Time as a form is a rare moment in the school day when what you do is not strictly prescribed by the curriculum – but a chance for experimentation, innovation and fun.
As such, here are seven ways that I regularly use my form tutor time to give my students something a bit different and unexpected, which contributes to their social, emotional and academic growth.
Making the most of form tutor time
1. Weekly quizzes
A weekly quiz, with a prize for the winners, on Friday afternoons is a positive way of finishing off the week, creating a vibrant atmosphere.
It provides some light relief at the end of a hard week and a chance to forget academic pressures.
Quiz questions can either be written by the tutor or the students (on a rota basis) and can be based on the weekly news, an agreed category or created randomly.
Questions can also be oral, visual or audio-based, such as the name and performers of songs.
Having established the rules for respecting the views of all, a weekly discussion is a good way of getting all students involved in form time.
Discussion topics can be based on contemporary news stories, moral dilemmas or a general interest, and can either be led by the form tutor or the students (getting them to prepare in pairs is a good idea).
Allowing students to lead the discussion and have an input in what they would like to discuss allows them to present in a safe environment, building their self-confidence, as well as honing the oral skills they need for some of their subjects.
Topics can be set as a question to answer or a statement to respond to, firstly in pairs to ensure all get their say, then as a whole class.
A presentation followed by a question-and-answer session can be led by the form tutor, perhaps on a news story or a contemporary issue the students are facing, or by a student on a country they have visited or a hobby outside of school.
Student-led presentations give them a voice on something that is important to them, build their confidence and allow the form to get to know them better.
Stand out presentations I have seen have ranged from a student explaining her role as a scout leader to one on whether teachers should be allowed to go on strike or another on whether one culture should be allowed to impose their values on another, in the context of whale hunting.
4. Going through the news
Depending on the news of the day, a tutor session can be driven by what is going on locally, nationally or worldwide.
Online or traditional newspapers can provoke excellent discussion points on local, national and internal events, including ones that have a direct effect on the lives of the students.
Similarly, highlighting international days through the UN helps to give the students an overview of what is being celebrated through the world and a chance to host discussions on important topics.
5. Structured self-study
Study support can be a welcome chance for students to plan their studies for the week.
This time also allows the form tutor to support the students with bespoke needs such as creating a revision timetable, going over revision tips and strategies and creating materials or working on their CVs.
Talking through study concerns can also lead to the setting up of action groups within the form.
6. YouTube comedy clips
Watching YouTube clips as a form can be done in a variety of ways. Comedy clips provide students with time to relax and are a way of reducing stress.
All can get involved in the discussion of them, which helps to set up established standing jokes within the form, such as the exploits of Alan Partridge or Ian Beale – yes really.
Video clips can also be used as the introduction to more serious issues for form discussions, too, such as government information videos on alcohol.
Getting students to present clips from shows they watch can also open up discussion, such an informative one on autism based on the Netflix show Atypical.
Discussing the lyrics of songs played on YouTube is fun for them to do and helps with their literacy skills and appreciation of poetry.
Songs could be randomly chosen or students could be set a task of finding lyrics related to a topic in the news or one that applies to their lives such as love, crime, bullying, divorce or leaving home. The lyrics work well when given to the students to read while the song is playing.
I recall a moving student-led discussion after listening to Daddy’s Gone by Glasvegas, which started with a focus on being separated from a parent, branching into other areas of loss.
Competitions create a positive atmosphere with students competing against each other in a friendly way. Prizes can be given in line with the school’s policy.
Examples of competitions are a World Cup (or other sporting event) sweepstake where students pick a team and follow it through the tournament and collect the prize if their team wins.
This results in students talking about the event and creating rivalries when their teams are playing each other.
Student-based competitions are also a good way of getting students to interact with each other.
These include creating a mash-up of student faces, and getting teams to guess who is in each one; talent shows over a week (which can result in embarrassing situations for the tutor, such as having to join in a dance); or simple classics such as Pictionary and Taboo, which are quick and easy to set up and create an electric atmosphere as teams battle it out to win.
Oliver Furnival is interim IB curriculum manager at Tamagawa Academy, Tokyo