Slow and steady wins the race

I was really excited last week. I had planned a Round Robin lesson for my Y10s. They got themselves into small groups and there were 5 tasks around for them for them to partake, each one providing a different problem and a different kind of problem solving technique.

I thought the lesson sounded great – lots of energy, lots of challenge, group work, multiple mini-plenaries – surely it couldn’t fail.

Well, of course, it did. It wasn’t a total disaster but I learned some significant lessons of my own. The tasks were not equal in the time they took to complete. The leap frog game took significantly less time than the battleships game. The treasure chest riddle was also much quicker than the banana eating camel puzzle. This meant that some students ended up sat twiddling their thumbs whilst others were being hurried and harassed, preventing them from taking the time necessary to reflect on their responses.

Part of each task was to write down how they had solved it, and while anyone who has successfully mastered the Tower of Hanoi can *see* the solution, it’s not necessarily easy to describe. Especially if you’re a 14 year old boy and the whole point of the lesson is to introduce you to the concept of problem solving.

At the opposite end I ran another lesson today with a single problem – that of how to describe the drawing of a shape accurately and unambiguously. The students had far more fun trying not to be outdone as I deliberately and hilariously misinterpreted their instructions (one lad was appalled that when he told me to draw a diamond, I did – complete with ring and even a dainty finger) and they got the point much more clearly today than they would have done from a dozen too-hectic round robin lessons.

There was some leading from the front, but also individual learning, group work, challenge, competition, mini plenaries and more. The pace was at least sufficient and progress was good. So slow and steady CAN win the race.

It’s just a shame that I can’t claim the lesson plan or resources as my own – but I’d rather pinch an excellent lesson from somewhere else than teach a dodgy one of my own devising!


Image attribution: Boston – Copley Square: The Tortoise and the Hare Originally uploaded by wallyg