The children enter the classroom, take out their special Early-Bird books (alternate lined and blank pages) and follow the task described on the board. This is usually self-explanatory, and sometimes there is a choice. For some tasks, targets are set or children are told to set their own target.
Early-Bird work is done in silence while the register is taken. Books are left out, and after assembly the children continue for a minute or two while the class settles down.
The work is normally marked by the child, using the system of a tick with an equals sign (what is expected of you), a tick with a plus sign (very good work), or a tick with two plus signs (excellent). Sometimes, children swap and mark each other's work, and occasionally the teacher will ask for the books in.
These are some of the tasks which have been used successfully by many teachers:
* Design: a chair you never have to leave, a watch that has everything, a pair of shoes that takes you to the moon and back, a perfect park, a letter-box for the new millennium, a flag for Jupiter, a healthy eating bar, a Christmas tree with a difference. (Hint: One design activity a week goes down really well.)
* How many words can you make from these phrases: hymn practice, centre of gravity, London Zoo?(Introduce topical variations.)
* Use your dictionary to find: words ending with "y", containing "ou", starting with "st'.
* Devise sums where the answer is 333: using the digits 5, 8 and 2; using addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
* Write the questions for the following answers: London, glass, badger.
* Write or draw a list of things you could do in: one minute, one hour, one day. For example, run around the school field, butter a slice of bread,and finish four maths questions.
* Write or draw as many opposites as you can with or without dictionaries.
* Write the following numbers in words or the following words in numbers. The bigger numbers are a good test.
* What are your feelings about a controversial issue.
* Write a poem or haiku on Diwali, the rain, or bullying.
* Copy a particular passage in your neatest handwriting and illustrate.
* Compile a list of: similes, homonyms.
* Things I'm looking forward to in: 1998, 1999, 2000.
* How many minutes until the next millennium?
* Write sentences including: too, they're, six words.
The list is endless. A useful task is to ask the children to write down as many Early-Bird activities as they can, then use them!
Sheila Tuli is a class teacher at Dollis Junior School, Mill Hill, London