Spot The Differences

Contributor:  Siân Etherington, University of Salford, s.etherington@salford.ac.uk

Ingredients: 3-4 plastic ducks (but you could use something else small and ‘unexpected’); a ‘fake’ notice to replace one usually found in classrooms (see below); air freshener; A4-sized humorous cartoon relating to Teaching and Learning; a welcome sign; my own name badge with a deliberate spelling mistake (you can come up with your own set of ‘differences’ depending you on your institution and what a ‘normal’ class is like.) You need about 7-8 differences, which should be ‘spot-able’.

Method: Place the ingredients around the room before the participants arrive and spray the air freshener about if using.  You need to put the ducks in places that are not very obvious, but can be seen when walking round.

When ready to start, tell participants that there are some ‘differences’ to a usual classroom within the room and for them to walk round to find them.  This takes about 5 mins or so. Check off the differences together.

Then ask participants to think about how some of the differences might impact on the feel, look, atmosphere of a class and then lead into a short discussion about what we expect classrooms to be like, what impact things like notices, welcome signs, light, seating etc. have on classes. (the ducks  and spelling mistakes are a bit of a red herring in this, but do test people’s powers of observation).  Plastic ducks are nice to use because of the range of bright colours and their size is about right.  I can also then tell people that part of my preparation for teaching is ‘getting my ducks in a row’.

Special Notes This gets people walking about instead of sitting down – and thinking explicitly about what classrooms are like or could be like. I particularly like changing one of the officious notices about not eating and drinking in the classroom- of which there are many in my institution -into something much more welcoming, and seeing if anyone spots this.  We so often take those sorts of notices for granted, but they do contribute to the institutional atmosphere.

It’s a nice lead-in to a session on observation of teaching; something that people are often nervous about.

Acknowledgments:  I made this up, but probably has some origin in my previous life as EFL teacher.

References: Probably are some but none to my knowledge.

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