Sarah Elliott’s Blog

Travel with me on my voyage of learning and discovery…

Building collaborative units – MYP

Posted by sarahelliott on March 14, 2010

Finally, after the Christmas holidays I returned to work from maternity leave on a 60% TL position. One of my priorities at this time was to start to get involved with some units that were being studied in both the Primary and Middle schools, as I consider this an essential element of the role of the TL. As I still had (and still have now) numerous clerical jobs to do (we are a new library), I decided to start with 1 Middle Years unit and 1 Primary years unit.

As I am a trained PY class teacher, I figured that it would be easiest to start with the PY unit – so I decided to challenge myself and actually begin with the MY one! 🙂

The MYP encourages cross-curricular units of work between separate subject groups. As I was already involved with the Events Committee, I thought that it would make more sense to try to collaborate with some subject teachers on building a unit of work that would be linked to our plan to have a whole school Chinese New Year celebration. The reasoning behind this was to make the celebration not just a food and flags festival, but rather a research-based unit that would help develop better understanding of global peers and develop the idea of internationalism in our school.

The subjects that I asked to work with me were Technology and P.E. I managed to convince those subject teachers that we could collaborate on building a unit of work about Chinese New Year. It was built on the Approaches to Learning and Communities and Service areas of interaction and was designed for Grade 7 (ages 12 – 13). In P.E., the dance curriculum was used for students to design and create (as a whole class) a dance and in Technology, the students were to be charged with designing (individually) and then creating (as a whole class) a costume that they would wear for the dance at the whole school evening celebration. Initially, Grade 7 researched Chinese New Year in general, in terms of what the history and traditions are. Based on this, they determined that they would create a dragon and dragon dance. All the research elements for the unit were carried out with me and were based around a wikispace. Please visit the Chinese New Year Celebration wikispace!

The wiki initially included information on James Herring’s PLUS search model that I used with the student, task definitions – including the subject specific assessment criteria from the technology and P.E. teachers, pathfinder-like pages with annotations about direct links to possible resources and a live chat function so that the students could contact me outside of school hours with any concerns or questions.

Collaborative pages were added to the wikispace as the weeks progressed. We used Wallwisher a lot as a brain-storming and note-taking tool. I created blank walls in advance and embedded them on pages on the wikispace. The students divided up into teams (chosen themselves) and focused on finding information on particular aspects of Chinese New Year. They then added their thoughts and findings to the walls that I had created and the changes were then immediately accessible from the wikispace. They were able to use Wallwisher to organise the information that they found – by dragging their notes around into groups, or into an order for their presentations. They collected information from online resources about their Chinese New Year topics. which they then used to create a Photostory presentation. They found images (using Creative Commons) to include and tried to cite all the sources that they had used in the presentations too. The individual presentations were then combined to create a video presentation about Chinese New Year.

This presentation was shared with the rest of the Middle Years in an assembly in order to increase their understanding of the celebration that was to take place. They then built upon it, each year group assuming responsibility for a different role for the night of the celebration. It was also presented to everyone who attended the evening celebration.

In addition to that presentation, the students used video clips and images to research how to design and create the dragon and dance itself. Another wikispace page was created where they could upload their findings about what should be included in the dance and the technology teacher also created a page where the designs for the dragon were pasted.

You can see a clip of their dragon dance performance here:

I initially created a self-evaluation page on the wiki, with the intention that the students would be able to use it to share their reflections at various points of the unit. However, this didn’t work very well, as they weren’t able to edit it at the same time as anyone else from their class. Therefore, we decided to use the discussion tab at the top of any page for reflections. This was far more practical, as firstly they didn’t overwrite anyone else’s work and secondly, I was able to respond more easily and directly to their comments.

In order to allow enough time for this unit to work, other subject teachers (humanities, English and Norwegian) were flexible enough to allow me to take some of their timetabled lessons with Grade 7 on a weekly basis for about 5 weeks.

This unit was incredibly successful. The students hit a low point after the first week or 2 when they started to panic about the amount of work they had to do. I was able to identify it as a crisis in confidence that really fitted in with Carol Kulthau’s research on the affective domain of the information search process. Together with their homeroom teacher, I coached them through that negative time and tried to employ some intervention strategies that centred on conversation, collaboration and choice. We worked together with the students to make the tasks seem more manageable and they quickly picked up in confidence and enthusiasm again.

At the end of the unit I asked the students for general feedback and they were all very positive about using the wiki to guide them through the entire process. Once they could see the bigger picture, they enjoyed the tasks. They benefitted from using web 2.0 tools and were able to improve their information literacy skills.

For our little school, the celebration that came out of this unit was a real move forward in developing a whole school community.

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46 Responses to “Building collaborative units – MYP”

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    Hi Sarah. Nice to see the video clip of our kids here 😉
    You did a great job on this. Miss you!
    Vigdis E.

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