Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Secondary Social Sciences - Recap lesson carousel

Information served six ways (or five)...

This lesson evolved from a discussion with a colleague about how we can ask students to recap their knowledge thoroughly, but without endless exam questions and essays. What emerged was so successful that I did it to death that week with my other Sociology and Psychology classes.

The basic premise of the lesson is that you have a topic or some key sociological issues, arguments or a perspective that you need to recap. I used it to recapture the key arguments and evidence for secularisation in the UK, a topic within Beliefs in Society (A2).

Armed with pieces of paper – each featuring a different issue - I arrange six stations in the room and place on them said pieces of paper. Then, I get the students into six groups (or five, depends on what you’ve got to cover) and seat them at a table. Their aim is to recount everything they know about that topic via a particular medium, which you present nice and clear on the interactive whiteboard. After the allotted time and suitable feedback, they rotate and go to a different table where they have to present a different issue in a different way. This way, they are revising all the key ideas/concepts, but through different means.  It’s student led and it gives you an opportunity to further question the understanding of your students and present them with some higher order questions. Best of all, it can make memorable some often long-forgotten key theories and concepts.

Here are some of the six ways that students can present, with some suggestions about how long for each.  Have these on the board at all times for focus. So, put simply: Students present different information in the same way, then they rotate to a new table, you flip the page and give them a new medium through which to feedback.

  1. A frozen image (2 minutes):  Hello Year 7 Drama. Students create a freeze frame that depicts the issue/theory.

  2. A picture or sketch that embodies a theory (3-4 minutes):  Some students get really abstract, others are more literal. One pair took a difficult concept like structural differentiation and drew a picture of a large church, with another, much smaller church underneath it. Surrounding the smaller church were schools, counselling surgeries, a registry office and family planning clinic. Simple, but so effective.

  3. A summary in no more than 30 words (3-4 minutes):  Because sometimes it’s important to get to the point.

  4. A song, rhyme or rap (6-7 minutes):  I have been frequently astounded by both the quality and ingenuity of these (see below).

  5. A role play (6-7 minutes):  This is perhaps the one that students find most embarrassing, but successful ones hammer home the key ideas well. Two boys in one class acted out ‘rationalisation’ by performing a doctor/patient sketch (“Thank you Doctor Weber, now I realise that my heart attack was of course caused by poor diet and smoking and not a demon inhabiting my body”).

  6. An example (2-3 minutes):  Important for those AO2 skills of interpretation and analysis, ask students to provide an example of this theory in action. One girl made a solid link between Bruce’s idea of cultural defence and the Iranian revolution of 1979; others linked rationalisation to Darwinism and Dawkins.

  7. An evaluation of the theory/concept (5-6 minutes):  This is a good one to finish on. You could specify strengths or weaknesses, or ask for both. An important AO2 skill.

At the end of the activity, ask students to vote for the groups which they thought were the most inventive or detailed, give them a round of applause and collate their work as a mini-recap guide that you can photocopy for students. Obviously you can’t photocopy a role-play, but you could take a picture of the frozen images and use them for visual revision aids.

Aside from being used as recap, this approach has also worked particularly well for evaluating research or key theories.  In this case, each table might feature a different evaluation point. It’s worked especially well in Psychology lessons as a collaborative activity that enables students to assess a key study. In this case, get five or six groups of students (pairs is ok too for smaller classes) and arrange the zones – each with different evaluative issues this time. For example: Generalisability; Reliability; Application and Usefulness; Validity, Ethics and the Research Method. Using their knowledge of the key study, students must focus on that one particular issue and apply it to the study at hand.  You use the same methods as listed above and feedback and rotate in exactly the same way.

I’ll leave you with perhaps one of my favourite moments as a teacher that emerged from one of these tasks last year. One Y12 group were examining a study and were criticising the methodology, which happened to be a quantitative measure. They decided to present their critique as an R&B love ballad in the style of Mariah Carey. Tears of laughter streamed down my face as they warbled, with backing vocals and utter sincerity, the final lines below:

"The truth isn’t always revealed,
validity is lacked
data can be unwieldy, hard to keep to keep track.
Good for statistics, 
but otherwise inept,
not enough detail, not enough depth."

Christopher Stump
Sociology and Psychology teacher
Park High School, Harrow

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