Each Key Resource provides practical advice about a particular classroom approach (e.g. group work) or skill (e.g. questioning). They are suitable for primary and secondary teachers, and for teacher educators designing learning experiences for pre-service or in-service teachers.
The approaches and skills described in the Key Resources are exemplified in activities and case studies, throughout the TESSA Subject Resources. As teachers and teacher educators try out these activities, they will develop expertise in a range of skills and classroom approaches. It is important to remember that there are no rules or ‘recipes’ for these approaches, rather a few guiding principles. How an individual teacher or teacher educator manages each approach will depend on the topic they are teaching, the context, the learners and their own ‘teaching personality’. Expertise will come through practice, and reflection on that practice. The TESSA Key Resources set out the guiding principles.
As with all the TESSA OER, the Key Resources can be copied, adapted and distributed as single resources, or as a complete set.
Assessment falls into two categories. One category looks back and makes a judgement on what has been learned already. This is called summative assessment. The second category is when we use assessment as part of the learning process (for example when we use questioning to check whether pupils have understood something). We call this formative assessment.
Summative assessment can be seen in the form of tests and marks which tell the pupils how well they have done in a particular subject or piece of work. Formative assessment is quite different.
Formative assessment – or assessment for learning – is based on the idea that pupils will improve most if:
As a teacher, you will get the best out of your pupils if you aim to use the three points above, which makes assessment as much a responsibility for the pupil as it is for the teacher. How does this work?
When you decide the learning outcomes for a topic or a piece of work you should share it with the pupils. You need to be clear by distinguishing not just what it is they have to DO, but what it is you are expecting them to LEARN. So to check they have understood, rather than saying ‘Have you all understood?’ ask a question that gives you the chance to assess whether they have really understood. For example:
Their answers will enable you to know if they understand what it is they have to learn before they start. Give them time to explore the true meaning of your learning outcomes.
In order to help pupils improve, you and they need to know the current state of their knowledge. It is your role to be sensitive, constructive and enthusiastic in finding out the current state of knowledge of your pupils. Insensitive comments and behaviour can have a damaging effect on pupil confidence, motivation and enthusiasm. Think back to those teachers who damaged your own confidence and enthusiasm, and do not follow their behaviour. Instead, when you talk to pupils about their current learning, make sure that they find your feedback both useful and constructive. Do this by:
You will need to provide opportunities for pupils to improve their work. This means that by talking to them about their work you may discover misconceptions that mean you have to modify the content and style of what you have been teaching if you want to close the gap between where they are now and where you wish them to be.
Very often, by slowing down with a group of pupils you can actually speed up, because you have given them time and confidence to think and understand what they need to do to improve. By letting pupils talk about their work amongst themselves and reflecting on where the gaps are and how they might close them, you are providing them with ways to assess themselves.
Key to all this is you, the teacher, demonstrating a belief in your pupils, giving constructive guidance on how to improve and providing opportunities for them to take charge of their own learning.
Brainstorming is a group activity that generates as many ideas as possible on a specific issue or problem then decides which idea(s) offers the best solution. It involves creative thinking by the group to think of new ideas to address the issue or problem they are faced with. Brainstorming helps pupils to:
Before starting a session, you need to identify a clear issue or problem. This can range from a simple word like ‘energy’ and what it means to the group, or something like ‘How can we develop our school environment?’ To set up a good brainstorm, it is essential to have a word, question or problem that the group is likely to respond to. In very large classes, questions can be different for different groups. Groups themselves should be as varied as possible in terms of gender and ability.
There needs to be a large sheet of paper that all can see in a group of between six and eight pupils. The ideas of the group need to be recorded as the session progresses so that everyone knows what has been said and can build on or add to earlier ideas. Every idea must be written down, however unusual. Before the session begins, the following rules are made clear:
The teacher’s role initially is to encourage discussion, involvement and the recording of ideas. When pupils begin to struggle for ideas, or time is up, get the group (or groups) to select their best three ideas and say why they have chosen these.
Mind mapping is a way of representing key aspects of a central topic. Mind maps are visual tools to help pupils structure and organise their own thinking about a concept or topic. A mind map reduces large amounts of information into an easy-to-understand diagram that shows the relationships and patterns between different aspects of the topic.
A mind map is useful when you want to encourage creativity as its structure encourages free thinking.
When trying to solve a problem, a mind map helps to highlight the aspects of the problem and how they relate to one another.
A mind map can help to revise previous work with a class – quickly and in an organised way.
Use mind maps when you want to encourage discussion, variety, experimentation and thinking in class groups
Below there is a mind map of all the information teachers thought of at a workshop on the topic ‘all we know about water’:
Many teachers work in difficult contexts. They may have large classes. They may have few resources. The pupils in these contexts are not likely to have resources at home to compensate for limited school resources.
A group of teachers working in such circumstances recently brainstormed suggestions about how to be resourceful despite such difficult conditions. They came up with many ideas and decided that the following seven were most useful:
The TESSA programme would like to receive letters or emails about ideas for teaching in challenging conditions.
Explaining is the giving of understanding to another. Demonstrations are ways of assisting the explanation process by using artefacts or other methods to show pupils something so that they understand it better.
An explanation used in a lesson can help pupils to understand:
To explain well, you, the teacher, have to understand the subject matter well (what is to be taught). For example, if you do not understand that a spider is not an insect, neither will your pupils.
When explaining new concepts or ideas, four key features will help you structure and sequence your explanation:
How explaining is done is just as important as having good subject knowledge. Just giving out information is not enough. Demonstrating an idea or a concept in a practical way often assists pupil learning. This can be done by:
Always remember that to avoid pupil confusion in your explanations and demonstrations, you need to fully involve them to check that they understand what you are saying and doing. Important points to be aware of are:
When explaining or demonstrating to really assist learning you need to:
Group work can be a very effective way of motivating pupils to learn by encouraging them to think, communicate, exchange ideas and thoughts, and make decisions. In groups, pupils can both teach others and learn from each other in ways that result in a powerful and active form of learning.
Group work can be used:
Check how the groups are doing. Resist the temptation to get involved too soon. Let them struggle with difficulties for a while. If you give them answers too quickly they will come to rely on you rather than on themselves. If necessary, clarify your instructions. It is important to remember that all learning requires us to struggle with difficulty or uncertainty. So expect a lot from your pupils, telling them how confident you are in them as you go between the groups.
Children are naturally curious. Good teaching exploits this very human characteristic. Over the past few decades increasing attention has been given to using investigative approaches in the classroom. Rather than just telling pupils something, why not make them think about a topic or area of enquiry? At its simplest, this might just be ‘asking a question’ rather than ‘telling’. This promotes a more active approach that is much more effective than passive ‘telling’ in promoting lasting learning. Increasingly, however, teachers plan to use investigations to promote active learning.
Investigations are already well established in the teaching of science (through experiments) but the same technique can be used in all subjects. Mathematics or numeracy, for example, becomes much more interesting if pupils have to work out real problems. The same is true of other subjects. In geography or social studies, rather than just telling pupils about environmental problems, why not set them a task? You will find a number of examples of topics that can be taught in this way in the TESSA modules.
There are different strategies for approaching investigations. Below is a detailed example when looking at the teaching of science topics, but you can take a similar approach in any area. The following basic steps can be taken.
Use brainstorming to open a topic (see Key Resource: Using mind maps and brainstorming to explore ideas). You can do this with the whole class, or begin with groups and then have a whole-class session. The important things are to make pupils think actively about the issues being raised and to establish their current knowledge of the topic.
A brainstorming session will throw up many different ideas: these will probably have been recorded on the chalkboard or on a chart of some sort. You, as the teacher, now have the opportunity to focus on the key area that is to be investigated. For example, you may wish to teach about the link between human activity (for example farming) and the local environment. In the brainstorm, some pupils talk about local worries about the declining fertility of the soil. You might decide that an investigation into ‘whether the local soil is less fertile and if so why’ should be the focus.
All sorts of methods are available to you. You could carry out detailed interviews with local farmers or discuss with grandparents or older members of the community ‘what things used to be like’ or ‘how crops used to grow’. It is important that pupils think about the methods to be used and why. This helps them develop personal investigative skills.
The pupils then have to carry out the investigation. Before they do this, it is important to establish the way the findings are going to be reported back. The form this takes depends on the nature of the investigation. You can have a fairly informal investigation, for example where pupils ask older family members what the village was like 20 years ago. The report back might then be ‘verbal reporting’ to the whole class. You might have asked each member of the class to ask the same five questions to at least two older members of the family. The report back then could be in the form of a chart, so that you can show similarities and differences in the findings.
Once the data is reported and recorded, the findings have to be interpreted. This is key and it is very important that you, the teacher, do not dominate discussions initially. Make the pupils voice their own ideas (in verbal or written forms) before beginning to steer them, perhaps through questioning, to the key learning interpretations you are looking for.
The investigative approach should become habit for the good teacher. Set out below is a much more detailed way of using investigations in science.
An investigative approach to science
|Step 1 - Brainstorming/getting ideas|
|Step 2 - Choosing the variables|
|Step 3 - Asking a question|
|Step 4 - Planning the experiment|
|Step 5 - Carrying out the experiment|
|Step 6 - Recording and Presenting|
|Step 7 - Interpreting and Evaluating|
|Step 8 - Reporting back|
See Key Resource: Tools for planning and carrying out investigations in Science for possible approaches to teaching investigation
Step 1 - Brainstorming or getting ideas
|What could we investigate|
|What could we measure or observe?|
This table is made available to the children. This may be put up on the wall as a poster or written on the board. The teacher then initiates a class discussion on the investigation topic.
|What could we investigate|
|light||temperature||quantity of medium|
|acid rain||seed type||closeness of seeds|
|What could we measure or observe?|
|light||Temperature||volume of water|
This table is made available to the children. This may be put up on the wall as a poster or written on the board. The teacher then initiates a class discussion on the investigation topic.
Example: Investigation into factors that affect germination and growth.
The teacher may begin by reminding the children about what germination means, then pose the question: What affects germination? The purpose of the investigation is to discover if and how a particular factor affects germination in a particular plant, e.g. cress.
The children are asked to suggest any factor that might affect the germination of cress.
|I am going to find out what happens to ...|
|... when I change ...|
|I am going to keep these the same (constant) to make it fair ... |
Once again the table is made available to the children. This may be put up on the wall as a poster or written on the board or copies given to group leaders or to all the pupils.
The group are asked to select one variable that they will change (independent variable) and one that they will measure (dependent variable). All the other variables must be kept the same if there is to be a fair test.
The concept of a fair test is crucially important in planning an investigation. The pupils should be taught to control the variables other than the dependent and independent variables in a conscious way. Often the more ‘obvious’ a variable is, the more likely it is to be controlled, but the pupils should be trained to consider their set-up and decide on the variables to be controlled.
A fair test is one in which only the independent variable is seen to cause a change in the dependent variable. If, for example, two things change, say temperature and humidity, you cannot be sure which of these causes the change in the dependent variable; it may be temperature or it may be humidity or it may be a combination of both.
Note: the words independent variable and dependent variable do not need to be taught at this stage!
|Making a prediction/hypothesis|
When we increase/decrease
... we think that the
number of seeds germinating
will increase / decrease / stay the same
At this stage, pupils are being asked to select the variable they want to investigate. They choose one of the things that they have said they could change and one of the things that they said they could measure.
The question posed is: If I change this (the chosen variable or independent variable), what will happen to that will increase / decrease / stay the same (the chosen measurement or dependent variable)?
|Designing the experiment|
|Listing what you need||Describe how you will use them. Make a diagram if you want.|
30 cress seeds cotton wool
3 dishes cling film
The pupils now plan the experimental procedure. It is very important to stress that only one of the variables can be changed during the experiment. As a result the variable being measured will, presumably, change. All other variables must be kept constant to ensure a fair test.
Before they carry out their experiment it is important that the teacher makes sure that the procedure to be followed is safe. For this reason it is important to include a TEACHER CHECKPOINT before the pupils are allowed to continue with the practical and to ensure that suitable safety precautions are used.
The pupils collect evidence by carrying out the experiment and carefully noting the changes occurring in the dependent variable. They may also measure the variables they are keeping constant to ensure that they are kept constant throughout their experimental procedure.
|What we changed||What we measured|
|temperature (°C)||no. of seeds germinating|
The pupils are encouraged to record the results from their investigation by producing a table of results. The table includes the independent variable (what they were changing) and the dependent variable (what they were measuring).
The production of the table of results will help the pupils in constructing a bar chart or graph of their results.
An average may need to be taken to get more accurate results.
Graphs and charts are powerful tools because they enable pupils to see the result of what they changed (the independent variable) affecting what they measured (the dependent variable). This gives a picture of the information they have collected and helps them to identify patterns and trends. It also helps the pupils to develop understanding by relating pattern and trends to their scientific knowledge.
The type of graph that is appropriate depends on the type of variable used for the key variables i.e. what they change (independent variable) and what they measure (dependent variable). The table below shows the types of graphs that should be drawn for different types of variables.
|What is ...|
|... changed? (independent variable) e.g.||... measured? (dependent variable) e.g.||Type of table||Type of graph|
type of cloth
amount of wear
type of cloth
size of stain (cm2)
length of pitch of note elastic band (cm)
pitch of note
concentration of acid (%)
no. of bubbles
|What we measured|
number of seeds
By careful examination of the bar chart or graph, the pupils should be able to identify any trend or pattern that appears in their results.
In this case, there is an increase in the number of seeds germinating with increasing temperature.
|When we increased||temperature (°C)|
|There was ...||
number of seeds
|an increase in the|
|a decrease in the|
|no change in the|
The pupils are now asked to ‘make sense’ of their results.
|Was the investigation a fair test?||YES||NO|
|The conclusion from our investigation is ...|
|The number of seeds germinating is controlled by temperature. When you increase the temperature the number of cress seeds germinating increases.|
If they are satisfied that the experiment represented a fair test, they may now draw a conclusion from their investigation.
If the experiment was not a fair test, no conclusion may be reached.
After the practical part of the investigation is over, a reporting back session is vital. The importance of this stage is frequently underestimated and sometimes bypassed altogether (although admittedly often because of pressure of time). The reporting back session needs careful handling if the learning outcomes are to be fully achieved. Here the pupils should try to use their own evidence to justify the conclusions at which they have arrived.
The reporting stage can be followed by a ‘consolidation’ stage where the pupils are encouraged to use the information they have gained to further advance their knowledge and understanding. This kind of reflective discussion, where the group outcomes are shared, can be very useful.
It is important that you plan and prepare your lessons so that they stimulate your pupils’ interest. Part of this planning involves identifying resources that will engage your pupils in learning. One valuable resource you can explore and use is your local environment, where not only do you have people who have expertise in a wide range of topics but you also have access to a range of natural resources.
Using such dynamic resources will:
Maybe you are doing some work on money in mathematics or you are doing pattern in your art lessons. How could you introduce these topics to your pupils in a way that will capture their interest? One way would be to invite in a local shopkeeper to talk about how they use money in their work or a local dressmaker who uses traditional patterned fabrics. Your pupils will be interested to hear about what the visitors do and will want to ask questions and so this needs to be carefully planned. If you choose to do this you need to be clear what you would like your pupils to gain and learn from the experience and then follow the steps below to prepare.
Arrange for some pupils to meet the visitor at the appointed time at the school gate and bring them to the class. Introduce the visitor to the class and allow them to talk for a short time to the class about what they do (10–15 minutes), showing what they have brought if appropriate. Encourage your pupils to ask questions. When the visit is finished, ask one of your class to thank the visitor for coming.
Think how you will use what your pupils have seen and heard. You could ask them to share their ideas in groups and make lists or posters of the key things they learned. You could plan more lessons using the ideas and information as the context for them to learn more about the topic. They could research more about the topic. They could share their ideas with other classes or their parents at a special parents evening or exhibition.
The outside environment can be seen as a place to collect resources but it can also be an extension of your inside classroom. Here are some ideas about how to use the local environment to support, resource and extend your classroom teaching.
Wherever your school is, there will be a variety of living things that you could collect and bring into the classroom for shorts periods for your pupils to investigate and observe. You could do the collecting or you could take your class out to do the collecting. Bringing in leaves, for example, will enable pupils to study these more closely. Creatures such as praying mantis, certain spiders or other insects can be kept in suitable conditions/containers for a short period of time. Be clear what your pupils are going to learn and give them time to observe the creatures safely so they are not frightened and they do not frighten the animals either. Make sure they respect the animals and plants and understand how important these are to the community.
There are many other things that you might be able to collect from the local environment – whether you are in a rural or urban setting – that might help you in the classroom. These include:
All of these and many other materials could be gathered over time, so that when you want to do modelling with your class you have a stock of paper and card. Or when you want to do posters with your class about science you have some card for each group to write on. Always ask if you can have the materials you see. Ask your class to help you gather materials in advance of your lessons.
Rather than bring the outside into the classroom, take your pupils out into the school grounds or further. If you decide to do this, always gain permission from the head teacher or principal beforehand. Taking pupils out to see the plants and animals in the real world will inspire more pupils. Taking them out to look at the way the environment is used, buildings are laid, the local stream flows or where the cattle graze will interest your pupils more and stimulate their deeper thinking skills if you plan challenging activities for them to do.
Consistently good lessons have to be planned. By planning and preparing well, you are concentrating on:
So planning is a continual process that helps you to think and prepare what is needed to help your pupils respond well to you and the content of what you teach. For your pupils to learn from your lessons they need to be:
First of all, think of the curriculum you need to follow, and begin by breaking up subjects and topics into sections that can fit into a lesson time. One topic may take up four lessons, but another only two. Now you need to use your skill to makes these topics into lessons your pupils find interesting. To do this, you need to be clear about what you want to do. Learning objectives and learning outcomes will help you.
All lessons need learning objectives, that is, what is it that pupils should know/understand/be able to do/be aware of at the end of the lesson. A learning objective is a statement about what you aim to do. For example: At the end of the lesson the pupils will…
Lesson plans also need a learning outcome, that is, ‘How do I know that pupils have achieved the objectives I set them?’ For example:
A successful lesson will show you can assess how much your pupils have achieved and that both you and they know what they need to tackle next.
Preparing lessons concentrates on what you need to do to achieve the learning outcomes. Think of preparing your lessons in three parts. These parts are:
At the start of a lesson, explain your learning objectives in a way your pupils understand so that they know exactly what is expected of them. Get them interested in what they are about to do by allowing them to share what they know already.
In this section, you will explain new information and develop activities that help pupils to develop and confirm their own learning. These activities can be brainstorming, group work, problem solving, experimentation etc. Whatever you choose will be aimed at helping the pupils to achieve your original objectives in the most effective way. As well as the content you have prepared, the resources you use and the way you make use of your classroom space will influence how successful your lesson will be. Variety is an important part of lesson planning and preparation.
Always leave time at the end to find out how much progress pupils have made. Refer back to the learning objectives. Summarise the lesson by highlighting its key points. Also summarise what they have done already and what they will be doing next time. Allow time for pupils to tell you and each other about their learning so that you know what to plan next.
Finally, ask yourself if you are clear about the progress pupils have made. What did you do well to help them understand and what could you have done a bit better?
Good questioning is an important skill for you, the teacher, to acquire. Questioning can be used to find out what your pupils know and assess their progress, but can also be used to inspire them, help extend their thinking skills and develop enquiring minds. Questions you can ask can be divided into two broad categories:
There are two issues with both higher and lower level questions. These are:
Many teachers allow just one second before answering the question themselves or asking another question. This leaves no time for pupils to think what they might say. By waiting between three and six seconds before saying anything gives pupils time to think of answers. Research indicates that this has a positive effect on pupils’ achievement. By waiting after posing a question there is an increase in:
The way incorrect responses are handled will determine whether pupils continue to respond to the teacher’s questions. ‘That’s wrong’, ‘You are stupid’ or other humiliation or punishment often stops pupils volunteering any more answers from fear of further embarrassment or ridicule. Instead, if you can pick out parts of the answers that are correct and ask them in a supportive way to think a bit more about their answer you may encourage more active participation. This helps your pupils to learn from their mistakes in a way that negative behaviour towards them does not. The following phrase shows how you might handle an incorrect answer in a more supportive way:
‘You were right about evaporation forming clouds, but I think we need to explore a bit more about what you said about rain. Can anyone else help us?’
Helping pupils to think more deeply and improve the quality of their answers is a crucial part of your role. To help pupils achieve more, you need to be able to:
Prompting is about adding hints that help pupils develop and improve their answers. Begin by choosing what is right in the answer and offering information, further questions and other clues. (‘So what would happen if you added a weight to the end of your paper aeroplane?’)
Probing is about trying to find out more, helping pupils clarify what they are trying to say to improve a disorganised answer or one that is partly right. (‘So what more can you tell me about how this fits together?’)
Refocusing is about building on correct answers to link pupils’ knowledge to knowledge they have previously learned. This broadens their understanding. (‘That is good. But how does it link with what we were looking at last week in our local environment topic?’)
Sequencing questions means asking questions in a certain order to extend thinking. Here, your intention is to lead pupils to summarise, compare, explain or analyse. This means you must have questions ready that stretch pupils, but not so far that they lose the meaning of the questions. (‘Explain how you overcame your earlier problem. What difference did that make? What do you think you need to tackle next?’)
Listening enables you not just to look for the answer you are expecting, but to alert you to unusual or innovative answers that you may not have expected. Such answers could highlight misconceptions that need correcting, or they may show a new approach that you had not considered. Your response to these could be very important in maintaining motivation. (‘I hadn’t thought of that. Tell me more why you think that way.’)
It is often said that ‘questions are only as good as the answers they get’. Common errors in questioning, which discourage pupils from offering answers or participating, are:
If you do any of these, think about how you might adapt your approach and find ways of doing the opposite. Watch and see the improvement in pupil performance.
Good teachers like to find out as much as they can about their classes and the teaching approaches that work best. This is often a very informal process. For example, it is very common to discuss the best way to teach a certain topic with other teachers. These same discussions might extend to other topics. Why is the attendance of boys in the school much poorer than the attendance of girls? In what ways can parents or guardians be encouraged to come and talk to us about their children’s progress?
This can become a more thorough process if you adopt the sorts of approaches and methods that researchers use. You can use what is often termed ‘action research’ to help improve your teaching and your school generally. The word ‘action’ is used to signify that you expect to gain information upon which you can ‘act’ fairly quickly.
Many books and publications now describe the ‘action research’ approach. Here we set out a very straightforward approach in just four stages.
Take the problem or issues you want to examine and formulate it in terms of a research question. For example, you may have become worried that some girls in the class seem to have problems doing homework. This worry becomes a question:
‘Why do some girls have problems doing schoolwork, especially homework, at home?’
You then have to think about the methods you use to explore this problem. For example, you could give the girls a short questionnaire asking them about working at home and the reasons why they experience difficulties. This assumes the pupils have reasonably good written skills. You could carry out individual interviews with the girls. In some situations, you might be able to visit the homes and interview the parents or guardians.
Find time to carry out interviews, observations or surveys. This is your research.
When you have carried out the research, it is a good idea to write up the findings. Sometimes teachers do this as part of a course (an upgrading course for example) and have to write things up in a formal way. Even if you are doing this for your own benefit, it is useful to note down your findings.
Interpret and reflect on your findings. Once you have the data, you need to think about what it means and what the implications are. For example, if the interviews with the girls revealed that some of them are expected to take over ‘childcare’ at home and find doing homework a problem, then you need to think about how you deal with this. Do you talk to the parents or guardians to stress the importance of the girls being able to do their homework? Or do you provide, for example, lunchtime opportunities for the girls to carry out their homework?
The research process then carries on as you evaluate the impact of the changes you have made.
Action research can be built into the general strategies for improving teaching and improving schools. It can be done individually but it is also very effective when groups of teachers work cooperatively to try to solve particular problems.
Pupils, and adults too, learn best when they are actively engaged in the learning experience. Role play, dialogue and drama are very active ways to explore what your pupils already know. By interaction with others and sharing their ideas, your pupils can build a broader and/or deeper understanding of the topic.
The three strategies in this key resource allow pupils to develop their thinking skills, work in contexts that allow them to talk about more sensitive issues and use their creativity and imagination to extend their knowledge and to resolve problems. You will have to plan your lessons carefully and think how you introduce them to the techniques. You will need to think about whether you work with the whole class at once or with small groups. This may depend on the size of your class and their ages.
All of the three methods below have strengths that allow you to use them across a range of curriculum areas.
So, how can you use these strategies in your classroom, what things do you need to think about if you want to use them and what benefits will they bring?
An important part of your role in helping your pupils learn has to be helping them to think about what they know and what they do not know or cannot do. Unless you encourage them to talk about their ideas and listen to other people’s viewpoints they will not be able to extend their own understanding as much as they could. Straightforward reading and answering questions exercises do not challenge their thinking and ideas as much as activities where they have to apply the ideas to relevant situations. For example, pupils will understand the idea of gravity and how things fall to the ground much better if they have to plan and investigate ways to slow down how things fall. By discussing what they are going to do, they have to think about what they already know, why and how things fall, and what they could do to slow them down.
Talking in groups of about four/five will give all pupils the opportunity to speak and listen to other’s ideas, but sometimes just asking pupils to talk in pairs for a few minutes for one key idea to share with the class can be just as valuable. Shy pupils, who do not normally participate in larger class discussions, may feel more confident about speaking in these smaller groups and so you would be able to find out more about what they know and how they think.
As a teacher, you need to be aware of your pupils’ interests and knowledge and how they learn so that you can match your teaching better to their needs.
Give pupils frequent opportunities to talk in groups about different topics and make sure they have enough time to do it.
Role play is when pupils are assigned a role and, during a small scenario, act as they think the person they are being would act in such a situation. For example, in one of your citizenship or life skills classes, you may be exploring how to resolve conflict in the playground. Rather than use an incident from your class, you can make up a scenario in which a similar incident occurred. It may be in a home or community setting, but while the story is detached from the playground, the issues are the same.
You could assign pupils to roles and give them time to think about the little scene they are going to develop or you could just ask them to do it without any planning time. You will need to try both ways to see the benefits for yourself of both approaches. You could have just one group performing in front of the rest of the class or you could let all the class work in small groups at once (so no group is being watched). You could put your pupils into groups and ask them to assign roles themselves before giving them time to explore how they might resolve the conflict.
If you have a large class or a small classroom you may have to allow some groups to work outside. These pupils need to be aware of their responsibility to be sensible and not disturb other classes at work, although as they work you will be moving around and supporting them. You will have to think about what kind of feedback you want from the groups about their experiences and feelings. Some groups will be more willing than others to show their role plays. Some may prefer to tell you what they have learned from doing the role plays.
Using drama in the classroom is a good strategy to motivate most pupils. It can be used in many different ways and provides opportunities for the whole class to be involved in the creative process of producing a drama. Not everyone has to be an actor in the drama; some pupils can be used in other ways that may relate more to their talents and personality. Drama or telling a story through acting or dancing can be a stimulating way to encourage pupils to think about issues such as relationships, power struggles in history, local environmental issues and debates. It is not unlike role play but has an end product. This is a production of some kind that can be shown to the rest of the class, the school at assembly or to the parents and the local community.
This will give the pupils something to work towards and motivates them. It is useful to use both scripted plays and improvised plays to explore their ideas around an issue. Drama is also a good way to assess what your pupils understand about a topic. For example, one class did a play about their understanding of how the brain works using pretend telephones to show how messages go from the brain to the ears, eyes, nose, hands and mouth and back.
If you decide to use drama in your classroom, you could use a scripted play that has been written down, or you could draft an outline and let the pupils write the script for themselves. They could also improvise their drama and then work out what to say as they practise acting out the scene(s).
When setting up a drama lesson – or series of lessons, as dramas take time to develop – these are the things you need to remember:
Stories help us make sense of our lives. There are many traditional stories that have been passed down from generation to generation, which were told to us when we were young, that explain some of the rules and values of the society that we were born into. Stories are a very powerful medium, especially if they are well told or written. Stories are entertaining, exciting, stimulating and can transport us out of our everyday life into fantasy worlds, but they can also be challenging. They can provide guidance about how we live our lives; they can stimulate our thinking about new ideas; they can help us explore our feelings and help us to think through problems in a context that is detached from reality and therefore less threatening.
Stories have a strong role to play in the classroom in all curriculum areas and can be used in a number of ways for a range of purposes. The next part explores when and how you might use story in your classroom to develop your pupils’ knowledge and understanding of their world.
Stories can be used at the start, middle or end of lessons.
Most often stories used at this stage are to set the scene for the lesson, to stimulate interest, find out what pupils know already and to provide a context for the main work of the lesson.
Stories used at this stage provide a context for the work the class is doing. They may be analysing or using:
Stories used at this stage are often used to pull learning together, so selecting a story for this stage is much more difficult.
They can be used to just relax the pupils and give them a pleasurable experience before they go home from school. Stories have an immense value in themselves in that they provide comfort, support and entertainment. They help build confidence and self-esteem and help your pupils learn more about themselves as they relate to the characters in the story, so the telling or reading of stories just for pleasure cannot be overestimated.
Most societies throughout the world have used storytelling as a way of passing on their history and values. This is very true in Africa, which has a wealth of national and local traditional stories.
Stories can be found in books, in the local community, and in yourself and your pupils.
You need to select the story because of its message and the purpose for which you want to use it. For example, you may be investigating the sun and moon in your science lessons and use a traditional tale about how the sun and moon came to be in the sky at the start of the lesson to stimulate interest and to explore the truths of the story.
You may find your story in a book or it may be a local traditional tale that has not been written down, from your childhood or that of your pupils. You could also invent or write your own story to tell or read to your class or ask them to write the stories. These could be collected and made into a book of local stories or into books of stories about a particular curriculum area. There is no age limit to using story with your pupils but obviously you would need to select appropriately for those in your class.
Using story in your lessons is one way to involve the local community, as you can invite a renowned storyteller to come in to tell the tale. You could extend this to set up a storytelling club within the school for those interested in developing their storytelling skills and ensuring that such tales are not lost from the community.
Stories and storytelling play a key role in holding many communities together and so their importance should not be ignored in the classroom.
New technologies, often in educational contexts meaning information and communication technologies (ICTs), offer huge potential for classroom use. Although the availability of such technologies is limited in many African countries, that situation is changing rapidly. New forms of ICTs are appearing all the time. The experience of those with some knowledge of ICTs is not always a guide to the way in which new forms of ICTs can be most effectively used for learning.
This key resource, therefore, suggests how you, as a teacher, approach new technologies, rather than acting as a guide as to how they can be used. Here are ten points to help you establish a good approach to the potential of new technologies:
For more ideas about using new technologies, look at the TESSA website.
What counts in teaching is not the size of the class, nor the age or grade of the pupils in it, but the quality of the teaching. In this key resource document are some suggestions for teaching classes with pupils of different grades. You might also find it helpful to see the Key Resource: Working with Large Classes.
The following teaching strategies are for whole class or mixed-grade groups:
The following assessment strategies help give effective feedback and summative evaluations within a manageable workload for mixed-grade classes:
To identify which pupils need more personalised feedback, and to manage the paperwork, use the ‘portfolio’ method. A portfolio is a file, such as a manila folder, containing samples of a pupil’s assignments, such as essays, stories and reports; illustrations, pictures, maps and diagrams.
Exam questions should be in the same form as those that you used in quizzes, homework assignments, lectures or discussions.
Set aside class time to conduct review sessions, either with the entire class or in groups. One third of the session time can be spent in a short lecture revising the major points of a topic, and then the remaining time for pupils’ questions and/or a short practice exercise.
Together with, standard multiple-choice exams: