My best worst lesson

16th May 2008 at 01:00
Best: My best lesson was an introduction to our term's topic, the Second World War
Best: My best lesson was an introduction to our term's topic, the Second World War. After spending my Easter holidays getting resources together, I was looking forward to Year 3's reaction.

On each of the five tables in the room, I put resources ranging from gas masks and helmets to pictures of world leaders, war posters and replica items such as information leaflets and identity cards.

After listening to Neville Chamberlain's famous radio broadcast, in which the then prime minister announced that Britain was at war with Germany, the pupils spent a while looking at the items on each table when the "air raid siren" (a sound effect on the computer) went off.

Their enthusiasm was infectious. They had researched the subject over the holiday for homework and now had the chance to explore a bit more. My teaching assistant was invaluable, telling the children all about life in the "olden days", and sharing her experiences. Meanwhile, the head of key stage 2, who had only been passing through the room, stopped with us for nearly half an hour.

The pupils naturally came out with some clangers, such as: "When we go to Germany we can't be arrested if we do something wrong because they owe us one." But equally they asked some superb questions that made me proud of them. I don't think I've ever been asked so many questions during a lesson, including the now legendary: "Anne Frank? I've heard of her. Was she Hitler's wife?"

Worst: After reading a chapter of our class text, Matilda by Roald Dahl, we had a lesson on sentence structure. I wasn't entirely sure of the difference between a complex and compound sentence, but had looked it up in advance and felt fairly confident.

I had examples of different types of sentences on the board to demonstrate to the pupils, but then had a sudden surge of fear as I realised my complex and compound sentences were the wrong way round. I made some quick apologies and corrected the mistake, fearing it was too late.

We went through the first short paragraph together, highlighting what turned out to be one long sentence. The pupils set off, highlighting the rest of the page in different colours to represent the different structures, and every query threw me into deeper hot water.

After a few minutes, the whole class was completely confused, me more than anyone. I quickly got my book out, which was supposed to put me straight, but it only confused me more, making me look a complete fool in front of Year 3.

We ended up highlighting the simple sentences blue and everything else pink, while I tried to get myself out of the mess by consulting a different book. The pupils thought it was hilarious, but I felt terrible.

It was a complete disaster, but I learnt an important lesson - and it had nothing to do with sentence structure.

Gemma Ward is a newly qualified teacher at St John's Church of England Primary School in Kidderminster, Worcestershire.

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