More Secondary Starters and Plenaries by Mike Gershon – a review

This book is a follow-up to Kate Brown’s Secondary Starters and Plenaries which is now republished and rebranded to fit in with a developing series of books by Bloomsbury on Starters and Plenaries. Brown’s book was very good with plenty of ideas and strategies to help invigorate lessons – although one or two ideas would take a significant amount of time to prepare and certainly fitted in with Jim Smith’s principle of ‘firework learning’ – a task which would take hours to prepare and would take moments within a lesson.

Mike Gershon has rightly developed a large following in education for his resources through his profile in the TES Resources website and, in particular, his resources, such as The Starter Generator, has been used in many contexts and CPD sessions. This makes him the right man to pick up the baton in this series and this book builds upon the great work he has shared on TES Resources and contains the best ideas that he has shared on the web. However, the book delves deeper and offers for each of the 50 strategies a detailed overview, teacher tips and extensions building upon the original idea. The book is very comprehensive and is more detailed in its coverage for each activity than most books. Many ideas are easy to implement, although some may need some preparation time. However, once you have created the framework for the activity you then can easily adapt it for other lessons.

If I was to offer a criticism of this book, I think some of the activities can be easily used as main lesson activities rather than starters or plenaries and this is underplayed in the book. For example, the Defend Your Statement task – where you offer a number of statements which students have to find evidence and make an argument to support a particular statement can be used very effectively in a lesson for an exam class. I used this as the main lesson activity and this provided excellent opportunities for students to practice a wide range of exam-related skills. This perhaps could not have been the case if this was restricted to a starter or plenary.

This is a little gem of a book bursting with great ideas and creative suggestions on how they can be applied in lesson for all subjects. Very detailed bursting with creative suggestions which would enhance any lesson which needed greater creativity with an active approach.

Gladiator Top Trumps cards

This resource is for my Year 7 groups. We are about to start studying gladiators and I am going to use the top trumps cards methods for them to think about the key strengths and weaknesses of different gladiators and be able to compare them. The resource below contains frameworks for six cards – five have the names of different gladiators on them while one is left blank so students can research one independently. Students also have to decide upon what categories they are going to use to measure the strengths and weaknesses. Alongside this I am going to use to resources for students to use as research – Rotten Romans from the Horrible Histories series and other is a great book called Gladiator – The Roman Fighter’s Manual by Philip Matyszak.

Gladiators Top Trumps

100 ideas for Secondary Teachers – Outstanding Lessons – a review

The 100 ideas series has undergone a revamp and it could not have begun with such an excellent practioner as Ross Morrison-McGill otherwise known as @TeacherToolkit on Twitter and the TES. Previously, I had found the 100 ideas series uneven and, sometimes, dull. However, this series has been rejuvenated and the books have now been restructured to include not only the core ideas but also how to take the ideas further and tips on how to implement the new strategy. This makes the book more flexible and gives the content more depth.

The ideas themselves are a mix of traditional tips and thoughts, such as drinking coffeee in lessons – a no-no according to McGill and something I fully agree with, and more cutting edge ideas, such as the 5 minute lesson plan – which before the book was publsihed it made an online appearance and almost went viral via Twitter and the TES. Some ideas are not new but remind us of our core purpose while other like the 5 minute lesson plan are genuinely innovative and can be easily implemented with a significant impact. The coverage of the book is wide ranging from planning and marking to homework setting and is written in a catchy and accessible style. Also, you can dip in and out of the book always picking up a new idea or something that plants an idea which you can modify for your own teaching style.

But for me, the real highlight of the book is how it is linked with Twitter. Twitter is perhaps the most important CPD tool for teachers so far in the 21st century and I believe that this book is the first to latch on to this and link it to the teacher forum on Twitter. The book itself has a hashtag – #100ideas – and each idea is given a hashtag therefore encouraging readers to share thoughts and how they implemented each particular idea. I have done this [particularly with the One Off Homework idea or #OOH] and found that sharing this significantly enhances the value of the book. This new way of using social media alongside a teaching book is groundbreaking and something that others, will I am sure, follow.

This new volume is a great improvement from the old 100 ideas series and, I hope, there will be more to follwo from the @TeacherToolkit – a most impressive publishing debut.