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New Guidance: Starters and Plenaries

Describing his workshop at SHP12 ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’, Jamie Byrom writes …

The idea for the workshop on starters and plenaries came from watching lots of really interesting lessons being taught by relatively inexperienced teachers.  I noticed how often they seemed to be starting and ending lessons in ways that may have met school policies but that did not always serve the best interests of teacher or pupils.  In particular they seemed to try to do several more or less contradictory things at once ie …

  • to focus on an individual lesson rather than help pupils to see the pattern in a more coherent series of lessons guided by a single main enquiry question
  • to give learning objectives (before the pupils had been enticed by a history puzzle or challenge)
  • to give headings that must be copied
  • to set homework that was running ahead of the learning
  • to involve written responses in exercise books that would often be based on the natural misunderstandings and confusions that pupils come up with when they have not yet been helped to think issues through
  • to diminish the effect of what might have been a powerful image or statement on a screen by surrounding it with words about some or all of the aspects listed above

In the workshop we teased out the principles shown in Resource 1.  To be honest that’s the most important of the three resources.  It makes the point that almost ANY activity can be a good starter or plenary if it is sensibly chosen and timed to serve the needs of the learner.  The list of possible starter activities was generated by those at the workshop.  The list of so-called possible “plenary” activities was devised by Michael Riley and myself a few years ago when we were urging teachers to get pupils to do final activities that reflect what historians do or what historians may be asked to advise on.  These are not really lesson plenaries but are “products” that draw together the learning from an enquiry in solid, worthwhile outcomes.

I hope something here helps!

Over to you …

See the guidance and resources in full here