Home' Teacher : December 2010 Contents LOOKING INTO PRACTICE 15
The homework project on natural disasters had been set earlier in the term. The
natural disasters task had been included for several reasons: as a means of develop-
ing each child's understanding of the topic through inquiry into a natural disaster of
their choice; to provide teachers with an opportunity to assess student oral language
in a formal situation through student oral presentations of their projects; and as a
strategy to cover the issue of parents asking for homework.
How could you not win with an activity that covered so many aspects?
The students were enthusiastic about their projects and an xious to show off their
learning to their peers. Each morning I was greeted with questions.
'Can I present my project today?'
'Is it my turn this time?'
'I haven't given my talk yet. Will I go today?'
My usual response: 'We'll try and do some today, if we have time.'
After a few days, we were about a quarter of the way through the 27 presenta-
tions, and I was asking myself how many more there were to go.
A student was presenting, or more accurately, reading his information straight
from his project, interrupted by my prompts of, 'Louder please, we can't hear at
the back.' Students were politely 'listening,' but in fact were more concerned with
reorganising their shoelaces or the girl's hair in front of them.
Questions began to swirl in my head
I began to question the effectiveness of an activity that was supposed to have
covered so many areas of the curriculum.
Did I really need to hear a student read out information and answer a few 'closed
questions' from their peers to assess their oral language?
How effective was the learning taking place in my classroom? I seemed to be
jumping in to assist presenters to answer challenging questions. I had hoped they
would've developed a better understanding of the topic from their research. I may
as well have done a chalk and talk session. It would've been more time efficient
and possibly even achieved better learning.
So, where to now?
The homework project and presentations had not produced the learning that I'd
anticipated. The students needed to do more if they were to develop a better under-
standing of natural disasters.
I had an idea.
We would try a small group task on the topic of volcanoes. I modelled how to
prepare an information report. Groups got underway and the students seemed
engaged. There was a lot of sharing of information and discussion within the small
groups and between groups. The students were even extending the requirements
to prepare models to show some of their understandings.
Having the students working in small groups gave me many opportunities to listen
to them as they worked, to assess oral language skills and question their learning.
WITH 27 SCIENCE PROJECT PRESENTATIONS TO HEAR,
MARGARET COCKS DECIDED IT WAS TIME TO STEP OFF THE
MERRY-GO-ROUND TO FIND A MORE EFFECTIVE APPROACH --
COMBINING A JIGSAW STRATEGY AND A CAROUSEL ACTIVITY.
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