Teaching Ideas : Topic Launches
The start of a new school term sees also the launch of new curriculum topics as you introduce your class to new learning opportunities across a number of subjects.
There are a number of lessons and teaching activities that can be employed to launch a new topic to herald a successful start to the topic.
Holding a special event or activity will help to fire up the children’s natural enthusiasm for learning so that they will be desperate to investigate the topic further. During the topic launch, you can also assess the children’s current understanding and knowledge of the topic so that you can target specific learning objectives and activities in the remainder of the topic’s lessons. Encourage the children to share some of their wishes about activities that they would like to cover in topic so that they can become partners and not receivers of their learning. Use a special topic launch to excite the class and ignite their enthusiasm for learning about the world around them.
Role-play and Drama
One of the best ways of launching a new topic is by holding a special day to allow the children to use role-play and drama to explore an an aspect of the topic. Select a role-play that will enable the children to share their current knowledge and understanding of the topic. For example,. if you are starting a topic on the Romans you can take the children on a journey around the school grounds to imagine journeying from Rome to invade Britain. Stop to camp somewhere in the school grounds so that the children can dramatise and share their ideas about how the Romans lived and worked and identify questions that they would like to research to further understanding. Encourage the class to utilise what they already know about a topic during any drama. Keep a note of any confused or misunderstood concepts so that these can be worked on during the course of the topic. This activity can link with some English work on composing and performing a play script about a specific aspect of a topic.
You can take advantage of the children’s natural curiosities by displaying some artefacts from the new curriculum topic on the children’s tables. Get the class to work together to investigate the different artefacts. You can display the artefacts on tissue paper and provide the class with some plastic gloves to emphasise the importance of the objects. You can also get the children to use magnifying glasses to explore the materials and shape of each artefact to identify its function and age. Tell the class to record questions that they could research to investigate the artefacts further. Use any questions selected by the children to begin building an initial topic display in the classroom. Spend time discussing with the class their ideas about the artefacts as you introduce the children to some of the initial ideas of the topic. Encourage the children to share anything that they already know about the topic so that you can gain a some insight into their current understanding which will help you target gaps in future topic lessons.
If you are about to launch a new history topic then you could use some artwork from the specific time period as the starting point for a series of lessons. Use the board to display a painting by a famous artist that depicts an aspect of the topic. Encourage the class to discuss together what they can see happening in the artwork and how the scene is the same or different from a similar scene painted today. Tell the children to list questions that they could research to investigate different aspects of the painting such as clothing of the time period, technological advances and historical events. During the discussion, you can assess the children’s current understanding of the historical period. The class can also indicate some of the activities that they would like to cover during the topic so that they can become independent learners. Use ideas from the discussion to build a topic wall in the classroom listing some of the research questions identified by the class and their ideas for future learning.
If you are about to start a geography topic then you can challenge the children to search the Internet to collect facts and information to answer questions about the topic. You can spend time discussing with the class what they already know about a specific topic. Get the children to list questions that they could research to investigate a topic further. The children can then work with a partner to use Internet websites to collect facts and information to answer each question. You can provide pairs of children with one of the questions. The children can then collect images and text to insert into a word processing program that can support the answers to the questions. Allow time to get the children to share the information that they collected to answer the questions. Use the information collected to build an initial display for the topic to help target areas for further learning.
At the start of a topic, you can ask the children to bring in some objects from home to match an aspect of the topic. For example, if you are starting a geography topic on a specific country then the children could bring in souvenirs that their family has purchased whilst on holiday in that country. Spend time getting the class to share some of their objects that they have brought in from home. Get the children to talk about the meaning behind each object and what it can tell us about an aspect of the topic such as the culture and traditions of a specific country in the world. Work with the class to select questions arising out of the objects that can be targeted in future topic lessons.