There is a vast assortment of teaching and learning materials out there, including amazing websites, materials from examination boards, and of course educational businesses which produce many things for us teachers.
As I move through my NQT year I am thankfully finding I need to spend less and less time preparing materials from scratch and can adapt worksheets or activities that I or the department have used before.
It seems as though flexibility in planning learning develops with experience. For instance, once you have a selection of “masters”, they can be adapted for many topics. Having a simple poster or leaflet template has proved useful when asking pupils to demonstrate comprehension, having ready images to centre mind-maps works well too, as well as social media templates to create profiles.
Likewise the power of a simple two-columned table to analyse what strengths and weaknesses a concept or perspective cannot be understated.
A great starter activity to measure synthesis of previous learning is using an image from the previous lesson, mind-mapping with students what they recall, and making inferences to the new concept being introduced.
I have also found that there is a very valid place for the use of text-books, yes that’s right, text-books! I have two very bouncy year 8 classes and facilitating some amazingly active participative lessons on Ghosts and Reincarnation has resulted in high levels of engagement and excitability.
However, the behaviour of some pupils has deteriorated. To address this I have planned several activities for the short-term that include some quiet comprehension tasks where they are reading and applying their learning in a creative writing activity.
This has allowed them to sit and work alone reducing distractions and poor behaviour. Text-books in this setting have been amazing as they are pitched at the appropriate level, pupils can stretch and extend their own research over and above the directed pieces of text, and it has shown me that there isn’t always the need to reproduce a sleek new hand-out when a text-book fits the bill.
The benefits of using tried and tested resources or publications have shown me that it is how the materials are used to support learning that makes them so valid – and this is also the sign perhaps of a good teacher.
It has also opened my eyes to just how much pupils like, on occasion, to be told “read this and answer these questions”. However interactive and dynamic we are encouraged to make learning (and I am a huge supporter of this aspiration), at times children like to work alone and explore information at a personal level without having to group work or move around the classroom completing a carousel activity.
I am lucky to have a great department that shares resources and lesson plans on a central hard drive. If we tweak or adapt a resource or find a different approach has worked, we communicate it. We help each other with printing and often run print runs through our reprographics team for the whole department to use.
Photocopying and materials budgets are tight to manage, which I would assume is the case everywhere, but on occasion pupils having a little A5 or A6 sheet to fill in takes the monotony out of always working in lined exercise books, and it can be exciting. Pupils do acknowledge the investment we make in them with resources for learning.
My final tip when creating worksheets is to create your hand-outs as the last slide on a presentation so it all sits on the same document and can easily be differentiated up and down, keeping the masters together. They can be hidden from view but can allow you to maintain a central place for them, likely to be tweaked again next year when you teach the lesson again.
SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of sociology and philosophy from a school in the South of England.