Teachers rarely boast about their achievements, in fact I always seem to look at the negatives not the positives. However I’m going to break that rule as after about 20 years teaching I think I have finally got something right: engaging the children in their learning. The children in my class are so enthusiastic, within a couple of days of introducing a new topic they bring all kinds of things in from home- books/ things they have made. It’s lovely to see them involved and this then results in better quality work, as the children enjoy what they are doing.
I thought I would explain what I have done with my class since January.
Hook them in
I try to grab the children from the very first day of a new topic. When launching ‘Ancient Egypt’ I devoted a whole day at the start of term to this topic. Our school has a spare classroom at the moment so our talented team of TAs transform this into an ‘immersion room’ depending on what our current whole school topic is. Last half term part of the room was transformed into a time machine, so I took my class into this to travel back to the Ancient Egyptian time. We then worked out where Egypt was using Google Earth, produced tomb pictures in art and generally immersed ourselves into the topic.
This time our topic is ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ and the first afternoon I wrote a letter from some woodland animals asking the children to produce a place for them to live. Basically the children spent the rest of the afternoon designing and producing their own display. The children are so proud of their master piece. We will add to this as the topic develops.
If possible we try to go do something a bit different at the start of a topic. For example I persuaded my Dad (a retired headteacher) to dress up as Howard Carter so the children could interview him about the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. The newspaper articles written afterwards were super. This week we are walking to our local woods to gather ideas for our new topic.
Make learning relevant
At the back of my mind is the question ‘Would my own children enjoy this?’ As the expectation of what is taught/ learnt has risen, my mornings are filled with maths and English. Although some links can be made, especially in English, the mornings are so full on it’s important that the children immerse themselves in the current topic during other times of the day. Fortunately we have a lot of say into what we teach, as all topics are new, so we can have the flexibility to make things relevant and interesting.
End with a bang.
Last half term we finished with an Ancient Egyptian day. Instead of asking parents to buy costumes (which can be expensive), we asked for each child to bring in a plain pillowcase. Then my talented TA transformed these into a costume with just a few snips with a pair of scissors. The day before we designed and made Egyptian collars to wear as well as death masks. When the day came the children couldn’t wait to change into Ancient Egyptians. They looked great. During the day my class presented what they had learnt about Tutankhamun to the other KS2 classes. We also invited parents into school; I told my class they had to pretend the classroom was a museum and they were the tour guides showing parents around. We even wrote a quiz to test the parents. The response from parents was lovely.