I’ll be honest, I struggled with an appropriate title for this post!
A bag of plastic balls can first appear like a teachers worst nightmare …with potentially inappropriate ball comments, balls flying around and so on! They may also appear to some teachers as “gimmickry”. However, they have worked really well with my students. Of course, they are fun but in addition to that (that isn’t my priority although I do want students to be engaged in addition to making progress), there are lots of ways they can be used as an activity to aid learning and progress forwards. These are some of the different ways I have used the ball pool ( I suggest using the term ball pool rather than ball bag!).
Keywords balls can be used with students picking out a random ball with a subject-specific keyword written on (the plastic balls I purchased can be written on with a board pen then later rubbed off to be used again). The student then has to either give a definition of the keyword, use it correctly in a sentence, state a key fact connected to the word or come up with a question where the keyword ball they are holding is the answer! Another idea is to have balls with keywords and other balls with the meaning so students have to find the other person in the class with the ball to match up the word and definition. I have also used the balls with MFL, translate the keyword, use it in a sentence, use other balls to construct a sentence and so on. For more ideas and strategies to use in the classroom focusing on developing understanding and grasp of keywords you can read my blog here.
Again, using the idea of matching up words, question and answer balls can also be matched up. The teacher could read out specific questions and the person holding the ball with the answer can share that with the class. My previous Year 9 History class were studying influential/famous individuals from the 20th Century. Each ball had the name of a different person. As students entered the class they randomly selected a ball and had to tell their peer what they knew about that person then this led to a class discussion asking questions and sharing knowledge. There was no support this was an acitivty to promote retreival practice and recall from memory.
During a back to school inset day I delivered a presentation to staff sharing #PoundlandPedagogy ideas. I discussed how I used the balls and I donated a bag of the plastic balls to the English department at my school. It was brilliant to see how they adapted this idea within their subject. A teacher from another school told me how she used the balls with numeracy questions and answers, so a sum on one ball with another containing the correct answer.
Thanks for taking the time to read my post. If you’ve been inspired by any of these ideas I’d love to hear from you to find out how you’ve taken them / adapted or remixed them and used them in your classroom. Please feel free to follow my blog and leave comments below or why not just drop me a message on Twitter.