Saturday, 30 August 2014

Rote learning for the 21st Century

This morning whilst I was looking through my timeline I happened upon this tweet from @cazzwebbo

My answer was short and to the point.  "yes".  The lovely @cazzwebbo clearly was not satisfied with this response and we engaged in a short conversation that has resulted in this post.

Here is the non-tech response to the request to make learning by rote more pleasant.

1. Take the text to be learnt and in pairs get the students to read through.  First quietly, then partner A reads out loud to partner B and vice versa.  Then in unison.  Next fold the piece of paper in half.  Partner A holds the folded paper up so that he can see one side and Partner B can see the other.  Partner A can see the first half of each line, as follows:

Taken from Perfect Assessment for Learning
Naturally, Partner B can see the second half.  Now, Partner B starts by recalling out loud (and hopefully word for word) the first half of each line and Partner A does the same with the second half.  There may be some prompting needed.  The Partners can then swap round.

2. Tennis. Partner A serves the start of a sentence Partner B responds without looking at the text.  Score as in tennis.

3. In the style of... Students should be challenged (or they can challenge each other) with the task of reciting the whole text or sections of it in the style of someone famous or with a different accent.  It helps if it is someone a little bit out of character of the text.  They can play this in pairs or groups.  The groups could decide the characters or accents and place these in a hat.  The person in the spotlight chooses their character/accent and off they go.

4. Speed (or not).  This can be done as a class, smaller groups, or in pairs.  One person recites a section of the text and the rest of the class, group or the other person has to repeat it back at various speeds. 

5. Choir.  You do not have to be musical to do this! Split the class into 3 or 4 sections.  It is easiest to split them depending on the seating arrangement.  Take one sentence of the whole text and break it up into 3 or 4 bits and allocate each of these bits to the different sections in the class.  You are the conductor (or maybe one of your students would like to take on this role) and when you point at a particular section of your orchestra (class) they must repeat back to you their little bit of the text. You then point at another section and do the same thing.  You can speed this up, slow it down, mix it up or do it in order. 

6.  Four in a row.  Take the text, and insert small sections into a grid 5 x 5 or 4 x 4 (this depends on the size of your text and how big/small each section is).  Again, students play in pairs or fours (or more).  To win a square the player has to correctly say the line that comes before the text within the square (or the line after - that is up to you).  The first person to win four squares in a row is the winner.

7. Snakes and ladders - as above but on a snakes and ladders board.
8. Who's the quickest?  Get the students to time each other and see who can do it the quickest.  The first round you could allow for one mistake a sentence and then reduce the number of mistakes made.  The students judge each other.

Now for those with 'techability':

1. Use Decide now available on the app store.  On the wheel put sections of your text, as follows:

Students spin the wheel and complete the sentence.

2. Use Voice Record  to record a text and play back to a friend at a slower or faster speed.

3. Use Line-learner and record the first line of the text.  Leave the second line blank for your students who should then fill in the gap by recording their line.

4. Use an avatar to be the voice of your learnt text and put your avatar on relevant pictures as a background.  Or use an app like Morfo to give your learnt text a funny image.

5. Use Puppet Pals to bring some animation to the text.

If you have students who do not like to talk out loud then hiding behind an avatar is an excellent way to help them overcome their anxiety.   You can read more on this subject by clicking here.   However, if technology is not your thing or not available to you then the games mentioned in the first half of this post should give students enough of a focus away from the tedium of rote learning and enable them to commit the dullest of text to memory. 

I wonder if you have any more ideas to add to this post?  If so, I would love to hear them.  Please leave a comment in the box below.

Pictures and quotes taken from:
Gadsby, C (2012) Perfect Assessment for Learning, Independent Thinking Press

Monday, 25 August 2014

Time to start using timelines

I recently read an article in a Guardian interview with Dan Snow who was essentially promoting his timeline app as well as the use of technology in the classroom. He is a staunch supporter of a digital approach in the classroom and is clearly well able to see the advantages of using it.  His app looks very good too.  However, I'm not here to assess that app but the article reminded me of my timeline app that I downloaded at the start of the summer holidays and never really explored. Well, finally, a few weeks later, I have created my own timeline to use with my classes using the Timeline 3D app available on iTunes for use on iPhone or iPad. 

As a French teacher it felt appropriate to create a timeline that I could use with my Year 12s and 13s so that they could understand, what is for them, a complicated collection of facts and dates from the start of WWII.  My focus, in particular, was occupied France.  Below is a 2D picture of the timeline I created for 1940. 

The layout is clear and after a little play and experimentation was easy to put together.  Of course, I could have simply printed out a timeline from a book or the internet but the glory of this timeline is its interactivity and the ability to insert media such as pictures, links or video footage. As you can see from this timeline, it is also possible to add notes and dates (the latter in international format).
As you move along the timeline, clicking either on the arrows or on the 'event' (which is the name for each new addition on the timeline) the timeline moves and becomes 3D as the picture below demonstrates. 

With a click of the eye symbol in the bottom right hand corner of the screen it is possible to get a full screen size view of the image or start the video footage.  For my students, the ability to have some news reel from the time will help them remember the facts more readily. 

Putting my timeline together took under an hour and I know that at my next attempt (and there will be one) the process will be much quicker.  I can see myself using this to present information for all year groups and more importantly I can see my pupils using the timeline themselves.  For instance there are gaps in this timeline which can be filled by my students.  Alternatively, they can build on the information presented here and look at the events from 1941 and beyond.  With KS3 or 4 I can see pupils creating a presentation about their hometown using the timeline more loosely to talk about the past, present and future.  There are a number of options available for all subject areas: why not create a timeline for the events of a novel, or the history of volcano activity of Mount Etna, for example.

There is much potential in this tool and I am looking forward to using it.  Options for sharing are shown below.

Naturally, in exporting as a document you lose the interactivity.  I will mirror the image on my screen in class or share it via dropbox for students to open on their own timelines apps.

Do you know of a similar tool?  Have you used this tool successfully in your class?  Let me know in the comments box below.  I would welcome your thoughts and ideas.