Sunday, June 23, 2013

Make It, Own It, Learn It

Source: ASIDE, 2013
Like so many other teachers faced with time constraints in completing curricula, we often think of how to fit more things in that we know will make a difference in the learning. We strive to provide our students with creative opportunities to show what they know. To this end, the best advice we can give is to collaborate with other teachers.

By taking an interdisciplinary approach to a particular topic and partnering with others, it's easier to accomplish this objective. Straightforward projects are equally beneficial to student understanding, and the educational looping of material allows students to make stronger connections. Our Sumerian ziggurat project is one example of this.

Source: ASIDE, 2013
The fifth graders learn about ancient Mesopotamia and in particular how farming gave rise to the first civilizations. They make sketchnotes about the eight basic features of a civilization to understand the transformation from a hunter and gatherer society to that of settling down in permanent locations. Two of these features that the ziggurat project addresses are organized religion and the development of art and architecture.

Source: ASIDE, 2013
We keep it simple, but we thread in the history throughout the process. Before beginning, the students complete a short research assignment in their history class using the British Museum website on ziggurats.

In art class, they work in small groups to construct, paint, and build ziggurats by transforming boxes to look like stone, stepped structures. The students have a blast spackling pizza boxes, too. In addition, our art teacher gives them a history lesson about the different types of art the Sumerians made that adds to their knowledge about Sumerian culture.

Each group personalizes their ziggurat with offerings, people, and a dedication to a god or goddess. This makes for an incredible show of creativity. The kids get so into it that they made clay figures praying on their knees. The temples at the top are equally as elaborate.

Source: ASIDE, 2013
They also write a dedication to the deity based on their selection from the list of gods on the British Museum site. They have fun developing this written piece as a tribute to their god or goddess, and each dedication is displayed next to the ziggurat in the school library.

Once everything is completed, the math teacher uses the ziggurats to teach the students about area and perimeter. The students enjoy using their own work to measure and figure out math problems.

As we stated earlier, we keep the project simple, but allow for the students to take ownership of what they make and use it to further their learning. It makes a difference in how they retain the content, because they are engaged throughout the process.

While we all wish we had more time to make things with our students, collaborating with other teachers not only helps bring the learning to life, but also makes it fun.

Source: ASIDE, 2013

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