Ideas #8 and #9

Idea #8 – letting go

The idea: I am currently teaching the French Revolution to my AS group and it is an incredibly complex unit due to the level of intertwining narratives. In order for my students to have the level of depth required at AS I have necessarily had to teach the topics in discrete units i.e. one lesson on the rise of the sans-culottes, another on the September Massacres and another on the divisions within the political clubs. The major disadvantage of this is that students end up having very little idea of how these events relate to each other chronologically which can cause issues when it comes to constructing evaluative critiques in an exam. I have also been teaching this at a rather frantic pace as there is the ever constant spectre of not getting through the course before the exam.

However, I decided to throw off the shackles of panic and instead allow the students to spend two lesson creating a synoptic timeline of the events we have been studying, but with a twist. The timeline had two layers: one of the events happening in Paris and concerning the Assembly, the King and the sans-culottes, the other timeline was of the events of the French Revolutionary War. Students had each other, textbooks, their folders and myself for support as they completed the task.

Pros

  1. A very relaxing learning environment in which students produced vast quantities of high quality learning tools.
  2. One-one attention for those who are less able in the class.
  3. A synoptic, broad reaching understanding of the unit thus far was gained which was evidenced in subsequent essay answers.

Cons

  1. Two lessons of a tight teaching schedule were taken up.
  2. Some finished much more quickly than others and I ended up running two mini lessons at once.

Would I do it again? Certainly. I intend to complete such a timeline at the end of each AS unit now as I feel it was a vital step in reviewing and securing their knowledge. Allowing them to be independent is also great practice for study leave and the coursework term at A2.

Idea #9 – Pictionary

The idea: I have used Pictionary as a revision task before but had been struggling to think of a way to use it as part of a non-revision lesson until I went to observe a colleague teaching an AS English Language lesson.

Students, in groups of three, were given a sheet of flip chart paper, a pen and a pack of instruction cards. They had to draw a political cartoon that represented the message described on the card that they picked. An example of the message was ‘Draw a source that suggests that the liberal reforms were to promote national efficiency’ or ‘Draw a source that suggests that the Cuban Missile Crisis was a result of Kennedy’s actions’. One student would draw and the other two in the group would guess what the message was. If they guessed correctly, they would gain a point and become the artist.

Pros:

  1. Students were thinking deeply about the symbols that they would come across in sources and using these to help each other guess.
  2. Students were thinking about the deeper meanings behind the source rather than simply stating ‘Kennedy is in the background shouting’. They had to infer meaning from symbols and suggest their messages which is a surprisingly rare first response to a source.
  3. Students were highly engaged and then could apply these methods to sources, producing answers of a high quality that were focusing on inference.
  4. It is a fresh way of looking at sources, which can become repetitive – particularly close to exams!

Cons:

  1. Unless there is a clear feedback session focusing on the purpose of the activity, student may focus on the drawing rather than on the learning.

Would I do it again? Definitely. It worked very well and student responses were significantly improved as a result.

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