As the summer holidays approach, the demand for ‘fun’ lessons increases. What pupils usually mean by this is ‘lazy’ lessons in which they don’t have to do any thinking or work on anything challenging.
One tactic for manoeuvering around these demands is general knowledge quizzes. After all, people really do participate in such things as a leisure activity. And it’s amazing the difference between the reaction when one announces a quiz, compared to a test. But quizzes, conducted orally, are far from being a waste of time. They can be a great way of assessing and building general knowledge, which is so essential and so often neglected in the curriculum.
General knowledge quizzes also provide a great opportunity for gathering data about how much your pupils know, or don’t know, about topics which you might have considered to be quite straightforward. You might have thought they would pick this stuff up somewhere. But where, if their days are filled with ‘fun’ lessons and their evenings with video games and random comprehension worksh**ts?
With a general knowledge quiz, you can quickly discover how much your pupils know, for example, about their own country, after x years of studying geography. Do they know which is the most southerly county? The most mountainous one? Can they name three common native trees or three things which grow in the hedgerows?
Give it a try, and you will be enlightened about how many gaps exist in the most basic knowledge of young people once you leave behind the narrow confines of the curriculum. Then start thinking about how you’re going to start filling them in. It’s never too late to start consciously aiming to build the broad general knowledge which is so essential to being part of the cultural conversation.
You could consider, for example, the books you study and the books on your recommended reading list. Do boy wizards and futuristic dystopias help teenagers build up their general knowledge of the world they live in, and its history? Or do they just transport them to fantasy worlds?
Or you could think about how much factual information is taught elsewhere in the humanities. Do they really need to study global warming or coastal erosion again, or might it be more beneficial for them to learn something about the country in which they live, such as the names, locations and principle features of the counties, for example?
You, as a teacher, just know this kind of stuff. But where did you learn it? Not at school, I’m willing to bet, but through growing up in a relatively literate and educated family where people read broadsheet newspapers and actually talked to each other. Are you going to help those who do not have your advantages, or are you going to abandon them to lifelong exclusion, not through stupidity, but simply through ignorance?