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'If students can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn' (Ignacio Estrada, via Tomlinson)

Archive for the ‘Australian Curriculum’ Category

Migration Year 5 & 6 unit of work

Posted by Lisa Hill on May 21, 2014


I am working on a new unit of work for years 5 & 6: it’s intended to teach content from the Australian Curriculum on the topic of migration:

Stories of groups of people who migrated to Australia (including from ONE Asian country) and the reasons they migrated, such as World War II and Australian migration programs since the war. (ACHHK115)

In addition to exploring waves of migration at different times in Australian history, I am also interested in guiding students towards an empathetic understanding of the migrant experience, which will include the experience of being a refugee.

So far, I have gathered together these picture books to support the unit

  • Rebel! written by Allan Baillie and illustrated by Di Wu
  • The Peasant Prince, the true story of Mao’s Last Dancer, by Li Cunxin and Anne Spudvilas
  • The Little Refugee, the inspiring story of Australia’s happiest refugee, by Anh Do and Suzanne Do, illustrated by Brice Whatley
  • Boat Boy by Hazel Edwards, illustrated by Eric David
  • The Island, by John Heffernan and Peter Sheehan
  • Ali the Bold Heart, based on the true story of an Iranian refugee, who performed as a magician in his own country, written by Jane Jolly and illustrated by Elise Hurst
  • Glass Tears, by Jane Jolly and Di Wu
  • Ziba Came on a Boat, by Liz Lofthouse, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
  • A True Person, written by Gabiann Marin and illustrated by Jacqui Grantford
  • Home and Away, by John Marsden and Matt Ottley
  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan
  • The Boat, by Helen Ward and Ian Andrew

Novels to use include

  • Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman
  • The White Ship by Jackie French
  • When Hitler Took Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

Non-fiction resources

  •  Story of Migration to Australia, Heinemann
    • From the Middle East and Africa, by Nicolas Brasch
  •  Migrations series (Wayland)
    • Chinese Migrations, by Judith Kendra
  • We Came to Australia, Looking for … series, by Christine Mulvany & Lucy Carroll, MacMillan
    • Family;
    • Jobs and Education;
    • Different Environments;
    • Freedom;
    • Different Lifestyle.
  • Australian Immigration Stories by Louise Courtney and Linda Massola, Heinemann,
    • 1900-1940
    • 1940-1960
    • 1960-1980
    • 1980 –

Does anyone else have any suggestions for resources for this topic?

Posted in Asia & Australia's Engagement with Asia, Australian Curriculum, Australian History, School Library stuff, School Library Units of Work | Tagged: | Comments Off on Migration Year 5 & 6 unit of work

Book review: Jam for Nana, by Deborah Kelly

Posted by Lisa Hill on April 1, 2014


Jam for nanaAnother book about grandmothers!  This one is a charming complement to Damon Young’s light-hearted My Nanna Is A Ninja by (see my recent review) and is ideal for exploring the Foundation topic of families in the Australian History Curriculum:

ACHHK001 Who the people in their family are, where they were born and raised and how they are related to each other
  • identifying the different members of a family, (for example mother, father, caregiver, sister, brother, grandparent, aunty, uncle, cousin) and creating simple family trees with pictures or photographs (if possible using ICT) to show the relationship between family members
  • naming family members, finding out where they were born and raised and placing their photographs, drawings and names on a classroom world map

Part of exploring diversity for this age group  involves investigating family structures, and for many young children with both or solo parents at work, informal childcare with a grandmother becomes a highly significant relationship.  In Jam for Nana Deborah Kelly depicts a nana with nostalgia for apricot jam made in the old-fashioned way and her grand-daughter’s quest to find jam for her, with ‘the warmth of a hundred summers’.

(I myself can certainly relate to this nostalgia: store-bought jams and marmalades are generally flavourless, thin and runny, and almost fruit-free.  Busy as I am, I still make my own preserves, to a recipe, not a price).

The illustrations by Lisa Stewart are in soft pastel shades, but Nana is a stylish older woman in tunic and jeans, with a smart bob and a jaunty scarf around her neck.  She talks about jam ‘in the old country’ so she could be from anywhere, but it’s somewhere far away ‘across a great ocean’ which she had sailed as a little girl.

Nana’s memories – depicted in photo-frames – hint at a European mama feeding chickens but the jars of jam are labelled in English.  It’s a small quibble but I would have liked those labels to be as open-ended as the text is.  Pancakes, after all, are eaten all over the world, though of course they are made in different ways and have different names.  An imaginative teacher could easily make a multicultural PowerPoint to include a diversity of Australian children by using images from the different varieties on show at Wikipedia. 

That, I suspect, would lead naturally to a bit of cooking in the classroom, and perhaps that might even include making a small batch of real fruit jam?  There’s a very simple recipe – safely made in a microwave oven – at Taste.

Author: Deborah Kelly
Illustrator: Lisa Stewart
Title: Jam for Nana
Publisher: Random House Australia, 2014
ISBN: 9780857980014
Source: Review copy courtesy of Random House

Availability

Fishpond: Jam for Nana

Posted in Australian Children's Literature, Australian Curriculum, Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Recommended books, School Library stuff | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on Book review: Jam for Nana, by Deborah Kelly

Book Review: The Anzac Puppy by Peter Millett and Trish Bowles

Posted by Lisa Hill on March 29, 2014


The ANZAC Puppy

As you will know if you read my previous post sharing my school’s plans for a coherent approach to the Anzac commemorations this centenary year, I came across a New Zealand picture book called The Anzac Puppy by Peter Millett.   I hadn’t seen it but thought it might be suitable as an alternative or supplement to Phil Cumming’s book, Anzac Biscuits which I’d chosen for Prep classes.  Peter contacted me, and very kindly sent me a copy of his book, which is now available in Australia from Wheeler’s Books.

Inspired by true events, The Anzac Puppy fictionalises the life of a Harlequin Great Dane called Freda, the mascot of the New Zealand Rifle Brigade that served in World War 1.   She was acquired by a Sergeant Ashby who probably named the dog after a young woman from a family that befriended the young soldier so far from home.  The dog survived the war, and thanks to a campaign led by a retired serviceman, her remains are commemorated by a headstone in Staffordshire, and her collar and the original headstone are in the Army Museum at Waiouru in New Zealand.

In Peter Millett’s hands, these events have become a love story, with a young soldier called Sam acquiring the dog from a girl called Lucy when her family couldn’t afford to keep it.  He takes the dog to the battlefront, and together they survive the war.  Sam keeps his promise to bring the dog back to Lucy safe and sound, and they fall in love and marry.  Their first child is named Freda.

Lofty's MissionIt is a charming story, yet authentic in tone.  We know that soldiers did smuggle pets of all kinds into the trenches and took comfort from having something to love and care for  – but I think I’d use it with older children.  While the text doesn’t labour the point, there are allusions to the earth rocking and shaking all around him with illustrations showing injured men; to rats that scuttled about through the trenches; to Sam and the dog sharing everything even their fleas;  and to Sam’s letters which never mention the horrible sights or the sounds that surrounded him.  The illustrations, vividly rendered by Trish Bowles, include a battlefield scene with explosions and a plane on fire, a burial scene, and a devastated battleground after the armistice.   These are not aspects of war with which to confront five-year-old children who’ve (in April) only been at school for a few short months.  The text would also be too difficult for some of our EAL children whose command of English is still rudimentary.  I don’t think I’d use it with children in Year 1 or 2 either.

However, I think it’s a very appropriate text to accompany the unit of work that I do with my Year 3 and 4 students, called Animals at War, using the DVA kit, M is for Mates.  There are (inevitably) plenty of picture books about Simpson and his Donkey that are available for this unit, and I also have one called Lofty’s Mission by Krista Bell and David Miller, but there are surprisingly few stories about the other animals awarded medals.  (There’s one called Sandy the Waler (a horse) which you can download as a pdf from the Army Museum but it’s not a proper picture book and it’s a bit long winded and not very engaging).  So The Anzac Puppy fills this gap nicely, and because the illustrations show the dangers faced by the dog, the book also enables the kind of gentle discussion I’ve had with these older students about the ethics of taking animals to war.   It’s also appropriate for Australian children to have an opportunity to learn about our Kiwi cousins’ contribution to the Anzac story.

To download our school’s Prep-Y6 plan for Anzac Day to use or adapt for your own school, click here.

You can find out more about Peter Millett at his website.

Author: Peter Millett
Illustrator: Trish Bowles
Title: The Anzac Puppy
Publisher: Scholastic New Zealand, 2014
ISBN: 9781775430971
Source: Review copy courtesy of the author, and kindly autographed by him which will impress the students at my school!

Fishpond (which delivers free in Australia and New Zealand) claim that it’s unavailable on their website, but I bet they’ll get copies in if there are enough enquiries! Try this link:  The ANZAC Puppy

 

Posted in Australian Children's Literature, Australian Curriculum, Australian History, Authors & Illustrators, Book Reviews, Recommended books, School Library stuff | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Book review: Meet the Anzacs, by Claire Saxby

Posted by Lisa Hill on March 4, 2014


Meet the AnzacsThis year, as everyone knows, is the centenary of the beginning of the Great War, and next year is the centenary of the Gallipoli landing – and it is obvious already that there is a flood of new books about the Anzacs. Teachers are going to have to be discerning about what they use and how they use these new books, because if there’s one bit of research that every teacher of history should know, it’s that students get very tired of covering the same topic again and again.

At my school, we already have a good collection of picture books from commercial publishers and numerous kits from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Shrine of Remembrance and the Australian War Memorial.  Some of them are better than others, because it takes writerly skill to treat this topic in a way that’s suitable for primary school children yet isn’t too sentimental, mawkish or jingoistic. We want children to know their history, but we also want them to learn the processes of history: investigating evidence, exploring different points of view, and recognising that there’s more than one way of telling the story of Australia’s participation in this war.  At my school, we also need to tread warily: some of our refugee students know about war at first hand.   And I needn’t remind readers of this blog that we now have politicians revisiting interference in the history curriculum with nationalistic demands that sit uneasily with the spirit of teaching the history of this or any other topic.

Meet the Anzacs is the fifth in the the Random House Meet … series of picture books focussing on men and women of Australia’s history, but it’s the first that’s not about a particular person.  (The other one in this series that I’ve reviewed was Meet Mary McKillop)  but we’ve also got Meet Ned Kelly and due for release soon is my own personal hero, Meet Douglas Mawson.  Meet the Anzacs is pretty much what you’d expect it to be: it’s suitable  for primary aged children in content and style, explaining the assorted reasons men had for enlistment and the amateurish training they had, but tactfully omitting the hooliganism and worse of the Anzacs in Egypt, and leaving the carnage on the beach to the imagination.  I really liked the way this was handled: text telling the reader that the landing was not at all what the soldiers had expected, with a double page picture showing what a lost cause the venture was because of the geography of Anzac Cove.   This would be a great page for discussion, I think.  The art work, by Max Berry is particularly good because, as you can see from the front cover, it de-sentimentalises the men.  These soldiers look like real Aussie blokes.

But the arrival of Meet the Anzacs made me realise that my school needed a plan for 2014, so that each area of the school is covering a different aspect of the Anzac Story.  Using content from the Australian Curriculum for History, we’ve sorted out who’s doing what this year, and have left ourselves ‘wriggle-room’ for 2015.  Meet the Anzacs is well suited for the Gallipoli centenary next year because it explains the facts in simple terms that make it suitable for Year 1 & 2 and the illustrations by Max Berry are excellent.

The plan for Preps
We’re keeping it low-key for the preps.  anzac-biscuits_002No stories of blood and suffering for five-year-olds, it’s not appropriate.  Prep history is mainly concerned with learning about the past through photos and artifacts, so they’re going to read Phil Cumming’s lovely book, Anzac Biscuits about a child baking biscuits for her father, and the soldier eventually receiving the biscuits from his daughter at the front.  It’s a beautiful, tender book, and the pictures by Owen Swan link the family separated by war using visual symbols such as snowflakes at the front and flour being sprinkled on the kitchen table.  Classes will bake some biscuits too, of course.  I also found a terrific photo of a soldier posing with his wife on the eve of his departure for war: the children can talk about clothing of the past, including the uniform, and they can also investigate the concept of photos as evidence of events that happened long ago.  But I am hoping that someone will issue something else that’s suitably gentle for this age group, in time for next year.  (I found one called The ANZAC Puppy by New Zealand author Peter Millett at Fishpond, and it looks as if it might be suitable, but I haven’t got a copy of it yet.  Update: Peter Millett kindly sent me a copy and my review is here.)

Years 1 & 2

We Remember KitWe Remember Big BookThe AC content for Years 1 & 2 suggests investigating local buildings of historical significance, so these classes are going to walk to our local war memorial for the school’s wreath-laying ceremony.  They’ll also use the ‘We Remember’ kit produced by the Australian War Memorial: it has useful posters of memorials and symbols such as honour rolls and wreaths, and it includes a Big Book ‘Remembering Charlie Cooper’ about some kids who become interested in the names on their local memorial.  It’s not great literature and the illustrations are a bit pedestrian,  but the story covers the topic well without being too heavy-handed for this age group.  We’ve also got a full-sized poster of the Shrine of Remembrance, and they’ll use that too.  (There is a book called My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day but they had that one last year).  Publishers could usefully check out the Australian Curriculum for this age group and commission a really talented writer of children’s books to produce something appropriate for 2015 as well.

Years 3 & 4

The PromiseThe House That was Built in a DayThe AC for Years 3 & 4 includes looking at commemorations around the world, and we’ve tweaked this a bit so that we can use three books that we have in our collection.  The first is a new one called The Promise, by Derek Guille, and it’s a bilingual book, written in French and English, about how Australian soldiers liberated the village of Villers-Bretonneux on 25 April 1918, and how school children from Victoria raised money to help rebuild the village school.  With an unusual plot-line involving a commemoration by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the books shows how the villagers have kept their promise that they would never forget Australia. (There is another one on this theme called Le Quesnoy: The Story of the Town New Zealand Saved by Glyn Harper which might be worth getting hold of too.)

A War far AwayAnzac Cottage: The House That Was Built in a Day  by Valerie Everett isn’t a story from overseas, but this tale of a house that was built by 200 people in Perth for one of the first wounded ANZAC soldiers to return from Gallipoli is about the 90th anniversary of this community event, and I think it’s an appropriate text to use.  The other text is rather old one called A War Far Away by Pauline Cartwright.  It may be hard to find: it’s about a Kiwi teacher who goes away to war and is killed.  It’s a bit sombre, but I like the way it shows the human cost of war in the wider community and I think it’s all right for this age group.  (ISBN: 0170078205, EAN 9780170078207 & originally part of a set of books called The Highgate Collection, now out of print.  A smart publisher would reissue this).

Years 5 & 6

DevotionAustralian Women in WarYears 5 & 6 are going to research the role of women in WW1.  They’ll use a DVA publication called Devotion and another called Australian Women in War  (both of which you can download for free here) – we also have some posters typical of their era: one that shows the nurses of the 1942 Banka Island massacre needing to be avenged and another which proclaims that war is a man’s job.  I would also recommend that anyone doing this topic also read Kitty’s War by Janet Butler: it is a superb history which interrogates Nurse Kitty McNaughton’s diary, analysing what she included and what she left out, and why.  It’s also a vivid picture of the dangers nurses faced and the discrimination they dealt with, and any teacher who reads it will be able to enliven her lessons with an authentic and riveting story.  If you can’t get hold of it, read my review instead: it’s a poor substitute for the real thing but it’s better than nothing.  It’s high time that a publisher produced a picture biography of the nurses of WW1, and Kitty McNaughton would be an ideal subject.

M is for MatesIn the Library, I’m developing a unit for Years 5 & 6 called Indigenous Service.  Last year with Y 3 & 4, I taught a unit called Animals at War, using the DVA kit, M is for Mates. (Again, download it for free by clicking the link).  Students researched ways in which animals were used: donkeys (yes, including the famous one), horses, carrier-pigeons, dogs and camels.  This is an interesting way of making children aware of war beyond the trench warfare images: they learned about how the animals were and weren’t cared for, and at the end of the unit we had a lively discussion about the ethics of using animals in warfare, given how we now feel about animal welfare issues.  I’ll teach this unit again next year in 1915.  Update: Peter Millett’s book The Anzac Day Puppy is ideal for this unit, see my review here.

Indigenous ServiceThe Indigenous Service unit for this year will be closely based on advice in the Indigenous Service kit for Primary schools. (Make sure you download the one for Primary schools.

Other books you might use can be found at Kidsize Living.

Download our plan in Word and adapt it to suit your own school.  ANZAC COMMEMORATIONS (Whole School Plan) 2014-5 (2)

 

Click the book covers to buy these books from Fishpond.

Anzac Cottage: The House That Was Built in a DayThe ANZAC Puppy My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day Meet the ANZACs (Meet...) Kitty's War

Posted in Australian Curriculum, Australian History, Book Reviews, School Library stuff | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

HTAV Primary Teachers’ Conference: Workshop#2: Vincent Lingiari: Aboriginal Land Rights

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 26, 2013


This session was blogged live, so apologies for typos, omissions, errors of interpretation and US spelling imposed by my software. It was presented by Amanda Carmichael and Marcus Mulcahy from Carrum PS.

The session began with footage from a 1960s Peter Luck ABC TV doco explaining the Wave Hill Aboriginal Land Rights issue.  It was chastening to watch it, knowing how things have turned out.  All these years later, there is still so much wrong to redress…

Education about these issues is one way to change attitudes, and Amanda and Marcus are on a mission to encourage knowledge and understanding.   They showed us various film resources to use, but noted that teachers need to do a lot of work on visual literacy with their students.  These were excellent background resources for teachers who don’t know much about the topic.  However, and maybe I’m selling my students short, I have to say that some of these films would be unlikely to keep my students’ attention for long, especially the students who are EAL and not very fluent in English.  These kids find voiceovers difficult because there are no visual cues to help them separate words and process long sentences.  The ones with sub-titles were the best, I think, and yes, teachers would need to do a lot of work on visual literacy.

Apropos the keynote address from this morning, it would have been good if they had begun this presentation with some explanation of how the topic fits into the Australian curriculum.  I can see how it addresses the Aboriginal History and Culture Priority, and also skills such as developing empathy, recognising other perspectives and so on, but I had to quickly scour the ACARA website to know which level the content of this topic is for.

The Year 6 work samples published by ACARA give some idea how this topic fits into the curriculum.

(To be fair, the presenters had MAC/PC technological issues so they couldn’t share their PowerPoint, so maybe they had intended to address this).

There are more resources to explore at Marcus’s website: Gurindji66.org  His sister Brenda Croft is doing a PhD about this and he recommends keeping an eye out for her name for future resources.

It is important also to use, as a lead-in to the topic, the Ted Egan song, Poor Bugger Me and From Little Things Big Things Grow by Paul Kelly.

Macmillan have also published the story of Vincent Lingiari in their Stories from Australia’s History series.  See Fishpond.

Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Australian Curriculum, Australian History, Conferences Attended, Indigenous Teaching Resources, Learning and teaching, Professional Development | Tagged: | Comments Off on HTAV Primary Teachers’ Conference: Workshop#2: Vincent Lingiari: Aboriginal Land Rights

HTAV Primary Teachers’ Conference workshop#1: Teaching History through Literature

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 26, 2013


Blogged live, so apologies for typos, omissions, errors of interpretation, and US spelling imposed by the software.

Presenters Jo Clyne and Ingrid Purcell from HTAV are authors of a new resource called Dear Oma, A Story of Federation which is about to hit the bookshops.   The book was written with an awareness that in primary schools:

  • Composite classes complicate teaching a sequential curriculum
  • Literacy and numeracy take priority so there’s not much time for history
  • teachers also have to cover Civics and Citizenship
  • there is new AC history content to cover, and
  • Primary teachers are experienced at teaching through fiction.

Dear Oma aims to give context, to tune students in and to engage them emotionally, and is linked (of course) to the AC.  The authors actually chose Federation as a topic because it was a bit dry and hard to teach in an interesting way.  (A brave choice!) Set on the day of the Federation Parade in 1901, the book tells the story of a recent German immigrant to Melbourne, and is based on real people, real events, real places and real objects (using one of the digitised newspapers, The Argus, via Trove as a resource). Karl is a boy and he sells Federation souvenirs outside parliament (i.e. the Exhibition Buildings), and he meets a whole lot of people – which gives the authors the opportunity to show how Federation affects different sorts of people. Using Karl in this way also enables a child’s perspective on Federation as it happens, and the authors have used all kinds of clever ways to bring the period to life.

Karl, for example, meets a Chinese boy who’s not going to the parade.  The boy, Peng, explains resentfully why not: it’s because of the White Australia Policy which is to come in after Federation.  The authors faced a dilemma with using authentic objects as primary sources, because, for example, the souvenirs were racist, and unless these resources are used carefully they can have an unfortunate effect. So Jo and Ingrid have tried to problematise the issues rather than making judgements about them.  Some issues (such as the right to vote for Aboriginal people) are more complex than they seem at first glance, so teachers need to take care.

Most resources for Federation as a topic have been secondary focussed, so there’s a real need for primary resources that are age-appropriate. Jo and Ingrid have also provided web resources,  such as online mapping to find the actual places where these events took place; and worksheets analysing the multiple perspectives to develop empathy: immigrants, indigenous people, the old and the young.  These web resources include links to images, virtual history exhibitions and activities, i.e. it’s a 21st century teacher’s manual to support the book.

It sounds like a good package!

Posted in Australian Curriculum, Australian History, Conferences Attended, Learning and teaching | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

2013 HTAV Primary Teachers Conference Keynote address #2

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 26, 2013


Once again I am blogging this live, so I apologise in advance for typos, errors of omission or misinterpretation, and for the American spelling imposed by the software I’m using. 

Genevieve Grieves, curator at the Melbourne Museum began with the story of a forthcoming Melbourne Museum exhibition called First Peoples, Bunjilaka Aboriginal Cultural Centre. (I’m sorry, I didn’t catch the name of her country).  The other presenters were Amanda Reynolds and Rosemary Wrench from Melbourne Museum.

The presentation focussed on how the exhibition was created i.e. the process.  Curators’ job was to listen to Aboriginal communities across Victoria.

Focus:

  • Using Aboriginal voices and languages
  • Curriculum
  • A collaborative voice
  • Victoria

The exhibition includes the ‘harder stories’ i.e. frontier violence.

The entrance includes welcoming message sticks: if you touch them you hear indigenous people from different parts of Victoria saying welcome in different languages. 

Victorian iconography – less familiar to most than iconography from desert areas e.g. dot point paintings – includes

  • cloaks – including rare examples
  • baskets and shields – people can touch them and learn how they were made.
  • an immersive experience using Bunjil the eagle

Aboriginal history and culture involves 2000 generations of stories, which are tracks back through time to when Aboriginal people lived with mega-fauna, and which explores knowledge coming from science and from storytelling by Aboriginal elders.  Elders used observation and ingenuity the way that scientists do, and visitors are encouraged to look at images of tracks, signs, rock art etc. to interpret it.  Some artifacts were made especially for the exhibition using traditional methods, and the modules are set up to be immersive.  Community narrators explain the complex concepts involved in reading country and knowing the interconnected nature of knowledge.   Visitors can also explore how knowledge is passed on, because Aboriginal lore isn’t passed on by specialists, everyone is a teacher.

Much of this presentation involved images, video and sound from the exhibition so I’m not doing a very good job of sharing how interesting it was.  I’ll try to give a sense of the different modules:

  • The exhibition covers old ways, and early encounters with ‘Strangers from the Ccean’ (and the sadness that befell people at that time) which includes artifacts of explorers such as George Bass.  There is a memorial to people who lost their lives too, and there are stories from oral history about what happened, e.g. kidnapping by sealers. Some of this will be confronting but it is felt that people are ready for this now. 
  • Then there is Our Shared History with modules called e.g. Treaty and Tanderum, i.e. two laws side by side,comparing Batman’s infamous treaty with laws as represented by message sticks. 
  • There is Call to Fight which includes massacres and battles but also indigenous service.  The key concept here is that Australia has many battlefields. 
  • Burdens to Bear covers oral history stories sharing personal stories about how their lives were affected by various pieces of legislation controlling Aboriginal lives. 
  • Standing Strong is another model about protest movements, land rights struggles and so on. 
  • Working Hard explores Aboriginal contributions to the modern economy as well as the traditional work ethic. 
  • Coming Together explores NAIDOC Week and other modern ways of celebrating culture, continuing stories, celebrations and knowledge.

The Many Nations component of the exhibition includes showcases of objects from the 19th century and contemporary objects from all over Victoria.  This covers

  • Keeping places – beautiful handmade pieces
  • Animal creations – creation stories, animals that bring good luck, items never displayed before
  • Marking identity – timbers, shields etc
  • Working Country – tools and so on
  • Celebrating Culture – body ornamentation, musical instruments, clothing including fibres, feathers and bones etc.

These showcases also include objects that show ways in which children are included:

  • mother and daughter digging sticks
  • child-sized shields

and there’s an activity table for 4-9 year-olds, with games and puzzles etc. for children to engage with.  There’s also a showcase called Toy Stories, with toys to look at.  (Do check out my review of Bush Toys, Aboriginal Children at Play, by Claudia Haagen, I hope there’s an exhibition catalogue for First Peoples too?)

Perhaps there will be a virtual exhibition as well, I hope so, because not all children can visit the museum, for one reason or another.

The final part of this presentation was about the Generations part of the exhibition, with stories from indigenous people from all over Victoria, of all age groups.  Every time you walk into the Deep Listening Space you get a different multimedia experience, where you are invited to ‘listen with your head and your heart’.

This is the kind of exhibition that teachers really need to attend because it will give us lots of ideas about how to introduce Aboriginal perspectives across all kinds of history topics.  Learning about Aboriginal culture and history is a core responsibility for all teachers of history and although it’s a long journey with no endpoint, we have an obligation to keep learning.  I’ll be visiting this exhibition during school holidays as part of my own professional development.

Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Australian Curriculum, Australian History, Conferences Attended, Learning and teaching, Professional Development | Tagged: , , | Comments Off on 2013 HTAV Primary Teachers Conference Keynote address #2

2013 HTAV Primary History Teachers Conference: Keynote address#1

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 26, 2013


NB I’m blogging this live, so I apologise in advance for typos, omissions, the American spelling imposed by the software (Windows Live) and any errors of interpretation about the speaker’s address.

The first Keynote address was presented by Geraldine Ditchburn from the History Teachers Association of Victoria.  Her topic was Creating pedagogical airholes in the Australian Curriculum: History.

The AC requires us to teach history in a formal and disciplined way [and this is a challenge for primary teachers not trained in the method, and fond of teaching ‘integrated curriculum’, so-called].

Assumptions about curriculum impinge on understandings about pedagogy.  There isn’t always a shared understanding about this:

Geraldine hears lots of anxieties about implementing the AC – many feel daunted and overwhelmed, especially if there’s no academic background in history.  What we do have as primary teachers is experience in offering and engaging curriculum – and that’s a big advantage.  Geraldine shared her own story as a teacher of ‘social education’ – an integrated subject and there was no syllabus other than what they designed themselves.  ‘Not quite ‘curriculum on the run’ but they adjusted content when current events intervened.  This was a time with no national assessments, no directives about what to teach or how to teach it.  ‘Frameworks’ was the first framework that she used, and it was a watershed because it added ‘values’ and ‘actions’ to content and skills in the curriculum. This took curriculum beyond the classroom walls.

The point is that we all work within bigger frameworks, who or what constructs these can change, and the frameworks can change what is considered valid.  We need to be clear about what effective pedagogy looks and feels like.  We need to use our professional judgement and be ‘intellectual artisans’.  We deliver the curriculum, not ACARA – we have licence to do what works best.

Curriculum is –

  • a dumping ground for everything (including stuff that families used to do)
  • a depository for passing on culture – how do we choose what we value?
  • not always consistent with the agenda that’s supposed to be taken up – because it always embodies values, ideas about the future etc. It’s more about a nation’s soul than a technical task.

Is curriculum a noun, or a verb?  It depends on your assumptions. The choice affects a teacher’s engagement.

Curriculum as a noun implies a product, and therefore associated with content.  So teachers become implementers, and it may lead to ‘getting through it’ i.e. a ‘pedagogy of speed’.  Teachers may feel pressured by assessment and accountability …

If you see curriculum as a verb, it’s a process, it’s fluid and it needs input from those who use it.  It’s nothing without human input.  It requires us to be ‘artisans’ using it, developing curriculum that engages the students.  (Geraldine quoted assorted academics to support these ideas, but I didn’t catch their names. )

We need to adapt for our students and focus on a bigger pictures, make history come alive, select and integrate with other areas, expect professional and student input and expect change.  Yes, it’s messy.  What works with one lot of students doesn’t necessarily work with another, and teaching is hard enough without having to cope with bored students.

There aren’t that many supports for putting the people (teachers and students) into the curriculum.  What’s in the AC doesn’t help much with decision-making. Often we start with the content, but if it grows out from the focus Qs, or the CCPs. (I’ve forgotten what these are).  There are no principles in the document to guide us.  G thinks that the underlying principle is that curriculum is a noun.  [Whereas I think, it’s been designed to allow us to travel any way we like, and accommodate differences across States].

If we look at the AC:History from ‘above’ some elements stand out from the ‘forest’ of the document.  Geraldine says, start with the rationale and the bigger elements: skills, focus Qs and historical concepts.

Big ideas:

  • a discipline process of inquiry
  • curiosity and imagination
  • understanding ourselves and others
  • change and continuities
  • evidence, interpretations, debate, and respecting different perspectives
  • critical analysis
  • context,  substantiating interpretations and communicating them.

Key concepts – the pillars of the curriculum

  • cause and effect
  • empathy
  • evidence
  • perspectives
  • significance
  • continuity and change
  • contestability.

We need to make these big words meaningful for students.

Significance is a problematic concept.  It’s important to:

  • link the personal with the bigger narrative
  • use the vocabulary – both students and teachers need to use them
  • exist in the students world and can best be understood in their own world

Note that the achievement standards do not include content, they’re about skills and concepts.

Geraldine talked about integrating the curriculum in the usual ways – the important thing is to have the critical conversations with peers, and share what works and what doesn’t.  Any new initiative is going to have faults, supporting this critical evaluation with colleagues is the way to go.  Take ownership, celebrate, and share – especially online!

Posted in Australian Curriculum, Australian History, Conferences Attended, Learning and teaching, Professional Development | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

ACER research findings: how the brain learns

Posted by Lisa Hill on August 7, 2013


Every year the ACER (the Australian Council for Education Research) holds a research conference to showcase the latest findings that impact on teaching and learning, and they make the papers available online to people who subscribe to their newsletter. (Here’s the email address if you want to join up).

ACER confThese conferences are often rather dry, but some of the current papers are worth reading, up to a point.

I downloaded these ones from their Research Repository:

There were two more that interested me but only the abstract is available as of today’s date:

What did I glean from these papers?

Professor Westwell’s paper talks about how the proficiencies of Understanding, Problem-solving and Reasoning demanded by Australian Curriculum go beyond knowledge and know-how.  He’s right:  In history, for example, the inclusion of empathy, significance and contestability in the primary curriculum is new.  In the topic of Explorers (Year 4) , for example, students are expected to consider the impact of exploration in the context of First Contact, and to develop an empathetic response by imagining what Europeans and Aborigines thought of each other at that time.  When studying Australia’s military history, primary students can explore contestability by using a resource such as the DVA Indigenous Service to learn about the war service of Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islanders and consider why their service has had so little recognition despite Australia’s obsession with military history.  The point about this, is that brain research shows that to do this students need three ‘core executive function abilities’ which are impulse inhibition, working memory and cognitive flexibility.  Teachers have to help students develop these functions.  Depressingly, Professor Westwell’s research also shows that low SES students ‘have less cognitive capacity to support their day-to-day decision–making processes’ but he reckons that with support better outcomes can be expected for these children.   This optimism sent me off to the papers which appeared to offer practical strategies. 

‘Minds, Brains and Learning Games’ begins by sniping at the ‘parallel world’ of pseudo-neuroscience found in many schools’.  On the basis of a UK survey which showed that graduate trainees held unscientific beliefs about effective teaching, Dr Howard-Jones concludes that these ideas persist when these graduates confront the real world of the school.   This assumption strikes me as a failure of logic, not to mention a failure of university teacher-training in the UK.  So I hope that the rest of what he had to say had more validity.  The paper goes on to tackle the neuroscience of video games.  Research (the details of which you can read for yourself if you’re keen) explains why they’re so engaging, and that ‘the same neural and cognitive processes appear to underlie both the hazard and the educational potential of video games’.   What appears to be relevant to teaching and learning is that students are attracted to games offering reward-uncertainty, that is, they have an element of chance.  So as it turns out, the teachers at my school whose annual action research project is to learn a gaming program called Scratch are exploring how creating learning games of this type may be very effective in the classroom.

More than one of these papers talked about the need for neuroscience to connect with the work of classroom teachers.  Donna Nitschke listed factors which inhibit the dissemination of relevant information:

  • the speed of change in neuroscience
  • ‘professional discipline barriers’ [especially techno-speak in the discipline]
  • neuro-myths caused by over-extrapolation of research findings [a.k.a. ‘don’t mess with my findings’]
  • commercial misapplication of research findings e.g. so-called ‘brain-based education’
  • lack of training for teachers for them to deal with the above, and [as usual]
  • time and financial constraints on teachers.  [She also mentions ‘attitudinal’ constraints on teachers, without indicating what these might be].

Nitschke goes on to mention a program called ‘Being the Best Learner You Can Be’ which uses a games-based format to improve attention, memory, emotional literacy and higher order thinking skills.  It’s learning focussed rather than teaching or curriculum focussed, and is targeted on the executive function skills mentioned above.   Of course it includes improving ‘framing and delivery of curriculum by teachers.’  Google and I couldn’t find out anything about it.

Professor John Pegg’s paper considered the ‘reality of working memory and neural functioning’.   Working memory is what we use for temporary storage of information but it’s more than just short-term memory.   It’s ‘the brain’s ability to hold information in the mind while transforming it or other information.’  The size of working memory doesn’t increase as we improve expertise in a task, but our brains ‘chunk’ information enabling better efficiency. On the other hand the amount of stuff we can store in long-term memory seems unlimited.  Alas, the capacity to retrieve it can decline, as those of us with ageing brains can testify… 

Human intelligence is about ‘stored knowledge in long-term memory’ which we form into neural networks, not ‘long chains of reasoning in working memory’.   We can engage higher-order processing when there’s enough space in working memory to retrieve those networks of info from long-term memory.   The brain is actually designed to forget most data that comes through the senses – what makes data stay put in the brain is practice and rehearsal, and understanding whatever it is in some meaningful way.  So the context of learning is important, and Pegg went on to talk about some ideas that are very familiar to teachers i.e. the need to consider the complexity of the material when planning, how it’s to be presented and what prior learning the child already has.  He also talked about the development of automaticity, focussed practice and rehearsal, and the importance of errors in learning.  While the language in which these findings is expressed is somewhat unfamiliar, not much of this seemed new to me. 

What I did find useful in this paper was the research that shows that it’s better to praise effort than ‘innate intelligence’, [i.e. ‘good effort!’ not ‘clever girl!’]  What happens if we praise cleverness is that students tend to choose more straightforward tasks, and are more stressed by anything that’s a bit hard.  These students tend to downplay the importance of effort and won’t take risks.  But when we encourage students to develop the habit of trying hard on problem-solving tasks, they tend to do better.   There were also two programs mentioned, QuickSmart Numeracy and Literacy, which apparently achieve significant and sustained results.  [All you need is a staffing ratio to facilitate the small group lessons, eh? According to Wikipedia, it involves two students, for three 30 minute lessons a week, over thirty weeks].

John Munro’s paper was very dense with neurological terms about how gifted students learn, and so perhaps I have missed some insights.  What I took from this paper was what I already knew: that gifted learners think differently and (obviously) what’s going on in the brain is different too.   In this conclusion I am conforming to the accusation that ‘it is not clear that the education community is ready or prepared to listen’.  Mea culpa, I fail to see anything new about the statements that gifted students are better at managing and directing their own learning, that they have greater working memory and can process more information, that they can integrate understanding across multiple ‘codes’, and that they can generate intuitive theories about what they’re learning.  We see this every day in our classrooms, and while I know that teachers are not always as good as they should be at identifying gifted students, I don’t think that knowing that these students have ‘enhanced bilateral parietal activation’  is going to improve the situation.  The only interesting information in this paper for me was that people who are gifted in spatial activities tend to have more problems with language-related disorders e.g. dyslexia. 

Maybe I am a little hyper-sensitive, but I detect a lack of respect for teachers in some of the them-and-us language of these papers, and I don’t think that’s helpful at all.

Posted in Australian Curriculum, Learning and teaching | Comments Off on ACER research findings: how the brain learns

Review: Chinese Lives, The People Who Made a Civilization, by Victor H Mair, Sanping Chen and Frances Wood

Posted by Lisa Hill on July 8, 2013


Chinese Lives: The People Who Made a CivilizationChina is becoming ever more important in world affairs, and for Australians, the inclusion of Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia as a curriculum priority for all students of all ages, means that teachers need to get up to speed with a multiplicity of countries, their cultures and histories.

That’s where a book like Chinese Lives, the People Who Made a Civilization is so very useful.  The blurb at Fishpond has this to say:

China is the most populous country on earth, with the longest history of any modern nation. In the 21st century, it is clear that China’s future, as a political and economic world power, is set to be as significant as its past, and its achievements still depend upon its people. This book tells the story of China through 96 short biographies. We see the range of Chinese cultural and scientific achievements, as well as its military conquests, wars, rebellions and political and philosophical movements, through the eyes of real people who created or were caught up by them. Here is a colourful array of very different men and women: emperors and empresses, concubines, officials and political figures, rebels, exiles, philosophers, writers and poets, artists, musicians, scientists, military leaders and committed pacifists. Their careers, achievements, misdeeds, disasters, punishments, ideas and love stories make this an unforgettable read. The expert authors have drawn on a huge range of sources to assemble information about the widest possible range of individuals from all periods and parts of China, from an early warrior lady of the 13th century BC, Fu Hao, to the late-20th-century Communist leader Deng Xiaoping.

Dream of the Red Chamber (Real Reads)What is so useful for busy teachers is that these short biographies really are short – only 2-3 pages long at the most, so they are quick and easy to read.  It’s a book made for dipping into, so although it’s handy that the Table of Contents lists the subjects by Chinese dynasty, i.e. corresponding to chronological sequence, it’s a pity that there isn’t also a listing by occupation.  I had to browse through it to find my first ‘pearl’ which was a bio of Cao Xueqin, said to be China’s greatest author, who has a status similar to Shakespeare in English-speaking countries. It was a quick and easy task to whip up a potted version simple enough for my Year 5 & 6 students who are about to embark on a Biography project, and it was also quick and easy to find a children’s version of Cao Xueqin’s novel, Dream of the Red Chamber (Real Reads) which I have ordered for our school library.

Mind you, it was not exactly a hardship to browse through the book to find interesting people worth knowing about.  And what this experience made me realise was that whereas every school kid knows the famous names of western civilization (Benjamin Franklin, Marie Curie, Einstein, Jane Austen, Beethoven et al)  and adults would be thought ignorant if they did not know who these people were, we in the West (apart from a few Sinophiles) have absolutely no idea about the comparable roll-call in China, one of the most advanced and enduring civilizations in history, and one that now matters to us all.  (Notwithstanding aspects of China that we don’t like, such as its appalling human rights record, its censorship and the dreadful conditions under which its workers create the cheap goods that we are forced to buy because Chinese manufacturing has put our own manufacturing industries out of business.)

I haven’t finished reading the book, and probably won’t have read it cover-to-cover by the time it has to go back to the library, but I shall be cherry-picking the profiles of people of some interest to 10-12 year-olds and adding them to my wiki.  If I had money to burn in my school library budget I would buy a copy, because it would be worth it even if only one or two of my colleagues were to read it.  For secondary schools, I think it’s a must-have.  Just as a quick sample, there are stories of

The Shang to Han Dynasties (c. 16th century BC to AD 220)

  • Fu Hao, a woman warrior of the Shang
  • Confucius (of course)
  • King Wuling of the Zhao, a warrior, and the man who brought trousers to China!)
  • Zhang Qian, an explorer
  • Sima Qian, an historian
  • Cai Yan, an exiled woman poet
  • Shi Le, a slave who became an emperor

The Sui and Tang Dynasties (220-907)

  • Kumarajiva, who translated Buddist sutras for the court, apparently kidnapped from Central Asia to do it
  • Wu Zetian, the only female emperor of China

As well as poets, there are plenty of politicians, rebels and bandits in this era because it was a period of disunity.  But not so many interesting people, which perhaps proves that peace is better for making progress than war.

Disunion to the Yuan Dynasty (907-1368)

  • Shen Gua, historian of science
  • Su Dongpo, not only a literary genius but also a legendary cook whose Dongpo-style pork is still a delicacy
  • Yue Fei, a patriot and national hero
  • Zhang Zeduan, a painter (the pictures in the book are gorgeous)
  • Khubilai Khan (yes, that one)
  • Guan Hanqing, founder of Chinese drama

The Ming Dynasty to the People’s Republic of China

(This section, as you’d expect, takes up about half of the book)

  • Zheng He, the eunuch admiral who sailed to Africa
  • Hai Rui, who is famous for being incorruptible, and Heshen, famous because he wasn’t
  • Xu Xiake, a traveller and geographer, who did most of his exploring on foot, covering nearly all the provinces of Ming China
  • Feng Menglong, a popular writer of bestsellers (the Dan Brown of his day?)
  • Pu Songling, a popular writer of ghost and horror stories (the Edgar Alan Poe of his day?)
  • Lin Zexu, who took on the British at the height of their power and banned the opium trade
  • Qiu Jin, feminist heroine and martyr (who learned martial arts in spite of having bound feet)
  • Lu Xun, greatest Chinese writer of the 20th century

Of course there are bios of the Usual Suspects: Sun Yat-Sen, Chiang Kai-Shek and Mao Zedong, but you have to have been under a rock not to know who they are.  The last entry is about Deng Xiaoping, the leader who transformed post-Mao China into a market-driven economy while also maintaining its iron grip on dictatorial powers and the suppression of all dissent.

Authors: Victor H Mair, Sanping Chen, Frances Wood
Title: Chinese Lives, the People Who Made a Civilization
Publisher: Thames and Hudson, 2013
ISBN: 9780500251928
Source: Casey-Cardinia Library

Availability

Fishpond: Chinese Lives: The People Who Made a Civilization
Book Depository: Chinese Lives, the People Who Made a Civilization

(On the day I looked, it was significantly cheaper at Fishpond)

This review is cross-posted at ANZ LitLovers.

Posted in Asia & Australia's Engagement with Asia, Australian Curriculum, Book Reviews, Recommended books | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »