There’s no doubt it, life is busy this year, but I don’t mean the self important, stressful kind. There’s just lots happening this year.
As always, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting, and I am just loving the dynamics of my syndicate this year, so we’ve been doing a lot of reflecting together, but it is time to get some of the thoughts that have been going around in my head down on the blog.
As with last year, I wanted to continue to teach in cross-curricular modules as this gives such great parent and student buy-in, not to mention straight the fact that it straight away takes away the ‘but what’s the point of this’ comment. So I started with a two module structure – A and B. As term one progessed though Module A started to take over, and we kind of let it, and that was okay. In term 2 I thought let’s start again with two modules and we’re doing a syndicate project, so let’s call that Module C. Can you say stupid move? I can. And we did. Together as a class we realised (about 5 weeks in) that we were overloading ourselves and trying to do much. So we settled for doing less better and simplified things.
In thinking about and planning term 3, I’ve decided to get even simpler. Making sure that modules only have two curriculum areas, making the outcomes much more achievable and also shortening the time frame – 5 week modules instead. We’re planning a big project as a team this term so I’m trying to make sure that all the outcomes of the modules can tie into this, instead of creating more work for myself and the students. Do less better is the goal!
Term Two – Sustainability Expo
Even though term two, might have been a lot of hardwork and at times felt really difficult, I did really enjoy it. We started team teaching as a syndicate for our shared module, which was a really awesome experience. We’ve by no means got it sorted yet, but we’re really enjoying the process of collaborating as we figure it out. I think it was particularly great to see each other in full flight as teachers and see each others’ strengths and support each others weaknesses. Our use of space when team teaching was tricky though – we didn’t often get this right. We have a shared learning area and then four classrooms separated by glass – and we mostly used the shared learning to come together, but found it hard to incorporate the classrooms effectively. We have started some work with our students about how use spaces in an innovative way using the Caves, Campfires and Watering Holes guide from Core Education:
I think getting this sorted will help us with managing the team teaching more effectively.
Our focus in this unit was Sustainability and we started off with the big question ‘How do the products that we use affect the bees?’ We choose to focus on the bees as our syndicate is home to the school’s apiscope (indoor bee colony) and we have outdoor hives as well. We began by looking at the fact that the bees are dying to hook in students’ emotions and then we focused on building basic bee knowledge as a start point. From there we began to look at how the products we use affect the environment. Students then chose one product to investigate further and wrote a report on this. Finally, they created their own bee-friendly or sustainable product that used bee-products, which they then had to packaging and market at a sustainability expo for their parents and peers.
The feedback from the students was that they really enjoyed the project and loved getting practical and making the product. As a final assessment of the project students wrote a detailed reflection of the process. While they now have a good understanding of the concept of sustainability, I think some of them are still struggling with being able to explain this in relation to their products. Upon reflection I think we needed to spend more time looking at the connection between bees and sustainability so that the students understood this in greater depth.
One of the things I think the students did really well was to give each other feedback about their products. The students were also able to think critically about how they might improve their product, though some of them found it difficult to take feedback from others and turn it into practical solutions.
As a teacher, the takeaways for me have been:
Allow Time – we were so pressed for time with this project that it made it difficult for the students to really put in the finessing time we wanted. Plus we totally ran out of time for them to revise their products!
Give models and exemplars – intermediate age students really need to see what things look like – particularly around presentation standards and quality
Focus on crafting – this links into the first two and is going to be our focus for term 3 – creating something to a high standard.