Monthly Archives: September 2011

Are we there yet?

I spent the last three days of term on camp with 60 year 8 students. My team and I have spent the last term planning this three day extravaganza to Phillip Island … and, for the most part, it went off without any major hitches!

However, I am still mulling over the question “Why did only 60% of our year 8 student population attend the camp?”

Is this a one-off occurrence or what is it about the culture of the school that creates an attitude that says “It’s OK to choose not to attend this learning activity”?

Camps are an important part of extracurricular activities. There are lots of good reasons for schools to run camps. In this instance we clearly defined our “learning intention” or goals when we started to plan. We have been working with the year 8s all year to improve relationships, build teams and practice the skill of working cooperatively with anyone in a variety of teams. Our school works on a homeroom system in yr 7 and 8; students stay in the same homeroom with the same HR teacher for their two years in the junior sub-school. In year 9 they are regrouped and mixed up to form new homerooms. In preparation for this we set up a number of situations that required students to work in teams of varying sizes to complete tasks (duty groups, dorm rooms, activity groups). They were given choices about group composition (although dorm rooms were limited so teachers had to intervene and negotiate to achieve workable groups) and could work with anyone across the year level.

The camp we attended on Phillip Island offers a range of adventurous activities designed to challenge students and take them out of their comfort zone. We also planned an ‘Amazing Race’  (based on the TV show). We had a lot of fun putting this together; it was a lot of work to gather resources, write clues and coordinate the pit stops. When we suggested the idea to students before camp the responses were positive and on camp most students gave the race a red hot go! In three days it was interesting to see students work together in ways you can’t achieve in the classroom environment.

Camps are not holidays! They are a lot of additional work, stress and responsibility. They are an extension of the learning environments we create in our classrooms. However, when one third of the students are not participating in that learning experience we need to question why. If one third of my students don’t attend my class on any given day I ask why!

 

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Take It or Leave It . . .

I decided to try a little experiment with my year 8 class today. We have been studying the Middle Ages in Humanities this term.

They have a number of projects on the go – they have to:

*    research how castles are built, construct a model and devise a defensive battle plan;
*    choose  a method of punishment/torture and prepare an information product to share with the class;
*    research the imagery and meaning associated with family crests and design their own coat of arms for classroom display.

I supported the research by providing links on our virtual classroom, our Hums Domain Leader organised a box-of-books from the library and an incursion by Days of Knights (they were definitely worth the money).

We are working our way towards writing an essay comparing life in medieval times to life in modern times.

Today while they were working on the various things they need to do before the deadline of next week (“Are we managing personal learning today, Miss?”), I had a powerpoint of castle pictures (finally my holiday snaps are useful in the classroom) running at the front of the room and the TV running a DVD of a medieval life documentary at the back of the room. Both media were just running over and over and students could tune in and out as they wanted to . . . just like when we are at home working in front of the TV! “You mean multi-tasking, Miss” (never underestimate your audience!)

It was interesting to observe the way my students worked but actually did tune in and out. They would stop me every now and again to ask about one of the photos. In our second session in the afternoon they asked if we were going to have the DVD again (it had run through 3 complete cycles in our earlier session).

My VCE English Unit 1 students studied “Witness” as a film text in term one. After our close study while they were working on theme work and essay practice, they would often put the film on as background noise and tune in and out. It didn’t stop them from ‘working’ and each time they would notice something different or a penny would finally drop.

I plan to try this multi-tasking method of providing information more often in my classroom (as technology will allow . . . I don’t have a permanent TV or data show projector in my room).