Teacher Talk: Finding Fun in Finding Information

This week’s Teacher Talk comes from one of our English teachers, Charlotte. Her ideas for teaching a lesson on finding information in a text led to some fantastic experiences in our Year 7 lessons last week.

At Spark, we understand the importance of the national curriculum. However, we also see the benefit in steering away from typical teaching methods. This is why teaching information retrieval to Year 7 is important, but can also be made into an interesting and exciting activity.

Information retrieval involves being able to find information in a text. This allows students to form an understanding of the information a student is reading. Rebecca, our Head of English, explained how we used this concept but altered it to make it an activity that caters for all abilities:

Here at spark we wanted to maintain using the national curriculum, but we wanted to avoid teaching by the book. This meant that students worked as part of a group to make sure everyone was involved.

Finding and compiling the information, ready to decide who was guilty.

Retrieving the information

 

The information retrieval mystery involves using witness statements to decide which suspect stole from a school. The witness statements were chosen from a variety of witnesses, ranging from 7-year old Maximus Marlo to the suspicious Caretaker, Argus Filch.

The pupils had to note key information from these statements, including appearance, description of events and timings. They then had to cross-check these statements with the description of the suspects and come to a group decision in response to the big question: Who committed the crime?

The suspects and everything we knew about them.

Year 7 student, Saimon stated

 

The information part was easy but then putting the suspects into an order was the hard part.

 

Presenting the findings

 

The second part of the lesson included a group presentation to the rest of the class. Presentations are sometimes a daunting experience for most students.

 

It’s best to focus the presentations on something fun. This means the students are less focused on presenting but genuinely want to explain what they have figured out as a group.

 

When presenting, students had to order their suspects in terms of most to least likely to have committed the crime. They received marks for how well they presented, and whether they placed the suspects in the right order.

Year 7 English student, Tanisha explained

 

It was really fun but I found it unfair that the boys won.

 

The group with the most points won, and received valuable Dojo points as their prize.

 

A summary of the lesson

 

Here at Spark, the students are at the heart of every activity we create. This activity required students to think critically and analytically. It also that they exercised both reading and summarising skills. The students also had to work as part of a group, and this not only ‘sparked’ debate between groups but also allowed the less confident pupils of the class to voice their opinions. We also had great fun finding out who did it!