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Fast tracking golden ideas

This activity will have you racing through lessons, say Alan Kinder and Andy Roberts

A racetrack activity is a lively way for pupils to consolidate knowledge. It helps them argue for what they feel are the most important principles behind the subject they have studied. We use it to discuss plans for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games with our pupils. They had already explored some of the key ideas behind Olympic sustainable development and realised that there were many different opinions about the Games coming to London.

Towards the end of the topic, they used the "Olympic racetrack" to think about their answers to the question: "What would make a successful Olympic and Paralympic Games?"

Groups of pupils are given eight "runners" - cards representing possible features of a successful 2012 Olympics. These include: "regenerates east London", "boosts British sport", "creates a feel-good factor" and "includes everyone".

Written on each card are prompts to help structure pupil discussion - these are drawn from the ideas they have already studied. The cards are used as counters, to be moved along the racetrack as the activity progresses.

The first pupil selects the three "runners" they feel represent the most important aspects of a successful Games and moves these forward one space each, explaining their reasons.

As each pupil takes their turn, they move their selected cards forward on the track. In the second round they choose two cards and in the final round they choose one. If no "runner" reaches the finish line after three rounds, pupils continue the race by selecting one card each until there is a winner.

Then, as a class, pupils identify the winning features, explaining their evidence and reasoning and reporting on key arguments or disagreements.

By the time we have completed the activity, pupils are asking themselves much more searching questions about the Olympic and Paralympic Games, such as "What are the Games for?", "What do we want this area of London to look like in the future?" and "Who is controlling the way the Olympics and Paralympics Games develop?"

We find that higher attaining pupils are able to run the activity using just the headline prompts, such as, "Makes a profit".

Lower attainers benefit from having the prompts unpicked and expanded on.

Alan Kinder is an advisory teacher for geography in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. Andy Roberts teaches geography at Sydney Russell Comprehensive in Dagenham.

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