Every now and again you create a lesson that is just a winner – we are delighted to share our tried and tested transition day session that always goes down well with nervous Year 6 students and teachers dealing with the unknown dynamic of a new group.
The lesson is framed around an ‘adventure’ and students work as teams to tackle obstacles in the pursuit of treasure and prestige. Although the lesson runs itself once you get going, there is a bit of preparation of the room and resources before the lesson. Thanks to Kate Newman who came up with the original idea – a winning formula that has served us well for a number of years now.
- Arrange the tables into groups
- Sellotape down the giant treasure maps in the middle of each table
- Select some appropriately exciting adventure music – we like the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ soundtrack available here
- Set up six folders with the puzzles students will need to tackle as they work around their treasure map
- Make sure you have stocked up on ‘treasure’ we use chocolate coins. Remember to check allergies and intolerance before the lesson just in case
Starter – Breaking the Ice
- Students come into the lesson to the backdrop of exciting music. Direct them to a table – we prefer to say they must be in a group with no one else from their current primary school but that will depend of course on how many feeder schools you have.
- Ask each team to introduce themselves by explaining the bravest thing they have ever done; this has to be real. You can start by sharing a brave story of your own to set the scene. I tend to use a quite mundane one and model telling it in a dramatic way. After each team has heard the brave acts, each team should decide on their most courageous group member to share in a class competition.
- After hearing all acts of bravery the class should do a blind omnivote to decide on the bravest act (cover their eyes and vote – an omnivote means they can vote as many times as they like). The bravest member of the class is given a round of applause and perhaps a prize as recognition of their enormous courage.
Main – The Adventure
- Assign a team leader for each group (maybe those nominated as the bravest) and explain that they will be in charge of including everyone in their team. You might want to have a quick discussion about what good group work looks like and sounds like so everyone is clear on your expectations throughout the lesson. We sometimes capture this on the board so there’s a visual reminder or point of reference for any groups that struggle to cooperate well. Generally, they’re so excited about the tasks they tend to work together beautifully.
- Students work around the map pausing at each ‘obstacle’ to collect a puzzle to solve; they can only solve one puzzle at a time. A runner should go to the front of the room to collect their task from the relevant folder. Only when the runner has shown you the sheet and you have confirmed that they have correctly solved the puzzle can they collect some ‘treasure’ and move on to the next obstacle on the map.
- Students will encounter the broken rope bridge, stepping stones, snake pit, an enchanted forest, the waterfall and of course the monster at the end of the map. Each task is a selection of English puzzles that will test their ability to think logically and apply their literacy knowledge. To defeat the monster at the end they have to create a poem of similes and metaphors to sufficiently convince you that they have defeated a truly terrifying beast.
- All groups work at their own pace but some will take longer than the others to get round everything; it’s a good idea to have some extension work ready for any very efficient groups e.g. write the opening paragraph to an account of the group’s adventure. Some starting sentences should be enough to get them going.
Plenary – Bringing it Together
- Ask groups to discuss which task was the hardest or to give you their best example of effective group work. We’re lucky enough to have Ipads so we tend to take photographs of teams working well and then put them up on our Smartboards using Airplay so we can discuss positive body language, participation and communication.
- We like to end with some taster images of the Year 7 English units and an exit pass for each student, inviting them to tell us what they think they have enjoyed the most, what they most need to work on and their favourite thing to read about (fiction or non fiction); it gives us a snapshot of what they think their strengths and weaknesses are we can pass these on to new teachers to have a look at in September.
It’s a busy, noisy lesson that students and teachers always seem to enjoy but it also gently introduces discussion about effective speaking and listening skills and offers an opportunity to put basic English skills to the test framed nicely as puzzles.
If you would like the complete set of resources to run this lesson, we’re more than happy to share. Please drop us an e-mail at this address: