“… everything works somewhere and nothing works everywhere…”
I have seen people on social media and in real life criticising the use of specific resources & ways of teaching. I’ve done it myself.
However, whilst I was recently planning a lesson for a particular class I considered a type of resource that I have not used for a long time. I had previously been told that it wasn’t a good type of resource and rather than assess it for my needs, I stopped using it.
I’m referring to ‘fill in the gap’ exercises.
I found a resource that was a ‘fill in the gap’ activity and thought how it could be useful for the students that I was planning for. It would:
- Test they knew what the specific RE terms meant e.g Guru Granth Sahib
- Make them recall last lesson’s learning
And if I really felt the need to justify it in terms of literacy, it:
- Meant they had to identify the ‘type’ of word that would fit e.g noun, adjective
- Test their spelling
- Remind them what Guru means (and other keyword definitions)
And as an activity:
- Didn’t take me any time to make it
- Meant they could work alone without the need to chat (unless checking with each other)
- I didn’t even have to explain what to do. They knew.
- Give them a chance to settle as they came into class as we didn’t need to wait for latecomers to start
Had I really wanted to I could also have:
- Cut off the words that went in the gaps, for further knowledge recall challenge and it would also check their independent spelling
- Added red herrings so there were more words than gaps
So with all that justification, why are ‘fill in the gap’ activities so maligned? This got me thinking about other resources and ways of teaching:
Is it possible to justify all types of resources, all ways of teaching? If so, does anyone have the right to say that a certain resource or way of teaching shouldn’t be used?
Can all teaching activities be (sometimes tenuously) linked to cognitive science?
I propose that it is possible to justify most, if not all teaching activities, including those that have recently been highlighted that specific research doesn’t support. It’s all in how you justify them. I also propose that most of these could be justified with cognitive science research if set up in a certain way. However, it is how they are used and the type of justification that matters.
I’ve seen people say ‘It works in my classroom, my with students so I’m going to use it‘ and other people criticise this. The issue is that I agree and I disagree I mainly disagree when any justifications are not weighted towards the learning of the knowledge and skills of the subject. They may focus ‘too much’ on trying to develop other skills or meet other ends that aren’t subject related.
For example, if I give my class a starter in Sikhism and I’ve been told that in my lesson I have to use literacy (a ridiculous situation but that’s for another blog) and I put GURU GRANTH SAHIB on the board and students them to write as many words as possible only using those letters, I could justify this:
- I can ask them what the Guru Granth Sahib is (subject knowledge & recall)
- It settles them down with little instruction
- They can work independently or collaboratively
- It tests their spelling skills
- I have included a literacy activity in my lesson plan
Only number 1 links to RE knowledge and skills and that is 20 seconds of the activity. The rest has nothing to do with RE. I would therefore argue it’s not a suitable activity for an RE lesson. However, you might argue that if it was a grammar/spelling lesson where they had been working on the use of ‘ing’ words, it ‘might’ be more appropriate.
So, I go back to Dylan’s quote. I don’t think it just refers to context of school or class when it says ‘somewhere’ I think it is more where it is done within the curriculum. It’s also not possible to argue that in all cases a specific teaching resource is inappropriate for teachers to use as it all depends on how it is used; nothing is intrinsically ‘bad’.
This is problematical as I know teacher use activities and resources that I don’t think they should be using. So when there need to be discussions with teachers about appropriateness of activity, get them to write down the justification/s. If subject knowledge and skills is outweighed by other reasons, it may be a waste of learning time.
I’m prepared to be challenged on this.