My best worst lesson

9th January 2009 at 00:00

BEST: Towards the end of the GCSE course with a mixed-ability Year 11 group it became apparent that energy and enthusiasm for the remaining part of the syllabus were running low.

In order to get through the last bits of teaching that were necessary before we concentrated on revision, I realised that I had to come up with something that would ignite their imaginations, while also doing the job of getting the information across. I decided to give them a task much more akin to key stage 3, a newspaper article with a slight twist: a deadline and an element of competition as there would be a winning article.

The class was given an information sheet with everything pupils needed to know about the chosen case study: a newly industrialised country, plus images they could include. Pupils were each given an A3 sheet of paper on which to complete their articles (to allow them more creativity with the layout), and one double lesson.

To my amazement the new approach had the desired effect and everyone worked in near silence.

They produced fantastic articles in which many of them had put more thought and effort than they had in their work for several months and, sure enough, there was a winning article, rewarded with a small chocolate bar.

The level of motivation and enthusiasm for the subject generated by that one lesson stayed with us for a good couple of weeks, meaning that we were all winners.

WORST: During the second placement of my PGCE course I had to teach a low-ability Year 9 group on a Friday afternoon. The pupils were challenging at the best of times, but one particular afternoon while attempting to teach a straightforward, if not terribly exciting, lesson on development, they went from challenging to almost impossible.

The classroom was full. There were no spare desks, so when two of the boys started physically fighting each other I felt I had little choice but to remove them from the room to deal with the incident. I was out of the room for a minute or two at the most.

Having sorted out the boys I returned to the class to find one of the girls standing on her chair showing the boys her knickers. At this point I just about gave up on the class and teaching altogether.

Somehow we made it to the end of the lesson without any further major incidents. I'm not too sure how much they learnt that afternoon (from me anyway), but I do seem to remember a good portion of the class having to remain behind after school as punishment for their misdemeanours. Just what I needed at the end of a challenging week.

Catherine Ditchfield is a geography teacher in Stirling.

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