Posts filed under ‘activities’

Busy Bees

I’m tidying the course paperwork lying in piles on the floor around my desk (moving more like a sloth than a bee), and found this scribbled note of a simple game to play, probably with fairly young children, anywhere with a bit of space:
The children move around as ‘busy bees’; on the cue to stop they have 5 seconds to show with their body something beginning with letter [..]. I think this would be good for learning to move safely, stop on cue, freeze, and be physically expressive.

Right, that’s one piece of paper that can go in the recycling. Back to it…


June 30, 2009 at 6:00 pm Leave a comment

Making mathematics real

I’ve just been introduced to Numicon by the class teacher I’m placed with for my infant placement. This looks like a flexible and useful resource, so I look forward to trying it out on placement.

A search on the National Centre for Excellence in Teaching Mathematics (NCETM) website for Numicon led me to a video and article on using stories to engage children in mathematical questions. The video shows the teacher reading a story, then using the device of a letter sent by a character in the story to set up the problem solving activity. I love this idea but I’m going to need to hone my ability to spot mathematical concepts wherever they crop up.

October 27, 2008 at 7:24 pm Leave a comment

Creating a supportive community: group bonding games and drama tips

We had our first drama workshop today, and one of the main points was, again, the importance of creating a safe space for all children in all activities. The lecturer took us through these activities…

Circle games


We started by moving our chairs into an egalitarian and inclusive circle, all wearing name badges. The teacher does not have a chair, and explains he will get one by winning a bet. The bet is he can say the name of one of the people in the circle three times, before they can say his name twice. If he wins, they must give up their seat and try to win another one by repeating the name of someone in the circle. They must pronounce the name properly, so everyone can hear, and look at the person (especially if there are two people with the same name). Where it’s not clear who won, the group decides with a show of hands.

This helps with learning names, and is a fairly comfortable way to get used to being in the centre of the circle. It’s good for bringing the group together and getting a sense of shared focus.

Move if you…

(This is also good for mixing up a group)

The person in the middle has to try to get a seat by calling out “move if you [are a human being, are wearing trousers, like swimming…]”.

Start with simple, visible things and move to hidden things.

Put yourselves in order

Make a notional ‘start’ and ‘end’ point in the circle, or along a line. Ask the children to arrange themselves in order of something linear like birthday day/month. To make it more complex/fun/different, tell them they have to do it without speaking. Go round the group to see how they got on.

Creating a home

If you’re going to be working in an open space, first ask the children to find a part of the room (specify exactly where they are allowed to go – keep your space as teacher) where they can stretch their arms out without touching the walls or each other. Ask them to sit down in that space. Tell them this is their home, and every time you say “go home”, they must come back to this exact spot. If they don’t make it home in time, they’ll be grounded! Tell them to look around and remember where they are sitting. Then you can bring fast-paced, noisy, movement based activities to a controlled end by asking the children to “go home” and counting down.

I think you’d have to be very careful to make sure children with language difficulties understand this. In particular you might find pupils with autism spectrum disorders putting their coats on and heading for the door if you tell them to “go home”.

Having created the bases, we played a fast-paced game of trying to greet as many people in the room as possible, while still getting ‘home’ in time (the teacher was counting down). You can ask the children to do this in different styles – he told us we had to say “Hello, I’m really pleased you’re in my class” to everyone, first in one one accent, then, in the second round, a different accent. I guess you could also do different walks, animal noises…

Dramatising text

We had a brief chat about what you could do with a simple rhyme. Ideas included:

  • bring in props, put them in a feely bag for children to explore
  • get the children to act out the gestures described in the rhyme
  • learn it to a rhythm
  • set it to a tune the children already know
  • (with children who can read) put the text on a whiteboard – as the group repeats the rhyme, invite individual children to rub out a word, so each time it’s repeated with less visual help
  • record a performance so the children can play it back.

General tips:

  • model the activity
  • ask various children questions about the activity: what you are going to do, what they are to do, what they think will happen next etc (you check their understanding, and others who are not sure may understand it better from their peers)
  • change the mood by becoming more playful when you introduce the game
  • you don’t have to explain all the rules at the start; explain the essentials, then deal with issues as they come up
  • control the pace by counting down from 10 or 5.

September 1, 2008 at 11:22 pm Leave a comment

Creative a supportive community: feedback

A quality audience also gives quality feedback. The tips from our peer teaching exercise on Thursday were:

– Ask everyone to think of one word to describe how they are feeling about the activity and get everyone to tell this to the whole group (one at a time). This gives a sense of the mix of feelings and a bit of empathy.

– Make sure everyone knows what they are to give/get feedback on before the activity starts.

– If someone is talking to a group, set one person the task of being the observer and giving feedback, and the others to be the quality audience. Alternatively, if a group is presenting to several other groups, you can ask the separate audience groups to huddle for one minute to discuss and decide on one (positive) piece of feedback they will give.

– After the activity, ask the person how they thought it went – give feedback based on this.

– Always find positive points to say, focus on what they did well. Suggest how they can make something “even better”.

August 31, 2008 at 11:00 am Leave a comment

Creating a supportive community: discussion and writing activities

We did a nice carousel discussion activity in our seminar on education and teaching. The tables and chairs were already arranged to form the right number of groups and the roughly circular overall shape needed for the activity. Each group got a marker pen (different colours) and a flip chart sheet with a question relating to the topic (different questions for each group). We were given a set time period to discuss the question and note our key points, before the signal to move round to a new question (all groups moving in the same direction), repeating until back at the original question, with thoughts from all the groups noted on the flip chart.

One of the instructions was to have a different scribe in the group for each question, so everyone had this role. I asked how you could make this comfortable for children with writing difficulties, having met quite a few children who’ve been traumatised by public writing (and reading). The answer came back to this sense of community and trust:

– say you’re not looking at writing or spelling, it’s just to keep a note of the ideas

– suggest children can choose a writing buddy, or a spelling buddy, if they’re worried

– value all contributions, and encourage the children to do this: the writing job is important because it makes people feel you’re listening when you put their idea on the sheet, people might have different ideas and it’s OK to disagree (essential for a really good debate!), you’re not looking for an “answer”

– you could introduce it by saying something like, “People who don’t usually do the writing are going to take a risk today and have a go, but everyone is going to help.”

August 29, 2008 at 2:27 pm Leave a comment

Getting children into groups

Some lovely practical activities for grouping children that I want to remember from the last couple of seminars we’ve had…

Mixing up the class in a fun way

Cut up several pictures into distinctive jigsaw puzzle shapes. Use the number of pictures and pieces to control the number of groups and number within each group, so if you want 5 groups of 6, find 5 pictures and cut each one into 6 pieces. Ask the children to take one piece each (or give them out if you want to control who will be with whom). Then ask them to find all the other people with pieces of the same picture and put their puzzle together.

Fostering a bond in the group

Ask the children to bring their chair to make a circle. Then ask them all to stand up. Tell them they’re all going to all sit down again, but the challenge is to make sure you don’t sit down at the same time as someone else. If two or more people sit down at the same time, everyone has to start again. The rules are no talking and no sign language. If they get good at it you can add a time limit challenge (eg do it in 3 minutes). This created a really nice atmosphere in our group – our Director of Studies says it’s good way to start something like circle time, especially if there are issues and conflicts in the group, as the children tend to forget these in the game.

Our Director of Studies has talked a lot about creating a supportive community in the classroom, which then allows the children to take risks and try things out without worrying about being wrong. This is something I really want to achieve. She’s doing that very successfully with our group of student teachers, and I’m trying to take note so I can learn to do it too!

August 29, 2008 at 2:00 pm Leave a comment

Idea for an ongoing class story

This is inspired by the Big Issue article I blogged about here.

“I’m going to tell you a story about a group of wonderful people. When I say they’re wonderful, I don’t just mean they’re special, although they are each precious and unique like a diamond. I don’t just mean they’re capable of great things, although they are, each and every one. I don’t just mean they’re magical, though their magic is wonderful. They’re wonderful because they are full of wonder. They are curious, and interested, and learn all day every day in every way they can. Shall I tell you their names? [get out aged-looking scroll and read class names]

Today they are… lots of opportunities for magical and real settings, could relate to current project.

Today they met… dragons, whatever

Today they found… magical objects, gained magical powers…

Tell at end of day, perhaps end of week. Possibly best not to mix magic with real events especially with younger children and those with language difficulties as it could cause confusion. Perhaps best to set and keep in fantasy world. Always positive about all the children, no matter their behaviour through the rest of the day! It could be particularly good for helping to integrate new members of the class and those who are more isolated.

February 22, 2008 at 7:21 pm Leave a comment


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