Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Tear Up That Plan and Watch the Sparks Fly

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Tear Up That Plan and Watch the Sparks Fly

Article excerpt

When I look back, it's clear that my best lessons have not been the ones where I was able to perfectly execute the lesson plan, even though planning is thought to be essential to teaching. In fact, the lessons I remember as the most successful were those where my students took the lead and rendered my plans unnecessary.

The most recent example was during a unit of enquiry on natural materials and the changes they undergo (reversible, irreversible, physical, chemical). I brought in a few natural materials from home, hoping that they would arouse my pupils' curiosity (or "attitude in focus", as my lesson plan put it) and kick-start the unit. I wanted the children to gain hands-on experience of the things we would be studying.

I placed all the materials - soil, mud, water, salt, oil, leaves, coal, rubber, chalk powder, milk, stones and baking soda - on a table in the middle of the classroom. I planned to give the students some instructions or at least an introduction to the topic, but it did not work out that way.

When the bell sounded, my pupils poured into the classroom and pounced on the materials straight away. Without any prompting from me, they began exploring and engaging with every single item on the table. …

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