Poundland Pedagogy and the power of play

Isabella Wallace

Isabella Wallace is co-author of the best-selling teaching guides, “Pimp Your Lesson!” and “Talk-Less Teaching”. She has worked for many years as an AST, Curriculum Coordinator and Governor. She is consultant and contributor for the Oxford Dictionary of Education and presents nationally and internationally on Teaching and Learning. Isabella is also director of the charity Reach Out 2 Schools, which works to get quality training and resources into impoverished schools overseas.

Follow @WallaceIsabella

Website: www.isabellawallace.com/ Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Originally published on 25th September 2014 // Image credit: Poundland.co.uk. Originally published on 25th September 2014 // Image credit: Poundland.co.uk.

People sometimes mistake the concept of pupil engagement for frivolous, time-wasting fun. In fact, in any school staff room it’s likely that there will be at least one colleague shaking their head sadly and muttering the word “Edutainment” when particular classroom approaches are mentioned. The thing is, sometimes that cynicism is entirely reasonable; sometimes a wariness about “play” in the classroom is absolutely warranted. Why? Because there is an overwhelmingly important distinction between inspiring intrigue and engagement in a topic or skill, and simply sugar-coating the work with a meaningless, superficial “fun” activity.

I don’t believe in disguising learning. I think pupils should have a clear view of how their skills and understanding are developing and they should revel in that progress. Pupils should know that it’s going to be hard work, and derive great pleasure from effort and challenge. If fun and play are just used to distract from the learning - or to masque it – then we send a damaging and untrue message to the pupils, one that says: “learning is not naturally enjoyable; I’m sorry that you have to do this horrible learning, so here is some fun to wash it down with”.

Finding ways to make the real business of learning an exciting and engaging one need not be equated with this kind of “masquing” or with "Engagement will arise naturally out of rigour and challenge."the dumbing-down of education. In fact, engagement will arise naturally out of rigour and challenge. Creating a scenario where learning is so enticing, so irresistible, that there is simply no choice but to be involved will ensure that even our most reluctant pupils are drawn in to accept the missions we offer them. In my experience, Poundland Pedagogy, if used with careful thought and planning, can assist magnificently in this quest.

When I first introduced the “Poundland Pedagogy Challenge”, it was a simple invitation to teachers: walk along the aisles of your local pound shop with an innovative and open mind,and notice how suddenly all kinds of unlikely objects begin to present themselves to you as potential aids for teaching and revising complex concepts in your subject.

Opening up the creative possibilities of a topic in this manner allows you to think about schemes of work that you’ve taught for maybe 10 years in new and exciting ways. Sometimes it can cause you to consider the careful steps involved for pupils in grasping the skill or knowledge, or it can help you to think about how you might reach those pupils who have failed to grasp a concept through your default approach thus far.

How might, for example, you use dry spaghetti to teach a maths topic? Or balloons to explore a style of writing...?

I never guessed how quickly and how far the Poundland Pedagogy challenge would spread. The use of intriguing resources by innovative teachers is, of course, a well-established phenomenon. The #PoundlandPedagogy challenge seemed to capture the imagination of teachers at a time when many in the profession have reported that the thrill, the flare, the buzz of teaching is being sucked from classrooms by an obligation to repeatedly drill pupils for tests.

Happily, Poundland Pedagogy can even put enjoyment back into the interminable slog of exam preparation! In fact, it’s interesting to note that a great many of the amazing #PoundlandPedagogy ideas shared by teachers on Twitter are specifically designed to make revision sessions enjoyable, as well as to aid the acquisition and retention of new knowledge. Learning while we ‘play’? – It’s not the only valid way to learn, but it’s a very natural, non-threatening way, and one which can be the most accessible for anxious or reluctant learners.

So, here are 5 tried-and-tested Poundland Pedagogy specials to engage, intrigue and challenge:


1. BUZZING EGG-TIMERS


When pupils are working in small groups or pairs, place buzzing egg-timers on each group table to add a sense of urgency to the task and encourage unwavering focus. As well as keeping pupils very conscious of their use of the time allocated, this can also be a useful behaviour management technique - as ‘off-task’, disruptive behaviour often occurs when pupils do not feel under pressure to produce a specified level of work within a specified time.


2. WINDOWLENE


Buy a spray bottle of glass cleaner and let pupils use drywipe board pens or liquid chalk pens to create mind maps / diagrams / lists on the classroom windows. Alternatively, use paper tablecloths on classroom desks! Offering a larger expanse of space for recording ideas or an intriguingly new surface to compose on can be a great incentive for young writers and budding geniuses.


3. SHOE HOLDER


Hang one of those plastic monstrosities up in your classroom – the ones that are designed to display multiple pairs of shoes. These can be used to contain items to which pupils help themselves: tasks of varying levels of difficulty, for example, synonyms for over-used words, or perhaps clues or prompts for pupils who get ‘stuck’. Alternatively, you can ask pupils to insert items into the pockets – questions that they still have, answers to the questions they recorded previously, a summary of what they feel they’ve learnt. As the innovative Tweacher population of Twitter have shown, CD cases can also be displayed on walls and used for a similar purpose!


4. WOODEN CLOTHES PEGS


These are great because you can write on them and label them easily. You can use them to categorise items, quotes, examples. You can explore links between concepts, creatures, events, numbers. With a bit of accompanying washing line you can also help pupils to consider the hierarchy of ideas, chronological order, order of preference, order of steps to be taken in a task. You can even get pupils to create a progress display as the scheme of work unfolds - pegging up key points and suggestions to an ever-growing ‘line of learning’!


5. PAPER PLATES AND POLYSTYRENE CUPS


These can be drawn on or written inside / underneath for revision. They can be arranged in a certain order to explore connections and relationships. They can be used to contain written ideas or catch the correct items, they can be passed and swapped, matched together, turned around to reveal something new... The possibilities are endless!


The Poundland Pedagogy craze has been about passionate classroom practitioners recognising that all hard work in ANY topic (yes, any!) "Try dipping your toe in the water next time you’re in town."can be made captivating for learners, because there is always a ‘playful’ way to approach the teaching of it. And no - ‘playful’ learning doesn’t necessarily mean giggles and merriment. Every parent knows that youngsters can ‘play’ seriously; they can play hard.


To any teacher who has not yet had a go at the Poundland Pedagogy Challenge, try dipping your toe in the water next time you’re in town and pop into your local pound store. Try going in with a teaching colleague! A bit of purposeful play, no matter how old you are can add joy or fascination to a task and make learning infinitely memorable. It can help unwilling youngsters to connect to others, relax the stressed-out child, foster a culture of trust and let young people leave our classrooms inspired and motivated to know more.


We want our learners to move beyond tolerating their learning and come to love it too. Very few of us manage to make it to 20 years old without noticing that the quality of our work and general output in life can depend significantly on our well-being and cheerfulness. If we ever need an argument for injecting a little playfulness into lessons then let this be it. And remember: the feeling’ pupils get when they walk in to see an array of intriguing resources? It’s the same one we teachers get when we walk into a good stationery store…


Have you employed #PoundlandPedagogy in your school? Let us know in the comments.

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now
Login

Latest stories

  • How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country
    How to handle stress while teaching in a foreign country

    Teaching English in a foreign country is likely to be one of the most demanding experiences you'll ever have. It entails relocating to a new country, relocating to a new home, and beginning a new career, all of which are stressful in and of themselves, but now you're doing it all at once. And you'll have to converse in a strange language you may not understand.

  • Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?
    Is Learning Fun for You, Teacher?

    Over the weekend, my family of five went to an Orlando theme park, and I decided we should really enjoy ourselves by purchasing an Unlimited Quick Queue pass. It was so worth the money! We rode every ride in the park at least twice, but one ride required us to ride down a rapidly flowing river, which quenched us with water. It was incredible that my two-year-old was laughing as well. We rode the Infinity Falls ride four times in one day—BEST DAY EVER for FAMILY FUN in the Sun! The entire experience was epic, full of energizing emotions and, most importantly, lots of smiles. What made this ride so cool was that the whole family could experience it together, the motions were on point, and the water was the icing on the cake. It had been a while since I had that type of fun, and I will never forget it.

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"