Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A couple of activities to begin the school year - the Treaty of Waitangi and holiday fun

1 What was the best thing you did in the holidays?

It is a cliché about school that the first task teachers give their students is to write an essay about ‘What you did in the holidays’!
Few teachers today would think of doing such a thing. This is a shame because their students have just returned from having a range of experiences that they were fully involved in and that will remain with them for their lives.
We are the stories we tell about ourselves. Stories contribute to our identity and sense of self. What did you do in your holidays we ask others and most of us are happy to tell our stories to those who ask.
The best thing was...
The trouble comes when we are asked to write out such stories.
With clever teaching this needn’t be the case.
A simple process.
A simple process that many teachers have found useful is to ask their students to share orally in small groups what they got up to and /or to make list or ‘mind map’ of all the sorts of adventures they had. This works best if the teachers model one or two incidents from their own holiday experiences to illustrate that all that is required is a small memorable incident. Model your story: what happened, what you saw, how you felt and talk as if you were there. Make sure they understand what you want is a quality story – a lot about a little not a little about a lot.
After the students have the opportunity to share a few ideas get the students to choose one that would make great idea to share. Get them to imagine that they were back in the experience and
then to write what they were thinking at the time, what they saw and felt and what other said. The best writing is if what they write is much as if they talk. Encourage them to start with a powerful first sentence that attracts the reader and also to invent a heading for their story that doesn’t give the game away! After writing a draft they could share in small groups.
Over the next few days students could write out finished copies. Some may be able to use the word processor. Reluctant students, or very young children, might need their thoughts scribed by the teacher; the teacher asking questions and writing responses.
If an illustration is to be added the children need to understand the need to give such a drawing a real focus on the important aspect of their story. They might be able to import a digital photograph of the incident.
The work needs to be valued by the teachers . Perhaps a display of writing could be arranged with a suitable heading ‘Our holiday adventures.’
Value kids ' ideas
This writing for its own sake – to tell a personal story but as well such writing could well be the basis of real literacy – reading their own stories; being their own authors but most of all valuing their own sense of voice and identity.

This is all about helping students see the power of writing!

2 A lesson around Waitangi Day.

A wise teacher should take advantage of important events in New Zealand history such as the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
As the celebration comes early in the year it is a good opportunity to introduce the students to how they will be expected to learn in the class; how to work together to develop critical thinking; how
The Treaty
to value their own ideas; how to deepen their understandings and how to apply lessons learnt to their own class.

The message teachers need to give is that in all learning students need to follow up their own questions, to learn how to make use of whatever resources are available and, as a result of their efforts, to gain a deeper understanding.
Such a study could begin before the day and conclude the days following.
The first thing is to ask the students what important New Zealand event is happening over the
weekend. Some students will be aware of the Treaty
When the Treaty is in their minds the next thing is to ask them what they know about the Treaty.
This can be done individually, in small groups (that could report their combined ideas back to the class) or done as a whole class discussion (with the teacher writing up their thoughts).
From such activities the teacher can then help the class write up all their 'prior' knowledge, misunderstandings included. Older students could write out their own 'prior' ideas - when such ideas are read by the teacher the range of understandings will be apparent.
At this stage teachers need to introduce some resource material for the students to study - most schools have facsimile copies of the Treaty to display and there is a range of pictorial and written resources that can be studied as part of the literacy programme as guided reading. A map of Northland would valuable to introduce focusing on the Bay of Islands. A chronological time line of events might be drawn up to clarify the happening before and during the signing. This is the time for some old fashioned teaching about the facts about the Treaty.

During the afternoon inquiry time the information gained from resources available can be used for students to answer key questions. Early in the year it is possibly best for teachers to help students define a small range of 'thinking' questions. Question should encourage comparisons and ask for students' opinions and feelings and not just be copied out as is often the case. It is a good idea to encourage students to list the resources they have made use of.
A range of outcomes could be negotiated with and developed by the students.
The teacher might take the opportunity for the class to develop a set of class rules and this could be written out on a suitable piece of paper to look like the original Treaty.
Students could study some of the main characters in and observers to the signing of the Treaty and write accounts from different peoples' perspectives - how such people might be feeling about the Treaty. Students would need to call on the knowledge gained during literacy time.
Junior teachers could write a 'big book' by scribing students’ thoughts about the Treaty.
Older students could complete a study chart, or booklet, following guidelines from the teacher.
The whole scene of signing the Treaty could be acted out with students dressed in suitable clothing (which will involve considerable research). Students could compose some thought poems about the happenings of the day. Perhaps they could compose diary entry for the day -as no doubt people would have done (those who could write that is).
Each student could choose an element of the signing that appeals to draw and later enlarge to paint or crayon. Once again this requires visual research and assistance from teachers to ensure the painting has some dramatic focus. In such times artists would have recorded the events by drawing - students could consider how such event would be recorded today.
To conclude the study parents might be invited to look at the work at the end of a school day or students ideas gained written out and sent home.
At the very least students could copy into their study books their prior thoughts and what they now know with suitable illustrations.
An event such as the signing of the Treaty provides an opportunity to bring history alive for the students as well as introducing ideas about how they will be expected to learn in the class

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