Thursday, 2 February 2012


I've been trying to add something new to my teaching every fortnight this academic year.  It works well in this time frame as my school operates on a two week timetable, so I tend to see KS3 classes six times, KS4 five or six times and KS5 four or five times.  The last couple of weeks I've been doing the Marketplace activity (see below) pretty successfully.  Year 13 Human Biology taught themselves homeostasis, year 11 (target grades C-G, and all boys) did really well with radioactivity revision (they amazed themselves with how much they learnt in the space of an hour, and enjoyed how quickly the lesson went) and I combined revision and new material for top set year 9 about hormones and IVF (for an observed lesson, rated "good"!)

This week I have been using placemats, aka a template for pupils to write their own notes into. They were recommended to me, and as I've spoken to colleagues who trained since me, it seems to be something they knew about all along.

The format I've been using is with a topical photo or picture in one corner, along with a title, then a series of boxes/shapes with levelled/graded questions in, usually based on the syllabus.

My first attempt was with year 13 who used them as a bit of a quick test - could they fill in the boxes with things they remembered about homeostasis.  It was a nice followup lesson to the Marketplace, allowing them to put notes on paper (this seems to reassure them, even though they have a textbook). Year 10 Biology liked the outline about smoking, again done along the lines of "Describe...", "Explain...", "Analyse data about..." to differentiate.  They also used them to show progress by filling in what they could at the start of the lesson and then adding to it in a different colour at various mini plenaries during the lesson.  I could also see them being used to share information with others as they move between groups.  Again, my year 11 pupils really took to them when we did about the doppler effect and red shift today.  They decided to draw diagrams to explain what the doppler effect is rather than write something - this is something they've learnt to do from the Marketplace activity.

I'll need to be careful using placemats I think.  They take hardly any time to prepare, and mean that I can leave some classes to research material rather than me being more involved in questioning and showing them demos or doing practicals.

I would be interested to know if anyone else uses anything like this.  Do they count as active learning or lazy teaching?

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