip: For younger students or/and groups that are lively, it’s a good idea for the

teacher to stop the class with a signal for silence and then ask students to put

their hands up if they have a suggestion for the next ‘Yes, let’s!’ idea. This way

the student calling the idea will be heard and a mixture of students will get to

make suggestions. Encourage the quieter members of the group to contribute

ideas too.

The aim: For all improvisation ideas to be accepted and acted on with the aim of

loosening up students and creating a space where they feel safe to improvise in


Chapter 6: Objectives

6.5 Objectives with props

A fun verbal reasoning exercise where students try to convince the group why they need an object the most.

Age: 8 plus.

Skills: Communicative skills, verbal reasoning, persuasion, lateral thinking and intuition. Participants: For a group of five or more.

Time: 10–15 minutes.

You’ll need: Anything between five and twenty props laid down in the centre of a circle of students. These props can be absolutely anything, but a variety is good. For example, a helmet, wooden spoon, scarf, mask, teddy bear, candle, coat, thermometer, headphones and yoga mat.

How to: The class sit in a circle, and in the centre of the circle, there is a collection of props. As explained above, this can be a collection of random objects. One student will then go to the centre of the circle, pick up one of these objects and explain to the circle of students around them why they really need that object. The person explaining needs to imagine that the class doesn’t want them to have the object. The actor has to try really hard to talk the group into letting them have the object. For example, if Chen were in the centre of the circle and she picked up a doll, she would need to convince the class to let her have this doll. She can think of any made-up reason she likes. Perhaps she could explain that she really needs it for her little sister as her sister is in hospital and the doll will cheer her up. Or Chen might explain that this is her long-lost doll from childhood and she lost it on holiday when she was four. It’s Chen’s objective to make the class say yes she can have the object. Once Chen has finished her story, the class can respond with yes or no.

Students can make the stories as elaborate as they like; if Chen were feeling adventurous, she could say the doll belongs to an enchanted empress and that if the class doesn’t let Chen have it, she can take it back to the rightful owner and the empress will cast a terrible spell on the group!

Tip: Encourage students to make eye contact with the people in the circle as a means to get what they want.

The aim: For students to think laterally and improve their persuasion skills.


6.4 Group improvisation with objectives

In groups, students create a short improvisation where each character has a strong objective.

Age: 8 plus.

Skills: Improvisation, teamwork, creating a character and communicative skills. Participants: This needs to be practised in groups of three or four.

Time: 20–25 minutes. You’ll need: A space big enough for students to rehearse.

How to: Ask the students to get into groups of three or four. Explain that they are going to create a 5-minute improvisation. In this improvisation, each character must have one want, and this want can be anything: to go to the moon, to have an ice cream, to be a world-famous skate boarder. Once each actor has thought up an objective; ask the group to agree on a setting for their improvisation. A public space works best, such as a park bench, doctor’s waiting room, art gallery, airport or bus stop.

Give the students about 10 minutes to practise an improvisation with those three or four characters together with their strong objectives in a public space. Once the 10 minutes is up, ask the students to show the improvisation to the rest of the class, and the audience can try and guess the characters’ objectives.

Tip: Each actor should only play one objective. Simple objectives are acceptable; sometimes it’s the simple ones that are the most effective. Something like ‘wants to do their coat up (but the zip’s broken)’ is enough.

9781350049949

The aim: For students to create a group improvisation where objectives take centre stage and to show students that objectives are a great way to create conflict and action within a scene.

 

This is an extract from Samantha Marsden’s new book 100 Acting Exercises for 8-18 Year Olds. It is available to buy now.

Samantha Marsden studied method acting at The Method Studio in London. She worked as a freelance drama teacher for eleven years at theatre companies, youth theatres, private schools, state schools, special schools and weekend theatre schools. In 2012, she set up her own youth theatre, which quickly grew into one of the largest regional youth theatres in the country. Follow her on Twitter @SamMarsdenDrama

 

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Leaf Angles and Soggy Wellies: How to Take Lessons Outside

Imagine the scene—your Head comes in, looking harassed. The Government has ordered that all pupils should spend a minimum of 10% of their curriculum time outdoors, and PE is not to be included in this calculation.

What would be your first thought? That you don’t have enough space? What could you do with them? What would happen to the learning? What about rain?

As the Curriculum Enrichment Leader of a small Primary Academy Trust in west London, this is a long term aim of ours. All three schools are in built-up areas, and we have worked hard to begin developing our outdoor spaces to make them more curriculum-friendly.

All the evidence points to children spending less and less time outside, with 74% of children spending less than an hour playing outside each day. This contrasts with UN guidelines that prisoners have the right to one hour’s outdoor exercise each day as a minimum.

So why are we such advocates of outdoor learning? Being outside brings a multitude of benefits— children are able to concentrate for longer, ask more questions, and are more engaged with their learning when outdoors. We are working hard to bring more of the curriculum outside— Art, Maths, English, Science and Geography all leap comfortably into outdoor spaces, be it creating poetry under the canopy of a sycamore, to digging under the ground to test the acidity of the soil. Behaviour improves and different characters emerge. In one session recently, one child kept exclaiming “oh, I’ve never done this before” so often it became a catchphrase.

For some schools, shelter from the weather is a priority. Although the phrase “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” is generally true, children can cope with about sixty minutes of wet weather before starting to struggle. Children should, at the very least, be armed with coats to stave off wet or windy weather, and teachers can ask for a Welly Collection from parents— paired with beefy bulldog clips for hanging soggy gear.

If you have no outside shelters (either manmade or natural), buy a gazebo sail and find the funds to have three posts put up— these work perfectly. You could even look on websites like Freegle for actual windsails (we got four this way).

The first approach to taking more lessons outside starts with a good look at the timetable for the week. Look at the lessons which absolutely have to be taught indoors, and cross them off. Next, consider the lessons which would be enhanced by using outdoor spaces, although often just a change of scene can reinvigorate a class, make your outdooring more than simply this. Finding isosceles triangles in nature is ridiculously more interesting than a worksheet and greater depth can easily occur with protractors. Collecting and measuring leaf angles will position the memory far more successfully than the lesson you would carry out inside a classroom.

Try it, just for a week. Find two lessons which would zing by happening outside, then make the leap. You won’t look back.

 

Stephen Lockyer is the Curriculum Enrichment Leader of the Lumen Learning Trust in outer west London, where new staff are issued with fleeces as part of their welcome package.

He has written three books for Bloomsbury, which are available here, and his other books can be found here. His latest title, 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Interventions, is out now.

   100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Outstanding Teaching   100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Interventions

 

Managing Homework For You and Your Pupils: The Checklist

Many teachers struggle to manage homework. Many teachers would like to see it banned altogether, in fact, so would many parents! Homework has always been a subject of debate. Does it have any significant impact on children’s learning, or it an expected ‘hassle’ that increases teacher workload and tensions among families? As a teacher and parent, I don’t mind the extra work of arranging homework or supporting my children at home, when I can see its value. When homework builds upon the learning in the classroom, or helps to prepare for upcoming lessons, it can be of real value but it worth remembering these points:

  • Work WITH parents

Communication is key, as is a well-established routine. Right from the word go, share with your parents how much homework will be set, when it will be set, and when it is due. Many schools have a homework policy- as a class teacher, make sure you are familiar with this and are following the guidelines to ensure consistency across the school.

  • ..kids will be kids!

Every week, without fail, there will be someone who will lose their sheet! If your pupils have a homework book, it is worth any sheets being stuck in. Even better, update your class page with a copy of the week’s homework task. This allows parents/older pupils to easily access their homework, meaning you are not bothered when the child/parent is panicking at the last minute!

  • Provide a WAGOLL (What a good one looks like)

Things regularly change in education and often, the strategies used nowadays will baffle the parents. Recently, a friend of mine with a Year 1 child had no idea what it meant to ‘dot/underline the sound buttons’ of alien words. Providing an example of what the homework should look like, with an explanation can save families hours of time and avoid tensions when it is clear that the child was correct, after all! This particularly applies to many maths strategies.

  • Consider the workload (for you and your pupils)

Planning ahead is important here. Weeks vary in the teacher calendar. If you can see you have double parents’ evenings or an assessment week coming up, be careful not to set homework that will require marking- this is the last thing you need. Children also have busy lives, and similarly, when they have evening concerts or school trips, they will be tired. Homework activities that focus on pupils’ wellbeing are particularly useful during busy times. Chapter 1 of 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Homework focuses on pupil wellbeing activities.

  • Use homework to prepare for upcoming lessons

Share with your pupils and parents information about upcoming lessons and how they can prepare. This might involve finding out some information, asking questions or planning an idea. Once back in the classroom, the children can discuss these, meaning even those who forgot get the chance to hear from others before the lesson starts.

  • Prepare a bank of useful activities

Keep hold of homework tasks you set, as chances are they will come in useful the following year. It is also worth sharing with the parents a list of activities they can easily undertake on a regular basis. Idea 23 ‘Recall’ (100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Homework) provides a list of quick-fire recall games that parents can play with their children to support mental maths. These ideas can again be shared on the class webpage, or sent home as a booklet, for parents to refer to. If these games are also played regularly in school, the children are familiar with them, making it easier to play at home.

  • What is the point?

All too often, teachers rush around at the last minute, photocopying some worksheet for the children’s homework. But it worth considering the purpose of your homework tasks. How does it support/reinforce what is happening in your classroom? Is it an appropriate level for the children? Will it add hugely to your workload?

 

6 , 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers Homework.jpg

Jenna Lucas has been a primary school teacher for 12 years, originally in Bristol and now in Bournemouth. In her teaching career she has taught Early Years through to year 6 and led English as well as teaching and learning in the curriculum in her own school and in others in a coaching and mentoring role.

100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Homework is Jenna’s first book for Bloomsbury Education and is available now.

You can follow her on Twitter @JennaLucas81

 

Visit our 100 Ideas page to see the full range of titles in the series for Early Years, Primary and Secondary Teachers

100 Ideas: Tutor Time

Molly Potter, author of 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Tutor Time, gives tips on how to make tutor time engaging and constructive:

Enduring Tutor Time

My own school memories of my tutors at secondary school left me with the impression that tutor time was just something the teachers had to endure. We shuffled in, the register was taken, messages were issued and then off we trundled to ‘real’ lessons.  Very, very occasionally something interesting happened like the time our tutor helped us understand and discuss a particularly tragic news story or the time we were asked to make a welcome poster for exchange students. Anything slightly out of the ordinary stuck with me – which shows there wasn’t a lot going on. Still, that was certainly a while ago now.

Ideas for activities and tackling issues 

The role and responsibilities of a form tutor varies considerably from school to school. However, the time slot for registration usually allows some space for an activity instigated by the tutor to make it that little bit more interesting and start the students’ day or week off well. That, in the main, is what my latest book provides form tutors with.

Aside from a few organisational tips on how to run the registration session (like ideas for giving out messages in an unusual but easy-for-you way) and some ideas to support you in a pastoral care role (like how to address persistent lateness), 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Tutor Time  provides form tutors with:

  • a variety of fun ‘community building’ activities, (an example is provided below)
  • suggests many issues you could discuss and how to cover them (e.g. teen issues, attitudes and values and media) and
  • has ideas for a variety of thinking, creative and general knowledge activities and challenges you could give students.

The book also usefully provides teachers with several engaging active learning techniques that could be used to open up discussion on a variety of topics. (An example of one of these techniques is also provided below).

The activities in the book generally require little or no preparation so efforts to spice up tutor time will be minimal on your part. So for negligible input, your students will hopefully start to look forward even more to your tutor time.

 

Tutor Time.jpg

 

Example of a community building activity

Negotiate

  • Ask every student in the class to think what their favourite flavour crisp is.
  • Ask students to find a partner and share this information with him or her.
  • Next, tell students that they need to decide which flavour they could both eat if they had to agree on just one flavour. For example – if one student chose cheese and onion and the other chose prawn cocktail, they need to agree which one of those flavours would be most palatable to both of them.
  • Having agreed the flavour, they need to join another pair of pupils to make a four, share their flavours and again agree on which flavour would be palatable to all of them.
  • Continue until the class is split into just two groups.

Finally see if the group can agree on one final flavour!

 

Example of an active learning technique

Four words

To use the four words technique:

  • Get students into groups of four and give each group two piece of scrap paper.
  • Give students the topic or question you wish them to discuss (see examples below) and ask them to write what they consider to be the four most important or significant things about this topic. This can rarely be done without a considerable amount of discussion.
  • Once the group has agreed upon the four things, ask pupils to duplicate their list.
  • Next, ask each group of four students to form two pairs and separate from the other pair they have just worked with and go and form a four with another pair. Each group will now have a list of potentially eight things that they believe are important about this issue.
  • Ask the newly formed groups to knock their current lists back down to four again. This creates further discussion- often with new ideas thrown into the pot.
  • Ask a spokesperson from each group to feedback their ‘answers’.

 

The kind of topics you could ask students to discuss include:

  • happiness
  • being attractive
  • friendship
  • Preventing bullying
  • Good parenting

 

What is a good career?

  • Preventing prejudice
  • Feeling good about yourself

The ingredients of a brilliant revision programme

John Mitchell, author of 100 Ideas for Secondary Teachers: Revision, explains the influences and ingredients of a revision programme at the heart of his book

Revision Word Cloud
Revision Word Cloud

‘How do I write the thing?’

The offer is made. The offer is accepted. Excitement! Then the excitement fades and the thought enters your head – ‘How am I going to write it!’ This is what happened to me when I was first asked to write 100 Ideas for Secondary School Teachers: Revision for Bloomsbury  in February 2014. I had to decide on a starting point for my research from which I could structure the book and the 100 ideas around. The inspiration would be what Andy Griffith and Mark Burns would later call their own book – Teaching Backwards – start from the outcome and consider what you want to see from your own students at the end of revision. The best way to find this out, I felt, was to ask my own students. I am lucky that I work with a strong student body who engage in discussing teaching methods and ideas and are articulate in expressing what they want to see in a revision programme. After a number of discussions with a variety of students from different Key Stages and of different abilities, it was clear that there were three common factors students wanted to see in a revision programme. These factors were:

  • Engaging and active revision tasks – how can we revise in class?
  • Equipping students with revision skills – such as stress management and time management.
  • Independence – how can I revise on my own?

I decided that these three factors would inform every section on my book and give teachers a toolkit of easy to implement ideas that would help them develop their students’ revision skills as well as, more importantly, in my view, develop their students as effective independent learners both in school and beyond it.

Revision targets
Revision Targets

 

Engaging and active revision tasks – How can we revise in class?

One common point that emerged from talking with students about revision was what they perceived as an overemphasis on the text book and making notes. Of course, making notes is an important part of the revision process but should be part of a wider diet of revision activities within the classroom. We are all guilty as teachers of sometimes relying on the text book in a sequence of lessons as this is the ‘safe option’ – especially when we are tired and have little energy to invest in constructing outstanding lessons with sparkling resources. Also, it is the safe bet if we are teaching a second subject or content we are unfamiliar with.

However, it does not have to be like this. There are so many activities out there on the internet or in the ever-growing variety of books on teaching activities which are ideal in a revision context. Active tasks must be at the heart of an all-inclusive revision programme which engage and reinforce knowledge giving students the confidence that ‘they know it!’ These activities must be varied and include games, larger main lesson tasks and a variety of note making tasks from which students can choose which style suits them the best. Writing a collection of such ideas was at the heart of my thinking as well as that the vast majority of these ideas must be easy to implement with readers being able to dip in and out of the book and select an idea that they could include in a lesson the very next day. Underneath this the ideas must have real substance too and that a real impact upon students’ progress rather than the ‘bells and whistles’ ideas which look great but may lack meaningful impact upon student development.

Visual Hex exercise book
Visual Hex Exercise Book

Equipping students with revision skills – such as stress management and time management

Revision at any level can cause stress. Whether students are preparing for an internal assessment with the only objective being to check and demonstrate progress or for a public examination which can decide what life-changing options are open to students depending on the results – revision can highlight the need to assist in the development of important life skills, such as time management and stress management. Because I wanted the book to touch on every area of an effective revision programme, it was important not to neglect this potentially decisive and critical area of preparing students for assessments and examinations.

Therefore, the book contains a number of easy to implement ideas that can guide teachers in preparing a holistic revision programme, which equips students with the skills to cope with the stresses and strains of the revision period. In doing this, I felt, that this would give the book a wider appeal and not just for subject teachers. More often than not, subject teachers do not have the time to deal with the wider revision skills that are required, instead this falls to the form tutor or PSHE department. When I was writing this book, I was fortunate to be a form tutor for a group of young people preparing for their GCSEs and as a tutor, I was frequently asked to lead sessions on revision skills. More often than not, I found the resources provided to lead such sessions perhaps lacked depth and were less than engaging. Part of my research was to improve these resources and use them with my students, who would then feedback and discuss. Therefore, my book would have something in it for any teacher involved in helping students to revision skills in a wider context.

Bingo revision
Bingo Revision

Independence – How can I revise on my own?

At the end of the day, students are going to be on their own in that examination room. Teachers will not be there holding their hand, guiding them and giving timely advice on what to do. The end product of any revision programme is to develop a young person with the confidence to be independent and less reliant on the teacher. This is difficult and scary for a young person, stepping back as a teacher can be an incredibly difficult thing to do, especially in times of high stress, like the exam season, when students can need you the most. Therefore, any revision programme must foster students’ independence and the ability for students to conduct revision on their own outside the classroom without direct intervention from the teacher.

A few of the ideas in the book tackle this issue head on. It is an important one for teachers and students to work together on. Indeed, the philosophy of one of my key influences in writing this book, Jim Smith, is for students to become so independent in lessons that you become a ‘Lazy Teacher’. Therefore, many of the ideas which relate to revision games and resources can be easily made by students who can make a whole series of revision aids – whether they are resources for revision card games, visual hexagons or revision totem poles – outside the classroom. This means that a crucial part of a revision programme must be to train your students in making these revision aids which they can bring into lessons and use and share as part of the revision process. You know you have cracked it when near the end of the revision programme and the exams are looming, you are not needed as a teacher and instead become a facilitator while your students are actively revising independently, making more resources, playing revision games and working collaboratively – there is nothing better than the sound of a revision buzz in your classroom!

9781472913753 Revision

While this article focuses upon the influences and the ingredients of a revision programme which make up the heart of my book – 100 Ideas for Secondary School Teachers: Revision – a second article which details how the book was written can be found on my blog.

An exciting digital Autumn! Steve Bunce

Steve Bunce author photoOn TV last night, I saw the BBC ‘Make it digital’ advert. Lots of exciting events and programmes about our digital world, relevant to ourselves and our children. Their tagline is ‘Getting the nation excited about digital creativity’. You can find out more at the Make it Digital site. I’m excited that the BBC, along with other partners, for example Apps for Good and Young Rewired State, are involved in teaching about our digital creativity. New TV programmes will be shown in the autumn, so it all looks very exciting. Already some resources have been released on the CBBC site, using a Dr. Who theme to program a dalek.

Currently, there is a ‘Make it digital’ tour, which is helping to start the new venture:

Cardiff – Harbour Festival – 30 & 31 August
Hull – The Freedom Festival – 5 & 6 September
Lewisham Shopping Centre – 12 & 13 September
Dundee – City Square – 19 & 20 September
Birmingham – Big Weekender – 26 & 27 September

The BBC will be giving a small computer called a ‘Micro:bit’ to every 11-12 year old. This is about the size of a credit card and contains sensors and places to attach other devices and control them. Every school with Year 7 children can register on the website to order the devices. It is an ambitious idea to give these computers away, though I wish that the primary schools were being given them too. The planned release will also include the ability to purchase Micro:bit computers, so primary schools and children in other year groups may benefit from them then. The Micro:bits are due for release in late Autumn.

The BBC ‘Make it digital’ campaign aims to ‘capture the spirit of the BBC Micro, which helped Britain get to grips with the first wave of personal computers in the 1980s, in the digital age’. It was the BBC Micro computer that inspired my learning at school. Suddenly, we had access to a computer and ‘could do stuff’. This was backed up by TV programmes to support the learning. You would spend ages typing in programs from magazines and learn by doing and making mistakes, then fixing them. The most important part was the collaboration with my friends. At school, we shared a computer and you would talk with your partner and solve problems together. This paired programming enabled a better solution to be found.

In addition to the BBC campaign, there are other organisations, such as, Computing at School, who have been a great area of support. Also, the excellent Barefoot Computing resources for primary schools. The Computer Science Unplugged materials, use many activities not using a computer, to teach Computing concepts.

When the new Computing curriculum was released in 2014, teachers needed help to get started. This prompted the writing of the 100 ideas for primary teachers: Computing book. It aims to show that many activities across the curriculum support the teaching of Computing. Trying out the ideas with teachers and children, we’ve been finger knitting, folding origami and even doing magic tricks.

This Autumn is an exciting time! Lots of activities to try with our children, to learn about our digital lives. I hope the new book will help us learn together and I’m looking forward to hearing about your adventures! You can share them using 100 Ideas.

100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Computing100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Computing covers everything a Primary teacher needs to know to start teaching the primary computing curriculum.

Steve Bunce is an experienced teacher who has taught in primary, middle and secondary schools and in many roles including ICT co-ordinator, head of year and senior leader. He has advised schools across the UK on their use of technology through Open University. He is also a part-time lecturer at Durham University where he shares his learning experiences with the undergraduate teachers.

Where do good ideas for the classroom come from? Stephen Lockyer

Author Stephen Lockyer

I’m incredibly lucky in that my head buzzes with ideas all the time, like a creative tinnitus! That’s not to say all of them are good ideas by any stretch, but I’ve recently been exploring where good ideas come from, and think that they come from one of five key areas. The important thing to remember about ideas is that experimenting is the only way you can really see whether an idea has legs or not.

Upcycling 

I love upcycling – that is, repurposing something for another use. This can be done in many small ways (such as using clothes pegs and card for a Classroom Jobs list for example), or in a large way (tractor tyres + blanket = reading corner seat). I especially love repurposing one idea totally unrelated to teaching into something which contributes to learning. I rebuilt the Periodic Table in my classroom, putting our class values as the elements and so on. We could have made a list, but by using a familiar format, the children were exposed to this, and the conversations which sprung from this. Anything different from the norm is often more interesting (and more captivating for you).

Learning Lents

This is a favourite for forcing creativity and new ideas – ban something which you rely on! It sounds a strange thing to do, but really does make you think outside of your box. Imagine you rely on your IWB for every lesson, and then the bulb goes – what do you do to recover? Now put this thinking against all the other ‘default’ tools and routines in class. Here are a few ideas: No chairs for one day No photocopying Computers off No writing No numbers in Maths Choose one of these and see how you get on; it really is quite liberating!

Don’t reinvent the wheel, search online for it

We are enormously spoilt for the range of places we can now search for ideas – and you don’t have to dive in headfirst to make the most of the resources stored in the cloud (but it’s always good to give something back). The classic teacher’s resource search is TES Resources, but for more personalised help with ideas, ask on Twitter (using the hashtag #asktwitter) – you’d be amazed what responses you get! Pinterest is another good vault of ideas for teaching, often in the most surprising of ways, and it also works as a springboard for your own ideas too! Another growing source of feelgood ideas is www.staffrm.io, the blogging platform for teachers, which is growing daily with a wealth of good ideas on marking, planning, questioning, even creativity itself!

Read around your subject

It’s always good to read books specific for your subject specialism and age range, but don’t let this limit you. I’ve collected good ideas and generated lots of my own by reading around my interests too. There is a lot that Secondary colleagues can learn from Primary, and vice versa. Likewise, reading books completely detached from Education can contribute interest and curiosity, and solve problems you may have in the most unusual ways – a book called Smart Swarm for example helped me work out a novel solution to congestion problems in my school, even though it was about insects!

Cross swords together

Imagine completing a crossword on your own, with someone next to you completing the same crossword. How many more words would you get if you collaborated together? Likewise, the best ideas sometimes need to be talked about in order to float to the surface. Often, we can go to someone with a problem, and they are far more capable of solving it than us because they aren’t carrying all the aspects of that problem which we are. Likewise, generating ideas with someone else can be incredibly liberating and productive. I love coming with ideas, but really like playing around with them too – it’s very rare for a discussed idea to become worse in the process! My #100ideas book came from generating ideas in this way and many other ways. The most important principle is to try something out, even in a very small sense, and see if it improves the teaching and learning or not. Once you’ve tried it in one lesson or on one table, roll it out further. Play with it, adjust it and get feedback on it from the children and other adults that might be in your classroom. If it does make a difference to you, tell others! Avoid being an idea silo – become an inspiration station instead!

100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Outstanding Teaching

Stephen Lockyer is Deputy Head of The Mead School, Tunbridge Wells. He has been teaching for 14 years in a variety of schools and has a very low boredom threshold which drives him to make lessons exciting, stimulating and filled with learning opportunities! He set up SLT Camp – a CPD training weekend for teachers and has spoken at many Teachmeets. Follow him on Twitter @mrlockyer

Stephen’s latest title 100 Ideas for Primary Teachers: Outstanding Teaching is available now. Click here to find out more.