Tips of the trade 50. Keep them curious

4th July 2003 at 01:00
Creating short-term curiosity is especially useful at the start of secondary lessons. For example, write a question on the board which pupils have to answer by the end of a two-minute settling-in time. Write a keyword from which they have to make as many words as possible in two minutes.

Write a word or phrase and have them create three questions it could be the answer to. Make them observant - what have I moved from its usual place since your last lesson? What new notice has been put up this week?

For long-term curiosity, I was planning to study Shelley's poem "Ozymandias" with Year 8, so I began to drop the title into conversation in class for two weeks before I wanted to start. Comments such as "You think he was mean, wait until you meet Ozymandias", or "Be careful Ozymandias doesn't catch you doing that", and so on. It worked brilliantly.

Pupils started guessing from the first mention. They came to me in the corridors with ideas. One boy discussed it with his dad at home. (A dad involved in homework that hadn't even been set!) One boy found the answer on the web. Award stickers were given to all involved and a prize given to the top researcher. So, when we started the poem, they were already interested.

Jeanette Plumb is assistant head and English teacher at Hartcliffe school in Bristol. Do you have any useful tips for new teachers? We pay pound;50 for all tips published (about 300 words). Send yours to

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