Here’s an oldie but a goodie (I first did this as a Fifth Year student in Tarbert Comprehensive on a religious retreat back in Ballyheigue. It’s also all I remember from the retreat). It is an exercise in communication but acts as both an excellent revision activity and ticks the verbal literacy box. And it’s a lot of fun.
I did it with my Leaving Cert Physics class because I have them last class on Friday (and Jacqui finds it hard to concentrate). So a challenge I have now set for myself is to find a fun learning activity for them every Friday between now and May.
Students pair up in twos (I love saying that, just to annoy the pedants). They can pair up in threes if there’s one left over.
Students sit back to back.
There are 24 mandatory leaving cert experiments. The first student (student 1) picks an experiment (or is assigned one) and, with his (or her) back to student 2, proceeds to instruct on how to draw the experimental apparatus. But here’s the kick: student 1 can only instruct student 2 one line at a time, e.g. “Start at the top of the page and draw a line parallel to the top half-way across. Now draw a line down three quarters of the page”. Student 1 cannot however tell student 2 to draw a power supply; student 2 has to figure this out from the instructions. Obviously student 2 doesn’t know what the experiment is and the aim is for him or her to figure this out in the shortest time possible. Neither can student 2 communicate with student 1 in any way; he just has to follow instructions as best he can. At the same time student 1 can’t look over her shoulder to see how the diagram is progressing.
Once identified, student 2 then gets a turn at calling out the instructions for another experiment which student 1 has to draw and try to identify in a shorter time.
Alternatively have all pairs doing doing the same experiment and see which pair can identify the experiment first.
So yes it’s great fun, and yes it really demands a high level of verbal and spatial reasoning, but the reason I really like it is because it involves active learning; student 2 is mentally retrieving all the experiments to see which one best matches the diagram. And this has been shown, time and time again, to be one of the most effective ways to learn.
You could spend five minutes on this at the beginning of every lesson. There’s also no reason why this can’t be rolled out for Junior Cert Science students.
Another nice aspect to it is that there is no preparation on the teacher’s part; no photocopying, correcting or cleaning up afterwards.
Finally, we use mini-whiteboards (also known as “Show Me” boards) in class – they are perfect for this activity.
Imagine if we all shared our own one favorite fail-safe activity?