Finders Keepers!

imageAs a year 7 teacher this year I get to juggle multiple curriculum hats. I love it,  except for the fact that I suck at geography. Let’s rephrase that, it’s an area with ample opportunities for development… (que my growth mindset!)

One thing I am good at is throwing myself into new challenges, especially when it’s student driven. So a few months ago my  year 7’s started telling me about their hobby – Geocaching. Even to my outsider eyes it reeked of geo skills. The evil villain living in the back of my mind started plotting instantly.

I started grasping around to build my oh so basic understanding of this field, and then realised that was the wrong direction. Why fake it when I have the real thing? Student experts! My four experts were dubbed as such and took on the role of fielding all questions and leading our class excursion to find three real geocaches in the local area (this was our entry event). image

So my master explores marched us on out of the school with the efficiency and speed you would expect of those intent on discovery. Equipped with our iPhone compass’ we unearthed three geocaches, feeling like real live explorers.

The next step was to create our own!

Side note: Ok, just go with me for a second… what if we could merge Year 7 Geo skills with Year 12 ‘Discovery’ AOS? Worth a try? This is my goal next year. Our geocache presentations could the entry for Year 12 Discovery…

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Welcome to our class. Please, pull up a… cube?

Last year our school set out to create a flexible learning space in the hopes of accommodating students lines of desire and facilitate their creativity. This is the end result. Best classroom ever!

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Whilst the colour and cubes are fantastic, what I really love about this room is the fact that everything is writeable; the walls, the tables, THE LOT. This is a fantastic resource for student planning, brainstorming and facilitating group discussions. My favourite moment? When a student delivered her essay draft to me by dragging a table across the room. Naturally, her feedback was returned the same way.

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Student mindmap of themes.

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Class mind map of quotes, ‘Blackrock’.

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The sheer expanse of writable surfaces also allows us the opportunity to publicly publish our class work. Last week I got my year 11s to publish their creative writing on the walls, windows, steps… Anywhere they could write. It was such a fun lesson, and so cool for them to have a forum for their work (as opposed to closing their book and forgetting it existed. When did we write that…?) The amount of attention this has gained from passing students stopping to read and discuss has been phenomenal. Sooo cool to see kids grouped around my room in between classes, reading and discussing.
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Excuse the dodgy photos, they’re about a month old now and screaming for a new story. I’m thinking it’s year 7’s turn…

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Meet Ian. ian

A brilliant senior student who openly admits to being easily and regularly distracted in class. We set out this term to try and solve his lack of motivation and improve his focus in class time, and this is what we came up with. Each lesson he creates a unique space for himself. A ‘bubble’. Most lessons no one knows where he is, until he emerges at the end bubbling over with ideas and enthusasium. Sure, it can be done anywhere. But the flexible nature of this space seems to push me to look at learning in new and creative ways. Like I said, super lucky.

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The lost key.

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Another of my favourite creative writing prompts. The idea was posted on the ETA Facebook page last year and after hunting down a class set of keys (BIG thank you to our school GA!) this has become one of my most loved creative tasks.

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Meet the keys!

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Each key has a cryptic message to inspire a story. I’ve been using these to build sensory writing; describing what they key looks and feels like when you first clasp in it your hand etc. I love this activity, the stories produced are always a cack to read! So varied and creative! A thousand thank you’s to the original creator 🙂

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50 word stories so good they must be shared…

Allow me to introduce my AMAZING Year 11’s. They have absolutly nailed the art of editing both their own and each others work. In just two lessons. (Proud? Yes I am. We all know self critique is a challenging skill) From first draft to last, the difference is phenominal. I love it. They are learning to ask questions, identify language that adds little to their work and swap it out for something more powerful. Check out some of their work below:

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I remember pulling my arm away. “It’s nothing” the words rolled off my tongue. I dragged my sleeve down then changed the subject before she could question the wounds crossing across my arm. You’re Nothing. A single tear bled down my cheek as I found peace in my final breath.

-Tannar Findley Yr 11

I am trapped. The wooden walls agonizing against my frail structure. My body is contorted, tangled within my own ligaments. Fearing for my life. A sudden volume upsurges from above. The piercing voices shrieking to one another as the fires of bullets are triggered continuously. Time is no matter.

– Jenna Mack Yr 11

Slowly wandering down the inexplicable shadowy hallway, not knowing what to expect when I finally open the glistening, aged door. I stop spasmodically. Should I turn back? The craving to open the door is eating me up inside. Finally I open the ancient door; appalled at what I find inside.

– Chloe Webb Yr 11

Again, I lay there with silent thoughts going through my mind. The sounds of crickets chirping outside. The tap dripping spasmodically. There is snoring in the other room. Its dark, in and out. I close my eyes and begin to block out the sounds. Dusk.

Now, I start to dream.

– Brittney McDermott Yr 11

Looking over the vast stretch of blue ribbon, the memories are drifting though the wind. Drifting through one ear and out the other. Bethinking memories of an old man sitting on his front porch, sipping his whisky from the bottle. Not distressed. No heartache. Just him and the open plans.

– Taelyn Puglisi Yr 11

Hoping on the plane with my stomach jumping in excitement. Butterflies tossing like never before; their wings flapping against my rib cage, like an endless love. Through the air, soaring like a kid on red cordial. The humid, dry, sweaty heat hitting me for the first time. It is Bali.

– Tonia Lavalle Yr 11

 

Detective day!

Note: Not my idea, but one I’ve really enjoyed putting into action and had to share. A gem from my Head Teacher – Hi Fi!     🙂

Here’s how it works. Students bring in 6 artefacts that reveal something about themselves. We bag these up (as covertly as possible), attaching a number to each bag.

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Once all the bags are in (this took about 3 days) it’s time for Detective Day! Each student is given a bag and 10 min to explore its contents as carefully as possible. They take notes, describing each artefact in detail before the bags go back under lock and key. Serious business. They then write a Historians report explaining what information they have gained from the artefacts and who they believe the subject to be.

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Next week they will present their findings and discover who their subject was. I’m as much in the dark as they are; I wanna know who won the judo trophy, and who the lock of baby hair belongs to! Oh the suspense!

Crime Scene

Around this time last year the stars aligned and all my classes were doing creative writing at the same time. So naturally, I decided to turn the classroom into a crime scene. Whilst this was an awesome lesson, it wasn’t until afterwards that I realised how potentially inappropriate this could have been. Thankfully it was all fine. The kids LOVED it. We used the scene as a live stimulus for their writing.

This is what the kids were saw when arriving to class:

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In small groups students were invited to cross the tape line and investigate the interactive scene, gathering as many clues as they could to inspire their work.

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This year I’m thinking I’d like to modify the idea. Whilst the kids loved the scene, as a marker I found all four classes wrote very similar stories. I’d like to explore this in conjunction with genre, teaching them to take a generic stimulus and turn it into unique story. Anyway, something to work on 🙂

English Studies… It’s a bludge, right?

I adore my Year 12 Studies kids. They are the most amazingly creative and eccentric group of people. What I hate, is the label that seems to be attached to our subject. 12mths ago when we came together I tore through the first lesson (with what in hindsight could be described at manic enthusiasm) determined to break the stereotype of ‘bludge‘, ‘film studies‘ that plagued us. There were hushed whispers of “Isn’t this Studies?” Floating around as we went through our topics for the year.

We started with a novel study and in depth look at the Hollocaust, creating an interactive museum for our junior students to explore. How to do I begin to describe this? Whilst we had some not so keen members (they’ve since left and gotten jobs) at the other end of the spectrum we had amazingly keen researchers reading until late into the night and bringing back in-depth knowledge to the group. Their knowledge exceeded mine, so I stopped reading and started listening.

Team work was a bit of an issue, but they made it work and on presentation day the exhibitions were mind blowing – and truly horrifying given our topic. They recreated living conditions, gas chambers with dry ice and models of Dr Death experiments. Typing this it sounds super creepy, but the maturity in which they handled this topic and the conversations every lesson was impressive. And Studies is a bludge, right? Ha. I found myself staring slack jawed at my kids on presentation day, I mean I knew they’d been researching, but the facts they were rattling off showed an expertise I hadn’t expected. When I questioned one of my boys at the end he said “but you said I had to know everything!” Well yes. Yes I did. And he did. Can I shine proud for a moment?

We’re not perfect by any means. We still have dysfunctional groups, we get slack and miss deadlines occasionally. But as a whole I feel like they’re breaking the mould and showing what the Studies course can be. Every project they step up and deliver something exceptional. They care. And I think they’re having fun.