Tag Archives: fun

Carpet Picnic

CarpetTry as I might, there are some things I simply cannot teach without a fair amount of talking. I can throw in some visual stimuli, get the kids involved in discussion, add some inquiry and generally try and be student-centered…but there are just too many difficult ideas that need to be talked through. One such topic is the media concept of representation. In short, this is a consideration of the way in which reality is portrayed and distorted by the lens of media. A typical example, and one of great import, would be the way women are objectified by an industry led by men.

Whilst my course is officially titled “ICT & Media”, I am no media guru, and the students spend much more time on the ICT side of things. However, representation is one area I really want students to work on, as it is fundamental in becoming a critical thinker. For the last few years I have used the extended trailer of Miss Representation to look at this issue, and it has been generally successful. This year I had another video, The Mask You Live In, which I planned to add into the mix. I feeling pretty pleased to have two excellent, thought-provoking videos which looked at, amongst much else, both sides of gender in the media.

A few months ago, having seen a very impressive talk by Germain Greer, I was toying with ideas of how to be a better orator for these lessons that must be talked out. I came to the conclusion that if I sat level with the kids, we might establish a better personal connection. So, I dragged a group of Year 8s out of the classroom, and we had a lesson sitting on the lawn. This was great, but within 10 minutes everyone was mosquito-bitten and itchy, and desperate to go back inside.

In reflecting on this, it occurred to me that an indoor version of this might be more effective and workable during the summer months. This seed morphed into the idea of an informal “carpet picnic”, where students could bring in food, drinks, blankets and pillows. And what better time to try this, than in a lesson looking at representation. Being the end of the year, the kids are also desperate for something novel.

Having now tried this with two classes I can report it is an effective technique, and the kids really enjoyed it. Pleasingly, the discussion was deeper, and with broader involvement, than when kids sit at their desks. Some of the students really opened up, sharing sides of themselves that I had not previously seen. At times trading of food was distracting, but on the whole I think the experience was positive. In both classes, enough students made the effort to bring in blankets, and those without clearly wanted to share and be included. There were even some stuffed toys, as well as a pretty cool poncho, on display. In the end it seemed to be a cross between regular lesson and end-of-year party, with the students in a good, yet focused, mood.

Ultimately I was most pleased to see students take an interest in issues of gender, equality, diversity, history and their own place in the world. It was also nice that, on leaving, one student paused to say “thanks for this amazing lesson Mr. Parker”: as lovely as my students are, such compliments are a rarity.

The carpet picnic will become a regular feature next year, but come November I will definitely have the kids back out on the lawn.

Image credit: Carpet image shared by PublicDomainPictures on Pixabay under CC0 (Public Domain)

Blindfolded Team Drawing

I have recently been mixing things up in my classroom, offering games at the end of a lesson when students have really engaged. To keep them on their toes I have had classes play computer games where the student in front of the computer is blindfolded, and the rest of the class must give them directions. Some students asked to play again today, but I thought I would add a little variety, making the blindfolded student draw an image that their classmates could see. The result was a quick win on a simple circle, but much laughter and shouting in trying to recreate John Lennon’s famous face doodle. Team work definitely benefits, as do self expression and leadership.

Blindfolded Team Drawing_web

QR Code Madness

QRQR codes are square barcodes, which are quick to read and can contain more information than older linear barcodes. More importantly, QR codes can contains links which take scanners directly to a location on the Internet, and can be scanned by almost any phone or laptop. These codes can, with a little imagination, be used in some really innovative ways within schools. For example, students can record audio book reviews, which are then QR coded, and stuck onto books in the library, allowing potential borrowers to get a quick overview. Or, they could be used to tell stories around school, such as how each school trophy was won.

Today I unleashed Happyism, a little QR project I have been organising with my pastoral group. The aim of the project was to be the opposite of terrorism, namely an act of trying to make people happy, inspired and positive in a public place. When students came out of class for lunch, they discovered 150 unique QR codes stuck around the canteen and stairway area. Each of these codes, when scanned with a phone or computer, took the student to a website which aimed to make them laugh, think or act. Some staff also wore codes, linking to sites relating to their subject area, personality or nationality.

At first students were a little unsure, but with a lot of prompting, a few started investigating. Within 20 minutes there were groups of students gathering around phones, animatedly enjoying a variety of videos, pictures, quotes and stories. A particular highlight was Ms. Goldthorpe, whose QR code, resting on her bump, led students to an ultrasound of her unborn child (thanks to my wife for this genius idea).

The process of gathering the sites (shared amongst students and myself) was time consuming, as was vetting them, creating codes, printing, cutting and sticking. However, the effort was more than worth it, with a real buzz around campus during the day. Even better, a number of staff asked how they could build this into their curriculum areas, showing a great willingness to try new things. If you are interested in trying this out at your school, some of the following may be useful:

  • QR Code Madess – the full listing of almost 150 unique QR codes, appropriate for use in secondary school.
  • Web QR – scan straight from the web (seems to work best with Chrome, at least on Mac).
  • QR Droid – for Android devices.
  • QR Reader for iOS devices.

Map Games

These games are fantastic, not only for geography, but for any subject where teachers wish to promote teamwork, encourage students to solve problems, remember patterns, learn more about the world or just get engaged. In the past I have used these games with EAL students as a way to get them talking and interested.