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Activities to occupy pupils as they enter the classroom

Discussion in 'Science' started by thequillguy, Jan 3, 2012.

  1. thequillguy

    thequillguy New commenter

    Hello all,

    I am an English teacher with a question specific to science teachers. When students enter the room, how do you keep them immediately occupied? I have some word games and/or reading books in silence. However, I have a colleague who works in several different classroom who would appreciate the advice of the TES community in developing several easy-to-manage activities that allow students to occupy themselves usefully while the register is taken and books are fetched.

    Thanks in advance for your help. I couldn't find a prior thread with this discussion, so apologies if it has been asked recently!
  2. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Established commenter

    Hi thequillguy!

    For me (and many if not most) science teachers, science is a fully practical subject, with little to nothing in the way of formal writing during lessons. The only notemaking they do is in rough. I have used this also in mathematics, and see no reason why it could not be used in any subject specific lesson. I collect these rough books at the end of every lesson, mostly already marked during the lesson by me. Therefore at the start of every lesson, with a seating plan, the children (secondary 11 to 16) enter with their rough books already out in their places, and they have to look at them (at least) to remind themselves of what has gone on previously.

    If there was little to really look at, I provide activity sheets, questionnaires, whatever, for them to begin with straight away whilst everyone is settling. When I am ready to start the new lesson, I will call them all to attention, but they could continue to jot things down in their rough books as I gave my short intro.

    I ought to be writing this in the past tense as I am now retired but I still do some private tuition in mathematics. They arrive (four students at the most) and sit at my large dining table, but their continuing work (progression) is already out in their places and they sit quiet and make a start on their own (ages primary to adult). They do, however, now carry their own rough books, and even with private students sometimes they forget to bring them!! They then work on paper, and I paste it into their rough book next time.

    In practical science, these start activities would be hands-on, examining an object or attempting a simple experiment.
  3. thequillguy

    thequillguy New commenter

    Hello all

    Thank you for the prompt and thorough replies and for the personal welcome too! I will pass on your advice. To elaborate, my colleague travels from classroom to classroom, and sometimes (perhaps often) arrives after the students. What would you recommend of activities to settle students quickly? I'm thinking that which doesn't require handing something out (an anagram on the board, or words associated with a key term.)

    If anyone has a link to a particularly good starter resource (as the above) please feel free to post it here. :-D Enjoy the rest of your holidays.
  4. lunarita

    lunarita Senior commenter

    I'd be interested to know what 'hands-on', 'simple experiments' teachers give students as starters aas they enter.
  5. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Established commenter

    I must try to keep my reply short, lunarita, and it will be rather general. Just to list simple activities and experiments is well open to scepticism, as some would work and others not, according to circumstances. Classes need to be well-trained, respectful of laboratory discipline, and the teacher must have firm control.

    For Y7 I used to put out magnets, rubber bands, petri dish with lid with ladybirds in it, jigsaws, test tubes with various solutions, balloons, a candle with matches, etc. etc! with little or no instructions, just to observe and/or play for a few minutes.

    My underlying ideas developed from the Year One (Y7) Nuffield "O" level Physics Guide, where the very first lesson (grammar school entrants, 1965) was to let the children freely explore an exhibition of materials laid out in the lab. As a trainee teacher I observed my tutor run this lesson, and saw immediately the need for adequate control, as the children ran around the lab. and my tutor was out of his depth!

    Working in a school where I had to visit a classroom with the students already in their places, as a team we teachers agreed that at the change of a lesson we would finish our own lesson a few minutes early, then get the students to prepare for their next lesson, so that when this next teacher walked in they were already settled, sometimes even working if their teacher had arranged that. All things are possible in a well-run school. For me, this was only for mathematics teaching. If I had to teach science in a classroom I abandoned all notions of practical work (not for me walking down corridors with a trolley of apparatus) and merely used a science text book.
  6. It is generally best not to let the pupils into the room before the teacher, even it means starting the lesson late. This is particularly true for science lessons (for reasons too numerous to go into here) but could apply equally well to other subjects I imagine.
    And, if your colleague is arriving after his pupils, how would he get the activity / worksheet distributed or explained?
    I feel we may not have the full story here! You could always ask your colleague to post up his own questions ......
  7. Mathsteach2

    Mathsteach2 Established commenter

    Well of course this is a fundamental issue for secondary schools, hadron, where organisation is determined by school philosophy.

    Are students to be given a "home base", that is their own classroom (as I experienced as a grammar school pupil in 1953 to 1960!), or are teachers wanting their own room because of their specialist subjects? And then there is the possibility of team teaching in open-plan areas, even in secondary schools (certainly middle schools - 9 to 13 ages).

    A teacher must adapt their approach to the way the school is organised. In my grammar school we left our own classroom for science, geography (the teacher was a senior member of staff and insisted he had his own room), woodwork, PE and games. We had our own desks which were lockable, and a cloakroom where we could hang our coats and empty bags!
  8. thequillguy

    thequillguy New commenter

    Urgh, lost my post. Suffice to say, without money our spacing issues are irresolvable. I think the idea of a class staying in the same place and have the teachers move is sound, and one suggested to me by an international educationalist came to a school in Hull I once worked in (phew!)
  9. I hand out crosswords (more top set) and wordsearches (bottom set love these), or put some questions on the board for backs of books, ask them to make a spider diagram about the topic, the pyramid of learning, or a little game with the person sat next to them, like the 'post-it note on forehead' one. I like to give my bottom set something at the door and then they will get on and not mess.

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