Category Archives: News

Headline hangman – get your pupils discussing today’s news

The chief complaint by pupils about schooling is that it is not relevant. It bears little connection to the “real world” as they experience it. As part of my ongoing series of practical activities to promote “critical thinking” I would recommend the following quick activity to address this in an engaging way.

  • Headline Hangman

Everyone knows Hangman. So, take any headline from the newspaper of the day and play “Headline Hangman”. You draw lines for each letter and separate each word. If pupils guess a letter correctly, enter that letter wherever it appears in the headline. Incorrect guesses lead to the gradual construction of the hangman.

Introduce local rules at your discretion. For example, pupils can’t call out 2 vowels in a row; if more than one pupil calls out a letter at the same time you can add to the hangman; pupils can guess a whole word but if they get it wrong, you can add 2 lines to the hangman etc etc.

  • Benefits

I have always found this game amazingly popular, with children, and adults on courses too. Apart from being quick, its benefits are many.

At word level, children can learn spelling rules or anomalies. If a pupil calls out a letter, you can ask them where they think it goes and why. It becomes quickly apparent those pupils who think strategically.

At sentence and text level, there is always room for discussion about the choice of words, because headlines often contain alliteration or wordplay. After the headline has been guessed, you can invite pupils to see whether they could improve on it, substitute synonyms to make it more or less shouty, more nuanced, less biased or whatever.

  • Real world events

But even more importantly, the language learning is undertaken in the context of real world events. When the headline is guessed, it’s important to show the actual headline from the paper or Internet immediately so that pupils know the material is of the real world and not made up for the classroom. The key is to select something that interests you but this activity lends itself especially well to global events or issues that invite discussion. The very topicality, the fact that the stuff is in the papers today, makes it gripping and relevant.

Obviously, the opportunity also arises to become immersed in media literacy – the nature of truth as perceived through the prism of a report and so on.

In a crowded curriculum, Headline Hangman affords you and your class the opportunity to discuss news stories frequently and you will be surprised at how this can inspire pupils to read about current events. Your discussion about the article can be as long or short as you wish, but regular practice can only enhance speaking and listening skills and the ability of your class to argue and disagree gracefully.

Simple, but effective (The Independent)

I’ve used this game for ages and can’t remember where I stole it from. Apologies, but I would love to hear of any similar games or activities you have to introduce topical events into the fabric of teaching and learning…


Diversity or tokenism – what images are you using?

  • The future of education

I’ve just attended online the closing keynote address of RSCON3 given by Steve Wheeler, (@timbuckteeth). It was fascinating and inspiring – a discussion on future trends in education with many nuggets of wise counsel, in which he drew on ideas as much from the past (even including Chris Woodhead!) as his ability to see into the future.

Using technology to free up students to move around, using the real world, the outside world for personalised but collaborative learning. The teacher as inspirer, facilitator, curator, collaborator…this all made sense without being dystopian.

  • Choice of images

But…in his entertaining slideshow, with its arresting images, there was not a single picture of someone who was not white – apart from quite a good joke about Barack Obama and Gordon Brown. Not one person from India, or China, Latin America or an African face. Not one person with a disability although there was a great picture of a homeless man intently studying his laptop.

So there are two things here. What message are we sending about the technological (r)evolution? If it is to enable collaborative learning then we have to send a concurrent message of inclusivity, or else we are in danger of creating another version of educational inequity.

Secondly, as educators, we need to consider carefully the images that we portray of our intended audience. In the race forwards to technological progress we may be in danger of forgetting some lessons we gleaned along the way from the field of development education good practice. This is not tokenism…whatever that may be. It is not OK to speak about education for the future without including the diverse population who is being spoken to. This is a matter of courtesy, of addressing every learner as if they mattered, of inclusion, of responsible education. 

  • Who is represented on the walls of your institution?

And by the way, what is depicted on the walls of your school or university or organisation? If “every child matters”, and we take seriously our responsibilities for all our neighbours, is there representation of the diverse nature of our society? If you find this irritating and tokenistic, I ask you to consider whether you would feel the same if you found yourself, or someone like you, not represented? 

Equality? The value of a life

post by Mary Young (@maryatedji) – Co Director of Edjitraining, author of the seminal Global Citizenship: The Handbook for Primary Teaching

Just thinking about the situation in South Sudan/North Kenya and how its scant coverage is a clear illustration of the fact that, despite all we say or hope, people’s lives across the globe are simply not valued equally.

Media reports that the situation was about to, ‘become a catastrophe’ seem to have missed the point that it already is one, and in fact has been one for some time for those concerned. This also raises issues about at what point the world’s media becomes (albeit fleetingly) interested in a story…some years ago I remember hearing a CNN reporter justifying not going in to cover a situation as there were, ‘not enough people on the point of death’  for the coverage to be newsworthy at that time.

The figures from the terrorist attacks in the USA as reported in New Internationalist in November 2001 also make the point about inequity…

On September 11th 2001, approx 3000 people were killed in USA: we know the vast majority of their names and much about them.

However, elsewhere on the planet on September 11th 2001 (aggregated figures) approx 2600 children died of measles; 6000 people died of diarrhoea and 24,000 people died of hunger, and those deaths have been repeated each day since. How many of those people’s names are we familiar with?

Tackle adversity with your students – they will surprise you

  • Sensitive issues and children

With the very best of intentions, my family decided that I should not attend my mother’s funeral, who died when I was 10. The thinking was that the distress would outweigh the benefits of being present. This was in the early 70’s and no doubt attitudes have changed since then, but from my point of view, this was the worst possible decision. My family sought the best for me, but I was more resilient than they feared and suffered for a long time from not having been able to take part in that mourning ritual.

This may have informed my attitude to talking about sensitive and potentially upsetting matters with our students.

“Australian children are being terrified by climate change lessons” warned the dramatic headline in the Sydney Daily Telegraph.

Whilst this article undoubtedly forms part of the barrage of climate change scepticism, it raises an important issue that educators need to address. The notion that children need to be protected from the adult world is commonly held. They are seen as by some as “vulnerable dependents”, in a state of innocence, who should remain untouched by the difficult and frightening challenges of the real world.

I appreciate that not all teachers or parents share this view. As Alice Bell has written, children’s relationship to science learning is complex. But there is a significant proportion of educators who believe that children of primary school age need to be protected in order that they can flourish.

I believe this is fundamentally misguided. The impulse comes from good motives, but it does a disservice to pupils and their development. Children’s concerns are not addressed by failing to deal with them, by sweeping them under the carpet. Those concerns are better addressed by tackling the fears head on, with sensitivity of course, but ultimately with a message of hope. And there is always a hopeful message that can be found.

  • The lesson of paperclips

The most inspiring example I have seen recently is in the film “Paperclips”, which documents the true story of teachers in a high school in rural Tennessee, who taught a topic on the Holocaust. They wanted to tackle the broad issue of diversity and intolerance in a community that was overwhelmingly white, Anglo Saxon and Protestant.

Early on, a student asked what 6 million Jewish victims meant, because he couldn’t conceive of such a number. After self organised research, the pupils decided to collect 6 million paperclips to represent the victims (inspired by Norwegians during the war, who had worn paperclips as a silent protest against the Nazis).

You need to watch the film to get a sense of the power of the learning that took place. But one incident stood out for me. An American soldier present at the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp, came across an emaciated girl there with beautiful eyes, appearing perhaps more striking because she was so thin. She made contact with him, kissed his hands and told her his name.

The soldier was moved, went off to complete his duties and returned an hour later to learn that the girl had died. He kept this incident to himself, unable to speak of it even to his wife or children, but when he learned of the school in Whitwell, Tennessee who were collecting paperclips he sent them one in memory of the girl and wrote to them of the incident.

The wonderful, uplifting thing was, as he told the filmmakers, that he imagined that the girl’s soul or an essence of her anyway, was not left alone in an Austrian concentration camp, but had been adopted and laid to rest, to be tended by caring school children who honoured her.

Out of the ashes of the Holocaust with its unspeakable inhumanity rose something good, hopeful, nurturing, beautiful even. Out of the most evil smelling shitheap, things can grow.

If we are capable of finding a message of hope and optimism out of the Holocaust, surely we can do the same with other challenges we currently face. First though, we need to have faith in our pupils to handle it.

Hila and Elad’s wedding


This was, as Israeli weddings invariably seem to be, hugely enjoyable, unstuffy and moving. This is my first attempt at Animoto (an interesting app for jazzing up photos and videos) so aplogies for the over emphasis on the uncles at the expense of the happy couple – this is what was on the camera!

Create your own video slideshow at



My new blog. Just checking to see if it connects to where it should

Individual action – any point?

Of course there is, but how would you react if this had been you?