Perhaps the most engaging activities I have found so far this term are learning grids or mixed doubles. I first found this in Improving Classroom Performance by the Dragonfly Team of Stephen Chapman, Steve Garnett and Alan Jervis and then covered in much more detail by the recently published Engaging Learners by Andy Griffith and Mark Burns. Griffith and Burns discuss different applications of this activity in depth but this blog post will focus upon my experiences of using this with specific reference to History teaching.
The activity itself involves a grid of 12 to 16 squares – each square is numbered. In each square there is a word or image – they are all connected to a topic or a sub-topic. The grid is either given to the students on a piece of paper or more conveniently, projected onto a IWB on a PowerPoint slide. In pairs, students are given a die which they roll twice. Using the grid, they locate the corresponding boxes on the grid from their two rolls of the die and aim to link the two images or words together. So for example, using the prohibition board below if a student rolled a 3 – the picture is of a speakeasy – and a 7 – which is a bootlegger – the student would have to make a link between speakeasy and a bootlegger and write this link in their exercise book. Therefore, the students have to apply their knowledge and make links between different aspects fo the topic which encourages them to use subject specific vocabulary [OFSTED literacy box ticked!] as well as thinking more deeply about the subject content.
Learning Grids promote curiosity and an added element to this was when I brought 12 sided dice to be used with the activity. When you hand out these unusual dice, the students are already hooked being able to use equipment that is different and unusual. Such dice are readily available in many colours and designs from The Dice Shop – an excellent online retail site.
Learning Grids promote challenge as some links caused by the random nature of the dice can be extremely difficult and students have to think laterally as well as apply their knowledge to make an effective link in some cases. However, the real value of these resources are that it provides students to work collaboratively [again ticking the OFSTED box of student talk and working independently], peer-teach, discuss their learning as well as allowing AfL to be signposted in your lesson.
Also, Learning Grids can be easily differentiated from using images and subject specific vocabulary to leaving some squares blank and allowing students to choose for themselves what should be in a particular box. In terms of where the activity fits within a lesson – it fits best as a plenary reviewing the work students have completed and giving them an opportunity to discuss their work and you an opportunity to assess how much progress they have made. Also, Learning Grids make a superb revision activity reviewing work completed some time ago- for example looking at a topic taught in Year 10 when revising for Year 11 mock examinations [which was my fate this morning during Period 1!].
Once the students are used to this activity, it deepens the learning when they make the Learning Grids themselves. I experimented with this last Summer and I was extremely impressed with the level of work students produced who were so proud of their Learning Grids and even the weakest students were freely sharing their work. Indeed, such was the quality of their work, they had built up a bank of Learning Grids that covered their entire GCSE History course and that I was willing to use them for this year’s Year 11s – but only as examples as they will have to make up their own!