Year 5 stepped up to the front of the Theatre and were instantly very honest with their audience. They told us that the process of working towards this presentation had been very difficult for them, that they had struggled through it, that there had been tensions, flare-ups and strong emotions as they tried to establish common ground in the area of Language Arts.
Then, they outlined their conclusions in the following way:
Engaging: Students are interested and curious about language arts. They feel connected and understand the power and value in language as a way to communicate with the wider world. Students will more likely be engaged when learning is relevant and connected to something that they can use and apply.
Intention: There needs to be a focus, something that awaits the students on the other side of the lesson or learning experience. If there is a clear intention, one that the students is aware of then they will know what they are working towards.
Experiences: A wide range of experiences are given for students to explore and experiment with in their learning. The experiences need to be balanced and offer something different. Be creative and innovative in the ‘how’ of teaching and learning.
Evidence: Evidence of learning is really important. Students need to be honest about where and who they are as learners. Evidence of learning needs to come in many different forms. It is most powerful when it is from then and they have arrived at that conclusion on their own.
Empowering: This is where a lot of trust comes in. Students feel as if they are in control of their learning and they are responsible for it. This is where they can really pursue their own passions and interests and take their learning to the next level.
Explicit: Teaching and learning needs to be a process. A process that is at their level and allows the students to construct their meaning by adding on to past lessons and experiences.
I dropped by Year 5 today, starting in Kate’s classroom, and found students reflecting on the presentations they have been doing for their parent audience over the last few days. The Y5 teachers were pretty “pumped up” about it and really wanted to talk about it because they felt it had been an excellent experience, and that the whole process of the unit had really empowered the students to do really effective, informal presentations that demonstrated their conceptual understandings.
The process of the unit looked like this:
- The unit started with rotations in which teachers demonstrated 5 different presentation techniques – both formal and inforaml – and 5 possible areas of inquiry
- The inquiry process helped students develop conceptual understandings, which made them able to focus their presentations instead of just listing random facts
- Research skills were taught in homeroom and in library sessions to enable them to focus on relevant and important information
- Parents were invited in to see presentations and demonstrations. They were ”converted” from passive observers to active participants by being given sample questions to ask the students
- Presentations were filmed in some classes to enable students to watch themselves sharing their work and assessing how they presented themselves.
Watch this space for more information about this!
I had a few minutes at the end of today, so I decided to venture up to the world of Year 5 to see what was going on. I met Bill at the bottom of the stairs and we huffed and puffed our way up them (but didn’t blow any houses down!). I figured it was a little unfair to go into any rooms with teachers who had their kids as it was getting close to 2:30 and everyone was winding things up for the day. I’m sure Jane was glad about that as her A/C was completely broken and her and the kids were sweating buckets and madly stopping sheets of paper from flying everywhere because of the temporary fans they’d been given!
Anyway, Heather was sitting at her desk “being all nerdy about a blog posting” (Heather’s words) she was putting together for the kids to work on at home. The blog posting is all about different landforms and asks the students to research the landforms in the places they come from or somewhere they have been to. It states explicitly the different ways to collect information and it has a very visual element as students are expected to use Flickrstorm to locate and use images that are relevant to their writing (yes – blogging is writing, everybody!). Heather has modeled the process for the students by doing a piece of writing about New York.
This is a wonderful, and yet very simple, illustration of the integration of Language Arts and a unit of inquiry. The task is heavy in research skills, speaking and listening, viewing and presenting, reading and writing. It calls upon the students to write for a genuine audience and will no doubt lead to further comments and discussions online. It is very rich in relevant vocabulary and Heather plans to use the students’ writing to feed into her ongoing word wall for this unit.
Have a look at the blog posting and maybe you’d like to make a comment to tell 5HR about the landforms where you come from? I’m sure they’d love the input and could use your language in their inquiries.
Just before I left the room, I recommended this video:
It’s an amazing, visual feast that captures the world’s landforms from a hot air balloon. The language is also quite poetic, and the subtitles will really help Heather’s students to develop their vocabulary and to understand the meaning of the film.
It’s quite long, and fairly slow. Heather and I talked about how it will be good for her students to develop their ability to view films like this.