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Tried and Tested - Writing to instruct

Subject: English

Lesson: Magic tricks

Ages: Years 7 and 8

Supplied by: Irfan Shah, an English teacher from Leeds

1. What is it?

Pupils get stuck into the "writing to instruct" element of the English curriculum by teaching each other magic tricks.

2. Who is it aimed at?

It is ideal for 11 to 12-year-olds. However, it can (and often does) go down a storm with older pupils as well.

3. What happens in the lesson?

Discuss the ubiquitous nature of instructions before going over their essential ingredients. Split the class into groups. Each is given a magic trick and instructions to learn. After five to 10 minutes, take back the instructions and ask the group to write their own. After another five to 10 minutes each group passes its trick and new set of instructions on to the next. Now everyone has a new trick and another five to 10 minutes to learn it - but now they are depending on each other's skills in writing instructions.

4. What do you want the lesson to achieve?

The lesson can end with a class-wide magic show and a discussion of what has been learnt. The lesson must be fun. It should bring together the pupils in a genuinely collaborative effort and also show them that good speaking and listening skills can achieve tangible results. It should also be an effective introduction to "writing to instruct".

5. How do you know it has been successful?

There is one fantastic way of gauging success. If the groups can learn a new trick successfully from their fellow pupils' instructions, then there is an end result for everyone to see.

6. Why would you recommend this to other teachers?

It combines eccentricity and creativity with lesson objectives that fit easily into the national curriculum.

7. Give us three top tips

- Take a risk. Surprise the pupils by performing a trick before they really understand what the lesson will involve.

- Writing advertisements for your magic show and then reviews of it can help you continue the theme over several lessons.

- Make sure pupils don't sneak a peak at other groups' tricks before they are meant to.

8. Useful resources

Most large toy shops sell reasonably priced magic sets that contain dozens of effective but simple tricks.

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