Calculators and Balloons! #poundlandpedagogy
One of the things I love on twitter is #poundlandpedagogy. Quite simply, it is a great example of where technology and social media have empowered teachers to collaborate and share their ideas in a quick and accessible way. I appreciate that the concept of going to a poundland-style shop and thinking of ways to use lots of random items in the classroom, in order to add some fun and interest to your subject, isn’t a new thing. Before the hashtag ever existed, lots of teachers including myself have spent many a happy hour (and pound!) doing exactly this. However, what Isabella Wallace (@Wallaceisabella) did when she created the #poundlandpedagogy hashtag was to enable us all to instantly and easily share these ideas. This, in my opinion is what makes #poundlandpedagogy rather special and a little bit addictive. For a quick hit of inspiration, to make any lesson more engaging simply search the hashtag and be met with a plethora of new ideas in photo form, straight from real teachers, out of real classrooms. Initially I searched the hashtag along with #maths and although the ideas were good there wasn’t many specifically for Maths. What I quickly realised is that they don’t need to be, what is unique about the #poundlandpedagogy concept is it’s completely cross-curricular and multi-age range. You simply get an idea and think how you can adapt and build on it to make it work in your classroom, with your kids.
Using a calculator with balloons
During one of these little #poundlandpedagogy searches I saw about 4 balloons with paper slips rolled up and posted inside, I could not tell you anymore about the tweet, the subject or the age range as this basic idea was enough to get me thinking. I decided to plan a starter based around those ‘Use your calculator to calculate….’ exam questions as the accelerated year 10 (British Curriculum) class needed an injection of fun and energy in those few lessons between the non-calculator and calculator GCSE papers, whilst also checking they were super-confident with their calculators. I used 32 balloons and 4 identical sets of 8 different questions (printed from exam wizard with mark schemes too) I then wrote 10 points, 8 points, 4 points and 0 points on a copy of each mark scheme answer respectively, then as I blew up the balloons I posted the rolled up mark scheme answer in the balloon and I also wrote the answer on the outside of the balloon in permanent marker. I had also bought some fun shaped little erasers that went in some of the balloons as an extra ‘bonus’ prize to add a bit of excitement to proceedings. The balloons were then released all over the classroom. The class was split into 4 teams; each were given a set of questions and a stapler. They were told to work out the answers, find a balloon with the answer, pop the balloon to retrieve the mark scheme answer with how many points they had ‘won’ and staple it to the question. Obviously if they couldn’t find a balloon with their answer on they needed to check their answer and get another team member to help if needed. The winning team is the team with the most points once everyone has answered the set of questions and popped the balloons. It’s perhaps important to reiterate, this is not a fastest team wins kind of game as it is purely points dependent and there are 4 balloons for every answer and 4 teams.
What went well….
The kids loved it. They worked well in their teams, helped each other with any calculator issues, reminded themselves of the important calculator keys whilst all being fully engaged. The points idea worked well and emphasised that it’s not about speed.
Even better if….
There was the small matter of blowing up 32 balloons and transporting them in 2 large bin liners to school…..it’s not an activity anyone would do every week! It did take about 25 mins to prep and did only last around 15 minutes in the classroom – but it was a fun, productive activity and in my opinion worth the effort! In hindsight, if you don’t want to blow up as many balloons, perhaps a treasure hunt type thing where some of the answers involve balloons would take less time to prepare!
I’m confident the balloon/team/points idea would work well for other topics and would love to hear if anyone does anything similar in the comments or via twitter!