On Sundays, do you stare at your planner thinking: “I have my lesson content. I have resources. I even have enthusiasm. But how to structure it all?”
It used to be easy. You taught regimented three- or four-part lessons, otherwise you sinned against Ofsted holy laws. But now Sir Michael Wilshaw says they’re not expecting “formulaic” lessons, you have more freedom to experiment. So…
Are you sitting comfortably?
Structure a lesson around story. Use narrative features to organise a science lesson about plant life cycles or a foetus’ development. In a biscuit’s exciting journey through the digestive system, what role do the “settings” of the oesophagus, stomach and bowel play? Create timelines. Write the plotline. Devise character profiles for Ms Biscuit and those she meets along the way.
The numbers game
Split your lessons into equal parts. Organise an hour’s history lesson by splitting it down into a brief introduction, then 10 five-minute slots. Base each slot on a method for, say, identifying a Marxist, a democracy or the Tudor period. In food technology, explore ways to render pastry inedible.
Start with an answer and structure the lesson around discovering the question.
Use the “boxing” debate for controversial topics. Split a class of 30 into six groups of five. Three groups will argue “agree” and three “disagree”. Display the debate issue, a picture of a boxing ring and a points chart. Each of the six groups nominates a speaker and plans points. You ring a bell, and two combatants debate the issue for three minutes. You decide who wins the round. Groups plan further until Round Two, with different combatants. Round Three decides the winners.
The big reveal
Harness the amazing power of revelation. In geography, gradually reveal sections of a map to explore a country, or objects suggesting a people group. In English, reveal words or phrases from a poem or story.
And your host is…
Select able pupils on to the panel for a “Question Time” lesson. Distribute questions, or have pupils prepare their own. Elect a roving microphone person. The panel could role-play politicians to discuss current affairs, or be town planners proposing a major road, parents wanting to limit screen-time, or royalists defending the monarchy.
Split the class in two. Get half to hold a “GP surgery”. The others can have appointments to discuss their problems; for instance, “I get a pain each time I analyse a poem” or “The fear of letting goals in keeps me awake at night”. GPs diagnose the problems and prepare “prescriptions” for a cure.
To an appropriately sceptical panel, pupils pitch solutions to problems. In PSHE, they could pitch “solutions to homelessness”. Politics students could pitch “routes back into democracy for a totalitarian society”.
Lesson within a lesson
Pupils plan a lesson, or a series of lessons, to deliver to younger pupils, either real ones, if it can be organised within the timetable, or role-playing peers. They plan the teaching, produce resources, and deliver and evaluate their lesson.
You could also structure a lesson à la The Voice. Pupils sit with their backs to you and if they like what they hear, they twizzle round.
Then again, maybe that’s taking experimentation a step too far.
Fran Hill is a writer and part-time English teacher at a girls’ independent school @beingFran