I had a year 9 business GCSE group that I was taking over. For my CPD I had chosen the topic of building pupil relationships in KS3. This would help with class management and raise attainment. If there is behaviour for learning due to sound pupil-teacher relationships then attainment follows as a happy consequence. Lessons flow better with fewer interruptions and more time can be allocated to teaching – but you know this.
Let me tell you the story of the lesson…
I am currently listening to a book called The Martian (Andy Weir 2020) on my audiobook app and the descriptions of his planning are so detailed and very inspirational. Now I’m not planning to survive on Mars on my own, but I did want to do a lesson that was really well-planned. I went back to basics and drew up a Lesson plan, and a room diagram of how I wanted it to look.
The current room layout is in rows facing the front which is my personal preference and the preference of everyone who teaches in that room. For the purposes of the responsible risk lesson, I needed to set everything into four team tables. I had a PPA lesson beforehand which I knew I could use to rearrange the room.
I also wanted tight control of the resources so I laid out team folders, the worksheets, and all the pens and pencils necessary for the task. I also laid out stickers on the tables which students could use to put their names on so I could try and learn some names during the session.
I intended to make four students into team leaders who would manage the students on their table. These students would be self-appointed amongst the group and would have charge of the folder and all the resources. There were also resources on the teacher's desk which the team leaders could go and look at all fetch if they needed them. This was to reduce the amount of movement around the room by the students. So I would only have four students moving about when the activities were taking place.
I set a timer on the board for 10 minutes and every 10 minutes students moved completely to the next table to try the next activity. On each table, there was a different biscuit and they had to try and decide which one was the brand and which one was the supermarket’s own-label copy. The team leaders wrote the data onto a chart on the wall.
There was a variety of activities on the tables designed to help me decide in the future which activities work best with this group. For example gapfill, anagrams of keywords and more open design activities.
So the room is ready, I have all of the resources on the tables except for the biscuits, hidden in a cupboard ready on paper plates, which I will produce once the students are calm and seated. This will reduce the possibility of biscuits on the floor before the activity takes place.
I also intend to stand at the door and greet all the students and give them verbal instructions when they arrive. They are to put all bags and coats at the back of the room because of moving around the carousel activities, it just makes things easier, and removes all the trip hazards. I wanted the students to move around the room and the biscuits to stay on the tables.
I also had a PowerPoint slide ready with all the instructions on it for the team leaders. Once the lesson was in full swing the team leaders would take over with instructions from me.
HOW IT WENT
This was all to happen within a one-hour lesson just before break time. This is how it went.
I greeted the students at the door and they put their bags and coats at the back and quickly took seats around the four tables. What they didn't do was space themselves out so I had one group of three and another table where students were dragging the chairs over and there were about 15 sat one table. So I had to even the numbers out and they weren't happy about that. I hadn't counted on the fact that they would all want to sit with their friends.
The students had to write their name stickers, a task which distracted them from the start of the lesson. Stickers were refused by some, stuck on arms, stuck across shirt fronts, written large over 3 stickers or too small to read. Some girls had really long hair so I couldn’t read those either. So mental note - no stickers in the future. Post-its are equally bad, but that’s a story for another time.
I appointed the team leaders and had a session at the beginning of the lesson where I showed the students my hand signal for quiet if I needed to (one raised hand and lighthouse eye contact whilst in power stance mode in the middle of the room). I toyed with the idea of teaching them macaroni cheese everybody freeze, about I think that might be more appropriate when I know the group later on. This I also had not put on the plan so I didn’t want to use it.
The team leader portion of the lesson worked extremely well and the four leaders took control of their groups made sure they completed the activities, pushed the students to work harder, came to the front looked at the sneak peeks and managed the resources on each of the tables. This meant that all I needed to do was to remind the team leaders what they should be doing. I had essentially created four more versions of myself that could run the room. At the end of the lesson, all 4 team leaders were rewarded with a pack of strawberry laces in bright bright red packets. I also thanked them all personally at the door as they left.
The biscuit tasting went really well, and all the students had some fairly lively discussions about branded and own label which was fantastic to hear them talking on task.
The writing portion of the lesson was a mixed bag, some students completed all the activities in the time given and achieved some really nice work. The anagrams the students couldn't do at all, and some multiple-choice word activities also proved problematic. Without me to explain it, the tasks were challenging, and then I prompted the team leader to go to the front to peek at the answers. This was the same for all 4 groups so it has given me valuable insight that I need to make sure that instructions are clearly explained with verbal and written prompts. This will be the cornerstone of my ks3 teaching and planning in the future.
I then took a further responsible risk by asking the students to put the tables back into the format that they had originally been in. They had never been in that room as it forms part of the sixth form, so I drew a diagram in advance on one of the boards, so it had lots of scope to go badly wrong. Thankfully it didn’t. The entire room was busy with the team leaders returning all the resources to the teacher's desk and the rest of the group moving the tables around ready for dismissal to break time. Once they had moved the tables I did a recap and some closing thoughts and we had a very calm dismissal from the room. I said goodbye to all of them at the door, just to remind them that they were in my room.
I thought it went well, and I learnt a lot during the session. I now know who my team leaders are, I can run team activities quickly by asking them to get into their biscuit teams and I know the kinds of tasks to include as starters e.g. no anagrams or stickers. They also now know that at any time I might pull a “fun” lesson out of the bag. Finally, they all know my hand signal for calm and quiet which is going to be my most valuable tool in the future. I love this job.
Sarah has been teaching business for 22 years