Norwich High School for Girls; A tailored workshop lesson plan

Yesterday, June 9, we successfully presented Norwich High School for Girls with a series of four tailored 60 minute workshops. The aim was to allow students to collaboratively construct a mental framework to help get the most out of the following two-week Connected Curriculum theme “Life in the Global Village” culminating in a staged UN session to resolve the current crisis in Syria.

For the benefit of humanities teachers, we present here the lesson plan to demonstrate how Cooperative Learning techniques were used to meet a wide scope of lesson aims.


As our focus was the impact on education of the civil war, the workshops introduced some history of Islam and the political area known today as Syria to contextualise the current situation from two angles: statehood and the specific ethos of Islamic education.

This touched upon the organic nature of pre-modern societies as opposed to the post-colonial state construct and make students aware of  its role in social engineering through education and in creating the disharmonious societies which have fueled violent tension in the area.

Therefore, some background had to be covered, including an enquiry into the ethno-religious faultlines in the conflict and the role UN and various states, NGOs and political and paramilitary movements in the area and an assessment of their overt and covert motives.

“The world is in trouble

 -you are future leaders,

you must think out of the box!”

Simulating the urgency and high pressure of modern-day diplomacy, the students – mutually interdependent and yet individually accountable –  classified, summarised, presented and negotiated meaning across pairs, teams and cross-class.

Materials were handpicked by myself and consisted of interviews, scholarly research papers, public statements and news articles from a wide variety of sources and representing conflicting viewpoints. While the choices reflected my four years at the Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies in Copenhagen University, any materials that the teacher has available – or indeed that the students find as homework – actually suffice. As we have stated elsewhere, the fundamental hollow nature of Cooperative Learning is one of its key strengths – anything can be fed into the CLIPs with incredible learning taking place in the interaction and negotiation.

A stated objective was to raise questions, rather than provide answers. While an overload of factual information was presented, the stated aim of this type of lesson is to activate schemata and process information to allow students to collaboratively construct their own mental framework on which to hinge further studies.  A point here made of other transferable skills , such as critical reflection on the choice of, and reliability of, sources, choosing correct reading strategies, note-taking, oral presentation.

An exemplary tailored lesson outline:

Stage 0: Introduction, time: 5 minutes.

Stage 1: Activating schemata, testing assumptions.

Time: 10-15  minutes.

Level: Multiple pairs.

CLIP*: Ladders (along with the “Carousel” this is a classic from worldwide CELTA courses): students stand in two rows facing each other, perform a task, and then move one partner up. The rationale for choosing this over the Carousel or Catch1Partner will follow in the next post. By neatly slicing of teams of four, the CLIP provides a natural breakup of the “inbred” teams that form from free choice of seats when students pile into the classroom.

Stage 2: Read materials, take notes, prepare oral summary

Time: 5 minutes, individual reading of materials (take note those who think CL is all about talk!). Each team is responsible for a specific theme.

Level: Theme-based 3-4 member teams.

Stage 3: Present oral summary in teams

Time: 8 minutes total.

CLIP: Word-Round, 2 minutes per person to present summary of her text.

+ optional mind map, 3 minutes.

Stage 4: Create cross-class teams

CLIP: Word-Round, presentation of ALL information noted in theme-based team to new team members, i.e International Players and Politics meets Traditional Islamic Education meets Modern Education in the Middle East meets Syria – history, education, sects and politics.

Time: 2 minutes per person to present summary, 8 minutes total.

+ (optional) add or create new Mindmap, 5 minutes.

Stage 5: Round-up, evidence of learning

CLIP: Simultaneous Write-Round.

The following posts will present some of the detailed rationales.


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*) CLIP: Cooperative Learning Interaction Pattern.


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