Today, I did a Q&A session with one of my groups who are notoriously difficult to keep on task. It was Q&A with a twist though.
I wanted them to research a few subjects on the internet. If I had handed out the questions, or posted them on the VLE, a handful of them would have completed them in the lesson, but many would have failed to maintain the momentum to see the handful of questions through to the end, and it would have taken an almighty effort on my part to keep them focused.
So I decided to read out the questions one at a time. I sold it as 'speed searching', giving the students only 2-3 minutes to research each question. My students are not dull, they just find it hard to commit themselves, but the fact that there was only a very short space of time to get an answer down meant that they carried out efficient searching, excellent scanning, and following a warning from me (and the frantic tapping sounds of fingers on keyboards), a fair attempt at putting what they found into their own words. As I observed them, I was pleased to note that many found some excellent, reliable sources of information - and not just the obvious ones.
There were six questions in all, and in the timed slots between one question and the next there was near silence in the room - something I experience very rarely with this group. At the end of the question session, I used (and had explained this would be the case) targeted questions to individuals to ensure everyone had participated. Everyone I asked was able to answer their question.
I think the group enjoyed a change of activity, and they produced some good work as a result. Well worth using again.