In April 2019, Dubai’s Hartland International School became the third school outside the UK to gain the NACE Challenge Award, in recognition of high-quality whole-school provision for more able learners. Amongst the school’s strengths, the Award report highlighted Hartland’s innovative and wide-reaching enrichment programme. Here, Gifted and Talented Coordinator Helen Green shares 10 challenging enrichment activities to try in your own school…
At Hartland International School we believe in the potential of all children to achieve. All students are given access to enrichment activities as part of the school day, four days a week, and many of our more able learners are invited to specific sessions targeted at their strengths and interests. It is an innovative programme which supports our aim of stretch and challenge for all.
All teachers are expected to deliver one or two enrichment activities, depending on their timetable; these sessions are planned for and monitored for consistency and value. Our sports provider delivers sessions to all students once a week. All enrichment activities are financed by the school, except those involving external providers (for example skiing and sailing).
Based on our experience of delivering a diverse and ambitious enrichment programme, here are 10 challenging enrichment activities to engage your more able learners…

1. Debating 

Debating is an engaging, active learner-centred activity. Reasoning, research and public speaking are just some of the positives behind learning how to be a great debater. From planning an argument (even if you don’t agree with it), to choosing your words wisely, debating will help you take on whatever life chooses to throw at you. It is always good to have a debate showcase to aim for. Consider collaborating with other schools to hold a debate morning, where students can practise what they have learned over the course of the enrichment course. Alternatively, inviting experts in can also be very motivating (for example through an organisation such as Debate Mate, who offer training as well as running showcase debates).

2. General knowledge

The importance of general knowledge reaches far beyond books and exams. Whether in the classroom or the workplace, good general knowledge can help in all walks of life. Having general knowledge about different countries and geographies helps students to form a perspective about the world and a culture that may be different from their own. In a school with over 60 nationalities, this is especially important to us. This enrichment activity should be offered to all interested students; often it is the more creative students who surprise us with their quest for knowledge of their surroundings. This year we have found resources from Quiz Club to be really useful in supporting children in developing their general knowledge, as well as many library- and research-based enrichment sessions, in preparation for competitions with other schools.

3. Critical thinking

Critical thinking at a critical age… In this enrichment course, learners are taught to reason, construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. Through maths games and problem solving, critical thinking activities aid in making sense of maths problems and develop perseverance in solving them. This enrichment is particularly suitable for higher-ability mathematicians ready for a challenge.

4. Latin for beginners 

Learning Latin encourages non-linear, outside-the-box thinking, as well as promoting greater focus and patience. This enrichment could be offered to highly able readers to enhance their enjoyment of literature. However, there are also some really fun Latin for beginner courses around (for example Minimus “the mouse that made Latin cool”), which would appeal to many students.

5. Biz kids 

Many students have aspirations to run their own business and young entrepreneurs should be encouraged and supported to brainstorm their ideas; produce and market their product; and of course sell to the consumer. There are many ways to run this enrichment, from a Dragon’s Den-style approach to a young entrepreneurs programme which encourages students to develop their entrepreneurial skills. We spent a term developing, marketing and producing our products and ideas and then sold them to fund further ventures at the end of term.

6. Cooking through literacy 

Most young people enjoy the challenge of cooking. If you have cooking facilities in your school, a great way to engage students in reading is to combine a cookery and reading enrichment activity. The Little Library Café has some great resources to facilitate this – providing recipes that are linked to a book, with a short note from the author. Students should be given ample time (maybe while their items are cooking) to be able to read and discuss the book and evaluate why the author chose to include the food in their writing. This is one of our most popular enrichments!

7. Research projects 

Through detailed research on a project of interest to them, students develop critical thinking expertise, as well as effective analytical research and communication skills, that are incredibly beneficial. Ultimately research is essential to the development of our globalised society, so this is a great skill to develop from an early age. We find that our more able learners really embrace the challenge of research, being able to evaluate their findings and learn in depth about an area of interest.

8. Lego design challenges

At Hartland, we believe everyone can be good at maths; it is a set of skills that can be learned and practised. Through engineering and design challenges using Lego – such as designing transportation devices, musical monsters, bridges and ultimate playgrounds – our pupils are encouraged to be open-minded and flexible, thus developing the growth mindset that is so important to developing young mathematicians. The challenge for educators is to encourage this mindset and flexibility so that it stays with these young learners throughout their time in education and beyond.

9. Literary Society 

Our Literary Society is an invite-only club for adventurous and keen readers in Years 8 and 9, designed to stretch and challenge students who have demonstrated an interest in literature. It combines great stories with stimulating discussion and probing debate. Each week students participate in discussion and activities that are intended to help them display their intellectual and independent thinking skills whilst discovering new literature. It is a safe space where they can explore and discuss without the worry of assessment or judgement. Students at Hartland have recently chosen “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett to discuss. The aim is to invite various guest speakers and other teachers to join and inspire our discussions. We are also hoping to link with a secondary school in the UK to collaborate across the miles.

10. Hour of code 

During our coding enrichment, students create animated stories and interactive experiences while learning essential programming concepts with Scratch, such as developing their logic skills; improving their understanding of algorithms and learning how to debug their code. This drag-and-drop, creative environment developed by MIT uses sprites and code blocks to set a foundation of computational thinking. In addition as part of their gaming project, students managed to recreate popular games from the 1980s such as Pac-Man and Space Invaders. Although this is a challenging activity, many students thrive on this challenge and thoroughly enjoy the experience.
Helen Green has been a teacher for 16 years, spending a decade at Jumeirah Primary School in Dubai, before moving to Hartland International School. With first-hand experience as the parent of a child identified as gifted, and a longstanding interest in the field of gifted and talented education, she has attended many courses to develop her understanding of the field and in turn has enjoyed delivering professional development courses to teachers across Dubai to develop more able provision. In April 2019, she successfully led Hartland International School to becoming the first school in the Middle East, and the third outside the UK, to gain the NACE Challenge Award.
Wednesday, May 8, 2019