The Spare Hour

While reorganising my class timetable for the coming half term, it became apparent that there was a ‘spare’ hour that I didn’t have last term. A whole 60-minute chunk of as yet unclaimed time. In an increasingly packed timetable, this excited me. So, what to do with it?

My immediate thought was to have P4C-based enquiries and activities, but then I pondered on it for a little longer and realised that I wanted to ‘give it back’ to my class somehow to create a truly child-led experience. In Essential Motivation in the Classroom, Ian Gilbert talks about happiness being directly related to the extent to which we perceive ourselves to be in control of our own lives. In school, there is much that is out of children’s control, but by making a conscious step to give some control back to the children in my class, could I increase levels of motivation, engagement… even happiness?

Others have blogged about independent and child-led learning in the past, which has also inspired me. Oliver Quinlan’s writing on child centered learning, negotiated learning time and use of provocations┬áhas been something that has stuck with me for some time and more recently someone pointed me in the direction of Jim Maloney’s blog post on independent learning. My idea is to take elements from all these things and implement a ‘Teach Someone Something’ project. The overall aim being that children work together in groups or pairs to teach somebody else anything they choose. How to do something or make something, that really is up to them, as would be their intended audience and mode of delivery. One pair might choose to teach a group of year 1 children how to make friendship bracelets while another might create a video showing how to improve passing skills in football. The ‘spare’ hour would be used for children to plan and resource ┬átheir idea. My hope is that this encourages all sorts of skills and interests, particularly those that don’t necessarily got much or any coverage in our curriculum. I want everybody to get the chance to show how they are clever.

Have you introduced something similar in your class? Could I change my angle on the ‘Teach Someone Something’ idea or do something entirely different with it? Any feedback, ideas and suggestions would be great appreciated.

7 comments

  • I think your class will love this. I have seen this type of learning and teaching most successfully done in IB (International Baccalaureate) schools where every Year 6 class graduate after doing a final project which they plan and implement and present their findings. It is not just about teaching but about them learning about a topic which they choose, they fill in their own planning same as the teachers usually use, they research independently their subject then feedback in any way they choose at the end. They pick debate/essay topics such as “Has social media created a void in face-to-face communication” and other very interesting topics and so the learning is genuine and authentic and they learn as well as teach. I wish I had an hour a week to dedicate to it to but am hoping to steal a week or two for it after Year 5 Optional SATs week in summer!

  • Genius idea, and I hope it works out well for you. In the tech world, this is happening more and more. The famous example is at Google – http://goo.gl/SGZO4 – and can really raise motivation, as well as develop all types of skills.

    I think you will really have fun, and more importantly, your pupils will benefit greatly. Good luck, and I look forward to hearing more about your experience.

  • I’d love to see a session of “why do we have to learn this junk?!”
    Relevance was sorely lacking in my early education. If you guide them and get them started your students may really take off with it. Challenge them to apply recently learned skills or information to their lives.
    Another suggestion; ask them to identify something they’ve learned about life “on accident” remember college? Wouldnt you agree you learned at least as much outside the classroom as in? These children are learning life lessons constantly and a chance to reflect and share might be useful.

    Good luck!

  • This concept is powerful. It entirely captures the ‘point’ of skills based learning. It also raises more questions thought. Questions that relate to the way we structure our teaching, and the way we often focus on ‘amounts of time’ as a basis for mapping our day/week/term, rather than being led by tasks/activities/pieces of learning. Your post has challenged my thinking.

  • Lovely idea! Bet the kids will love it! We do something a little similar in Year 6. Every Spring term, we use our equivalent spare hour for the whole term to let the children explore their own interests. At the end of the term, every child makes a 5 minutes presentation to a class of Year 5s. They essentially teach their topic (with PowerPoint, Prezzi or just bringing in cakes they’ve tried to bake). Their topic can be anything: we have had favourite singers to the 10 most difficult maths problems in the world to masonry nails. We try to tie it in to questioning skills and research skills where possible, especially P4C style approaches. The kids all critique each other as we go. We’re on our 3rd year and still honing it, mainly with suggestions from the children. Happy to send over some draft plans if you’re interested.

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  • We do a project called fun2learn, which was inspired by Googles 20% time. We have a range of project sheets that children can choose from. The project sheets do have a check list of things to direct the children, but they have free choice on what activities they choose, from writing a piece of music, planning a magic show, making a model to demonstrate something. We do this last lesson on a Friday afternoon. It’s still quite new and we are monitoring it, and encouraging parents to come in and run sessions on new learning ideas too.

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