Last year, I did extensive research in preparation for building my understanding of the how and why of deep learning and the new pedagogies. I read “New Pedagogies for Deep-Learning” by Michael Fullan and a report entitled, “A Rich Seam: How New Pedagogies Find Deep Learning” by Michael Fullan and Maria Langworthy. I especially like the infographic they created here. I refer to it frequently. I also follow the global website http://www.npdl.global.
As a result of my research, to aid in achieving Deep Learning in my 3-D learning space, I knew I needed to reflect upon Design of Instruction and Digital Literacy as well (3Ds). This led me to reading of Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3-8 by William Bass and Franki Sibberson and to participating in the CyperPD twitter chat group this past summer. The book and the conversation helped me to think more purposefully and explicitly about the “what” that needed to happen in the learning space in order for students to be successful digital readers and writers.
A Look Inside a Unit of Inquiry
Recently, I worked collaboratively with a 4th grade teacher and our technology teacher on designing a Social Studies inquiry about the five regions of the United States. The driving question we wanted our students to ponder was “How does where we live impact how we live?” We wanted the students to develop conceptual understandings about the concepts of region and culture and how they are interrelated. We began the unit by connecting to their prior knowledge about our local community and what they learned last year in 3rd grade. We talked about the job of a geographer, the different types of geographers, and brainstormed the types of questions geographers ask:
- What makes places unique and different?
- Why do people choose to settle in different places?
- How does where you live affect how you live?
- How do humans affect their environments?
- Why do you think geographers decided to divide the United States into 5 regions?
- What natural characteristics might the geographers have used to help them decide which states to group together in each region? Do you see any connections or similarities between these states?
- Do the regional divisions make sense? Why or why not?
I then shared with them their task for this inquiry.
Your Team Tasks:
- Research your region from the perspective (point of view) of the three geographers (see below).
- Include a map of your region that shows the physical features of your region (landforms, climate conditions, natural resources, vegetation and wildlife
- Create a way to show the culture of your region: customs, traditions, celebrations, architecture, religions
- Create a way to show the economics of your region: production of goods, services offered, jobs unique to the region, population of region.
- Create a team presentation using either Google Slides or Kid Pic Collage. Presentation must include:
- key information learned (captions, bullet points)
- map of region
- interesting information you want to share
- Use the checklist to guide your work.
- Geographic regions are divided by variations in landforms, climate, and natural resources.
- Regions vary by natural resources, art, architecture, customs, religion, economics, and transportation.
I modeled every step of the project along the way using our local community. To save time, I curated websites for the students to help them seek the answers to their questions. (Later in the year, I will teach them how to be independent, successful searchers of the Internet.)
During this inquiry, I taught the following mini lessons:
- nonfiction text features on a web page
- how to navigate the web page
- note-taking and bullet points
- collecting images that match the text
- design layout of slides/collages for the reader
All three of us teachers provided ongoing feedback to the students through Google docs.
Once completed, the team of students shared their regional research with the rest of the class. Feedback from the audience was given.
Collectively, the teams created a chart in Google docs to compare and contrast the 5 regions. Teams discussed the differences and similarities among the regions. They also discussed the following questions. Each team shared their thinking.
- What makes a region in the United States unique and different?
- How does where a person lives in the United States affect how a person lives?
- Why do you think people choose to settle in different regions of the United States?
- How do humans affect their environments? ?
- Do the regional divisions make sense? Why or why not?
Final Product: Opinion Writing:
As a geographer who understands the unique characteristics of the five regions of the United, you have been asked to take the region you recently studied, and reconfigure/regroup the region in a different way (include other states or take states away). Work with your team members to brainstorm possible solutions and reasons. Select the grouping of states that you think should form this redefined region. In your writing, be sure to express your opinion and support your opinion with evidence for why you think your region should be grouped in this new way.
The most important takeaways for me:
- The engagement of the students through this entire inquiry was high. I attribute this to empowering them with choice, voice and the use of technology through an authentic learning experience.
- Students worked diligently on gathering information from a variety of resources.
- Students loved working collaboratively in Google docs
- Students responded well to the feedback they received from us through GAFE.
- Students were excited to share their products with others. (We are in the process of working on a Weebly website to share their findings with other 4th graders outside of our walls-a student’s idea.)
- Could have definitely used more time!!! Very challenging when we only had about 40 minutes a day. The worked seemed disjointed at times- we would just be getting into the work when it was time to clean up so they could go to their next class (UGH!).
- Collaborating and working alongside the classroom teacher and tech teacher is so powerful! We were better able to meet the needs of our learners.
- Looking forward to weaving the threads of our learning experience throughout this year. Many opportunities lie ahead for connecting new learning to the constructs we have begun to develop as we continue to learn about Ohio within the United States.
- Will continue to empower students by building their technology toolkit so they can make purposeful choices in how they want to share their understandings as well as empower them to determine who they want their audience to be.