Bringing Variety to the English classroom

Here are 14 ways to use variety in your classroom:

1. CREATE A BALANCE. Structure your lessons with a balance of listening and activity. Young people can listen effectively for about half their age in minutes e.g. if they are 12 they can listen for 6 minutes at one time.

2. USE A SCHEDULE. Make the structure obvious to the students by having a schedule on the board which could look like this: 10 mins teacher talk, 10 minutes paired work, 10 minutes sharing with whole class, 10 minutes recording in work books, 5 minute review and game.

3. Use paired and group activities.

4. GAMES AND SIMULATIONS. Having fun engages our brain and makes the learning memorable. I can still see students keenly learning their times tables to see how quickly they could recite them and beat their own time.

5. ALLOW CHOICE. Give students a say in when and with whom they present their work. Allow them to choose whether they present to the whole class, a small group or to the teacher.

6. ALL STUDENTS ANSWER. Use mini-whiteboards for students to write answers and hold up to the teacher. This approach reduces anxiety for students who fear failure as the answer can be erased, and gives the teacher immediate feedback about how well the students are learning.

7. INCORPORATE MOVEMENT. No one learns best by sitting at a desk or on the floor for long periods of time. Use movement to underscore the learning. Adding movements to learning can enhance and embed the learning. Think about using actions with a song or memory tricks to learn lists of dates.

8. JIGSAW OR EXPERT GROUPS. Students reading and learning a topic then teaching it to a small group.

9. USE MUSIC. It can signal the end of a task, transition time or pack up time. Use music as part of your lessons…as a break, as a movement, to lift the mood or to give students thinking time. Music has the power to change feelings- use it to provide a background to your activities. It can also promote positive relationships through shared tastes and knowledge of songs. Singing is a fantastic transition activity for younger students and could be used effectively with older students who also love to sing.

10. PAIRED AND GROUP DISCUSSIONS. We learn by talking about things and giving students opportunities to discuss the work will help to make it relevant and meaningful. Keep chatting times short and give clear boundaries for the discussions to keep students on task.
11. Give practical demonstrations to make the learning relevant and real.

12. PEER MENTORING. Have students explain content to each other.

13. CLASS MEETINGS. Conduct real life problem solving situations addressing student need e.g. how to develop time management skills or how to deal assertively with bullying behaviour.

14. USE A VARIETY OF RESOURCES. Raid the library to provide students with resources to use e.g. a range of texts, laptops, internet, encyclopaedias, posters, guest speakers, excursions, incursions etc.