Those of you who have ever worked with children will probably echo my sentiments if I tell you that they have the ability to constantly surprise you. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been working with them ( quarter of a century in my case, and counting ) they always have the potential to do something you wouldn’t have expected.
I’ll explain what I’m talking about. At the start of most lessons I’ll use a little brain starter, just a couple of minute thing – eg. In 3 minutes name me as many words ending with – ous – as you can. The first class of the day, their score goes up on the board, and stays up until another class beats it. Then their score goes up. At the end of the day whichever class has the top score, their name goes higher on the board as a daily winner, and stays there until the end of the week. Despite what you might have heard, competition is not a dirty word. It’s not a dirty word in life, and it’s not a dirty word in education either – provided that you use it the right way.
This isn’t about competition , though. For Tuesday’s starter I put together a powerpoint presentation at home. Fifty national flags would be shown, one after another, and they had to try to identify them all in three minutes. To make it harder passing was not allowed. You could give as many answers as you liked, but if you couldn’t identify one of the flags, then that was where you stopped. –No chance of any class managing all of those in 30 minutes, let alone three minutes – I thought. Just goes to show how much I know. I can’t remember all of the scores. One class managed 47 in 3 minutes. Another class managed 49, only being stopped by number 50, the flag of Sri Lanka. The winners , though, managed all fifty in a fantastic 2 minutes 47 seconds. This was all the more praiseworthy since they were a Year 7 class, one of the two youngest classes that I teach.
Of course, if you’re a hardened Sporcle fan, and you play on the ‘name all the flags of the world’ type games, then this probably doesn’t sound that much of a feat, and to be fair, to serious quizzers it probably isn’t. But these are not serious quizzers – in fact not really any kind of quizzers at all. Granted that there were a lot of European flags amongst them, and not ones like Liechtenstein and Monaco either, but even so. So I had to ask the classes involved just how they were so good at the game. I’m sure that you’ve probably worked out the answer for yourself already. Football. Well, football in particular, but sport in general. Lots of the flags they knew belonged to particular countries because of seeing them at football matches, and also to a lesser extent in the Olympic Games.
A former colleague of mine once said that the most satisfying things to learn are the things you learn when you don’t even realize that you are learning them. Very philosophical, but he had a point.
As a postscript, I put together a different starter on a similar theme for today. I did an “Only Connect “ style missing vowels game on names of 50 countries. Just to stop them getting through all fifty, the last one was fdrtdsttsfmcrns (Federated States of Micronesia ). Mean? Of course. Schools haven’t changed THAT much, you know.