Anne's got the answer

9th May 2003 at 01:00
Watching television quiz shows is good for you - and your pupils.

Paul Rowe and Roy Watson-Davis report

Good teachers have the knack of creating lessons which both engage and motivate their pupils. When you're new to the job, finding good lesson ideas can be one of the hardest and most time-consuming things you do. Yet this is a skill you can learn and develop. And you don't need the internet to get started; inspiration can come from anywhere.

Watching television game shows This is one of the most attractive ways of generating ideas. It simply requires a little lateral thinking. Some shows aim at low-level thinking where the purpose is simply to get contestants to recall facts. Others are pitched at the higher thinking skills of application, or even synthesis and evaluation.

Adapt those you think will work in the classroom. Ask yourself what skills are required. What will most effectively engage your pupils? Reflect on the styles of questioning and try them out. For instance, which questioner gives contestants the greatest opportunity to think: Anne Robinson, Chris Tarrant or Jeremy Paxman? What do they do that promotes thinking after they've asked their question? How could you model a similar strategy?

Adapting board games In a similar vein, board games are an endless source of lesson ideas. Get pupils to convert lesson content into their own game.

This is a particularly effective revision technique. Various card games can also be adapted, particularly those that require memory and recognition skills.

Asking colleagues Most teachers, after a few years in the job, have plenty of ideas and are happy to share them, but the difficulty is finding the time to discuss them. Try challenging colleagues to devise a creative solution to a piece of work you are going to teach. Some staffrooms have boards where ideas can be pinned up and shared. Make your needs generic and you'll be able to pick the brains of the science specialist, the French teacher or the art teacher.

Sifting through department resources Look for photocopiable masters that come with some textbooks. These are usually expensive and after an initial honeymoon period staff often forget about them. Most textbook sets also come with a teacher's resource pack; use it. Past exam papers often have diagram or picture inserts that can be given a longer life.

Peer observation This is one of the quickest ways of accumulating ideas.

While organising observations can prove difficult, you can observe in non-contact time. It doesn't have to be a full lesson; a focused approach is likely to be more rewarding. Many schools encourage this kind of cross-fertilisation of ideas.

Paul Rowe is a consultant in Dorset. Roy Watson-Davis is an advanced skills teacher in the London borough of Bexley

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