I sometimes feel like my Maths group get a rough deal; like we’re running on this treadmill of learning outcomes. 43 objectives to master…in 36 weeks. My group find Maths so tricky; they lack confidence and struggle to make links between concepts. My kids require constant over-learning; progressive teaching sequences delivered slowly; and opportunities to re-visit and reinforce. 43 objectives…in 36 weeks – you do the Maths!
So we step (or fall!) off the treadmill to tackle something different. We temporarily laugh in the face of objective-chasing to do something hilarious. Lessons such as this aren’t a bonus or treat; they’re a necessity – an entitlement. This is one of those lessons. Pure indulgence.
The inspiration for the session came from one of those Facebook pages that direct you to trending posts. The ‘ 20 Funniest Student Pranks EVER!’ (or something like that) appeared on my feed; I gambled on it being legit and the gamble paid off. The concept centres around a glass of water flipped upside down. The unsuspecting ‘victim’ is then left with plotting an approach to rescue the situation without getting wet. Classic! For days, I played around with upturned glasses of water on various surfaces until I ran out of people to prank. It was during these few moments of smug reflection that I realised its potential for use in the classroom.
With limitless possibilities I began to get excited. Could I really get away with having such ridiculous fun in the name of education? Yes! And on so many levels. Problem solving in Maths, cooperation, collaboration and building resilience. A one-off lesson, an observation, an interview, an intervention, 1:1, circle of friends, nurture group or a brilliant transition activity. So many opportunities to be silly!
I mention the ‘observation’ word as the engagement was off the chart – right up there with the best I’ve been a part of! Kids were gasping and cheering; they couldn’t get enough. The lesson was set up in an empty classroom before school. The kids entered the room open-mouthed to what they described as a magic trick; an optical illusion. One upturned glass (not a spillage in sight) per group alongside a copy of the resource pack. After a quick water-pistol warm-up I set them their challenge – they were off. I insisted on groups completing the planning stage before beginning their attack on the problem. Such was their excitement, there wasn’t a grumble to be heard – they were desperate to work.
I chose to use glass ahead of plastic as it sits heavier on the desks. Naturally, younger pupils will need to be supervised and you’ll need to discuss and manage potential hazards. My Y3s were incredible! Approaches varied from turning it back over ‘proper fast!’ to sliding sheets of A4 paper underneath and flipping the glass around. Eventually, a successful method was found and magpied. Even then, some groups suffered epic fails!
By the end of the session the kids were buzzing and we’d set up three water pranks in the staff room! They’d not necessarily made progress but did we care? Not one bit. They’d shown a range of skills; evidenced a growing maturity and made me immensely proud. They’d had a magical experience – the awe and wonder all-too-often diluted amongst the pressures of teaching and demands of curriculum delivery. Kids need these lessons. Teachers need these lessons. I need them.
Fancy giving it a go? My resource pack can help save you precious time. It includes: set-up guidance, two differentiated work-sheets (an oral outcome/supported group and an independent group sheet) and discussion questions cards for group-work or whole-class review. Each worksheet explores written, verbal and drawing outcomes, and explores six mini-stages of problem solving on the one sheet – from initial discussion to review. The pack is now available as a PDF download for FREE – hope you enjoy it as much as we did! Should you have any further questions, feel free to get in touch.