The Magnetism of Magnets

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Photo Credit: Sean Kenney
Don’t worry – No storytelling, dialogue, poetry, digital mime or other bizarre writing styles in this post! No. Today I bring you an exciting new unit plan (well at least I think it is exciting) that I have altered and tweaked. ‘Altered’ and ‘tweaked’ are two highly apt terms when it comes to writing about this particular plan. This is perhaps due to the fact that this unit was already changed in a major way, by my excellent Year Three colleagues and I, last year!

What I have done, with the plan, is to try and make it more collaborative; with a heavier focus on digital connectivity and Zen presentation.
 

Questions to be answered:

Why do you think this unit is a good possibility for your Course 5 project?

Primarily because this unit offers great opportunities for the students to connect and collaborate with each other in a way that uses many of the learning theories encountered in the COETAIL course.

What are some of your concerns about redesigning this unit?

My biggest concern is with the final part of the unit where the students have to present their results and conclusions to the audience. If I am honest, I’m still not sure that the Zen Presentation style is the best method for the students to present their results to an audience. Also, I am still unsure about the exact nature of the audience the students will present to i.e. Do I want a live audience focus or would a digital audience focus be better for this unit?

What shifts in pedagogy will this new unit require from you?

The biggest shift in pedagogy will be the home learning element. I will have to be very clear about this aspect of the collaborative learning process. I’m still not sure exactly how this part will work i.e. Should I make the home collaboration and connectivity a compulsory part of their learning or should I leave it up to the students to decide how much they want to engage with this aspect of the learning?

What skills and/or attitudes will this new unit require from your students?

The students will need to actively work in a team/group; they will have to demonstrate their ability to connect and work with each other (to a greater or lesser degree) outside the classroom. Also, those students who are taking the research option are going to have to learn an entirely new method for investigating scientific questions.

To summarise:

Although we aren’t actually due to teach this unit until the second half of the spring term, I am really looking forward to seeing what the children’s attitudes will be like when it comes to mixing up independent work, collaborative work, connected learning and Zen presentation – A marvellously magnetic mixture of learning methods…

Footsteps in a new land…

Photo credit: Greenmangaming

Before the coming

Across fierce seas, that battered and broke our small boats, we came. It took us many months of travel to arrive here – many did not make it! Now we have set foot in our new land. We are tired from the long journey but we look forward to putting down roots and settling in this new world. We will establish a mighty nation in this place. We will carve our names upon the walls of history…But first we need to decide where we will settle?

After the coming

We know that we need water for drinking and crops! Perhaps we should build our city near a river or lake? After all the river and lake would also provide us with fish and a means to travel from one part of this new land to another!

But what about crocodiles and flooding?

Ah but flooding is a good thing – it replenishes the crops and leaves behind a thick black mud that will allow the crops to grow strong and healthy.

What about our houses?

We will build them from wood.

That means we need to be near a forest or woodland area.

But how do we get the wood to make our new houses?

Why don’t we cut down the trees? We could build tools like axes or swords to cut down the trees?

We would need durable materials to make theses tools. The tools would have to be sharp and strong!

What about wooden axes and swords? We could use sharpened wood to cut the trees down.

No wood isn’t durable enough. They would break! We need rocks, stone and metal to cut down the trees!

Where do we get these materials from?

Mountains – we need Mountains. They will have these materials! We need to build mines in the mountains so that we can get the rocks from the earth. But remember that the rocks should be igneous or metamorphic rocks because they are more durable.

We could also build roads with the stone we mine. This means we could get to places quicker and faster.

If we move to new areas, we could also build new towns and cities so our population could increase.

leaders must be chosen

Who will decide where we should live? It should be those people who know the best place for us to settle!

And how will we know who they are?

Those people will use there problem solving skills to work out the best place for us to live.

And how will they do that?

Simple, they will use their understanding of the rocks (Rock Cycle unit in Science) and they will use their knowledge of Rivers and crops (History unit on Ancient Egypt) to help us understand the best place for us to live. They will also know what materials we should use to build our tools from (Science unit on materials).

These great people will also demonstrate that they understand what great leadership should be (Religious Education lesson on Guru Nanak and great leaders).

Very well. Let each group present their claim for knowing the best location for settlement. After each group has given us their reasons, we will decide as a whole people, who will be our leaders and where we will settle…

What was that all about?

I recently used the final lesson of our Ancient Egyptian unit as a PBL (problem based learning) lesson. The idea was to really get the children to reflect, use and apply their learning to decide on the best location for a new settlement in a brand new world. The students were split into groups of three and given a copy of the map at the top of the page. They were then asked, towards the end of the session, to present their choices to the whole class explaining their reasons for choosing that location (I have included the lesson plan in a previous post as lesson 6 if you are interested in using it).

Conclusions

I think it is fair to say that PBL is a wonderful tool for wrapping up a unit and really finding out exactly what the students have learned. More importantly, it is a great method for getting students to use and apply previous knowledge to a real world problem that actually needs solving. I used elements of PBL in this history lesson but I have also used it for Science, Maths and Geography lessons. For me, the most important aspect of PBL is the hook. If the children are interested and motivated there will be a 100% buy in to your suggestions and ideas.

Once again, as I have said with all of the learning theories in COETAIL course four, I think that PBL is an absolute must for student learning; particularly in a world where problems, dilemmas and difficulties seem to become more prevalent on a daily basis.