Flow: “Jump in then discuss”
- Get ready (0 min). Attention to the front of the room.
- Jump in (3-4 min). The whole class starts the task immediately. The teacher clarifies a little on the way, but it doesn’t require pen and paper and is intuitive to start.
- Discussion (4-6 min). A whole class discussion about what students found in the tasks. Sharing of strategies or ideas.
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What are energisers?
8-10 minute teacher-led activities that involve the whole class.
In this article, there are a few examples energisers you can use. They are PowerPoint files which are designed to be run with virtually zero preparation time. None of them require physical materials other than pen and paper; a screen and some speakers is all you need to set up. Maths Pathway provides over 200 Energisers to teachers.
What are energisers for?
In any lesson where students are working on modules, it’s good to run one or two energisers. They can be used to:
- Kick off a lesson with the whole class engaged in something together, or
- Break up a long lesson so students aren’t having to concentrate on modules for too long.
The main purpose of energisers is to help provide structure to the lesson, break up module time into reasonable chunks, and reinforce students’ emotional associations within the classroom: class cohesion, connection with the teacher, and overall feeling of safety/belonging.
Because of this, energisers don’t strictly need a “mathematical” learning intention to be effective, so some are just fun short activities. However, most energisers do contribute to mathematical learning objectives. Examples include:
- Building fluency with number
- Exploring estimation strategies
- Searching for patterns
- Using mathematical vocabulary
- Working with shape properties or number properties
- Reasoning logically
- Seeing how mathematics will be relevant to their future careers
- Broadening the sense of what mathematics is, beyond those areas covered in school
- Encountering some of the beauty and excitement in mathematics
How do teachers construct their lesson plans with energisers?
Feel free to experiment to see what works best for your class. As a starting point, here are some common patterns across other classrooms:
- Short lessons (45 minutes long) usually have one energiser, with module time broken into two chunks.
- Medium-sized lessons (60 minutes long) usually have two energisers: one at the start, and another mid-lesson. This breaks module time into two chunks.
- Long lessons (75 minutes long) usually have two energisers, but they are less likely to have one at the start. More commonly both energisers are mid-lesson, which breaks up module time into three separate chunks.
- Extra long lessons (100 minutes long – double periods) are commonly handled in two ways. Some treat them as two separate 45-minute lessons with a 10-minute break in between to get a drink or walk outside. Others treat them as a 75-minute lesson, with 15 minutes spent on something different for variety. Note that double periods are generally more suited to rich tasks than they are to modules, depending on what the timetable allows.
Whatever the length of the lesson, one very common pattern is that there is a tricky transition within the lesson. After running a mid-lesson energiser, the transition after that – to get back onto module work – can be a little tough. Some techniques that people use to help with this include: 2 minutes of silent working, or getting students to set a target for what they want to achieve over the remainder of the lesson.
How can energisers help if I video call my whole class?
In some contexts, a timetable is followed during a school shutdown — and the whole class has a way of coming together online through some form of webinar or video call. (If this is not true of your school, skip this and jump straight to the next part of this article).
Energisers can help you provide the feeling of structure and connection during a remote lesson.
One structure that may work well is starting the lesson time all together as a group with an energiser. Then scheduling another time 25-30 minute later to come back together for another one — in order to break up the time students spent on modules. At the conclusion of maths time, the class could come together once more to share some reflections on what they’ve learned, or what strategies they used to stay focussed at home.
How can energisers help if I don’t video call my whole class?
An energiser can be provided to students to work on simply by sending the PowerPoint file out. If doing this, it is a good idea to set clear expectations around the task:
- When is the student meant to do the task? For example, 25 minutes into module time in order to break it up.
- How long is the task meant to take? Setting a time limit of 10 minutes for these tasks is usually okay.
- Who do they work with on the task? Energisers are much better in pairs rather than alone, but don’t need much maths expertise – so a sibling, parent/carer, or a friend on a video call could act as the partner.
Not all types will be equally suited to this delivery mode. This will depend a little on your context, so it is a good idea to skim a couple of tasks of each type when deciding which ones to distribute.
To distribute the chosen Energiser task, you could send out “today’s Energiser” electronically — in whatever way you are already communicating with the class. This might be a OneNote file everyone refers to, or it might be an LMS, or it might just be by email.
Note that Energisers are most helpful in contexts where students are expected to do maths at a set time of day – which makes it particularly important to break up module time. If your context isn’t so set then students are likely to break up their own time more naturally. Even then, Energisers could be a helpful addition to enrich the overall learning experience; but might not be so important.
Another option to consider is sending out a set of games or activities which students and parents/carers can easily do together at home. One good example is this set of dice games which they could play for 10 minutes at a time.