This past Friday, November 14, 2014 was Children in Need day in the UK. Children in Need is BBC’s charity that aims to change the lives of disabled children and people in the United Kingdom. It’s a really big deal here, with many celebrities getting involved, and leads up to a huge telethon broadcast. This year’s telethon included the reunion of S Club 7, One Direction, and Cheryl Cole among others.
Manorcroft also did its part to help on Children in Need day. Students were able to wear fancy dress, or costumes, if they brought in one pound to donate to the charity. At the weekly school assembly, student council members shared with the school some facts they learned about the charity, including that since 1980 it has raised over 600 million pounds. The Head Teacher also complimented everyone on their fancy dress, and even pointed out a few students who were dressed as Pudsey Bear, the charity’s mascot.
In my classroom, children came as characters from Frozen, football (soccer) players, princesses, and superheroes. While dressing up is fun for the children, Miss Cornick thought it was also important for the students to know why they were dressing up. I feel that it is sometimes difficult to teach students, especially 7 year olds, about controversial topics such as homelessness, disability, racism, poverty, etc. However, I was really impressed with the way in which Miss Cornick went about teaching this lesson.
She had the students sit on the floor and after showing students the short Children in Need video on the smart board, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_6Z6uCOku7k&list=PL2091C36E21B86CBF), Miss Cornick told the students a little bit about how the charity helps others. She showed them a picture of One Direction with Pudsey Bear, which really got the students excited. By doing so, Miss Cornick was able to show how popular groups or people that the students recognized are doing their part for Children in Need day. She also played them the charity single, Wake Me Up, and explained that they might have heard on the radio or seen on the Tele in the past few weeks (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ghScc6KDD0). This song is similar to the We Are the World charity single that got a bunch of celebrities and important people together to raise money after the earthquake in Haiti.
Then she asked students to get in a circle and asked students to go around in the circle and share a time when they helped someone else. Whoever was speaking held Pudsey Bear, which the students really enjoyed. She related their helping classmates to the help they were providing to the disadvantaged people by donating money. She told them that by dressing up, the pound they brought in was going directly to help the children and people they saw in the video.
The students then went back to their tables for an activity. On a piece of paper was a picture of Pudsey bear, which they were able to color, and they had to finish the sentence: “Children in Need is an important charity because…” As I walked around and helped students, I was amazed at how well the students understood the topic. Some sentences that students wrote were, “…because it helps children become happy” and “…because it makes children who are weak and poorly smile.”
I was really impressed with the lesson because Miss Cornick was able to take a loaded subject and bring it down to a level that the students could understand. I think teaching controversial topics is difficult for teachers because they don’t want to share any biases, nor do they want to present any material that is above students’ comprehension level or inappropriate for their age. I had a difficult time when I was teaching a lesson on Martin Luther King Jr. during my pre-practicum last year, especially when students were asking questions about facts that are still being debated today. I found it hard to determine how much information to tell them and how deep into the subject to go.
In America I’ve found that most lessons about controversial topics tend to be in an Open Circle or discussion based format. What I liked about Miss Cornick’s lesson was that she combined many different formats. She presented information on the smart board, then she had the discussion part of it, and finally she had students complete a writing/coloring activity, which served as an assessment for her. Observing Miss Cornick teach this lesson gave me many ideas about how to teach controversial subjects, and I plan on implementing them back in the US.
Here’s a picture from Friday of all my students in their fancy dress. Pudsey Bear is the yellow stuffed bear in the front row.