How to hijack a lesson… and get away with it

Sometimes, you just have to go into heist mode. Allow me to elaborate.

I’ve suggested before that learning cannot be packaged into predefined parameters,  hence the death of the lesson plan. That said, there can be something flat about meandering through a long sequence of lessons with no peaks or troughs to add texture to the learning experience. This is where we start talking about ‘mixing it up’.

Out of all this I’ve stumbled across a theory of design centred around the concept of a hijack, or heist.

Essentially, a lesson heist is an audacious task/ mini project set out over one fixed duration of time. Two examples of this approach below:


The Collective Novel 

I’ve run this system twice, in assemblies with years 7 and 8 respectively, in which the entire year group wrote a collective novel in about 40 minutes. The first was a fictional account of missing Malaysian Airways flight MH370, the second was a novelisation of the battle of the Somme as part of a World War 1 project. Because each student was given responsibility for a page of their own, the process becomes entirely inclusive, with differentiation by outcome.


A book in a lesson 

After reading a selection of poems from the Allen Ahlberg anthology ‘Please Mrs Butler’, I tasked the class with the challenge of creating a fully illustrated anthology of original poems bases on Ahlberg’s work. We read the poems and analysed their Form Language Imagery Rhythm Tone Subtext, before writing our own poems in the sane style.

Following this, it was a simple case of compiling final drafts into a fanzine style photocopy anthology, complete with pictures.

WP_20140625_008 WP_20140625_006 WP_20140625_007

The key benefits of a heist approach are:

  • A sense of urgency – nothing quite motivates like a deadline
  • Process and planning – pulling off a heist requires complete transparency over structure and planning. There can’t be any withheld knowledge or hidden plenaries; students and teacher alike must be on the same page
  • In-built celebration – completion is validating and the outcome is a tangible mark of success

Have you ever successfully completed a lesson heist? Let me know how it went.

As ever, yours, in teaching,

-Unseen Flirtations 


TES Teaching Resources


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