Saturday, November 8, 2008

Are We There Yet?

This week the Year 1 classes began a new unit of work called "Are We There Yet? - A Journey Around Australia". We borrowed the title from the book by Alison Lester, as the unit of work is focused around her book.

The main focus for this unit of work is for students to learn some Australian geography - in particular the locations of the states, capital cities and a few common landmarks. We believe that this is a bit 'above' the standard level for Year 1, but feel that our children are up to the challenge. We're hoping that they will actually learn even more than this through the course of the unit as we follow the interests and experiences of students in the class.

Setting it up:
Pre-test - Last week we began with a pre-test to see what the kids already knew about the location of states and capital cities. We gave them a blank map of Australia and had the state and capital city names on the board for them to copy the spelling.

Travel Diaries - We gave the children new workbooks which will be their 'travel diaries'. On Friday students made covers for these using art styles inspired by the book/theme: My class made orange/red covers using paint and black and white oil pastels (to imitate the cover of the book); 1S did dot painting of various Australian animals; and 1N traced templates and painted geckos. The children glued a map of the "Are We There Yet?" journey into the front cover of their books. They also worked on a title page.

Travel Groups - Given that we've now finished the main assessment for the year, I decided that I am willing to move the desks back into groups rather than rows. My class is generally chatty, so the rows were helping to manage that, but for the rest of the year I'd like to give them opportunities to work cooperatively again. The work is going to be highly motivating so I feel that should be enough to keep them on task.
So...I asked my students to choose 1 friend, and then I put them into 'family' groups of 4. They will be 'travelling' in these families during our unit, so I got them to design their caravan and make a list of all the things that they will need to take with them on the journey. It was great to see them working on this and the discussion was really fascinating to listen to. For the most part, the groups were working together with all members doing their fair share, but I realise that I am going to have to put some structues in place to ensure this happens. I think I'll have to pull out Spencer Kagan's "Cooperative Learning" for a refresh on how to make this work.

Moving forward:
This week we will head off on the journey. I popped into the travel agent today to arm myself with some brochures, and I'm hoping to pull some materials from the internet tomorrow. We start out in South Australia - somewhere I've been, but have limited souvenirs from. We haven't got everything planned out to the letter yet. That's one of the exciting things about this unit and the team I am working in - some of the most creative ideas are coming from us as we go along.

I'll keep you informed of how the journey pans out.
I've added a flickr slideshow of images of Australia by John White Photography.


  1. I'm a teacher and always interested in kids and teaching them. Enjoyed ur page. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for sharing your fantastic unit and ideas, i work at a small school where I am the only teacher at my level and sometimes it is hard to come up with creative ideas on your own all the time. Keep it coming!

  3. Fantastic! I'm a pre-service teacher and the class is just starting a unit based around this book and traveling around Australia. As someone who is only there for a few weeks, it's hard to know what to do with new units and I got some awesome ideas from you! Thanks!

  4. You are a star!
    I love your doing a post grad degree in teaching and envy your energy for output...will definitely visit again...
    All the best

  5. I am working in the Kimberley (Halls Creek) and have just read your page. Thank you for the ideas. How are the rest of your ideas going?

  6. Last time I studied this book I had year 3 children. I wrote out an (approximate) itinerary and sent it home for the parents' information. They knew what day/week we were due to journey through a part of Australia that they had experience with and the child could come to school and teach the others! They'd come in with photos or souvenirs or a picture book... and they'd have a little talk ready for the class.
    It involved the chidren a bit more than if I'd done all the talking, because I've been to a lot of places in Australia and could've taken over the show...!


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