Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Next Steps in Space... (Cycles and Systems)

Having identified the 'black holes' in student knowledge through the tuning in activities, students in my grade 5 class set about helping each other understand the the various cycles at work in the Solar System.

The hardest cycle for sure was the cycle of  seasons. Students used library books, atlases and websites, looking for descriptions, diagrams and models which helped make it clear. We watched some short videos. We collected and saved the videos and best websites in Symbaloo - which is a great curating tool!

Students collaborated in small groups and worked and reworked their explanations several times, using their own words to articulate what they were learning from the media they were using. They combined their oral explanation with modelling and diagrams. 

They blogged about their learning. (And practised adding Creative Commons pictures and hyperlinks at the same time.)

As we started to look at why and how those cycles affect life on earth, it was clear that the large amount of reading (both digital and print) and group discussions over the past few weeks have had a big impact on what students are now able to share with each other and with their teachers, compared with when we started this unit in December. These sorts of substantive conversations are vital, especially for English language learners.

Students listed ways that life on Earth is affected by the various cycles. They chose different aspects to investigate further.... and that's when we ran into our first hurdle!

Because these are new units, and we are developing them over this year and next, our library is not yet as well resourced as it will be. Yes, we do have heaps of books on the planets and Solar System because grade 3 used to study space. But looking at the effects of the cycles of the moon, earth, etc. requires making connections between "topics" such as animal/bird migration, hibernation, deciduous trees, religious festivals and what we have learned about the cycles.

And because making these connections is new to most students, a lot of scaffolding is needed. Hopefully as we continue to grow with our inquiry learning, these thinking strategies will be second nature.

After an extra library lesson to tighten up our search methods, my students seem to be ok, and everyone is busy finding information to demonstrate understanding of the connections made. And... I am thrilled to see, enthusiastically citing their sources in noodletools!

There's no doubt.... we are ALL learning!
Photos are my own.

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