Learning is....
Planting a seed in our brain... learning to water, nurture and grow it.... so we can live on the fruit of our learning and plant more seeds.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Anzac Day Mulitple Intelligence Unit

Anzac Day is extremely important in New Zealand, and Australia.  Who else would celebrate/commemorate such a disasterous defeat, recognising it as the true birth of nationhood, an emergance from colonial imperialism.

Each year I do an Anzac unit in my class.  I try to mix it up each year.  Below is this year's unit based on Gardners Multiple Intelligences:

The focus of these activities mostly fell on Verbal-Linguistic and Visual-Spacial.  You will note that some text is highlighted in a different colour and underlined.  The text is hyperlinked to various websites to enable the students to complete the activities.  I've also included these hyperlinks in this blog for your interest.  The students also have a hard copy of this glued in their topic books and they save a digital copy in their folders so they can access the links.

You will note that the activities cover the New Zealand Land Wars (Rewi's Last Stand - this is local to our school as we drive past the Orakau Battle Site each time we go to town), World War 1 in Gallipoli and the Western Front (Eat Like an Anzac in WW1) and World War 2 in the Pacific and Crete.

I've tried to cover a variety of skills and activities in this unit.  The students were required to physically do activities, record voice, take photos, plot on maps, write letters and present their information in a variety of ways - digitally and with pen and paper.

With The Battle of Crete section the students went to an NZ History site where four veterans of Crete tell their stories.  My students were asked to listen and then script and record in Audacity (download for free by googling Audacity) with one student being an interviewer and the other the veteran.  It actually took a bit of talking and explaining to get them to understand that it wasn't all about the bombs and mates dying.  Some of them really got into the feel of an old man's voice as well.  Each pair improved on the last.  Sometimes it is cool to be last rather than first.

The Pacific War with Japan section focused on a group of men who we don't really know a lot about, and their fate, the coastwatchers stationed on Pacific Islands and about Papua New Guinea.  The NZ Herald had a great article about one coastwatcher, who did survive the Japanese invasion of many Pacific Islands and the subsequent beheading many coastwatchers suffered, and became a prisoner of war in Japan.  Apart from the research to find out what a coastwatcher is and a bit of comprehension from the article, the big skill here was to find a map of the Pacific and then work out where coastwatchers were stationed.  I try to use maps as often as possible.  Too many people don't know where places are (think of the Americans who think NZ has kangaroos or is in Scandanavia) so I endeavour to teach my students where in the world they are.

The section about Rewi's Last Stand was all about bringing in somewhere local that the children don't know much about, and the Land Wars that they also don't know much about.  Both the links in here go to different pages at nzhistory.net.nz, The Battle of Orakau and Rewi Manga Maniapoto.  There is the comprehension skills from reading about Rewi and doing a summary of the man, and also the focus of a timeline about the battle.  Again I have brought a map in, because it is amazing how many kids have know idea about their own district and where things lie.  Some of them just seem to hop in a car and go to sleep or play with a PSP!!  It's also a good exercise is getting them to spell those localities as well.

Eat Like an Anzac in WW1 has a lot in it... and more work came from this section that is not included.  The Scale of Rations activity was all about some IT skills of finding a picture, copy and paste (some of my kids needed this practise) and how to use the space.  I wanted it done in A3... amazing how many did it in A4 - so they had to make the adjustments.... another good lesson in following instructions and some more IT skills.


These pictures show what some of my students did to complete this activity.

Have you ever eaten hard tack?  Well, I recommend having your dentist on speed dial!!  This is the third time I have done the Anzac lunch, where we ate a meal similar to what the soldiers at Gallipoli would have eaten, minus the flies!!

That's hard tack with jam, rice and bully beef (aka canned corned beef) and tea made with a bit of sugar and milk powder.  Next time I may include canned peas.  We made the hard tack ourselves.  The recipe can be found at the Australian War Memorial education site.

The hard tack before cooking.
From this piece of work we also did a spot of persuasive writing with the idea being Could I eat like an Anzac at Gallipoli for eight months?  Believe me, not many of the kids enjoyed eating the bully beef.  It tastes like cat food!!!  I may talk about this piece of work in another blog, but here is a teaser below.


We make Anzac Biscuits every year in my class.  They are too yummy not to make them!!  We use the recipe from the Edmonds Cookbook, like all good Kiwis.  I have talked about the process of this activity in another blog, because the whole focus of this activity was for the children to communicate how to make the biscuits in PhotoStory 3 to someone who does not have the recipe.  Read the other blog (Using PhotoStory 3 in class) to know more.

The final activity involves getting the children to think about what the ladies at the homefront did for the men at the frontline - knitting, food..... and how letters are so important, particularly as it was the main form of communication at the time.  So they read the letters Alister Robison wrote home and they also went to another nzhistory.net.nz site where it talks about the ladies and their work at the homefront for the soldiers at the front.  They had to write a letter to Alister like he was a member of their own family in 1916, and they had to hand write to publish.  I wanted them to include details of what was being sent to Alister because they needed to know that the army didn't provide everything, that the families also contributed so much to the soldiers to make the frontline more bareable.

For the students who were in my class last year, this built on what they had learned previously.  Below is a taster of what I asked my students to do last year.



The top left picture is the homework I set for the week that encompassed Anzac Day.  In that homework I wanted the children to share baking Anzac Biscuits with their family at home, find out what Anzac Day means to their family with a family discussion, find an article in the newspaper (or online) about Anzac Day to share with the class and research about a member of their own family who has served in the NZ armed forces (hopefully finding out something they didn't know before and talking to some elders in their family).

The Postcard activity in the middle aims to get the child to put themselves in the situation of being at Galipolli and writing a letter home explaining the conditions and daily life.

The other three (top right and the two at the bottom) are examples of fourteen inquiries I set up to give students a choice.  It mixs up the Gardner's Multiple Intelligences with DeBono's Thinking Hats to provide the students with a range of research, thinking, creating and processing challenges.

Also, see my previous blog about Anzac Poppies and Medals, as we did those last year too.

Using PhotoStory 3 in class

I was introduced to PhotoStory 3 when I did the GDITE (Graduate Diploma of Information Technology in Education) at Wintec in 2007-2008.  It is a really simple programme that uses photos, text, audio, music and some wizz bang effects to, well, create a story with photos.  It tells you step by step how to create a PhotoStory.  To download it for free, simply google PhotoStory 3.

I've used PhotoStory 3 several times now.  In 2009 the school I taught at was having a new technology block built.  So I dutifully took photos of classrooms being moved to make way and the progress of the building for my class to use and record the progress of the project.

Last year, my class did a scientific exploration of kitchen chemistry.  Again I took photos of them concocting various things with exciting ingredients like baking soda, lemon juice, vinegar and food colouring.  I asked them to show what they had learned from doing the experiements.

Deary me, I was too broad.

What I got back was a series of PhotoStories that sounded like a scientist had gone completely mad with the features in PhotoStory in overdrive, and no scientific learning being explained.

During the Rugby World Cup I asked them again to use PhotoStory.  I asked them to take photos of each other doing those weird and wonderful actions that explain their decisions on the rugby field.  Some of them managed to do the actions for gridiron/American football rather than rugby, but hey, it happens.  This was a bit simpler for them to achieve.  It didn't require mad scientist voices either.

This year, during our Anzac Day unit, I decided to try this again.

I sent my students in groups of three off into the Multi-Purpose Room to cook Anzac Biscuits.  I asked the to take turns to take photos of the process.  One group did forget, and had to improvise.

The first group finished had tried to do the whole mad scientist thing like last year.  I pointed out that the task told them to:  "Make Anzac biscuits.  Take photos of each stage of making Anzac biscuits.  Use the photos to make a PhotoStory 3 presentation to show the step by step process of making Anzac biscuits."

Naturally I sent them back to redo it.  They had to take out the mad scientist and put into it how Anzac Biscuits are made, you know, all that stuff about how much of each ingredient, whether or not to sift or stir or whatever.

So my message here people is:  Be specific about what you want to achieve when using PhotoStory 3.  Yes, it is great that they are using all the bells and whistles in the program, but they also need to be effectively getting a message across to the audience, even if that audience is their teacher.

In my Anzac Biscuit PhotoStory, I would expect that the audience would be able to use the PhotoStory to make the biscuits without having the recipe in front of them.  In the kitchen chemistry PhotoStory I would expect that you would be explaining how the reaction occurs between two or more ingredients so I could evaluate your understanding.

So, as you can see, it is a great tool, but as a teacher, I have to be very clear about what I want my students to achieve and communicate with this tool.

Matariki - an overview of a unit of work

I did not know that Matariki existed, except in the sense that it is one word for stars, until 2006 when a colleague had his kids colouring in pictures of stars because it was Matariki.

This photo is from the Te Ara The Encyclopedia of New Zealand website where you can learn heaps more about Matariki.  Click here to go to Te Ara and learn more about Matariki.
Fast forward a couple of years to 2009, and a couple of mates decided it was a good idea to get out of bed far too early on a frosty morning to go and take photos of Matariki rising over the horizon on Buffalo Beach in Whitianga.

Last year I did a bit more research into Matariki and started to build some resources.  However, my unit of work prior to when I had planned to do Matariki, had been a lot, and my class was still working on that, so some students did the Matariki unit, but I didn't do it justice.

This year I decided to put in more effort, and we have done more justice to Matariki.  At first I got a few whinges (including from the Maori children in my class) about "Why are we doing this?"  But I reckon that was because the children had no experience of Matariki.  Let's face it, ten years ago 99% of us didn't know about Matariki, but it is so prominent now that New World, the supermarket, had a FlyBuys bonus day in its honour (thanks for those x4 points New World!)!!

Now my class can tell you that Matariki is the New Year in the Maori calendar for growing food.  Matariki is a group of seven stars, known as Pleiades or the Seven Sisters in other cultures, which disappears from the New Zealand skies in May and returns after the new moon in June, consequently when Matariki happens each year changes.  The brightness of this group of stars determines the quality of the coming growing season:  bright = good, warm growing season; dim = cold, poor growing season (I'm guessing the Matariki of 2011 was dim here).

I like doing multi-tasked units, roughly based on Gardner's Multiple Intelligences and De Bono's Thinking Hats, with the odd Thinking Key thrown in from Tony Ryan.  Below is what I set the class this year:

My students have a hard copy glued into their Topic Book, and also have access to a copy in our class folder, which they usually copy into their own folder.

The first thing I asked the students to do before they did anythng else from this sheet was to do the mind map in the Visual-Spatial section.  This was going to show us what they knew at the beginning and at the end of the unit, as they would write what they knew already in pen, and as they learn stuff they would record that in colour pencil.

After that I asked them to jump to the Verbal Linguistic box and do some research into what Matariki is and how it is celebrated.  This was an important second step as it gave the students something to hang their wordfind, poems and celebration brainstorm (Interpersonal) on, as well as giving them a strong start for five facts about the constellation (Naturalist).

We did the survey in the Logical-Mathematical box together, but have yet to collate the results as we only got three responses... so may have to put that out to the community again before we can graph the results.

In regards to the research about the protocols around flax, we used the internet as well as a great book called Fun with Flax by Mick Pendergrast.  I bought my copy at Wright's Bookshop in Cambridge, one of the best bookshops to buy NZ books in, especially if you are a teacher, but you can also get this book at the Teachers' Resource Centre in Hamilton on Knighton Road by Waikato University.  It has heaps of great flax weaving challenges in it.

Unfortunately, the weather was not kind to us.  One of the protocols of collecting flax is not to collect it when it is frosty or raining.  It rained or was a frost most of the last two weeks of Term 2, so we have deferred our flax collection until early Term 3, so while the students have done the research into the protocol, the collection, weaving and recording of the process is yet to be done.

A book I can thoroughly recommend to inspire art work, writing and imagination around Matariki is Stories from our Night Sky by Melanie Drewery and Jenny Cooper.  These stories retell the various myths and stories handed down in Maori folklore within the contemporary context of families today celebrating and discovering Matariki.  The art work is beautiful and poems are also included.  I purchased my copy last year through the Scholastic Book Club, but I'm pretty sure you could get this book from Wright's in Cambridge, the Teachers' Resource Centre in Hamilton, Penny's at Chartwell Square... among many other booksellers.

A piece of artwork inspired by a story from the above book.  The students used pastels to complete their artworks.

I am going to go into more detail about the Cinquain poems about Matariki we did in another blog.  I will also go into more detail about the art and the stories we were inspired by in the above book in some other blogs too.  Hopefully I will also be able to tell you about the flax weaving too some time in Term 3.

Below are two pictures of our wall display to whet your appetite.

The black, white and red pictures were started by my CRT release teacher from a picture that inspired her when she googled Matariki images.  The children started with an A4 black piece of paper and were given red and white paper to cut out and glue onto the black paper.  We wanted the children to use Maori motifs such as koru in their design.  Some are better at this than others.  One child, due to a broken arm, did her picture with felts.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Connected 2012 @ Southwell School Friday 13 July

Today, at the suggestion of my principal who recently found out about this group, I went to the ConnectEd 2012 conference at Southwell School.

The keynote speaker was Mark McCrindle from Australia. 

I went to two breakouts:
  • I-Pads in Years 3-5
  • E-Portfolios and E-Learning
I found both very good.  It was fun learning how to use an I-Pad and the pitfalls and wonders of using them in the classroom and sharing them around the school, the covers they can where and an idea for transporting.  A good tip I got from teachers from Te Totara School was for every teacher to be given an i-tunes card preloaded with a set amount for the year at the beginning, then it would be up to each teacher how and when it is spent, and for the benefit of the age group which you teach.

The E-Portfolio and E-Learning was also interesting to see how big it is, the possibilities and a few new ideas.  One needs to ensure that they have good support and consider how the school's infrastructure will cope, and how students and parents could access it from home.  Check out http://myportfolio.school.nz/ for more information.  MyPortfolio has been the MOE 'choice' for schools to use, and is free to all NZ schools til at least the end of 2013.

Three Recalls:
  • Social technology like Facebook and Twitter are a barometer of society, and new apps come along all the time.
  • I-Pads - be careful of the apps you choose.... easy to use as a time filler.
  • E-Portfolios - lots of thinking that have to go into how it is going to be used and how the school, students, parents as well as teachers will use, manage and access.

Two Insights:
  • You need time to tinker.
  • You need to know what you want to achieve.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Anzac Day Activities

I did these activities last year as part of my Anzac Day unit.  They are fairly simple, but look effective.

Anzac Poppies

The first activity requires the following:
  • red paper or card (A4 for small version, A3 for a larger version)
  • black and white photocopies of photos from Gallipoli or France in WW1
  • green paper or card
  • pva glue
Firstly, it is a good idea to get the children to spend a bit of time practising how to draw the poppy shape on some scrap paper.  I like the children to use as much of the paper as possible which is why I think the practise is a good idea.  Cut out the poppy shape.  Then draw a circle in the middle lightly with a pencil; tracing around an appropriately sized circle is helpful.

The black and white photocopies can then be ripped up.  It would be good it they ripped the pictures so part of it is recognisable.  Then the children can start gluing the ripped up paper into the circle on the poppy.  Encourage them to glue in the circle shape, so that the edges are curved, and that there are no gaps within the circle for the red paper to poke through. 

When the top is dry, you can glue the stalk onto the back of the poppy.  A strip of green about 2cm wide and the length of an A4 page is good.  They can even cut a leaf shape out and glue that onto the stalk.


The second activity requires the following materials:
  • material scraps
  • gold and silver paper/card (we actually painted some paper with gold and silver metallic paint)
  • either plain paper or card
  • pva glue
  • felt pens as close to gold or silver as possible
  • preferably dressmaking scissors to cut the material better
It would be good to get the students to do a bit of research about medals, who received them, why, what they look like, the differences between them.....

Then let the students choose material they think will make great medals, cut it up in appropriate shapes and length, and glue it on the paper.  The dressmaking scissors will make a better finish on the edge of the material compared to normal classroom scissors from experience.

They can then get the gold and silver paper/card and cut into appropriate shapes.  They can use the felt pens to add detail to the medals.  Once they are happy with them they can glue to the paper with the material on it.

When it is all dry, cut out the medals as one piece.