Tag Archives: history

The curriculum isn’t crowded…it’s brimming with opportunity!

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I’ve been concerned with the number of educators who are constantly reminding others of how ‘crowded’ the curriculum is. Many of them are voicing their concerns a little louder now that the National Curriculum has begun to be implemented, while others are relating it to the fact that there are only a certain number of hours in a school day.
 
It frustrates me to hear that many staff believe that the curriculum is “too full”. Rather than looking at the curriculum as “too full”, why are we not looking at it as “brimming with opportunities and variety”? We know that students all have different learning styles and interests. It would be narrow-minded of educators to believe that every single aspect of the curriculum is applicable and important for every single student.
 
My Year 4 History curriculum tells me that I should be covering world explorers such as Magellan, Columbus and Cook. Science tells me that I need to be teaching the life cycles of plants and animals. The new Geography syllabus instructs me to teach biomes of Africa and South America and the sustainability aspects of these. 
 
I didn’t freak out when I saw the requirements. I used my time wisely. I created a series of learning opportunities to try and cover all of the material in the most sensible manner, using a range of subject areas. Students worked in pairs to research (literacy & ICT focus) an African or South American country, including their biomes (geography) and the plants (science) that live in them. This led into life cycles and descriptions and information reports (literacy) on an African animal of their choice. They summarised information (literacy) about plant life cycles and presented their information as a slideshow (ICT). Students proved that there was more than one explorer in the world, which led to discussions on Columbus, Magellan, Marco Polo, Vikings, Matthew Flinders and Captain Cook. Some students focused on the vikings, others were interested in finding out who discovered their country of origin. We used these explorers to develop a timeline (maths) of important dates of world discovery. By communicating with our visual arts teacher, the Year 4’s created South American “God’s eye” art and African masks.
 
Many educators refer to these types of lessons as “Integrated Studies”. That’s fine, as long as it is not a scheduled timeslot to “do” Integrated Studies. If it’s truly integrated, it will be seeping through most of your lessons and immersing students in valuable learning opportunities. It’s not about choosing the most important aspects of the curriculum. It’s about providing students with the opportunity to learn about things that interest them, yet are important to understand.

Making QR codes unique.

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When I was first introduced to mobile devices in 2012, QR codes were becoming all the rage. We now see them on drink bottles, food packaging, newspapers and posters.  

Our staff received some PD opportunities to scan a QR code to find out information, watch videos, complete scavenger hunts and be directed to websites.But there were still reservations on how teachers could use them, why it was a big deal to actually create their own and if it could engage students. Being one of the first classes to have access to iPads, I set about making sure that my students knew what a QR code was, how to use it and eventually, how to create their own.

History:

One of the first ways I used QR codes was to develop a ‘flipped classroom’ type of approach.  Instead of sitting down as a class and watching short video clips about different aspects of Australian Explorers and the First Fleet (AusVELS, Level 4 History), I chose 6 Youtube clips that I felt were appropriate.  Using the QR stuff website I transformed these Youtube clips into QR codes, printed and laminated them and placed them around the classroom. Armed with a worksheet (yes, sorry, a worksheet!) to record some of their findings, and one iPad between two students, I asked my class to try and find the answers to some of the questions on their sheets by watching the videos. Students could watch the videos in any order, watch them as many times as they liked, fast forward, rewind and pause the video and work collaboratively to try and find the answers.  I gave the students about 35 minutes to watch the videos and work on their answers. This lesson provided such rich conversation at the end of the allotted time and posed many questions, many of which were ‘Can we make our own videos?’.

Click on the following for the worksheet and the QR codes I created.

Vocabulary work:

As part of our Daily 5 program, my students participate in a Word Work time. This focuses on spelling, parts of words and other other uses of words. When we were focusing on synonyms, I felt that there could be a more engaging way to teach my students new words rather than whipping out the thesaurus.

I decided to use the Web 2.0 tool Bingo Baker, introduced to our staff by @LyndaCutting. The creator fills in the bingo board squares with the ‘answers’ (in my case, synonyms) and then generates a Bingo Baker Board. By copying the Bingo Board link into QRstuff, it creates a QR code that produces a randomly ordered bingo board each time it is scanned!  So no two students will have the answers in the same order!  I then inserted the QR code into Microsoft Word, along with a list of words that matched the ‘synonyms’. To play, each group member scanned the QR code and the bingo board would be displayed on their screen. As one of the group members called out a word from the list, (e.g. ‘hot’), the rest of the group members would have to search their board for the matching synonym (eg. boiling). Once they’ve found it, they simply tap the word on their device screen to mark it.  My students loved playing this and I’ll definitely be making a few more versions with different synonymns!

For a copy of my Synonym Bingo, click here.

Writing:

When writing narratives this year, my class used the Storybird website. As their final products were so amazing, I wanted them to be able to include their narratives in their Portfolio to take home, as well as self and peer assess their story. I created a video using Explain Everything for them to watch and listen to, in order for them to turn their narrative into a QR code. Once they printed it twice, one copy went onto their assessment sheet for their Portfolio, while the other one was blu-tacked to our outside window for students from other classes to come along and scan to read. To see how we managed it all, click here. The (very simple) assessment sheet can be found here.

I have also used QR codes in Maths for self-checking answers, but haven’t created anything for those lessons myself. I’m aiming to get my students to do a lot of the QR code creating this year to highlight and demonstrate their own maths skills!

If you have any engaging QR code ideas, I’d love to hear about them 🙂