Monday, October 14, 2013

Creative teaching at Opunake Primary.Lewis Carroll's 'Alice in Numberland'

I think it is very important to share ideas of creative teachers in this age of isolated self managing schools - be great if New Zealand teachers who read this blog to pass it on to any teachers who might find it interesting.

"Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with, and then the different branches of arithmetic -- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision."  Lewis Carroll

Graphics made by enlarging illustrations on the A3 and combining
"If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there" Lewis Carroll
Before each term the teaching team ( 8 plus teachers) at Opunake plan a co-operative integrated theme to introduce to the students as the basis for a terms study.

.Family grouped activity
Often the ideas for studies come from students questions and concerns  whatever the origin , once selected, teachers start planning.

Teachers brainstorm their ideas( after doing some personal research) and the plan ideas to select from for their collaborative study.

Study plans are  filed along with video clips to record the progress and to celebrate success. The unit is aligned with curriculum requirements of the relevant learning area strands and key competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum.

'Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland was also a well known mathematician. He incorporated many aspects of mathematics into his story.
In fact some of his researchers believed he wrote this satire because he was unhappy about the 'new maths' of the era and he was taking pot shots at some of his colleagues'. From newsletter to parents.
 "Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves" Lewis Carroll
When the students first learnt of their new study they were going to be exploring a maths topic there was initial disappointment. As the study evolved this attitude changed - this change of attitude towards maths was one of the  one of the important outcomes. Past term studies have covered the environment, Shakleton ( Antarctica) Egypt , Space, Harry Potter ( magic, science and mathematics).

Read about the Shakleton study

( Link to Egyptian Study)
The whole schools is introduced to the study by watching the Movie Alice in Wonderland .
" That's the reason they're called lessons, because they lesson from day to day"
 From this motivational experience students develop questions they have and from these teachers  with their students develop activities to answer them 

The first week or so all students are divided into mixed age 'family groups'  to  undertake introductory activities planned to introduce students to ideas in the story -  activities planned by teachers assisted by senior students.

.Fractal Maths
After the introductory activities teachers plan  cooperative activities with their own classes ideas to contribute exhibits for  the end of term display.
The study culminates in a magical display that fills two rooms . No natural light enters the rooms mimicking Alice who falls into an underground world. Exhibits cover maths, science and art exhibits combined with video clips, and data projector shows.
For two days and one evening parents, caregivers and interested adults are invited to view the students' work - guided by the students themselves. One of the original ideas behind this form of working was to involve parents in school activities along with developing a collaborative school approach.
It takes considerable time to appreciate the magical environment created by the students and their teachers and in some cases their parents.
Some impression of the final display of work.
My observation is that most of the work on display ( featuring science experiments and maths investigations)  are excellent examples of the inquiry learning process as outlined in the various Learning Areas of the New Zealand Curriculum.

"Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast".

"She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it)."
Life size Alice

.in"Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.



Anonymous said...

How wonderful to read this blog. At our school ( in NZ ) our principal is obsessed with testing for National Standards - no time for such exciting teaching and learning as at Opunake.

Bruce said...

To be honest few principals have the imagination or courage to involve their school in such a fantastic learning experience for their students, teachers and parents. Thankfully there still are individual creative teachers in our schools - but it is not always easy for them. This is why it would be great to share this blog with other teachers as inspiration!

Anonymous said...

It seems principals focus far too much on complying rather than imagining!

Bruce said...

Possibly they focus too much on consistency than imagination - some how you need both but too much consistency is stagnation. I guess it is the age old battle between socialisation and individuality - between fitting in and standing out!