Home' Teacher : November 2009 Contents LOOKING INTO PRACTICE 19
What is it with graphic organisers?
Next class I introduced our new topic. 'Chil-
dren, this term our unit is called "From
Farm to Table." I want to know what you
know about growing plants, farms and
food. Here's a place mat; I'd like you to fill
in as much as you know using words and
I handed out the graphic organiser and
observed them filling it in; there was a cer-
tain buzz missing, the one you want to hear
from your students when presented with a
I collected the students' work and yes,
there was some indication of what the
students understood, but I couldn't help
thinking, where's the enthusiasm, where's
the excitement, where's the 'I want to know
Slowmation could do the trick
On my way home that night I wondered how
I could make the topic more interesting for
my students. I decided that I had to give
Slowmation a try. Instead of using it as an
end-of-unit task, I decided to use it as a way
of assessing students' prior knowledge about
the growth of a seed. Slowmation could take
the place of the place mat activity.
Of course, those creeping doubts began
to re-enter my mind: I'll have to do most of
the talking; they won't be able to show the
growth stages; they'll lose interest because
it's a slow process; they won't understand the
concept of having to show each movement as
it happens. The too-hard basket was there
again, and the temptation to scrunch up the
idea and toss it in, but then I stopped myself.
It was the best thing I could have done.
'Children,' I said enthusiastically the next
morning, 'we're going to make a movie.' Eyes
widened and smiles spread across their faces.
The buzz of excited energy that I'd hoped
for filled the room. Now let's hope it works.
'What are we going to make a movie of
Miss Chiodi?' eagerly asked one of my very
'How a seed grows,' I replied.
'How we going to do that?' asked one of
my more reluctant students.
I took a deep breath and opened the dis-
cussion. 'What's the first step for a seed to
'We need a seed. Can I make the seed?'
'Sure,' I replied, surprised by the
quick suggestion. 'What happens next?' I
'The seed gets bigger and bigger and big-
'No it doesn't, the plant grows out of the
seed!' exclaimed a student who has a veg-
etable garden at home.
'Emily, can you show us the next stage
please,' I asked, trying to contain my excite-
ment over the learning that was taking place
without me saying anything.
'I think we need to put in a sun,' another
student mentioned. 'The seed needs a sun
'If there is a sun, the seed needs water,
too. I'll make the rain clouds.'
The children took over from there. Of
course, some scaffolding was needed, but as
the lesson unfolded the value of this exer-
cise was revealed before my own bulging
eyes. Ideas were aflutter in my mind, buzz-
ing around. I couldn't believe how valuable
this experience was becoming.
The graphic organiser we'd developed
previously became a handy reference point,
so that the students could track their ideas.
Discussion was bubbling up all over the
room and it was a challenge for some stu-
dents to wait their turn to talk. What was
really wonderful was seeing how students
supported and guided each other's learning.
They were so absorbed in discussing ideas
with each other that I even had time to note
down misconceptions that emerged as well
as their points of understanding.
After the session ended, the excitement
was still palpable. 'Miss Chiodi,' said one
student, 'that was great.'
'I had the best time,' said another.
'When are we going to watch it?' added
'How does it become a movie now?' a
fourth wanted to know.
The children were so absorbed in the
Slowmation process they hadn't even real-
ised how much learning actually took place.
I couldn't believe that I'd wanted to put this
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