Ten tips from student Ties

Ties (14) is in vwo (grammar school) 3 of the Hyperion Lyceum. It’s a school that teaches its students to think critically and rationally, while maintaining an eye for people and society. Ties really feels at home in this school, which means his teachers must be doing something right, right? Here are 10 tips for lessons that are good, and fun too, such as: “Don’t plan the lesson completely full!” 

1. Let the students decide whether to work online or with books 

“In our school you can do everything digitally if you want to. We all have a Chromebook, Magister for homework and deadlines and Google Classroom with exercises for every subject. But you can also opt for books and paper. Personally, I prefer working online because you don’t have to take so much stuff with you and it’s easy to work together and share documents. That said, when it comes to a subject like maths, in which you have to do many exercises, working with books is really quite handy.”  

For example: Memrise 

“Memrise is an online tool for learning words. We use it in Spanish lessons, for example. The teacher creates a group and you can sign in for it. We are given the time to use it during lessons, which I appreciate, and the teacher can keep track of what you’ve done. I find words difficult to learn, but Memrise makes it easier. However, students who prefer to learn words on paper can do that too.”

2. Be flexible with the lesson content 

“It’s important to have cool teachers, you’re more likely to do your best for them. The coolest teachers at my school make sure there’s plenty of room for discussion in the classroom. They have ideas, of course, but they don’t plan the lesson completely full, and sometimes they decide on the spur of the moment to do something else. Like if there’s been a big story in the news, for example.” 

For example: debating about the US election 

“On the day of the US election the teacher had something planned for us but we got to talking about Trump so the teacher decided to hold a debate about that instead.”  

3. Dont make explanations too long 

“In subjects like science and maths the explanations are always long, which I suppose is important for the students who have difficulty understanding the subject matter. Having understood it you can do the exercises, but you have to sit through the whole explanation, which can really be drawn out.” 

For example: the V-route 

“If you’ve mastered the subject matter and don’t want to do many exercises, you can opt for the V-route in which you delve deeper into the subject. You’ll then be given fewer basic-stuff exercises and can start with the more difficult ones. From the 4th class you can also do accelerated or fast-tracked exams. 

4. Allow students to have a say in their education 

“Obviously, teachers can give lessons as they like, but in our school they also appreciate that what students want is also important. We can tell our mentor that things must be done differently and the teachers are really open to this.” 

For example: the Student Panel 

“In the Student Panel every class is represented by one student. You can apply to sit on the Panel and if you have an issue you can always flag it up with the Panel members. When something happens at school or if there is a new proposal, the school will consult the Student Panel to find out what they think about it. Such as a new way of teaching, for example.”

5. Make sure there is correlation between the subjects  

“It’s nice to learn different things in the same project. At our school, for example, we can follow several subjects in a project simultaneously. Quite often, you can choose the subject yourself in the context of a particular theme.” 

For example: science in ancient times 

“During every semester we carry out a project that we work on for nine weeks, following several subjects simultaneously. Like science and history, for example, when it was about science in ancient times.”

6. Introduce some diversity in the lessons 

“Sometimes you find yourself doing the same thing in several subjects on the same day. Like consecutive language lessons, for example, in which you have to learn lots of words. Or subjects that require lots of explanation, which means you have to listen all day long. Having a good variety in the lessons is important.”

For example: Ties perfect day 

“To start with I’d prefer to begin a little later because I’m not at my sharpest at nine o’clock. If we start with maths, in which there’ll be a lot of explanation accompanied by individual exercises, I’d prefer the next subject to be one in which you get to talk and discuss things with one another. Like the great philosophers or history, for example. And my preference for gym is at the end of the day.” 

7. Dont make a test at the end the default situation 

“We have to do many tests at school, too many according to most students. There are also some teachers who are against overloading us with tests and they often think of something different to make sure we understand the subject matter. By having us write a play or a speech, for example, or make a presentation with a movie or a report.” 

For example: design your own selection system 

“Our Logic & Argumentation teacher is not what you’d call a fan of tests. For the theme of Democracy we were asked to design a selection system, with it being entirely up to us how the end result was communicated. In this way we could demonstrate our knowledge of the subject and apply it in a cool assignment, as opposed to doing a boring test.” 

8. Give students a voice in determining the content of the lessons 

“Obviously, it’s important that the teacher decides what you must learn. You will, after all, be expected to get through your exams. But that’s not to say that teachers shouldn’t be open to hear what we students want to learn. Not only is that more fun, you also learn more.” 

For example: learning geography with Padlet 

“During geography lessons we use Padlet to see what we want to learn about a subject. It’s a kind of notice board where everyone can post text and images. One chapter, for example, is about multicultural America. We post all the concepts we know about this subject in the form of a word web and then add everything we want to learn about it, next to our names. Then, once we’ve learned it all, we remove it.”

9. Create smaller classes 

“Ours is quite a busy class, with about 30 students and one teacher. This translates to less attention per student, with the teacher being unable to answer all our questions. Many students are actively involved, but if you’re stuck right at the back of the class with your laptop it’s too tempting to do something else.” 

10. Give students freedom, but not too much 

“I like the fact that we have so much choice, but we shouldn’t be completely free. Given too much freedom, I fear that I wouldn’t do as much.” 

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