Global creativity for control freaks

24th February 2006 at 00:00
Peter Greaves shows how teachers can let go without losing it. This week: I'll have a "P" please Bob

Class teachers make judgments every day about pupil progress, but there are times when snapshots provide useful information I can either report on or pass on to someone else. I think it is possible to be as creative about assessment as any other aspect of my work, because at its most effective and most useful, it is simply another aspect of teaching, not a bolt on to it. So as I came out of what could only be described as a "power-nap" in front of Challenge TV, I found myself wondering if game shows had anything to offer me as a teacher. For example, imagine using Jeopardy.

The original element that Jeopardy brings to the game show format is that rather than asking contestants, for example, "Who was Henry VIII?' the show gives the answer, "He had six wives and had two of them beheaded,"

expecting the contestant to provide the prompt.

So as we began a history topic on the Ancient Greeks, I gave pupils a bunch of answers, asking them to suggest a question for each. Although amusing, they were almost all wrong, making clear the level of understanding at this point. To the answer, "It is the capital of modern day Greece." More than one pupil put, "G".

The beginning and end of each lesson gave a chance for pupils to look at these answers to see if they could now give prize-winning questions and as the weeks went on, they clearly could. Towards the end of the unit, I gave out a fresh sheet and asked them to select answers and draw a speech bubble with possible questions. I was worried that this might lead to closed questions, but most of the pupils tried to show the level of their understanding by asking more sophisticated questions, so to the answer, "They sent their boys to military school at the age of seven," some did write, "Who were the Spartans?" but one wrote, "Can you name a way in which the Spartans treated their children differently to other city states?"

Pupils who had difficulty with writing simply chose the answers they wanted and then I challenged them in game show host role, making notes as I went.

By doing this before the end of our unit of work, there was time for pupils to find questions to any answers they didn't know and I had a clear idea of which pupils had understood what.

Just as important as knowing any questions is the ability of pupils to find that answer. I could imagine adding an extra dimension by asking "How do you know?" or "Prove it!" so pupils have a chance to show progress in skills as well as knowledge. I'll be pondering that one, but right now, we're doing money problems next week and The Price Is Right has just started.

Peter Greaves teaches at Dovelands Primary School, Leicester Email:

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