Beatriz Lopez Tienza looks at this new website from a primary school’s perspective.
For the last couples of weeks I have had the chance to try this new website with my students. The website provides a number of lessons with matching activities. The lessons are based on an imaginary town and the issues surrounding this neighbourhood. The website´s layout is very clear and engaging, however for younger children brighter colours would make it more attractive. The first and second units, which are based in the new school, Crownford Rise, were the most suitable for the age group I teach (Year 2). The characters are primary school children who have the same problems as the children I teach. The third and fourth units were more complex, dealing with issues that at the moment do not affect the children in my class, which makes it difficult to role play the scenarios.
The website offers a good range of activities catering for all kinds of students, discussions, role play, worksheets and online activities which can be printed once they have been completed. It also offers extension activities for more able students. Students with special educational needs should be able to access these activities, although depending on their needs they may need adult support.
The content of the website is in line with the current National Curriculum requirements for PSHE and Citizenship as stated in each lesson plan. It will also be suitable when the new primary curriculum is in place, as it will address the main requirement, educate responsible citizens who would make a positive contribution to society. I have concentrated on the 7-11 activities, although some of my children are still only 6 years old.
Role-playing and reporting
When I first explained that we were going to do citizenship on the computer and that they were going to be able to play some interactive games, they felt very excited. Previously we had been able to use the computers to do some work related to citizenship, but they had never been able to play citizenship games on it. This has brought a new dimension to the subject and although they have always enjoyed it, throughout the week they kept asking me when they were going to do citizenship again.
We started with the first unit: WHAT ARE LAWS FOR? In this unit, children carried out the suggested role play activity. We set up a mock council meeting, which proved to be very successful. Most children are not part of the school council and at this age and they sometimes find it difficult to envisage how the school council works. I decided not to have children playing the part of the school governors, as this role is not clear to them, but we had pretend parents, teachers, children and neighbours (in case they wanted to say something about noise levels during playtime). They then became reporters.
I slightly changed this activity and instead of writing for a newspaper, they reported in the news, as I didn’t want the children to worry about the writing and miss the essential points of the lesson.
We answered the questions together and then, in groups they chose a sentence to report on. I found that the use of a pretend microphone helped! They also designed a leaflet for Martians. The stimulus for the activity was very successful, especially for boys, whose engagement at times can be a challenge. They love Martians and they enjoyed explaining the school rules in the leaflet.
Overall the unit was a success. Children felt engaged at all times and produced some great pieces of work. The only aspect that proved difficult with some children was the amount of reading that it was required to complete the online activities, for example, when playing the dominoes game, they needed to be able to read all five pieces of writing before matching them to the image. Also for the quiz, we had the same problem, we needed to solve the quiz as a group. However, we found a way around this difficulty by pairing more able and less able children, which is what I intend to do from now on.
The lessons within the unit are structured in three main parts:
Discussion: I allowed about 10 minutes for this part of the lesson, as when children came to a decision on the issue proposed, they found it difficult to then consider other points of view.
Role Play: this was probably the most successful part of the lessons. Children understood the purpose of the activity and found no difficulty in becoming someone else, although as specified before, some roles were removed as they were not relevant to children of this young age.
Extension activities: These activities were also of their interest. In here they had the opportunity to record, in writing, orally or in pictures, their thinking and conclusions.
Finally I would like to add that the opportunity to print their own work when completing online activities was very well welcomed by the children, the print outs were clear and attractive. Overall I have found this website very useful. The opportunity to do citizenship online, children to play interactive games, following a story of “real” children and having a structured lesson plan to follow has been really successful, and therefore I plan to continue making use of it in the future.
Beatriz Lopez Tienza teaches Y2 and leads PSHE and Citizenship in Whitchurch CE Primary School, Hampshire. The school is set in the small town of Whitchurch, Hampshire. It has 287 number of children who come from the surrounding area.
See also our review of the YJYW website from a secondary perspective.