Active Learning

A Damned Good Teacher
4 min readOct 3, 2020

I taught a Maths lesson this week that was so boring that I applaud the children for being polite enough to endure it — it seemed alright on paper but didn’t pan out that way. Back to the drawing board. I’m trying to come up with a way of allowing my SEN class to engage completely in a way that won’t put them off trying and that will engage them. Here’s an insight into the workings of my head. The great thing about this bit of planning is that it requires time to think and can be done whilst I’m shopping, walking the dog or driving home. I’ll take you through my thought process.

The learning objective can do one — it is being replaced with a learning question so that my pupils can actually answer the question at the end. They will feel that they are a notch more clever than when we started the lesson. It’s a more pupil friendly way of doing things. I don’t know why I ever stopped doing this — fitting into school policy I think. I’m pretty sure that my LQ not LO will slip through on the slips in books (excuse the pun).

I want to draw the children in and get them to focus on me. I think that what I’ll do is to not talk at all. Not even one bit. I’m going to struggle with this, but as the saying goes, “where there is a will there is a way”. It’ll probably freak them out but they’ll get through it. I’ll help them to get through it. I’m going to banish exercise books, pens, pencils etc. Active learning at its best. They can have a whiteboard each, only my TA’s and I with a pen though. Thing is I have to get some Maths in there somewhere. This lesson is going to be differentiated by task, I know my kids inside out. Each kid will get a sum on the board as they come in, plus a lump of clay and a piece of coloured paper. Plasticene would do, or salt dough if your lesson is long enough to make it.

I am pretty sure there will be questions galore. Can I have a pen? Where’s my book? Why can’t I play with lego? Can I have a laptop? I will steel my resolve and answer only using body language and facial expression. Greater exposure to this will be part of the learning for those who struggle with interpreting this type of communication. I’ll be on the lookout for those becoming heightened and can point individuals towards activities or places or sounds that help them to regulate — obviously without speech. The aim is to keep pointing pupils back to the sum and the clay. Some might write the sum in clay. Some might use the clay to help divide a number into heaps of little pieces to get an answer. Some may just represent the answer with clay. Some might flatten the clay and use a finger nail to write on it. All of those would be ace. I am quite sure that some of them will make inappropriate objects and some might throw or flick bits of clay but I can deal with that quickly, with humour and without affecting teacher-pupil relationships. Still not using my voice, of course.

Why coloured paper? Easy — their answers will stand out because I’ll be taking several photos for each child. That’s how I will show progress you see. How will I teach them? Easy. My TA’s and I will still be able to give demos on the small white boards or the main one. We can still answer questions. Just silently. Will I be spending hours sticking photos into books? No chance. I’ll get them to trim them and stick them in next lesson. Will I be marking them? Yes but during the lesson. I’m a fan of using marking on the go in these lessons. By marking on the whiteboard, they’ll be sticking the work in, reminding themselves of what we did last time and hopefully smiling at the memory of that particular lesson. That small act is important, as it will set them up in a positive mindset for the lesson to come.

I think that this idea could be manipulated to fit a host of lessons from different subject. I can already see a route into English, Science, History, Geography, RE……….. most lessons, in fact. It would work at primary and secondary, SEN and mainstream. It is active learning at its best and also good for the well-being and workload of the teacher. What if I did a day of lessons in this vein every Friday? I could be marked up to date by Friday evening and not be taking any home with me, an attractive option I am sure that you will agree.

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A Damned Good Teacher

A teacher with the patience of a saint, a good sense of humour, oodles of forgiveness and a healthy dose of common sense.