Today has been a pretty dull day for my children. Test after test after test. Not much fun really, although bizarrely, lots of them seemed to enjoy it! But this afternoon, we needed something to get us moving and to liven up the classroom. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my discovery of the new curriculum, and how websites like Keystagehistory.co.uk have been a huge help. Well today was the history lesson I had been most looking forward to. Today, we were finding out all about the Roman soldiers, but in a really exciting way. This afternoon, Marcus the Roman Legionary was hidden about the classroom, and we had to spy on him. The children had to creep around the classroom from their spy camps to strategically placed view points and, extremely quickly, take in what they saw and report back to their groups. To add to the excitement, there was a test going on next door, so the espionage was even more crucial – not only could the Roman Legion capture us if we were too noisy in our spying, but the test next door would be ruined too!!! The children were crawling, running and leaping around the classroom, huddling together under tables and whispering in corners together. The atmosphere was fantastic: incredibly productive and buzzing, but yet strangely quiet too! Whenever a group got a little too loud, they were warned that Marcus had been alerted to them – any closer and he would capture them!

I was really impressed with the pictures that the groups drew together: they remembered tiny details and collaborated brilliantly. Their recording was inventive, and every single child was engaged. After spying on the soldier, the children were given time to come up with questions to interrogate him. They were thoughtful and astute (apart from the one about armoured pants), and again, everyone was involved with creating the questions and the interrogation.

This was an idea that I would never have thought of. Left to my own devices, we probably would have been researching from books or on the internet. Both approaches can be very dry, and would certainly lead to disengagement for many of my children. The urgency, fast pace, collaboration and espionage elements of the spy lesson appealed to my children immensely, and after a GPS and a spelling test this afternoon, was exactly what they needed.

I have to say, I don’t think I get my children out of their seats anywhere near enough. There is a little group of children (predominantly boys) who really struggle to stay in their seats during the afternoon. Toilet trips and drinks feature heavily on their agendas, mainly as an excuse to go for a wander around the classroom. Even fast paced lessons which take place at their tables are usually a challenge: no matter how much I try to keep them occupied, they just don’t like sitting down. Running around the classroom this afternoon was perfect for them: they had to keep moving but with a focus for their energy. It was, without a doubt, one of the best history lessons I have ever taught, and the written outcomes at the end of the lesson reflected it too. Tomorrow’s lesson involves us being out of our seats too. Not so much charging around, admittedly, but still, there’s not much opportunity for sitting down.

And I’d be prepared to bet that the boys’ toilet trips and drink stops are kept to a minimum again.

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