Clued up on the theory of evolution
This lesson on adaptation combines science with history. I start with a "biography in a bag" activity, revealing several objects relating to Charles Darwin and asking pupils whose biography it might be.
The objects include a fossil, a painting of HMS Beagle and a copy of On the Origin of Species. The discussions among pupils provide me with an opportunity to assess their prior learning.
Next, I use images to introduce the theory of evolution, focusing on Darwin's visit to the Galapagos Islands and his observations of the archipelago's tortoises. I invite pupils to share their thoughts on how the animals have adapted.
To reinforce this idea, I use an activity called "Darwin's finches". Differently shaped seeds are placed on each table, and the children are given a range of implements such as forks and tweezers to act as beaks.
They experiment with each utensil to find the best one for picking up the seeds, demonstrating how some animals would have been more successful than others. This prompts our final discussion about natural selection and evolution.
Rhodri Thomas is a primary teacher at Bournemouth Park Primary School in Southend
Plate tectonics and pencil cases
As a starter activity, each student writes down what they understand about the terms destructive, constructive and conservative. This initiates great discussions and allows me to check their comprehension.
Next, I split the class into three groups, providing a labelled diagram of one plate boundary and a brief description of what is happening. The pupils have 10 minutes to read the information, take notes and become experts on their plate boundary.
When the timer sounds, the groups are mixed up and each student gives a mini presentation to their new group about what is happening at their plate boundary. They must be prepared to answer questions and give examples.
Five minutes of silent time is allocated to allow students to absorb the information about all three plate boundaries, then "basketball questioning" is used to make sure everyone has learned it.
Finally, all students put their notes away. One after another, they create models of the three plate boundaries using the contents of their pencil cases.
Tim Parker teaches geography and boys' games at Yarm School in Stockton-on-Tees
A murder mystre
Rote learning of grammatical rules is often the norm in language classes. But finding fun and collaborative ways to fix the rules in pupils' minds - and give them an understanding of when to apply them - is much more effective and enjoyable.
To help my pupils get a clearer idea of when to use the imperfect versus the perfect tense, I created a murder mystery activity. I start the lesson by dividing the class into small groups and distribute the character description cards written in the target language. I instruct pupils to read out their card and work out in their group what it means.
Once each group has deciphered their card, I gradually give them more clues by showing a PowerPoint containing testimonies from witnesses and observations from the inspector. The pupils translate the clues in their groups, then decide who is guilty and give a brief explanation for their decision, ideally in the target language.
Charlotte Baker is a French teacher at a secondary school in Brighton, East Sussex