The start of the spring term is always tricky- the sixth form tend to be a combination of stressed about UCAS and sluggish from the holidays, with the view that the exam ‘isn’t for months yet’. This lacklustre attitude seems to really come to the fore when we hit some of the ‘drier’ elements of the A-Level course, or in fact at any given point based on their mood that day – we are dealing with teenagers after all! As such, this year we have been really trying to focus on how to keep the students engaged in their studies.
Here are a few ideas for activities to beat the post-holidays slump:
Putting method into action– I find ‘practical’ trials of the methods work well here. For example, we head into the local town to conduct surveys; watch Youtube clips of interviews (e.g Alan Carr or similar, contrasted with Andrew Marr); carry out participant observation in classrooms; and hold group interviews with other students. This seems to help them engage with this section of the unit, and aids their evaluation of each method.
Pass the Parcel – This can be done two ways, either an actual parcel with each layer having a question and sweet inside for a revision game (I haven’t tried this, but colleagues used it for A2 History recently); or the ‘parcels’ are in fact just excerpts from articles or text books which are then passed around and students have some form of sheet to complete. For example, recently with yet more ‘internal factors’ influencing education, I copied sections from the textbook and students had 4 boxes to fill in – their task was to condense each ‘parcel’ into 3 bullet points before the timer ran out. A sand-timer on the board and chart music via Youtube helped keep the pace.
Word and time-limit presentations – Each student or pairs can be assigned a section of a topic and asked to give a presentation. But, in order to keep focus and to ensure the presentation isn’t simply chunks of Wikipedia pasted onto slides, give a strict word and time limit. For example: no more than 10 words on a slide, a maximum of 20 seconds per slide and 10 slides in total to deliver the content. This forces the students to prepare and actually know what they are saying, but also adds an element of competition as other ‘teams’ can be timers and word counters.
Mr Men cartoons – Divide class into pairs and assign each a Mr Men character based on New Religious Movements – they need to produce a comic strip to be compiled into a booklet for the class to illustrate their life in the movement, reasons why they joined etc. (E.g. Little Miss Scientologist, Mr Summum, Mr Hare Krishna, Little Miss People’s Temple etc). This could also be used for theorists for any unit, or be substituted for Sociologist Top Trumps which would work in a similar way!
Online research – The Texas Department of Criminal Justice website is a great resource for looking at capital punishment. An interesting angle is to get the students to tally up ethnic backgrounds as a link to the Ethnicity and Crime section of the A2 unit.
Esther Zarifi teaches Sociology at Prudhoe High School, Northumberland.