Optimise Classroom Practice with our Interactive Games
It’s all go at Classroom Secrets at the moment! We’re working hard adding to our new ranges of Learning Video Clips and Interactive Games, and you might have read the recent blog post ‘10 great ways to get the most out of our new Learning Video Clips’ written by our Proofreading Manager Lee Peckover which contains some great ideas for how to get the best from those videos.
With that in mind, I thought it would be useful to have a look at how our Interactive Games might also be used in classrooms.
Several of the tips and suggestions covered in the blog post for the Learning Video Clips can also apply to the Interactive Games. While I don’t intend to repeat the points Lee has made in detail here, some of the key ideas could be to use the games to:
- Generate discussion – Display a question on the board and talk with the children about how it could be solved exploring different methods or approaches. This could be particularly useful for developing reasoning by prompting explanations and ‘what if’ scenarios.
- Promote group work – Allow the children to work in mixed-ability groups to share ideas and approaches to solving a question. Taking and printing off screenshots of questions for the children to write on or around and record their thinking can be useful to see a range of working outs or explanations.
- Enhance spiral learning – Revisiting mathematical concepts ‘further down the line’ helps children to use and put into practice their prior learning and aids retention of knowledge.
While the Learning Video Clips do share some characters and themes, they are generally self-contained stories of several minutes each which put mathematical problems into different fun and engaging contexts.
Depending on the intended use, though, a key difference which might make a teacher favour the Interactive Games over the Learning Video Clips would be the time it takes to present and use the resource.
The Interactive Games really do lend themselves to being used as quick ‘starters’ to lessons – either, as mentioned above, to enhance spiral learning by coming back to a concept covered weeks or months ago to help students retain their knowledge, or as part of a lesson’s introduction where a new concept is being taught. Without in-depth set-ups to the questions, the Interactive Games can, if needed, be presented, discussed and answered within a few minutes. As the activities are interactive, teachers can ‘try out’ suggested answers with the class and, whether right or wrong, prompt further discussion if desired.
Another way of using the Interactive Games is as an assessment tool.
Teachers will, understandably, want to know that their teaching of a particular step or unit of work in mathematics has been successful and that the children have mastered the concept. Indeed this is central to the intentions of the government’s removal of levels and the new freedoms schools have with curriculum design and implementation:
“’Mastery learning’ is a specific approach in which learning is broken down into discrete units and presented in logical order. Pupils are required to demonstrate mastery of the learning from each unit before being allowed to move on to the next…” (Final report of the Commission on Assessment without Levels. Crown copyright 2015)
With their latest framework, Ofsted are now particularly interested in how schools ensure that their students are confident enough to progress through the curriculum and, within the school inspection handbook, they explicitly reference assessment in relation to mathematics:
“Inspectors will consider what steps the school has taken to ensure that there are objective assessments that can identify when all pupils have gained the intended understanding and unconscious competence in knowledge, concepts and procedures necessary before they move on to new or more complex content.” (School inspection handbook – Point 300. Crown copyright 2019)
The simplicity and speed of use that the Interactive Games offer can a benefit if they are used to assess pupils, and there are a couple of different applications that could fall under this banner.
One obvious use is to formatively assess pupils at the end of unit or sequence of lessons around a particular concept. Putting one or more questions up and asking pupils to answer them independently can give teachers useful information about how much their class has learned. While the interactive element could, potentially, take a back seat when they are used in this way, working through the answers together and trying them out could allow pupils to self or peer mark their work.
Another useful way to use these types of quick questions could be to assess learning over time. Schools have used and continue to use pre- and post-learning activities, and the Interactive Games could be used in this way. The questions can be presented to the class before starting a unit of work with the children working through them. Using the children’s answers, the teacher can see how the class have performed and the responses can broadly illustrate a class’s initial understanding of the topic. After the unit has been taught, the same questions could be presented with, hopefully, the class being able to perform much more confidently and demonstrating that they have mastered the concepts. This will, in turn, show that that they have made progress when comparing their answers to the first attempt.
Finally, a third way to use the games as an assessment aid (which links to an earlier suggestion about using them during lesson introductions) could be to introduce them just before a class start on their independent or group work. Asking the children to put into practice what has just been taught could be a useful indicator to the teacher about which pupils are confident enough to have a go without needing significant support, and who, perhaps, needs some additional direct teaching to ensure they are clear about the concepts being covered.
There could be, of course, many other creative ways you might choose to use these Interactive Games. We’d love to hear any other ideas or suggestions you might have, and it would be great to hear about how they are being used in classrooms and what’s worked or could be improved about them.