Creative Teacher Support

Creative, practical support and discussion for classroom teachers everywhere


Try Something New?

Go With The Flow Part 2 – Teaching Strategies to Encourage Engagement

What follows is, hopefully a shorter post (I’m an English teacher – we do go on!) made up of pretty much practical strategies that people can lift and try to vary the activities they use in the classroom.

A couple of years ago, a fantastic colleague of mine and outstanding AST, Pete Sanderson and myself were asked to present an Inset to our own staff named “Creative Teaching Strategies”. Pete’s a specialist in behaviour, particularly managing low level disruption and engaging those students that other colleagues find hard to engage. He is the most unerringly positive person that I have ever worked with and often props me up with his wise way of doing things and inspiring and positive way of dealing with students and rewarding them for this behaviour. He led me through compiling what follows and I thank him for it.

As always, teachers being magpies, a lot of what follows are ideas that belong to others and are akin to the work of people like Paul Ginnis, Spencer Kagan, Jim Smith (The Lazy Teacher) and maybe even Ian Gilbert. Apologies to anyone who feels like these have been stolen – I acknowledge that they’re not mine – but they’re good. Browse and take what you like and remember to aim for “flow”.

When I start an Inset, I think it’s always better to have an activity that people can start as they arrive in dribs and drabs. It’s also something that starts to make people think in a different way. Have a go, if you’re too frustrated by it, post a comment and I’ll upload the answer:

Walk through the paper …?
With a group, tear a hole big enough in a piece of paper for a person to fit through.

(Another good one is to give pairs a sheet of newspaper and ask them both to stand on it in a way that neither of them can touch each other – solution by request folks!)

In preparing the Inset we set out to achieve the following objectives and outcomes:
To explore a variety of different Teaching strategies
To consider how these are implemented in our own practice

To be able to select appropriate strategies for own context
To be able to adapt to own setting.

Scribble Talk
Type: Paired
Sit back to back
Person A has the ‘perfect’ example
Person B has paper and pen
Person A describes ‘perfect’
Person B draws the ‘perfect’

Type: Whole Class
Give different bingo cards with the answers to the test
Give the test, students to cross off the correct answers as they occur

Type: Whole/ part class
Arrange the class in two circles: one inner, one outer
Inner circle has the questions and answers
Outer circle moves around ‘speed dating’ and answering the questions

Expert Analysis
Type: Whole Class
Whole class has the text
Teacher describes the text/ experiment/ procedure and makes deliberate mistakes
Class write down correct/ incorrect procedure

Mini Task Overload
Type: Whole class
Can work independently/ pairs/ small groups
Set a series of small tasks around the perimeter of the classroom
Put a task competed matrix on the whiteboard for students to sign when completed
Allow students to work independently on the tasks at their pace
Supervise and assist with learning

Re-Cycle and Assemble
Type: independent/pair/group
Materials are cut up prior to the lesson
Re assembled into the correct format
Correctly sequence into time frame

Format Translator
Type:independent/pairs/ small groups
Give information in text format
Students convert the information into another format

– Mind map
– Ranked bullets
– Graph
– Chart
– Key word plan
– Story board
– Flow diagram

Go for 5!
5 possible solutions to a problem – select the best
5 reasons why something might have happened – before deciding on most probable
5 reasons FOR something + 5 reasons AGAINST – before making a decision
Find 5 good things/5 bad things

Be creative: within reason!

Go for 5!
Find 5 steps for doing things
5 points to a plan
5 steps for post analysis
5 things to write about – then use descriptive reflective skills – add a paragraph to each “word”
Learn terminology in groups of 3 or 5

Place Mat: A hands-on approach to having students discover commonalities
Students are divided into groups of four and given a fairly large piece of paper.
Students sit at the four corners of the piece of paper. Each student has a different topic. They write the characteristics of their own topic on the four corners of the placemat.
When students have finished their individual work, they each explain their corner of the placemat.
When all students have presented their information, the commonalities between the four topics are written in the centre of the placemat.

Note: This activity can work well for such topics as “different world countries” in geography or “characters in a novel”. It also works well as a ice breaker, if the students write characteristics which describe themselves in the corners, and things they have in common in the centre.

Graffiti: allows students the opportunity to brainstorm/allows students to move about the classroom

Several large pieces of paper with a topic written in the centre are distributed around the room.
Each student is given a marker.
Students are divided into fairly large groups (4 or 5?).
Each group sits around a large sheet of paper. They are given 30 seconds to look at the topic and think about their answer, and then 60-90 seconds to brainstorm and simultaneously record their ideas 
onto the paper.
They then move to another sheet and begin the same process.
The papers will look like graffiti, and students should have a wealth of ideas on each topic by the end of the activity.

Gallery Tour: Encourages students to be able to explain their thoughts, ideas, and answers to others

Divide students into small groups.
Assign each group a question (each could do different or the same questions).
Have students discuss the question and answer it on chart paper.
One student out of the group stands by the chart paper completed by his or her group which is hung on the wall. This student explains the answer to a small group of students who visit each piece of chart paper. About 2/3 of the class are touring while 1/3 is explaining.
The explainers rotate until everyone has had the chance to explain and to see all of the chart papers.

1 – 3 – 6 Procedure:
Allows students to form his or her own individual opinion on a topic or an issue before discussing it with a group
Allows students to share their ideas and opinions with a group

Give students a topic, reading, or piece of information.
Have each student respond individually.
Move the students into groups of three where they must share their ideas with the group. Students should group and cluster their ideas together.
Join two groups of three together to make groups of six. Again, share and clarify .
Students could write a list of the group of six’s ideas. They could 
prioritize this list (if wanted).

And that’s that. Not, by any manner of means an exhaustive list but there’s got to be something in here that anyone else could use to enhance or break up what we all get stuck in the rut of always doing. Take it or leave it but I’d rather you took it. I’ll leave you with someone else’s words that we finished the Inset with.

What is the Goal of Innovative Teaching?
“Certain conditions must exist in order for effective teaching to take place.
… giving teachers the freedom to be risk takers, encouraging them to try new ideas, allowing them not to be bound by covering particular content, encouraging experimentation with various teaching styles, providing them with time to reflect on their teaching, and acknowledging that they need to work toward constructing a model of teaching that works for each of them in their specific setting and with various groups of students.”
Deborah R. Dillon 
American Education Research Journal 
Summer 1989 Volume 26, Number 2