Bring it alive

20th April 2007 at 01:00
Take the pressure off your class with a trip to the museum, says Katy Sullivan. They might learn more than you expect

The search is on for those who can communicate, conclude, construct, deduct, describe, develop, explain, formulate, group, identify, infer, interpret, locate, organise, plan, predict, read, record, select and write.

This isn't a list of the essential requirements for a senior management team post, but the skills needed for children to achieve a Level 4 in their key stage 2 Sats.

So, with just four weeks to go after the Easter break, how do you revise 20 skills in 20 days? Take some time off.

That's what's going to happen at my school: my class will spend some time away from the impending tests. Man-chester Museum - home of the amazing array of Ancient Egyptian mummies and artefacts, and the Vivarium, which exhibits living reptiles and amphibians - is going to bring learning alive for Year 6 pupils at Holy Name Roman Catholic Primary, giving the curriculum a real context.

I hit on this approach five years ago when I was teaching in Tottenham, north-east London. The school had more than 75 per cent of children with English as an additional language, and nearly 90 per cent of children from ethnic minority backgrounds, including 30 per cent with refugee status.

More than 70 per cent of the children were on the special needs register. I was finding it increasingly difficult to make the curriculum relevant and felt like a duck out of water trying to revise food chains, branching diagrams and habitats. I worked for a supportive headteacher, who was keen when I suggested a trip to recharge our batteries in preparation for the science Sats. So, the week before the dreaded tests, we visited my favourite place in London - the Natural History Museum - taking only our lunch and the intention to enjoy ourselves.

We had a fabulous day examining the enormous dinosaur skeleton, exploring the rainforests, and encountering a giant scorpion and a blue whale - all without a worksheet in sight. I was amazed at how involved the children were and by their determination to read and understand the interactive displays. Texts that I would previously have thought impossibly difficult were systematically read and digested. The children were learning, consolidating and revising skills, knowledge and understanding, without even noticing.

Our results for the science Sats were fantastic, with 78.5 per cent of the class achieving a Level 4 or above, and a staggering 46 per cent gaining a Level 5. I recommend that you take the stress out of Sats by checking out your museums Katy Sullivan teaches Year 6 at Holy Name Roman Catholic Primary School, Moss Side, Manchester

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