Tender is the Note. (And then there was another use for post-it notes.)

It was the last lesson of the half-term for my 20 AS Level Historians. I had a good DVD I wanted them to watch, and some notes I wanted them to take from the textbook, but it didn’t seem that I had anything approaching a lesson plan. But I did have my set of post-its…

They had already been set some homework for the day, which was to read about the causes of the February Revolution in Russia, so I was clear about my topic. This is how it went.

I divided the class into 4 groups of 5. Each group was given ‘pocket money’ of 3 post-it notes. On the board I wrote the key question: How did the February Revolution happen? On A3 paper, the group had decide categories under which the question could be answered (e.g. impact of the First World War.) They had to do this without using their books, relying only on each other and their homework reading.

Extra post-its were awarded with groups coming up with good categories or deploying good team strategies. Post-its were confiscated for any team ‘cheating’ by looking at their books. They had 5 minutes.

They then had a further 10 minutes to gather notes from their books under their agreed categories. Again, this had to be done as a group on the A3 paper. Later, they added further notes from watching the DVD.

All the time, extra post-its were awarded for good strategy, use of initiative, answering tricky questions. Teams had to ‘pay’ a post-it to go on-line, and they could ‘buy’ an idea from another group. When one girl asked to go to the toilet, I told her she could if she paid a post-it. Her group would not let her!

By the last 20 minutes, the groups had become quite competitive. I then set up a quiz, whereby each group had to compile 5 questions from the notes they had taken. Asking one at a time, each group could nominate the team they wished to answer their question. If team A answered team B’s question correctly, A gained a post-it from B. The questions did become quite obscure, but I was also able to award a post-it to one team for ‘fair play’, for allowing an opponent an extra go.

Yes, the lesson was engaging, but that’s not the reason it was (in my opinion) a good lesson. Essentially every student spent nearly every minute of the lesson either gathering new notes for their group, or revising them for the quiz. There was intellectual challenge, and this was celebrated through means of competition. Using post-its as money? It pays off.

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