Plane and simple

21st March 2003 at 00:00
A few sheets of paper are all you need to make your lessons take flight, writes Roy Watson-Davis

Ever been on a course run by someone who has a fantasy idea of what goes on in a classroom, where the quality of resources and attitude of the pupils are so far removed from reality that the presentation is rendered meaningless? Well, here are lesson ideas that require no more than paper, pen, and, occasionally, scissors. The pupils can bring the hearts of stone.

The aeroplane question Get pupils to write a topical question on a piece of paper, then make it into a paper plane. Each pupil then launches his or her plane, and whoever it lands near has to copy the question out and and find the answer. Or, get the landing zone pupil to read out the question to generate discussion, or to write the answer on the plane and give it to you as "air traffic controller". Warning: do not try this with the wrong class.

Create voting rods by rolling up paper Pupils can vote on an issue by holding the rods up. Colour them to get a "for" (red) and "against" (blue) discussion going. Each pupil can have a blue and red rod, or table; this allows for discussion work, and helps pupils formulate arguments. They will link "for" and "against" with the memory aid of the rods. It works even better if mind maps or lists are produced using the same colours.

Write questions on the top halves of sheets of paper Put the answers at the bottom. Cut the sheets in half and distribute arbitrarily. Pupils have to match the questions with the answers.

Write a paragraph intended to stimulate discussion Put each word on a single sheet. Give out randomly as pupils enter. The first task is for them to reconstruct the information, ideally tacking each word to a wall or board to set up the focus of discussion.

Turn a sheet of paper into an envelope On another piece of paper, pupils write a question they want answering and put in a "postbox" on your table.

You choose two or three a lesson to read out and answer, or pupils can pull out and answer as a lesson starter or closing activity.

Allow pupils to practise length of answers at GCSE Cut the writing paper to the appropriate length and train them to write their answer to the size of the paper. This works well for low mark answers, which pupils tend to over-write. This also works lower down the school with pupils who waffle or are too brief.

Give each pupil an A4 sheet of blank paper Split the class into groups.

Each group has to sum up the lesson as a storyboard, with each sheet counting as one part of a flow chart. This encourages precis and discussion skills.

Write out character cards to set up various activities They can be based on real personalities for a balloon debate, or used to set up discussion on topics from pre-planned points of view. This helps pupils who find it difficult to contribute to discussion as themselves, but can do if following a set of character instructions. Laminate for repeated use.

With luck, some of the above will work for your class, and encourage approaches to delivery of lessons that are slightly left-field, but educationally valid and virtually cost-free.

Roy Watson-Davis is an advanced skills teacher in the London borough of Bexley

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