Things not to say to trainee teachers #2: “our children are well trained in card sorts”

“Our children are well trained in card sorts”

Week five. I’m utterly exhausted. I’m caught in a lethal cycle of blaming my lesson planning for the bad behaviour, trying to make them more and more engaging, with the result that the children see my lessons as more and more of a joke.

I’m doing a good few card sorts a week. It was what we’d been told led to quality learning in training. I was killing myself with the late night guillotining and envelope stuffing. Then I’d go into the class and they’d be more interesting in using them as missiles than categorising.

I tried to convey this to the aforementioned professional mentor. He seemed a little disgusted with me.

“Our children do card sorts all the time”

That wasn’t true. Maybe he genuinely believed that. Maybe it genuinely seems like card sorts happen all the time when your job is doing T&L observations. Maybe he was just a liar.

He went on: “just the other day I observed Debbie doing a very simple card sort with 4 cards for her keyword activity. It doesn’t have to be very complex”

That’s a sentence only someone who has not prepared a card sort in a very very long time could say. Economies of scale, much? A four card card sort takes minimally less time to prepare than a 16 card one, but is over in the lesson like a flash. The prep:class time ratio doesn’t get much worse.

It took me far too long to realise that children far prefer it if you actually teach them. You will never get their buy-in and trust if they feel like you waste their time with silly activities.

Make ’em work hard and they’ll grumble. But of you don’t work them hard, you’re telling them they’re worthless. Choose carefully.

5 thoughts on “Things not to say to trainee teachers #2: “our children are well trained in card sorts”

  1. kaizenteacher

    I agree with Andre Bruff when he says on his time saving tips for teacher video (it’s on You Tube): never do any activities that involve you spending ages cutting up pieces of card.

    There simply isn’t time for it in a teacher’s life. I dare say more often than not here is probably a simpler way to achieve the same end.

  2. Susan

    Just found your blog from another so don’t know anything about you. I assume you are in a secondary school. I trained for 16+ teaching and we were STILL told to create “games” for the students (I was teaching mostly 17 – 19 year olds).
    In the PGCE training I did as I was told to get a pass. Then when I was just teaching, I ignored it and made sure that my students actually worked! One topic area was going to cover two sessions (total of 4 hours) over two days. I warned the students, managed their expectations, told them it was going to be very new stuff but if they worked they would “get” it.
    Know what? They initially grumbled but when we actually did the lessons, they all worked (6 different classes) and I was getting feedback from those students that they had learnt more from me as a temporary teacher (teaching IT) in the entire 8 weeks than they had from any other teacher. They liked that I made them do work which was relevant to what they would do in their future career (so I dumped the “essays” and made them write a proper IT document!).
    Proved to me that Teacher Training is pants!
    Sadly, though I loved the students (mostly) and the subject, in that only paid role I had, I haven’t stayed in teaching in any age group. It wasn’t the students. It was the system and the staff. Particularly when they reduced my hours from 35 pw to 3 pw!


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