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I have the joy of working with a fabulous English Department. Together we have ensured that pupils have a variety of interesting investigations, are encouraged to read and to continue to gain confidence in finding, selecting and using information. And as often as possible, we make sure that pupils have the chance to follow their own interests. It can be challenging for yours truly, but soooo satisfying when you manage to provide resources for a whole class.

This term is a busy one for 2nd year and we didn’t want to squeeze in even more work for pupils and staff; on the other hand it’s important that Library visits continue, that research and reading continues, so we’ve decided to initiate Challenge X across the whole of S2.

Having already run a pilot last year, we decided to make some changes, for example, each class are coming once a fortnight so personal challenges have to be completed mostly at home between each visit. We also ask pupils to identify and read a book that has some sort of connection to their personal challenge – vague but imaginative connections are perfectly fine :-).

The first visits were all about introducing the idea but now we’re onto the second week and things are getting interesting. Classes are recognising this as a chance to follow their own interests, and natural curiosity is exploding all over the place. Some are taking on ideas from the original blog: learning to introduce themselves in British Sign Language, figuring out how to use Hero Machine, exploring countries, creating posters, leaflets and presentations. But what I love are the quirky ideas, pupils stretching their creative muscles rather than sticking with what us old guys come up with. So many new ideas in fact, that we’re adding to the original.

One pupil was hunting through world records and was tickled by the greatest number of bounces on a space hopper. For her Weird and Wonderful section she wanted to create her own hopper challenge, and she worked on a plan and rules for the event for the remainder of the period. I thought it was a wonderful idea; from the gleam in her eye, she did too. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a space hopper handy, but it turned out that the English teacher had one under her desk – my reputation for being able to supply anything is now in tatters.

Different class, and another group of pupils is working on the Food Challenge. One of them told me that she wanted to make a model so we passed ideas back and forth until she told me that her uncle was a butcher and was forever telling her about which bits of which animal was on her plate. She’s now creating a model showing which bits of sheep go into a haggis 🙂 Lovely!

Others have the beginnings of an idea and just need a gentle wee shove to make something more compelling out of it. Two boys joked that they should eat large burgers for their Food Challenge. They were obviously expecting a negative reaction; instead I suggested they analysed the ingredients, and figured out whether it was good or bad for their bodies.

Really?

Yup, so long as I don’t have to pay for the burgers.

So one is creating an informative poster on the dietary impact and the other a pseudo-advert using the plain truth from his information.

There are so many benefits to this wee programme: learning how to develop and follow through ideas, practising lateral thinking, identifying and expanding on personal interests and existing knowledge, exploring the Library, experimenting with new software, working together, researching, and creating all kinds of excitement while learning.

And of course, more pupils are reading, and more pupils are being enthusiastic about what they’re reading. So far, so good. We’ll keep working on the rest.

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