Risky Business – My Experience With A “Golden Lesson”

This week a read a blog post on Teacher Toolkit website that explored the idea of the “Golden Lesson” (Link if you click here) and why risk taking is important in teaching.

If you don’t know what a Golden Lesson is, then I’ve sneakily pilfered harmlessly borrowed the definition that Teacher Toolkit give in their post:

Golden lessons are lessons where you take risks. These are the lessons where you do something differently and give something new a go to see what happens.

-Teacher Toolkit (See I attributed it – that’s hopefully fine…)

Now I know many people out there that will think that the Golden Lesson, or as I’m going to refer to it from now on the GL (I’m lazy, it’s fine), is just little more than flash and shimmer for the sake of jazzing up a lesson, that it doesn’t lead to any improvements in your lessons or anything except pandering to the culture of whizzy bangy teaching to make people think it’s great when it’s not. Well, I’m in a bit of disagreement with that, I like the GL and I think it’s a great idea. Let me share one of my own experiences with you…  (cue the harp flashback music)

The first time I did a GL was when I was struggling to motivate my Year 10 pupils to revise for their Mock exams. It was just before the Summer half term holiday and effort was at an all time low. I’d tried a revision session the week before and they didn’t want to engage with it at all. They were unfocused and chatty. Well, I wasn’t having any of that in my lessons so I went away over the weekend to have a little think and wouldn’t you know it the inspiration struck whilst I was doing my weekly food shop.

Whilst wandering the aisles in the supermarket I came across the seasonal aisle and there it was. The biggest risk I think I’ve ever taken with a lesson. An inflatable paddling pool and some ball pit balls. 100 of them to be precise. I went home and painstakingly sellotaped keywords for the topic to each ball. Monday morning I then dumped the whole thing, fully inflated into my classroom and prepared for the day.

ballpit

I turned the lesson into a Game Show, much like the old TV game shows of the Nineties (I have very hazy recollections as I was born in 92). Pupils split into teams and had to assign themselves team names, they had a series of “brain busting puzzles and challenges” to solve to earn them more points, with the team with the most points getting a head start in the ball pit round. It’s important that these brain busting puzzles and challenges were just simple revision tasks, but since they were dressed up to be worth points, they were suddenly much more important and exciting.

The ball pit itself was a key word revision challenge. Pupils had half of the definitions on their sheets, they had to complete the definition, then sprint to the pit to find the correct ball and bring it back to their team. The first group finished won they coveted (and invisible) “Bragging Rights Trophy”. I’d never known some of my Year 10s could get so enthusiastic!

Would you like to know the best bit?

That class did much better in their mocks, especially in the topics that featured in their Game Show Revision lesson. I’d do it again (and I have done frequently) in a heartbeat.

The Golden Lesson is a great idea. I’d encourage every teacher to take a risk and give it a go. If it doesn’t work? Ah well, back to the drawing board and you know what to change for the next time! Just give it a go – do something different and enjoy what you do!

All credit for the original post regarding the Golden Lesson goes to Teacher Toolkit, an amazing website that you should all check out if you get a spare moment! They’re also on Twitter and are a fab little source of interesting teaching ideas!

 

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