Keeping it real
One of my passions is teaching and learning in the area of human rights and social justice. I am very effective in creating meaningful units of work that integrate across various curriculum areas. During my 10-week extended placement I established a unit of work in Literacy, HASS and Science based on the theme human rights and social justice. Therefore, connecting students to real world issues. (1.3)
Prior to teaching in Term 1, I wrote a letter to parents explaining the human rights topic ahead. I wrote this letter informing parents of the sensitive nature of the themes and topics that were going be covered in the unit. (3.7), (7.1)
Prior to kicking off the unit of work, I did a lesson on resilience and wellbeing. Wellbeing influences a student’s physical, social and intellectual development, affecting student learning (Department for Education, 2019). Some students did not have many strategies to manage resilience. I knew this due to my classroom observations and the discussions I had with mentor teacher. Hence, we noted this and discussed it with the wellbeing student support officer. Therefore, this lesson was designed to help students develop some strategies for dealing with difficult and stressful situations which are necessary social and emotional life skills (Erikson, 1997). I also wanted students to feel safe within the classroom so that they could learn effectively while discussing some sensitive issues during this HASS topic, including some violations in human rights that occur across the World. (1.1), (4.4), (1.3)
Students watched a short video and then we began discussing strategies for being pro-active and managing wellbeing and feelings in difficult situations. I wanted the learning to be relevant and relatable to students and challenging to assist in building their personal and social competence (Erikson, 1997 & Tomlinson, 2005). (1.1), (1.2) Some of these strategies I suggested to the students included, talking to a friend, teacher, parent or trusted adult, writing a journal entry, going for a walk, taking some time out for yourself. We also did a class activity where small groups of students were given a scenario and had to rate each scenario from a scale of 1 – 10. 1 being nothing to worry about, 5, this is difficult, but I think I can manage this on my own, 10, I need some help.
These were the scenarios:
- I am running late for school.
- A cyclone happened in another State of Australia and no one you know got hurt.
- I am sitting next to someone I don’t know.
- Someone pushed in front of me in the canteen line.
Students were asked to think of a strategy that they could use to manage this situation and why they choose this strategy. In groups students shared their answers with the class. Students learn effectively when they can collaborate in groups, work individually and use hands on activities that engage their auditory, visual and kinaesethic ways of learning (Kagan, 2009). It is also important to make the learning relevant and related to student interest (Tomlinson, 2005). Therefore, I arranged the content to engage students with some scenarios that they would be familiar with. The impact of this was that students built on their resilience strategies, self-efficacy and self-regulation which positively affects their self-esteem (Erikson, 1997). This lesson also helped me to get to know the students and build further trust with them. (3.3), (1.2), (1.1), (1.3)
Following this lesson, to engage the students at the start of the human rights unit I played the following video ‘Understanding the Christchurch Terror Attack.’ I chose this video because it was relevant at this time and it covered this recent event in a sensitive manner. Therefore, suitable and engaging for the students. I also made use of power points while teaching for enhancing understanding and engagement. (3.4), (3.3), (2.6)
Following the discussion on Human rights. I introduced the class novel Malala, by Malala Yousafzai. For further information on this Literacy unit, please go to The power of assessment and feedback on student learning.
Making Clear Learning Objectives
Using backward design, the following learning objectives from the Australian curriculum for HASS were chosen (Wiggins & McTighe, 2011). Theses learning outcomes were also connected to the class HASS topic, human rights. (2.6)
Knowledge and Understanding Achievement Standards:
- Describe the interconnections between people in different places.
- Identify and compare different possible responses to a geographical challenge.
Inquiry and Skills Achievement Standards:
- Propose action in response to a geographical challenge and describe the probable effects of their proposal.
- Locate, collect and organise useful data and information from primary and secondary sources.
This summative rubric is called a tuft sheet. Student achievement is ranked against it and students are explicitly taught the rubric objectives with the use of a WALT (what we are learning to), WILF (What I’m Looking For) and a TIB (This Is Because). Student examples called WAGOLLS are used to show students ‘What A Good One Looks Like.’ This helps students to understand the learning objectives. (2.3), (2.6)
These learning objectives were then broken up into many lessons, students were going to be working on this for 8 weeks. Near the end of the unit, students made a brochure and did a presentation in small groups to the class on how they proposed to improve the water quality and access to water within a community in the Asian Region.
These learning objectives were based on diagnostic, formative and summative assessment data from the student’s previous class HASS project. I also discussed prior student work, both formative and summative with my mentor teacher to determine where student readiness and interest was. I also considered students learning profiles (Tomlinson, 2005). This allowed me to plan lesson sequences using knowledge of student learning, content and effective teaching strategies. For example, verbal and non-verbal cues, group work strategies, observations and one on one time with students was used to enhance learning and engagement. (3.3)
During the unit I formatively assessed student work and kept accurate records of student data and progress. In the example below. I used a key; L, M, a and H. (5.3)
- L – student was working at a low level, needed further support.
- M – student was working at a medium level, getting it, still needed further support.
- H – student was working at a high level, excellent understanding of concepts. May require extension.
- a – student was absent.
I sought feedback from my mentor and adjusted teaching pedagogy to increase student understanding. One way I adjusted my pedagogy was the use of a graphic organiser. (5.1), (5.4), (6.3), (5.5), (5.3), (3.2), (2.3)
I used video, power point, whole class discussions. All to engage students and enhance understanding. (2.6)
Students worked in groups, throughout the topic. Students reviewed mapping skills, interpreted and analysed data sets and graphs (2.5), used research skills, learnt about demographics, economics and social factors that affect clean sustainable water supplies in communities. It an essential life skill to be numerate (Willis, 1992). Students did research on the themes and topics of the unit with various comprehension tasks. These comprehension tasks were also linked in with Literacy circles during the week which were flexibly differentiated to suits individual learning needs (Tomlinson, 2005). I used a range of formative assessment to assess the for-learning ability of individual students and used this to differentiate my teaching accordingly. I modified tasks for individual students who were struggling or gave alternative ways to completes work which was more manageable for these students. For example, I would partly fill in graphic organisers, highlight essential information to reduce cognitive load for students and worked one on one with two students. Therefore, in the hope that these students avoided feelings of self-doubt, failure or incompetence (Eriksopn, 1997). (1.1) I had extension work prepared for advanced students to ensure their potential was fulfilled and they did not become bored during class work and remained constantly challenged. Students worked in groups, practicing their presentations near the end of the unit. (2.5), (1.5), (1.1)
Students did experiments to see how to filter water and make it clean (I don’t have a photo of this. However, it would look very similar to the one below, even though in the example below, students conducted a different experiment on flooding.
In the work sample below, students were doing an experiment on floods. I integrated numeracy into this lesson as students had to compare the different angles that affected how the area would flood. Each group was given a different angle and students compared these with a group discussion at the end of the lesson. Giving students the opportunity to do hands on, fun and engaging tasks that are meaningful to enhance student understanding. (3.3), (2.1), (1.2), (2.5)
In this example students were doing a flooding experiment.
“A variety of resources were used by Kerry, including ICT, concrete material for mathematics, bookmarks with checklists/prompts, word walls and articles were used to enhance student engagement…Kagan Cooperative Learning Practices are implemented as a school focus. Kerry took time in the early days of her practicum to familiarise herself with some of the strategies. She then applied these appropriately to engage students in respectful sharing of knowledge”. (Mentor, 2019).
Students used an atlas and their laptops to research information on the HASS topic. I had discussions with students about the safe use of computers, how to save files and how to refine google searches and what websites might be appropriate to gather information from and which ones might not. For example, I suggested that Government websites were likely have more appropriate sources of research information. I encouraged and showed students how to reference their sources. On reflection, I would encourage and show students how to attribute their sources of information for copyright purposes (Australian Government, 2017). (4.5), (2.6), (7.1)
“Kerry regularly used ICT effectively in her learning and teaching programs to hook students into the learning, develop skills of ICT use and make content more relevant and meaningful. She was able to support students using the technology available, reinforcing safe and respectful practices and creating a productive learning environment.” (Mentor teacher, 2019)