What Makes Learning Fun: Two Year 7 Students’ Perspectives

Two weeks into term, I interviewed some Year 7 students in order to ascertain which strategies used in lessons they have especially enjoyed.  Among them were Ross Haggart and Victoria Ashton.

Ross Haggart is a fan of History and Learning Power.  He vividly explained to me how in History, the starter activity captivated the class’ imagination, with an outline of a dead body on the classroom floor, as the students entered.  The class had to use their imagination and noticing skills, in order to determine what type of job the ‘character’ may have had.  To aid them with this, a leather pouch, some pottery and a dice were used as props.  Questioning featured heavily in the lesson, as the students were asked to consider what the ‘character’ did for a job, the possible causes of death and what hobbies they may have had.

In a recent Learning Power lesson, Ross described how their main activity involved a set of pictures relating to famous people.  For this activity, the class were asked to spot the difference – once again, putting their noticing skills into practice.

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Victoria Ashton listed PE and English as her favourite lessons, “so far” (in her words).  For PE, Victoria described how she and her classmates had to pretend they were a flamingo, in order to test their physical balance and strength.  Whereas for English, she enthusiastically spoke about the use of a still image that was to be used as a springboard for a piece of descriptive writing, as part of a baseline test.

It became apparent very quickly that Year 7 students have not only been immersed into BLP habits but that they are definite aspects of learning that they enjoy.  In more general terms, the following aspects of lessons were commented on, by our learners, as strategies that make learning fun:

  • An engaging settler, perhaps something unexpected
  • The use of pictures or images to explore, discuss or ‘decipher’
  • Clear and concise explanations provided by teachers
  • Learning through games or through problem-solving opportunities
  • Improving on previous work
  • Rewards

In general, it was fantastic to hear our new starters comment so enthusiastically on their newly embarked-upon secondary school experience.

Cindy Long- My Favourite Lesson!

Written by Cindy Long in 7E

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Roughly two weeks ago I had a very motivating, enjoyable and fun packed English lesson! Every minute I was thoroughly gripped and could not wait to learn more. However, as well as it being a very intriguing lesson, I also learnt quite a lot too! Firstly, we kicked off with a challenging starter in which we wrote a detailed prediction of what we thought the ‘SOW’ would be for our new term. This excited me as I love using my noticing skills to infer new topics. Moreover, as a stretch and challenge task we were told to summarise our prediction in just fifty words! Then, later on in the lesson, Miss Stewart introduced us all to an AMAZING acronym. AFORESTER is its name; however, for each letter there is a word and for each word there is a meaning. Importantly, they were all key features that are needed in a successful speech. Furthermore, a little bit later we were given the challenge of writing our very own persuasive speech. This was the main activity of our captivating lesson.

I always enjoy a demanding challenge when it comes to my English lessons and I embrace every opportunity to explore my inner creativity when it comes to writing!

Katie Few- My Favourite Lesson!

Written by Katie Few- 7A

sampleMy favourite lesson was in ICT when we learnt how to make QR codes. It was my favourite lesson because it was the one I found the most interesting and we were given the opportunity and freedom to make our own QR codes. The lesson started by going through a presentation with our teacher telling us how to make a QR code and what they are used for. The main activity was to make one or more QR codes and download them onto our year 6 welcome presentation. The main things I learnt were:

  • to use a QR code safely and responsibly;
  • to make sure I have the correct website;
  • and when I or even you scan a QR code it takes us to a website quicker than finding it independently .

I think these are the key things I have learnt because they are the ones that have stayed in my mind and are the most useful.

Goffs ICT Department @GoffsICT

BLP Focus: using Imagination in the Classroom

Teachers at Goffs are always renewing their efforts to research and develop engaging, exciting and effective ways of learning in their classrooms. Moreover, they endeavour to create lessons that incorporate recent research of how the brain learns in order to further develop the BLP skills that students need for an increasingly complex world.

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Imaginative inquiry is key facilitator here and is one of our core BLP skills at Goffs. Of course, teachers use it in many different ways in different areas of the curriculum and over differing periods of time. One of the key benefits of applying imagination skills in class is the flexibility it allows in planning lessons that cover different learning styles and multiple intelligences.

You can get an example of how effective imagination skills are used in the classroom from Daisy Dewson’s favourite lessons. These examples are from RS and History:

“My favourite lesson is the RS lesson we had when we talked about Heaven and Hell. We talked about whether they exist or not, about what they’d be like if they did exist and about why we thought they do or don’t exist. I liked it because it was interesting and fun, and also because there was a lot of talking and giving opinions and we all got our say about whether or not there was some sort of life after death. 

In year seven we also re-enacted the Battle of Hastings in a history lesson. Over half term we all had to make a weapon for homework. I made a helmet and an axe. In the next history lesson we had to bring them in and we went to the sports hall. We were split into two sides: William’s army, the Normans, and Harold’s army, the English. We had previously had a lesson on the Battle of Hastings, so we knew what happened.  After we’d been sorted into two armies and each side had a king, we went into battle. It was really fun and we all learnt a lot from it because things are much easier to remember when you are put in the situation or re-enact them. Also it was exciting because we did a lot of running around and play fighting with our weapons.”

In RS we also incorporate ‘imagination skills’ into some assessments. Below are examples of Daisy’s “Religion – Do we have a choice?” assessment. The students task was to design their own ceremony to mark joining a religion or a coming of age ceremony that can be compared and contrasted to the religious ‘rites of passage’ ceremonies, such as baptism, Bar Mitzvah and Confirmation. Most students opt for a coming of age ceremony based on a community or group they feel they belong to (or would like to belong to). The assessment allows for students to both imagine the community as well as be creative in its construction. For example, Daisy produced a joining ceremony for a Doctor Who fan club (one that takes itself very seriously), which allowed for all kinds of imaginative joining rituals, commitments and shared values. The ceremony was then compared to the more established religions. Although this may seem a little silly, it does get the students to consider the comprehensive nature of the actual religious ceremonies studied and how much choice we have in joining them.

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Some may argue that these types of assessment are not academically rigorous or challenging enough, but RS teachers are looking for a specific explanative criteria (based on levels) to be met. Using imagination allows students to be creative, apply their knowledge to new situations and further their understanding of topics taught.

My favorite lesson: rapping with Edwin Chadwick by Lucy McCann

Edwin Chadwick: social reformer

Lucy McCann discusses how turning historical figures into rappers really engages her in History. A good example of ‘imagination’ and, therefore, BLP.
“Before I start, I would just like to say I have always loved history. So it will come as no surprise when I say my favourite lesson at Goffs, is history. I love learning about the past, and learning from mistakes.

The lessons vary, from fun group work to the slightly more serious answering of exam questions, which keeps the students interested for the next lesson. They are really up-to-date, for example, we had a lesson where we had to turn a famous historical figure into a rapper and write a Number 1 hit rap about their lives. It’s things like that that stay with a pupil and it was really good fun. As well as the normal lessons, we have revision lessons, to help us remember certain facts that would probably appear in the exam. They’re not heavy lessons, but in my opinion, light and often revision sessions work the best.

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Busta Rhymes: rapper

Our teacher is great too. I think a good aspect is that she doesn’t take anything we say (outside of answering questions) too seriously and she is able to have a laugh with us. Of course, our teacher can be serious too, but not unnecessarily. I think that’s quite important, because in my opinion, students need a teacher that they can be honest with, and can tell if they’re having problems in class, without being babied. But that’s just my opinion. All of the class are really well behaved in her lessons and get really high grades (from those I spoke too).

So that’s why history is my favourite class. Thanks for reading.”

Pop culture can be a great way to engage students. For example, read this other Learning Matters blog: http://goffsteach.com/2014/11/07/high-culture-versus-pop-culture-which-is-best-for-engaging-students/

Busta Rhymes photo credit: Mikamote (Wikicommons)

How I learn best: Sam Waterson

Picture credit: Vedeka

Former student Sam Waterson gives an insight into what engaged him at Goffs:

“My favourite lesson was a Film Studies lesson. It was my favourite as it had a mix of good and clear information and fun and engaging tasks. The lesson started off with a starter with the whole class mind-mapping and writing all their ideas on the board; this was good as the whole class was involved and giving input and then at the end of the mind-mapping there was lots of good information to put into our books for notes. Then we did the main activity, which was creating a poster for a film. I enjoyed this as you got to design your own poster/film and make it totally unique. It was also a good task as one of the exam questions was  to create a film poster; so not only was the activity enjoyable, but it also gave us practice for our exam. The key thing we learnt in the lesson was the importance of a film poster’s micro-features, which are all the main things on a poster e.g. a heading or the actors/actresses names etc.”

Sam has started a journalism course at Harlow College and staff wish him all the best.

If you are interested in mind-mapping and would like to understand it better to support your child, perhaps watch the short video below (if you have about 20 minutes watch the second video below from TEDx).There are plenty of books on mid-mapping, including those by Tony Buzan – an expert on thinking skills.

The below video features a talk given by Tony Buzan on how mind-mapping “flowers” the intelligence of children. It links the working of intelligence and language with the working of mind-maps.

Buzan’s organisation offers a free e-learning programme that can be accessed here: http://thinkbuzan.com/how-to-mind-map/