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Inspiring the uninspired

Using an inspiring topic across different areas of the curriculum can help to keep pupils motivated.

Probationer Teacher (Primary), West Lothian

As a teacher, you always try to make your lessons as fun and interesting as possible. I remember being in lessons I didn't enjoy, and I think we can all agree that it is rather de-motivating.

When I first met my class in August I was impressed with the general motivation in the class towards almost every curricular area. Maths lessons were always approached enthusiastically, and the children never lacked imagination in writing.

However, there was one area where the children seemed disinterested and lacked motivation.

Whenever I introduced reading comprehension exercises, I would get a bit of a sigh from the children. I was continuing to use the scheme the class had been following from the previous year, but I was not happy with their level of interest. I knew I needed to do something to make the children enjoy their learning in this area.

Finding inspiration

The children always really enjoyed listening to the class novel. They would ask lots of questions and maintain good discussion surrounding the themes of the book. In an aim to capitalise on this, I decided to have a trial run at putting together comprehension exercises from the class novel. Now all I had to do was wait and see if the response was more favourable.

When I mentioned the word comprehension I was met with the usual sigh, until I mentioned the name of the class novel when all of a sudden the children began to perk up.

I continued to explain the exercise, and I was met with the usual gasps of excitement I am used to in other areas! I was a happy teacher with a happy class!

Setback

But of course there was a little something I hadn't thought of.

I continued to build my comprehension tasks around the novel each week, and differentiated the work for each group. The problem I was beginning to come across now was not a lack of enthusiasm, but a tendency to rely on what they had remembered happening in the story, rather than answering directly from the text. I knew then that I had to change my tactic slightly.

From that week on I picked passages from the book that were quite obscure. This encouraged the children to look deeper into the text rather than writing down what they had remembered.

Benefits

I am really glad that I took the approach that I did. If I had kept plodding on with a scheme that the children were disinterested in, I don't think I would have seen the same results. Of course, what I am doing is time consuming but if it makes the children happier then it's worth it.