This afternoon I did an assembly which several people on Twitter have asked me to write about. I neglected to put my last assembly in my diary, so it was a complete last minute rush. As I told the children this afternoon I wanted to try a bit harder to make up for that. It’s hard to pitch to a hall of children aged from 6 to 11, but I took a risk and tried to engage them with something quite challenging.
I began by showing the hall an old set of weighing scales with two model rhinos on them. I asked some year 2 children to describe what was happening, and they told us they were balanced. I then got out of my pocket a model elephant and asked them to think about what would happen if this ‘huge’ elephant was added to one side. It, of course made the scales tip. I then took the elephant off and asked the children to think about what would happen if instead I put a ‘tiny’ 1 pence onto the scales. I did so, and despite it’s small size the scales also tipped with a suitably dramatic ‘clunk’.
Then I moved on to explain that I was showing them this as I wanted to talk to them about a book I had read over Christmas. As a child and young person I was hugely into novels, and didn’t really read non-fiction. However, recently I have really got into ‘ideas’ books like Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Tipping Point’, as they make me think about new ways of seeing things.
I shared this with the children and discussed the idea of ‘Tipping Points’ which I had just demonstrated. Using photographs to illustrate, I told the story of the New York Subway clean up from the book, where diligent removal of graffiti resulted in a massive reduction in crime and the turnaround of the subway system.
The scales then came out again, and I reiterated the fact that even the smallest things could make such a big difference. I asked the children to think of something small they could do, and described the examples I had seen of children deciding to concentrate on the presentation of their work resulting in big gains in terms of quality of writing and engagement with Maths.
I am not one to place neat presentation on a pedestal, but I have really seen with some children the difference in engagement a little extra work on presentation can have. After working with our TA to improve their handwriting, several of them have started to take a real pride in their work, and this has resulted in increased engagement and therefore real gains in their learning.
I finished by inviting the children to think of one small change they could make, which might be a tipping point for bigger things.
When planning this I thought it was a bit of a risk, but it seemed to go down well and at home time a girl from my old class came to ask me the name of the Gladwell book so she could read it.
Looks like my love of ‘ideas’ might be spreading.