Happy Teachers’ Day: Teachers must always have something up their sleeve to keep kids busy.
Brilliant teachers always have something up their sleeve for the end of the lesson. We have all known that feeling when you glance at the clock and suddenly panic because you haven’t prepared enough. It is always good practice to have an extra activity in reserve in case you are caught waiting for the bell. The worst day for this is always the day after the clocks have changed and the caretaker has mistakenly set the clock in your classroom two minutes fast. We’ve all been there: the kids are all standing up, bags packed, looking at the door … and nothing happens! By now you have exhausted your spontaneous pep talk, your off-the-cuff mini-conversations and your final recap of the lesson, and still the bell hasn’t gone.
This is the time to throw in a few ‘thought grenades’ or ‘Thunks’. These are ideal to generate creativity and fun and can be used at the start of the lesson or as a filler at the end. Thunks are designed to engage everyone in thinking and, crucially, they don’t have a right or wrong answer. Some of our favourites are:
What colour is Tuesday?
Is there more future or past?
If zebras took over the world what changes would we see?
Can you touch the wind?
If you could take a pill that would make you always happy, would you?
A little weird in places, but that’s the whole point. Your students will come to love Thunks so tempt them with, ‘If you work brilliantly today, and you get your heads around the key points on the board, I have a brilliant Thunk for you later.’
If you’re feeling really brilliant, you can create your own thought grenades to tie in with your subject (but beware overrunning at the end of the lesson!). For example:
Geography: If a new city was invented, what would you call it? And why?
Physics: Newton’s mum said her son was the third best scientist in the world. Who are the others in the top five, and why?
(Ian Gilbert’s The Little Book of Thunks: 260 Questions to Make Your Brain Go Ouch! (Carmarthen: Crown House Publishing, 2007) has hundreds of them. Highly recommended!)
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
Maths: What would the world be like if maths hadn’t been invented?
Maths: Can you count halfway to infinity?
IT: Where is the internet?
Citizenship: Is it ever possible to learn nothing?
History: If the answer is ‘Sir Walter Raleigh and a potato’, what is the question?
Any subject: Your mum thinks this subject is boring. What would you say/do to prove her wrong?
Once the bell has gone, it is no good complaining that the children are restless while you’re setting their homework. (If it’s important, why not set it at the start?) They are right and you are wrong; it is their time not yours. Certainly, remind them that you are in control and they will leave when you say so, but trying to teach them after the official end of the lesson is counterproductive, and they will lose respect for you if it becomes a habit. They don’t like being the last to assembly week after week either or being told off in their next class because you always overrun.
As the children leave your classroom, don’t pass up the opportunity for some mini-conversations. Remember, this is what your discipline is founded on. Particularly with the hard-to-reach brigade, this is an ideal moment as they pass you by to say something positive to them, when they don’t have the rest of the gallery in attendance. When you see them for the last time in a week or before a break, make sure you wish them an enjoyable weekend or holiday.
(Excerpted with permission from the book The Art of Being a Brilliant Teacher by Gary Toward, Chris Henley and Andy Cope, published by Scholastic.)