The War of 1812 gym-sized map provoked a great deal of curiosity among my grade 7 students. Once the map was repacked for shipping we discussed what would have made the experience better. The class really wanted to play War of 1812 Risk right on the map. They also felt that a digital interactive component would add to the map. They have decided to create QR-coded digital media that other students can use while standing on the map. Extensions will include using Minecraft, Scratch, Stop Motion or ... to create interactive games. Our dream project is to acquire access to a 3D printer to create action figures for the map. We are working on that.
We identified broad topics that are important to cover.
Students then selected specific areas of interest and had 2 periods to explore those interests in greater depth.
Knowledge Building Map
As students construct knowledge, they are mapping the evolution of their learning. The map provides structure and allows learners to document the many directions their learning takes as they explore and construct knowledge. It is from this process that real questions emerge - questions that are worth exploring.
The student below began with Dolly Madison, wife of the American President Madison who had declared war on Great Britain. Initial explorations covered "Retell" content, information that is on the lowest level of the Thinking Matrix (when and where was she born, etc) I had mentioned to the student that Dolly Madison was known for having saved the painting of George Washington during the Burning of Washington. The student discovered during her research that it wasn't Dolly who had saved the painting, but rather a slave. This gave me the opportunity to bring the class together and examine how topics can change direction. The class found the information surprising and a whole set of questions emerged. The student now has a sub-topic to explore. This also gave me the opportunity to point out that because only one website had mentioned the slave, it was necessary to find other sources that could confirm or disconfirm the information.
Students are using Smart Ideas Concept Mapping to construct their maps, however, we will continue to construct the Dolly Madison map together to demonstrate how learning meanders.
After several periods, students came together to share their learning to date. This has become one of my favourite activities because it forces students to remember, think and speak about their learning. This is not easy and not something many students are comfortable doing. They need practice with academic conversation.
I went over the skills we are developing through Accountable Talk.
Next, each group was given a set of conversation prompts. The speaker received the yellow card and the other 3 members received the green cards.
Students then had to share their learning. This is so much more effective than a whole class discussion because all students are speaking and listening. Conversation was sustained for at least 15 minutes and students who normally sit back and share nothing in large groups become engaged.
At one group, one student had very little to say. He is interested in a particular ship, but had learned very little about the ship and did not really know what he should be researching. The group persisted with questions - How big was the ship? How many canons did it have? How did it sink? Where did it sink? Which battles was it in? At the end of the discussion, the student had many ideas about what he could research.
Finally, students reflected on the process. I found it interesting that several students in response to the, "What do you need to work on?" question, mentioned that they realized they needed to know their information in order to talk about it. They recognized the difference between reading and adding content to a project and having to discuss their understanding of content in a group. It requires them to step up their game!
Students have been through this process once and know that next week they will need to bring something interesting about their learning to share with their group. This is motivating them to learn.