Still feeling snowed under but having fun just the same. I began a unit on Animal Farm with my year 11 Advanced course class this week. I had forgotten how good it could be in a classroom as I haven’t taught it for about 15 years. I started with some work on fables and fairytales and the kids responded well to the challenge of going beyond the simple and obvious and delving deeper into the nature of these tales and how they reflect values and ideas about human society.
If you haven’t had a look at Teachers Love Smartboards I have to recommend it as a source of terrific sites, especially if you are starting out with an IWB – so many great resources. In the last post there was a link to FlashcardDB – an interactive site where you can create sets of flashcards that work well on the IWB. I started with a small set on some technical terms for year 11 and plan to create their revision quiz on their research homework with it. It is very easy to use and kids should have a lot of fun with it.
I’ve also been poking around Australian Screen. This is the Australian National Film and Sound Archive site and it is truly tremendous. So many resources for Australian teachers and many of the clips have teachers notes as well. I was looking for something to inspire Year 10 who are creating their own presentations on ‘Voices of a generation’ and found a 3 minute clip on Oogeroo Noonuccal (Kath Walker), a short clip from Forever Hold your Peace showing a High school student delivering a speech at an Anti-Vietnam war rally and another on Helen Lothan Robertson (1848–1937), a pioneer of female trade unionism in Australia. That should shake them up!
Another high note this week was seeing one of my colleagues using the IWB with a year 8 class. One of our regular relief teachers, Anna, found herself last period with Year 8 in the Connected Classroom. She had done a quick search at lunchtime and found an interactive site, Myths and Legends from E2BN. With only a quick look at what the site could do Anna and Annie, a beginning teacher on her first day in our faculty, were able to engage the class in working together to create a story using the IWB. The kids ‘held the pen’ and demonstrated the golden rule of IWB – the kids must have the power to engage with the technology.
I also managed to set up Google Reader, sign up to Delicious to manage my increasing bookmarks and set up a Contact email list for my Year 11 class. Darcy would be proud of me!
The games were a huge hit and not just with year 10. Have been poking around online today and found some other useful sites. I’m preparing Module A: Richard III and Looking for Richard and came across Film Education which has some great notes and study guides on a huge range of films. I think this is a very interesting pairing of texts (and a refreshing change from Blade Runner and Brave New World). I’m planning to show the film first because I think it will engage students in a closer reading of the play itself as well as give them some insights into authentic questions about the play as a play.
Revisited TeacherTube. What a great site this is – have visions of an assessment task where students create a 3 minute video on Richard III and Looking for Richard and post it on TeacherTube!
At this time of the year I’m doing a fair bit of professional learning with colleagues. On Thursday I ran a workshop on using cooperative learning in the classroom using some year 7 classes do ‘demonstrate’ how it works. This proved to be a really useful model for working with other teachers. The teacher talk both on the day and since has been really inspiring, with everyone trying out new things in their classrooms. We need to do this more often!
As a professional learning task this year our principal asked that we explore Close the Achievement Gap (from the In a Nutshell series, Hawker Brownlow). I led the discussion on Chapter 4: Revisit! review! reteach! revise!. The chapter explores the concept of ‘leaving nothing to chance’. For me it was a recognition that I had been leaving revision to chance.
So this year I have consciously revisited, reviewed, retaught and revised. I discovered that a quick quiz at the end of a lesson or a week later was a powerful learning tool, that there are lots of different ways to improve recall, that they have to know the story of a Shakespearian play really well to understand anything else about it, that kids need serious memory training and that ‘re-teaching’ needs to be programmed explicitly.
With this aim in mind I have been working on a ‘jeopardy’ game using a ‘flipchart’ on Yeats’ poetry and ‘memory’ games on key words and concepts.
I used a ‘memory’ game on language devices with year 10 who are in the final preparation stage for their SC Literacy test. Who would think that a simple memory game (turning cards over and matching a device with an example) would generate so much enthusiasm from a bunch of Year 10 boys? The whole group of boys became totally involved in the game shouting instructions to the kids whose turn it was at the board. Amazing! Then they wanted to play another one!