Saturday, November 1, 2008

Finishing The Way We Were

This week we finished our unit of work on "The Way We Were". While we've been learning some great stuff, it was starting to drag a little, and so, I organised the last few activities to tie up any loose ends.

To demonstrate what they had learnt about childhood in the past, I got my students to take turns pretending they were an old person who had come to tell the class about when they were a child. I wanted to see if they could remember a few things about the key topics we had covered. It might have worked better if we hadn't had such a muddled week. The kids presented points for most of the topics, and some did a REALLY great job, but generally they were tired and bored during the presentations.

We also made "Olden Days Photographs". Students drew pictures of things they'd learnt about during the unit of work. We did a coffee wash over these to make them look old, and then the kids went over the outlines with black texta or oil pastel.

Early in the week we planned a "Olden Days School Session". My class brainstormed things we'd learnt about school in the past and considered some ways we could make this work in our classroom. I later looked at a book about school in the past - in hindsight, it would have been great to have looked at this with the kids prior to the day.

Setting Up for Olden Days School
On the day I dressed in a long brown skirt with a white blouse and tied my hair back in a bun. I stuck up sheets of chart paper around the room to represent blackboards (one grandparent told us she used to have blackboards all around the walls). I put a crayon on each desk to represent chalk. I also put a little medicine cup on each desk to represent ink wells. I found some old readers (only from the 1980s) and put them out on the desks - one per child. I separated the desks and put them in rows. I borrowed a big brass bell from one of my teaching partners. I set up a 'fireplace' at the front of the room using a couple of red/orange scarves.

Playing "School"
When the normal school bell rang I met my class in the usual place and rang the brass bell. I used a very 'strict' sounding voice to get them standing straight in line. I told them to come in, put their bags on their hooks and stand behind their desks. I then played the British Anthem (as it was also our anthem in those days) on the Smart Board and modelled standing with my hand over my heart and singing. The kids quickly followed my lead and joined in with the words on the Smart Board. (I know, I realise the irony in using the Smart Board!)
I marked the roll and then instructed students to begin reading from their readers. I called on them one at a time to stand and read aloud from their book. We then had a spelling lesson. Students were called on to move to the 'blackboards' around the room and to write the word that I said. After we had practiced many of the spelling words, we had our usual spelling test. This was soon followed with dictation. As they wrote, students dipped their pencils in their 'ink wells'.
We then went outside to do breathing and stretching exercises. This was quite quick and straight-forward and then we played "Ring a Ring a Rosey". On return to class we had a singing lesson (singing Daisy, Daisy), did some Geography with a big map of Australia, and recited some Maths times tables as a group and some students individually.
By this point it was only 10:30 and I was completely exhausted! We still had half and hour until lunch, but I decided it was time to call it quits.

Discussing the Differences
While the class munched on their fruit break we looked at the book I'd found about school in the past and discussed some of the things we'd experienced during the simulation. We worked on a class Venn Diagram to compare school today with school in the past.
I was amazed by how much written work we were able to get through in the session, but I was also aware of where this system was falling short. During the simulation my class weren't discussing anything or sharing any ideas. They were simply parroting what they knew I wanted to hear. When I called on some students to read aloud they felt really self conscious and couldn't benefit from my support in a 'safe' environment.

And so, we've come to the end of the unit. I've taken down some of the displays and am looking forward to starting the next unit of work.

1 comment:

  1. Penny, I love the way you put so much time and effort into providing your class with such a rich experience. It's fantastic to read your blog, and to see how things worked out. It's very inspiring, and I'm glad that I have you to work with, so that I can learn from your experience!
    Let's hope the next unit is just as fun!


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