Lesson Swap: Are you ‘cold’ without your ‘comfort blanket’?

The idea behind the lesson swap was to experiment and reflect on your teaching when you take away your subject knowledge aka your comfort blanket.

Sophie and I agreed to swap lessons; with her specialism in English and mine in History we originally didn’t think they’d be dissimilar. We decided to swap due to teaching the same ‘difficult’ Year 9 class and Sophie having the unfortunate pleasure of always having them late in the day and me having them period 1 (and period6, in the same day).

We met and planned our lessons. The first thing that struck us both was how English focused on one small thing for the entire lesson whereas in History we usually tended to fill the lesson with content. In English the focus of the lesson was on different type of adjectives and their current novel ‘A Christmas Carol’. Sophie was teaching about conscientious objectors in World War 1.

 

I was first to teach my lesson swap. I felt nervous and had a similar anxious feeling to when I was teaching my first lessons during my PGCE. I can only assume the feeling was due to the fear of the unknown. Despite only being in the second half-term of my NQT year I am now familiar with teaching my subject and can gage where problems may arise from and what sort of questions may be asked. With English, I did not have this hindsight. As soon as the class entered they were questioning both Sophie and I about why we were both in the classroom and what was going on. Once we explained (to the extent we wanted to) the kids didn’t seemed phased by what was going on in the slightest. I explained the starter task, which to me was the most alien part of the lesson, who knew there was more than one kind of adjective?, and I soon settled into the swing of it. Sophie was kind enough to give me positive glances, almost reassuring me that it was going okay. Despite the content being different I soon realised there was one clear similarity: their behaviour is exactly the same. They were still the slightly annoying, chatty but lovely class. I used the same behaviour management techniques and they responded in the same way. The lesson went smoothly, there were no major hiccups, and the class responded as normal and needed prompting to focus as always. It seemed that as the kids knew me it didn’t seem to make any difference what I was teaching them.

 

As I had planned the lesson with Sophie, it was interesting to see how they worked in different types of activities; they were doing a combination of group and individual tasks. I predominantly do paired and individual work with them so it was interesting to see how they worked in larger groups and it is something I would like to include more in my teaching with them. The group work gave me the chance to interact with more of the class, I was able to converse and help them in smaller groups, rather than focussing on one struggling pair, the group work made my job easier and ensured that they were doing the thinking rather than me (a question that was always put to me on my PGCE year: who is doing the thinking?).

 

Sophie did her lesson swap the following morning; I tried to repay her by giving her the same positive, reassuring eye she gave me. We later met to discuss each other’s lessons and the whole lesson swap experience. It seemed we both shared many of the same feelings…

  • We put felt that each other taught the lesson/subject than each other. After much discussion we came to realise why this was. We found that the instructions to the tasks were much clearer and this is probably a result of the subject being unfamiliar and not our specialism. The question on our minds afterwards was ‘Does your subject knowledge cause you to overcomplicate things?’
  • We allowed the pupils to find/feel their way a lot more. Both Sophie and I each allowed the pupils the time to digest information and the activities in order to learn, this is probably as we both went through the same process when planning and researching the lessons. I think since starting my NQT year I am really guilty of not allowing pupils to do this. I am so conscious of what is to come, the ‘golden nugget’ I want them to take away and time restraints that I have been ‘driving’ pupils thinking too much in one direction without allowing them to explore possibilities. This ‘driving’ and exploring of thoughts is one of the reasons I fell in love with my subject so me not allowing pupils to do this naturally saddens me.

 

Overall, I found the lesson swap I really insightful experience. It reminded me to reflect on my teaching, something that I haven’t done as much due to getting to grips with an NQT timetable compared to a PGCE timetable. Additionally, and probably most importantly, it reminded me why I am a History specialism, the passion for my subject was reignited and all I want to do as a result is share that passion and try and infect as many pupils as possible with the same feeling towards History.

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