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Learn the game of walk and talk

Both teachers and pupils are being spurred by strategies that encourage more active learning, Katrina Tweedie reports

Teachers with years of experience - some as much as 30 - have been inspired to change their classroom practices after attending a Self-Empowered Learning course and the changes have boosted pupils too.

Delivered by The Learning Game as four modules, the course provides teachers with strategies and a practical framework that can be used in the classroom. They are designed to remotivate teachers and encourage children to move towards developing independence at school and in their daily lives.

Norma Corlette, founder and managing director of The Learning Game, says:

"People are aware that teaching is changing. It needs to focus not just on academic success but also on life skills, like confidence and self-drive."

Within the next two decades, she says, the biggest employer will be "self".

Teachers need to prepare pupils for this.

She adds: "They can see the worthiness of this but don't know how to blend it into the demands of the curriculum."

A former teacher of 10 years' experience, Ms Corlette established The Learning Game in 1998 to enhance pupil achievement, but has now expanded into teacher development. The Learning Game has been accredited by Strathclyde University and recommended by education authorities. It has 17 projects running throughout Scotland.

The latest programme confronts the high levels of stress and disillusionment among the teaching profession by devising strategies to combat discipline issues and boost the will to learn in pupils. It is specifically recommended for teachers with a few years' experience who would benefit from new practical methods in classrooms, although all teachers can take part. They are encouraged to move into a facilitative model of teaching, moving away from being the "sage on the stage" to be the "guide on the side".

A book of 50 strategies designed to facilitate learning in class has been particularly praised by teachers who have completed the course. One of the most popular examples is "walk about, talk about" in which pupils are split into groups and have to move about classrooms completing questions pinned to the walls relating to a particular subject.

"It gets kids actively involved and they take on a drive to learn," explains Ms Corlette.

However, some teachers remain reluctant to embrace new methods. "One of the biggest issues for teachers is letting go of control," says Ms Corlette.

"It's a natural fear which is understandable when you have 30 children in front of you and you are going to try something new.

"Up until now the amount of learning that has taken place and the increase in achievement is not equivalent to the amount of energy that has been put in by the teacher.

"But now teachers say they are enjoying it again, taking risks which they hadn't before and saying they feel more comfortable."

Teachers attending the third module in Inverclyde earlier this month report positive results.

Lynn Biagioni, a business studies and economics teacher with 18 years'

experience, from Wellington Academy in Greenock, says: "I have been appointed acting depute and part of my remit is to raise attainment within the school, so I thought this course would give me good ideas.

"It makes you think about what you are doing and the language you use in the classroom. The different ways to teach and review learning are also refreshing."

Anne Morris, a language teacher at St Stephen's High in Port Glasgow, attended the course because she wanted new strategies to make pupils pay attention.

"I've been teaching for more than 25 years and you get stuck in a rut, but I have always been receptive to new ideas," she says. "You get stuck in your comfort zone and it is hard to try a new approach in front of a class.

I normally 'chalk and talk', but I tried 'walk about, talk about' and although the kids were a bit flummoxed at first, they became very enthusiastic."

Mark Barry, the principal teacher of maths at Port Glasgow High, says: "If the kids are enjoying a lesson then I'm enjoying the lesson; if they are bored, so am I. This has made me more interested in what I am doing."

The Learning Game, tel 0141 333 9456; e-mail

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