As luck would have it, after hearing about the #pedagooreview (share your favourite learning experience from 2012 on pedagoo.org) , I happened to have my favourite lesson of the year. This lesson was inspired by Hywel Roberts’ amazing Oops! This wonderfully inspiring book is packed with fun, ideas, lists and laughter; I am now desperately trying to avoid a cliché but if you are struggling to think of a good Christmas gift for a teacher friend, this book is one of those gifts that keep on giving!
My favourite lesson of this year came from a chapter named Accidentally Learning, in which Hywel took the idea of a mountain range and transformed it into a myriad of learning experiences. This is where I took it…
Year 9’s ‘class reader’ for the term was Lord of the Flies. This novel depicts the carnage that is a group of school boys shipwrecked on an island creating their own laws and society. The SMSC possibilities that arise from exploring narrative are so rich! After a term of exploring democracy, dictatorship, Freudian concepts such as the id, ego and superego, the pupils were armed and ready to create their own society.
We began with the question “What keeps our world calm?” Their answers demonstrated a wealth of social and moral content that studying this novel had provided; my favourite answer was “fear.” One boy explained how each thing that keeps our world from breaking out into chaos is born of fear. We are afraid of the consequences of our actions and this keeps our society as it is; he explained how very few people allow their id to rule their existence as the id can result in negative consequences.
During our discussion, we used a thought bomb (an idea also born from the Oops book) to keep the peace in our microcosm by passing it from person to person as the shipwrecked boys did with a symbolic conch shell when creating their democracy. Pupils were only allowed to speak if they held the bomb and, as it was passed around the room, our thoughts exploded into amazing ideas.
No sooner had conch calm fallen, when I suddenly wrecked the peace with the revelation that Christmas 2012 saw the destruction of our planet. Humans had finally gone too far; the world had blown up. All that remained was a small section of England, surrounded by nothing but an expanse of water. Pupils were hooked by this story! These pupils are thirteen and fourteen years old but their imaginations are still alive. There’s nothing quite like an apocalypse to get the imagination cogs whirring. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I have heard that the world is going to end (I totally remember believing it when I was young) and you could see the pupils had that “this could actually happen” look in their eyes.
This lesson was not designed to create mass panic; the idea was to enthuse the students to WANT to learn how to speak persuasively. I was keeping that fact a secret for the time being. They needed to draw the outline of their island and draw five things of their choice which had survived the blast. This wasn’t an art lesson and this task did not take very long to complete. Conscientiously, they discussed ideas and possibilities in pairs, creating a really positive vibe in the room.
Some pupils thought very carefully about the consequences of their choices and drew fresh water lakes filled with fish and working farms complete with livestock to ensure the survival of their species. Others drew establishments such as Macdonald’s, ADSA or Pizza Hut. This was a fantastic opportunity to explore what good decision making looked like and helped us to begin to decide on the qualities of a good leader.
The pupils had a real purpose for exploring leadership qualities as the next step was to become the leader of the other survivors. We looked atEngland’s leader David Cameron for a moment and explored what kind of leaders we wanted to become. They all agreed that they wanted to be honest and trustworthy….qualities of which they decided Cameron was not a great role model for.
After using a version of QFT to get a fuller image of their island (I became God for a moment and allowed them to ask me anything) they were told that their people were in panic! Much like the littuluns on the island, their people had become afraid of the future. They feared famine, disease and even each other! As leaders, they would need to gather their people together and use their powers of persuasion as fair and just leaders to restore calm to their island.
It was amazing! The pupils seemed to genuinely care about the plight of their imaginary people. They cared enough to analyse a speech by Martin Luther King to ensure that they got their speech just right. They wanted to learn from a true leader so that they could become great leaders and take their nation forward to a happier situation.
This ‘Oops learning’ idea had resulted in high levels of engagement, students acquired the knowledge required to create their effective speeches rapidly and their final products were outstanding. If an Ofsted inspector had been sat at the back of my room, they might have wanted to see more checks for learning every few minutes or that I had created a bar chart of progress to evaluate the impact of this task within an inch of its life. However, there is no doubt in my mind that this learning experience was, for them and for me, outstanding. They enjoyed the lesson, they achieved, they felt awe, wonder and passion over the topic and WANTED to do well.
My favourite thing about this learning experience
This exploration could result in so many other learning experiences! From the idea of a new world we could have debates over decisions that have to be made, develop creative writing or develop ideas in role as characters. I think that the possibilities with this kind of learning are endless. Thanks Hywel! You’re on the good list for sure!