Introducing new topics to students can be quite tricky. You want to engage students from the very beginning but this can be particularly difficult if the content is quite challenging or abstract. How students respond in that first lesson can set the tone for the whole unit and so any techniques that can make this easier are surely worth a try.

It was a pleasure to see one of our experienced English teachers, Alison Cuneen, introduce her Year 8 students to Shakespeare. I sensed that this is not the easiest of topics to engage students. However, what I saw was a group of high ability students engaged and working independently.

Alison had tasked students to each produce a rough guide to one of three Shakespeare plays. They used their devices to independently research the play and were given some criteria they needed to include in their guides. They then worked collaboratively to teach each other the key themes and characters of each of the plays. The task seemed to work really well as it was a manageable first step to eventually writing their own pieces to perform.

I think this technique would work successfully across a range of subjects and abilities. How useful would it be if students came to your lessons already having an idea about the topic to be studied? Exposing students to key ideas and vocabulary early on in a topic can help reduce cognitive load later on, leading to improved learning for all.