An early morning comment conversation with The Quirky teacher today was discussing whether the amazing, “bells and whistles” lessons we plan are actually having a detrimental effect on children’s learning, leaving them reluctant to take place in less exciting lessons (see the comments here) To some extent, I agree: if we were to plan over the top, all-singing, all dancing lessons too often, then children aren’t going to want to take part in “normal” lessons. The word “dry” was bandied around a little. But do any lessons need to be “dry”?
Of course, there are some objectives that are less interesting, less inspirational than others. Maths was given by QT as an example. But do the lessons have to be dry? Children need to be engaged.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been looking at the assessments I have carried out of the year, and am trying to fill in the gaps in the children’s learning. More complex word problems using column addition and subtraction and grid multiplication , along with collecting and interpreting data are two areas where lots of the children have gaps in their learning. There are plenty of opportunities for “dry teaching” here. This, coupled with the fact that there are only 3 weeks until the end of the year, could lead to some chaotic and unproductive lessons. I wanted to find a way to engage the children. Now, before I go on, I just want it to be known that I have been thinking of writing this post for a while, but didn’t know whether to or not. Never one to court controversy, I know that some teachers will not approve of my approach: maths should be for maths and not for playing ridiculously addictive games. So, deep breath, and here goes…
Candy Crush Saga was my answer. I have to admit to being very apprehensive about it: it took me a while to get it on to the Learnpads, plus a lunchtime phonecall from their very helpful support team putting my mistakes right. I didn’t know if the internet would cope, if the Learnpads would cope, and more importantly, if the children would cope.
But all was good.
The children spent ten ridiculously crazy minute completing five levels of Candy Crush and recording their scores. “Ten minutes wasted when they could have been learning,” I hear some people say. But 10 minutes isn’t wasted when we had three fantastic, maths filled lessons from it. The children had a huge selection of word problems to choose from, ranging from simple addition or subtraction to complex problems which involved many steps of addition, subtraction and multiplication.
This is where I had intended the Candy mania to end, but the children really enjoyed it, so we spent 5 minutes in another lesson completing two levels and recording data to put into graphs. For most, this was in the form of colours of candies swapped, but others opted to choose their own data to collect. Those who were less confident with drawing graphs then put their data into simple bar charts; those more confident children worked out how to present the results of more than one child on the same graph for comparison. Again, five minutes well spent. Today, I found an information sheet produced by King which gave statistical information for the children to interpret. Clearly not the most thrilling of lessons, but the fact that it was linked to our Candy Crush experience made the children all the more enthusiastic. I’m not going to milk the whole Candy Crush thing, but one more activity to come: the children are going to design their own survey and collect data to present and draw conclusions.
I know that using technology for technology’s sake is a bad thing. All too often, I see trainees teaching using the interactive whiteboard when it adds nothing to the lesson, just because they feel they should be using it. Taking 10 minutes out of every lesson to play a few levels of the game surely couldn’t be justified. But if it can be used to motivate and engage children, then a few minutes’ technology used wisely can be time well spent.