Teachers in boiler suits at a crime scene help Y6-Y7 transition students overcome their nerves

Reading time: 2 minutes. Relevant programme: Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme (TEEP)

Katie Ray, English teacher, Prospect School, describes their use of a particular poem to create excitement about English and an experience of success

Year 6 to year 7 transition lessons always seem more difficult to plan than those which are being delivered to your ‘own’ class. The biggest tightrope to walk is making the lesson enjoyable and engaging and, at the same time, ensuring that students feel they have learnt something in that hour. Our aim is, when they return to us in September, not only do they look forward to the subject but they feel that they have already achieved something in English here at Prospect. The students that make up our cohort tend to enjoy English but they can also find it difficult to access; we often have students with reading ages below chronological age as well as students with English as an additional language.

Colleagues and I were keen for students to be hooked as soon as they entered and we knew that our hook had to be good enough for each student to forget that they were nervous, being in a new environment with new people.

The lesson we delivered as a department this year focused on improving students’ inference skills, with the Simon Armitage poem ‘About His Person’ as the stimulus. We set up each classroom with a crime scene – drew around each other with chalk to create the outline, laid out the objects referenced in the text and screened our rooms with ‘police tape’. Each teacher, wearing a boiler suit, welcomed the class at the door, ushering them into what had been transformed into an active crime scene.

Part of the rationale: personally, I think the best way to put someone else at ease is to present yourself as vulnerable, which is where the boiler suits we wore came in. (I had purchased these after a TEEP Inset session where a character analysis activity had been suggested, using them.)

The students were engaged and wanted to know how and why the man had died. In pairs, the students worked their way around each item found on the man. Clue cards were available if students needed pointing in the right direction, as they inferred what they could about the man and how and why he’d died. In notebooks, students were encouraged to combine their inferences before refining their solution with each new item.

Only when we had reached a conclusion did we introduce the poem, make the skills we had been using explicit and link them to other lessons they had.

I am confident that students left those classrooms that day excited about English and feeling successful.

This innovative method was inspired by the Teacher Effectiveness Enhancement Programme (TEEP). TEEP is a research-based teaching & learning programme that helps teachers improve the effectiveness of their teaching. Find out more.

Read on the SSAT blog: Collaboration to improve year 6/7 transition

Follow Katie Ray on Twitter

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