Saturday, April 30, 2011

Quality presentation requires explicit teaching of a range of skills - use them or lose them!

A very simple format for students to present their research - a half cartridge piece of paper folded to make a four page booklet. Suitable for all ages. To complete such a simple task requires a number of skills to be in place -and once in place students can then innovate and develop their own creativity.

Teachers will begin the second term with a new inquiry study, one hopefully negotiated with the students to develop ownership. Better still would be an inquiry based on what the students want to know. At the very least any study should be based on the student's questions and, to ensure question are valuable, a good idea is to introduce the topic with a motivating experience or display.

To ensure the students develop an in depth understanding of the content chosen teachers need to consider the 'big ideas' , or concepts, they want their students to come to understand through undertaking a range of activities or tasks.

Wise teachers will use the literacy time ( literacy in its widest interpretation to include the various media and design/presentation/mathematical skills) to introduce students to the content and to challenge their current 'prior views'. Uncovering these 'prior views' is itself an important literacy/inquiry task.

One way to focus students is to consider what formats they want their students to celebrate their ideas.

Once decided on a format teachers need then to consider what sets of skills will be required and then to arrange for these to be developed , using content from the study, to do so.

One simple way to focus students thinking, and to decide on skills to be introduced, is to develop a simple four page booklet. There are many other alternatives but it is best to start simple.

What skills are involved? Remember any finished product should show the reader the students' ability to 'seek, use, and create their own knowledge'( NZ Curriculum 07).

Literacy time ought to teach students how to 'seek' knowledge from a range of sources; to 'use' this knowledge critically; and then to 'create' their finding in a way that illustrates their own thoughts, ideas and understandings.

A quick read of past studies will show if these skills are in place.In my experience they are lacking - proof that stand alone literacy tasks have not been transferred.

What skills are required for a quality four page booklet?

To attract attention an interesting cover needs to be designed. Students need to study a range of book covers to get ideas. They also need to look hard at illustrations relevant to their study - copying ones that are relevant to their study and useful to include in their booklet. Such 'hard' looking is a useful way to develop questions and also as a basis for descriptive or imaginative writing. Such activities develop visual literacy.

The remaining pages should be used to write our their findings to the three or four research questions they have chosen. This research should have been drafted out during the literacy time and, when added to their booklet, ought to illustrate their 'voice', their queries, their answers to their questions, and their web or book references. If digital images, or graphs, or diagrams, are to be included, these too need to be drafted during literacy time. All students writing should have been read by the teacher who needs to challenge some of the students findings.

The booklet might include a piece of imaginative writing based on the topic and, if so, such thoughts need to be drafted out, and read by the teacher, before inclusion. And it might be useful for students to include an evaluation of the study and even questions that they would like to explore further.

To ensure booklets are well presented students need to be aware of the use of margins, how to include illustrations,and how to make attractive headings. All these can be part of literacy time. Computers have 'wizards' to provide models

As students learn to appreciate the importance of the process of 'creating' their ideas they will be keen to develop more interesting ways to express their ideas with more individuality.

A quick read of current students' booklets, charts, or study booklets, illustrates clearly the quality of their thinking - or lack of it!

Having an end point in mind provides students the point to the skills they need to develop and also gives point to teachers actions.

Simple stuff but , done well, a powerful means to focus teaching and learning.

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