Battle of the Wrist Bands! A great way to engage your students in lesson!
“Not Animal Farm again.”
“This novel is awful.
“Why do we have to analyse language anyway.”
Just a few statements from Year 11 class during their studying of the novel Animal Farm. Like a lot of teachers, I was trying and doing EVERYTHING to ensure engagement but they simply disliked the novel.
So, one Saturday night as I was entering a nightclub I was given a wristband as proof of payment- and this is where the initial idea of wristbands came about.
My brain went into overdrive with colours and success criteria and that word Ofsted love: PROGRESS.
To the lesson. I decided first of all to print and cut out key quotations from the novel which varied in difficulty and length. I placed these quotations inside balloons, again colour coordinated in terms of differentiation with purple being the most difficult quotations to analyse in detail and pink being slightly easier. Naturally, this means you can distribute the quotations according to ability.
Now, I ordered green, yellow and pink wristbands which I linked to the success criteria of the lesson.
Pink: correct language terminology is used throughout analysis including entire lines and individual words.
Yellow: correct language terminology is used throughout analysis including entire lines and individual words with an explanation of the effect on the reader.
Green: correct language terminology is used throughout analysis including entire lines and individual words with an explanation of the effect on the reader and a link to the context of the novella.
Students started the lesson by popping the balloon which in this instance had them instantly hooked. There was a buzz about quotations in Animal Farm. They proceeded to analyse the language used in the quotation from inside the balloon, whilst attempting to secure wristbands according to their analysis. The boys were extremely competitive here and naturally wanted to ‘win’ all three colours.
Students strived to ensure that their explanation of the language included the correct terminology, focused on the impact of individual words, used the Russian Revolution where possible and there was marked improvement in the answers of those so-called ‘weaker’ students. The discussion in the room was one of enthusiasm; students actively helping and assessing others, “if you add this then you can get a green wristband”. There was self-assessment and peer-assessment at all times!
The main task involved an exam response. The big question now was could students apply the success criteria to an exam response without any balloons, without any wristbands on offer? And, yes they could. By incorporating balloons and wristbands the students were engaged, hooked and most importantly improved on their analysis of language in a book they so disliked.
Finally, I placed a quick finisher in envelopes which I attached underneath the students seats. Sounds silly I know, but again, a quick way of engaging the group. The ‘finisher’ was used to consolidate what had already been done and inside the envelopes were singe words from Animal Farm.
In pairs, the students were timed on each word to see how well they could explain the effect of individual words under strict time constraints and also if they could place this word in to the context of the entire novella.
Entering the staff room at break and there was a buzz amongst the teachers who were asking why the students had the wristbands and what the lesson involved and commenting on how the students were ‘buzzing’ about English all day.
And, it did make me smile to see the Year 11 students still wearing their wristbands on the way out of the school gates at 3.15.
Battle of the wrist bands – a clear winner!
By Stacey Reay (Teaching and Learning Consultant – Greenfield Community College)