Interdisciplinary Learning and the Antonine Wall World Heritage Site

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Key Information at a glance:

  1. useful context for “bundling” connected learning – social studies, literacy, learning for sustainability
  2. wonderful teaching resource on our doorstep http://glo.li/1IyegDf
  3. great online support and resources from the learning centre http://glo.li/1ESG43a
  4. relevant local hook for engaging learning http://glo.li/1LttCiE
  5. information leaflets available in French, German and Gaelic – opportunities to contextualise 1+2 languages – website can be accessed in these languages also

The Antonine Wall is extremely close to many Falkirk schools and is an invaluable learning resource for educators. It is one of Scotland’s 5 World Heritage Sites, meaning that it is globally recognised for its cultural, educational and environmental importance.  In collaboration with the other 4 authorities which the wall runs through, Falkirk Council has a role to play in the on-going management of the Antonine Wall World Heritage site (click to view the 2014-19 Management Plan). Yvonne McBlain represents education services on the management group, and would be pleased to have any thoughts or suggestions for ways in which practitioners are using, or could use the wall to enhance learning and teaching. dpawsw_13082013_262

The Antonine Wall website provides extensive high quality resources to support teaching and learning. These resources meet the needs of learners of all ages and levels of prior knowledge, and have been gathered from all available sources. It has all of the latest news about events relating to the wall, and provides relevant information about visits and field trips to each of the important sites.

Click here to see how social studies at early level could be developed through a visit, here to browse resources for first and second level, and here to explore how S1 &2, and S6 Advanced Higher History can be supported by the resources in the site.

LivingOnTheWall Patricia Weeks represents Historic Scotland and is Antonine Wall World Heritage Site Co-ordinator. Patricia and Yvonne worked together to design a professional learning twilight training session for practitioners at all levels across Falkirk. This session takes place on 8th October 2015 at Camelon Education Centre and is coded YMcB36. There will be time during this training to explore the educational resources and features of the website.

 

Developing Interdisciplinary Learning at Head of Muir PS

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Key information about this Head of Muir PS practice at  a glance –

  1. staff building their interdisciplinary learning framework together
  2. creating related groups or “bundles” of E & Os
  3. enabling pupils and teachers to be creative with contexts for learning
  4. collaborating at the start of each school year to define their annual curriculum overview at each stage
  5. trialling innovative pupil-led planning

More Detail…

Fiona Anderson, head teacher at Head of Muir Primary School continues to develop interdisciplinary learning with staff as part of school self-evaluation and improvement planning. Together they defined a framework of  related groups of experiences and outcomes which practitioners use to structure learning for pupils. These bundles ensure that there is breadth of coverage, and poster sized overviews of the E & Os are used as simple, visual tracking tools in each classroom to enable pupils to share their progress.

WP_20150513_002[1]Staff can choose which contexts for learning they use to deliver these bundles, and are currently trialling a pupil-led planning format which enables pupils to be as proactive as possible in planning their own learning. Click here to see an example of one of these plans in progress and here for a blank copy. Fiona had A2 sized versions of these printed so that these could also be displayed in classrooms and continually updated with pupils.    WP_20150513_003[1]

These plans therefore support high levels of responsiveness to pupil prior learning and enable the principles of personalisation and choice, relevance, challenge and enjoyment to be strongly addressed.

These trials are ongoing and have resulted in topics such as Dinosaurs, ” 1960, 70s, 80s”. Yvonne McBlain captured photos of wall displays (learning walls) in a selection of classrooms and these are shared throughout this post.

In August 2015 Fiona will lead staff through the following next steps in building their curriculum and their IDL framework:

  1. Review bundles against the significant aspects of learning (click here to view Fiona’s trail pro forma for capturing the bundle and which HOTs it addresses)
  2. Define skills being developed by each bundle
  3. Define how each bundle progresses these significant aspects of learning
  4. Explore how these significant aspects of learning can be assessed

 

Denny PS makes BBC 10 Pieces into Powerful IDL

IMG_2341Catherine Cybulska, primary 5 teacher, and Susanne Bell, Youth Music Tutor, at Denny Primary School used the BBC 10 pieces project to truly enrich and link their curriculum for pupils. Primary 5 were among many Falkirk classes who attended the premier of 10 pieces at Falkirk Town Hall last autumn, but went on to become one of only 4 Scottish winners. Their “prize” was to host a Scottish Symphony Orchestra-led BBC 10 Pieces music takeover day which happened on 23rd March 2015. Mrs Cybulska and her pupils are also learning how to the play the violin from scratch and are enjoying their lessons from Mr Atkinson, their music tutor.DSCN0180

These musical experiences have naturally linked learning and skills development across the curriculum and made a very positive difference to the life and ethos of Denny PS. The SSO/BBC visit was a truly transformative experience for everyone involved. Pupils applied to take part in stop motion animation workshops linked to the pieces of music and got to work with a BBC film crew. Catherine said “There are no words to explain how good it was…just amazing…I would advise anybody to do it” The people in Denny PS also made an impact on BBC staff involved, who wrote a lovely thank you letter with the following extract “Denny is a truly wonderful school…staff/pupil interaction we witnessed were both humbling and inspiring”. 145

Catherine and Susanne felt that BBC 10 pieces helped them bring CfE to life for pupils by linking their analysis, interpretation and evaluation skills across music, ICT, media studies and literacy. The project has also developed pupil confidence, motivation, enthusiasm and creativity and contributed to a more positive attitude towards learning which pervades the classroom and certainly extended across the school on the 10 pieces day. Pupils model the 4 capacities better in their contributions to all areas of learning, and in their increased attention to detail, behaviour and ability to persevere with tasks. Use this link to hear some of the primary 5 pupils being  interviewed about their experience by Radio Scotland.

Catherine and Susanne have succeeded in involving others very effectively in the project in order to create a lasting legacy from the project. Click here to listen to the pupils’ composition, and here to read their song lyrics. The PR video P 5 made to inform other classes about the upcoming takeover day can be viewed by clicking here. The photos below show one of the banners each class made to interpret one of the pieces of music. P5 invited 2 pupils from each of the other cluster schools to join in on the day.  Look out for 10 Pieces 2 which will begin in session 2015-16 for primary 7 – S2 classes.

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Integrating skills progression into learning at Hallglen PS

WP_20150317_051 Following a meeting at Hallglen PS about staff development of skills within their curriculum, Alison McCalley and Linda Hastie gave Yvonne McBlain a tour of the learning walls around the school.

Click here to read more about this development process. Staff had made very effective use of walls around the school to share and celebrate learning. In every classroom the “learning walls” were used to help pupils understand what they were learning. Pupil self-evaluation and next steps were also displayed.

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Themes like Houses and Homes linked learning and skill development in social studies, numeracy and technology.  Teachers used their themes to integrate literacy skill development in reading, writing, talking and listening. WP_20150317_013  There was evidence of pupils developing their vocabulary and their higher order reading skills by being “Thinking Readers”. Writing tasks were carefully planned by teachers to progress literacy and numeracy across learning within the social subjects or science topics. This included homework tasks at all stages.

From the meeting, and the tour, it was clear that staff are collaborating very effectively to build their curriculum. Their joint exploration of the skills built into the experiences and outcomes means they can make progression explicit to pupils so that everyone can track and profile learning in a meaningful way. It was a pleasure to experience the depth of reflection going on at Hallglen PS. The following pictures give a flavour of the development of the curriculum and how staff are addressing the 4 aspects of the curriculum. Next steps for staff is to pull their bundles of connected E & Os together with the significant aspects of learning and contexts and build their curriculum framework. Staff worked on this during the May inset day and will combine it with subject specific and discrete skills progression to build and review their curriculum.

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Moray PS do powerful IDL Storylines

WP_20150429_005Over the last few school sessions, staff at Moray PS have been developing the methodology they use to deliver interdisciplinary learning. Gillian Brodie, principal teacher, and a working party of teachers within the school have researched and developed the storyline approach and taken part in training sessions and development work with Sallie Harkness and Dr Joyce Gilbert. They have admirably supported colleagues in their use of storylines with classes at all stages in the school. Initially, each teacher delivered a storyline from an existing plan, but now some teachers are beginning to adapt and make storylines creatively with their pupils.   WP_20150429_002

At second level teachers are using characters and storyline devices to connect science, literacy and numeracy experiences and outcomes through contexts such as Space, and study of the sinking of the Titanic. Moray pupils gained deep understanding of Edwardian life and society, maritime history and bereavement through their study of the Titanic disaster. (see cabin model picture right). Primary 7 were challenged by a character called Doctor Diabolical to solve a range of scientific problems through their Captain’s blog (click here to visit)  and the Don’t Panic Corporation. WP_20150429_003

Primary 3 & P3/2 officially opened their storyline Zoo on 29th April with a very large and excited audience attending. During their storyline, pupils adopted zoo keeper characters to inspire their development of research and literacy skills, and their knowledge and understanding of the habitats and needs of different animals. They created their zoo creatures and set up the care regimes required to keep their animal healthy and happy. WP_20150429_013

As can be seen from the photos, pupils also developed technology skills through rich task homework which could be done with parents and carers. When asked what they thought their most important learning during their storyline had been,  Ellie said “That sometimes keeping animals is hard work…You’ve got to look after them … I had fun feeding the animals. We like to keep the animals so they don’t get lost (become extinct)”.  Holly said “They escape…the turtle escaped and he died…probably because he was hungry”. WP_20150429_006

Staff at Moray PS are finding storyline methodology enables them to connect relevant areas of the curriculum through a context which really engages their pupils. In addition, the key questions and pupil involvement in developing the story, enables teachers to truly respond to pupil prior/existing knowledge and deliver learning in a way which is meaningful to the whole child (emotions and all!) This was clearly evidenced when Oliver in Miss Mitchell’s primary 1 class enthusiastically grasped the floor book created by his class during their “People who Help Us” storyline,  and pointed out all of the learning experiences which he so obviously relished. His favourite learning was “Big walk to look at houses… and  booking a holiday on the train with nana.” WP_20150429_016

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Moray PS Celebrate their Storylines in Style.

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On 29th April, Primary 5 pupils at Moray PS shared and celebrated their learning during their Scottish Wars of Independence storyline. Pupils gave parents and guests a personal tour of their work and most guests took a quiz at the end to check how well they’d been listening! Taylor, Olivia and Emma gave Yvonne McBlain a tour and told her about the storyline characters they had become. They gave a particularly good explanation of the feudal system in Scotland and how it felt to be a villein at the “bottom of the heap”. It was clear that primary 5 had enjoyed this topic and that they could see how it had enabled them to develop skills, knowledge and understanding across social studies, literacy and technology. Quite rightly, they were extremely proud of their Scottish landmark constructions which they had done as “rich” homework tasks.  WP_20150429_020Because this contextualised learning was done at home, teachers helped ensure that parents, grandparents and carers could be involved in their children’s learning.

Primary 5 class teachers Miss Spalding and Miss Hallam adapted our Falkirk Scottish Wars of Independence storyline to the needs of their pupil – click here to view. As can be seen from the sample of feedback below, parents and guests were very impressed by the learning, the storyline methodology, and with being invited to the celebration.

The pupils clearly evidenced their deep understanding of Scottish historical events, especially the actual and moral dilemma presented to William Wallace and others required to sign the Ragman’s Roll. They have obviously enjoyed and been engaged in their learning and confidently shared this with their guests.

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Class 2 in Timezone go back in time!

P1010105 Yvonne McBlain  was delighted to return to class 2 in the Timezone at Maddiston Primary School to find out how their “Castles” storyline had gone. Heather Garland teaches class 2 and has outlined this project below:

“Attending the fantastic storyline course provided me with an excellent opportunity to learn how to progress to the next stage of storyline with children with additional support needs.  Yvonne provided valuable advice and together we were able to plan a storyline which gave the pupils more of a leading role than previously carried out.  My class embraced this opportunity and provided fantastic work in a variety of curriculum areas.  P1010112This interdisciplinary approach allowed children to be creative in a variety of ways from role play (Battle of Bannockburn) through to story writing using the characters they created.  It allowed scope for inclusion and all pupils were engaged and worked extremely hard producing work of a very high standard.  It was lovely to have parents into our class for our celebration which consisted of a feast in mainstream and then showing our film, stories and all our other work to parents.  I am very proud of Class 2 in the Timezone.  Well Done everyone!”

P1010106Heather adapted a tried and trusted storyline called “There was a princess long ago” to engage her pupils really effectively in their learning. It was wonderful to watch the video of the children re-enacting the Battle of Bannockburn at the site of the Bruce memorial. Below are comments from pupils:

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Mala – Writing my story.

Mollie – Being a princess in the battle and writing in pen.

Jamie B – The battle…knights and swords.

Jaimie – Going in the castle and learning to fight.

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Parents also gave feedback on their children’s storyline work:

“It was a very interesting, informative and enjoyable afternoon.”

 “ From acting to editing I thought it was fab.”

 “It was an absolute privilege to attend and watch the castles project work.  I was blown away by the outstanding commitment, attention to detail and effort from staff and pupils alike.  The delight on Lewis’s face will stay with me forever.”

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BBC Ten Pieces as Creative Interdisciplinary Learning

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Primary 5 pupils at Wallacestone  PS, and primary 6 pupils at St Mary’s PS have now completed their  final video responses to the BBC Ten Pieces project. Click here to read more detail of the process pupils went through with their music teacher Audrey Mackay.

Click here to see Wallacestone pupils’ “A Very Small Car in a Very Large School”

And here to watch St Mary’s pupils’  “Inspired ”

These videos clearly show the power of real interdisciplinary learning. Pupils have clearly developed their music and ICT skills, but this project/context for learning has also developed higher order skills such as analysis, synthesis and creativity. In addition, these successful outcomes would not have been possible without effective team work and collaborative problem solving.

Audrey will provide every child with a hard copy of their creation to share with family members. She now plans to develop pupils’ reflection, self-evaluation and literacy skills through peer interviews about the whole creative process.

 

Impact of International Storyline Conference

WP_20150329_002On 28th & 29th March Yvonne McBlain attended the 6th International Storyline Conference in the new Technology and Innovation Centre which is part of the University of Strathclyde. Yvonne outlines the impact of this event on her own professional learning below.

Key note speech by Carmel O’ Sullivan, Head of the School of Education at Trinity College, Dublin: It was fascinating to learn how effective  social drama (almost identical to pupil-led storylines) has been in developing the creativity, social skills and communication capabilities of young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders. We saw film clips of this long-term research project and Carmel shared her analysis of the positive impact recorded. This included: a reduction in general anxiety among students; increased use of appropriate body contact; increased use of imagination and spontaneous creativity. She has clear evidence that young people with autism can make up stories in the drama, and is now exploring why this stops when they leave the drama.

Outdoor Education Through Storyline seminar:  Alicia Vickery from Highland Elementary School, USA explained how she and colleagues deliver their curriculum through storyline. Their education authority (like us) are developing sustainable education and encouraging teachers to take learning out of the classroom. She has been developing storyline incidents which lead pupils to environmental education and has built very effective partnerships with local people and agencies to support this. I liked the idea of a whole school storyline which happens every 2 years in Highland School. This year’s storyline was called “The River Keepers”, and  each class took a different section of their local river, researched the habitats and issues surrounding their section, then presented and shared their learning in various ways. I could see potential for this approach in our schools too – great way to link science & social studies within a Learning for Sustainability context.

Youth Games storyline seminar: Angela Speirs shared an excellent storyline she has created and used with her P6 class in St Ninian’s PS in Glasgow. Using characters from an imaginary “games”, Angela specified an overarching science learning intention for her IDL unit which also linked skills, knowledge and understanding in technology and health and well-being. There was a javelin athlete who led pupils to the study of friction, a cyclist who developed understanding of aerodynamics & air resistance, and an athlete whose training was not progressing well – pupils needed to study their diet and training regime to analyse and evaluate how to address this. Angela very effectively combined the storyline methodology with curricular learning by building on prior learning and also developed problem-solving and research skills in her pupils. I hope to get a copy of this plan and share asap.

Key Note 2 – Stories in the Land: Joyce Gilbert, environmental educator and consultant, and Claire Hewitt, storyteller and artist,  shared the development of Drove Roads of Scotland storyline. This sounded like an emotional and organic experience which had obviously impacted on pupil understanding of Scottish heritage and traditions. Teachers and pupils at Moray PS have trialled this storyline and I would like to get their views on how impacted on learning.

My own workshop – Storyline as a tool for literacy skill development in the secondary classroom: I thoroughly enjoyed working with the 12 educationalists from around the world who attended. Click here to see my presentation (minus pupil photos) where I shared storylines which took place in Falkirk HS, English department and part of an IDL project with the art department at Braes HS. I was glad to get very positive feedback and now have valuable links to follow up. One participant was particularly struck by the simplicity of developing literacy and higher order skills through the analysis of product packaging in art and design.

Whole school book-based storyline “Kladremus og de andre dyr”: Dyrini Halsaskogi, head teacher of Karsnesskoli, which is a primary school in Kopavogur, Iceland, shared their use of a very well-known story to develop eco-sustainability education and pupil self-discipline. She referred to the Self-Discipline theory of Diane Gossen which I would like to learn more about. Pupils first explored their own motivation and behaviour styles (am I motivated by Power, Belonging, Fun or Freedom)  to get to know themselves, then did the same for the characters in the story. A whole school ethos of positive behaviour, community and citizenship was created by this storyline which would seem to link HWB, RME & Social Studies in our curriculum. I felt this was a great idea and hope to explore further with interested schools or teachers.

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Connecting History Themes to Today’s Child: Rebecca Plaskitt of ACS Cobham International School shared how she has shifted from a content to a process based approach to the delivery of historical learning. She is using storyline to develop pupil independent learning and collaboration skills. Her practice reminded me of the “Joyning the Learning” resources like “The Unsinkable Ship”, and also the rich task approaches being used in our schools. She echoed our principles of curriculum design by placing great emphasis on the need for teachers to identify what is relevant about historical periods and taking time to explore this and what pupils want/need to learn. She made use of timelines with pupils and reminded my of an idea I’d had a long time ago – that every school should have a physical representation of chronological times in history to help pupils relate to and place events in their understanding. I need to look out for schools who like this idea and might like to try something out.

Storyline and the new Finnish Science Curriculum: Ann-Catherine Henriksson gave details of the structure of the new curriculum and rather debunked recent media reports about the role Interdisciplinary learning would play. I felt that the what Ann-Catherine described sounded very like our Curriculum for Excellence – even down to the shift towards the development of higher order skills using Krathwohl’s revision of Bloom’s taxonomy. The curriculum changeover happens in 2016 and it sounds as though the whole education system is mobilising to ensure that everyone is ready for this new holistic approach to teaching and learning. Other similarities with CfE include the emphasis on transformative pedagogy (storyline being one potentially valuable methodology), building an enquiring profession and an ethos of enquiry among pupils, integrating learning for sustainability and other contexts which effectively link learning; and shifting to greater use of formative assessment which is planned into the learning. I would love to learn more about the set of 7 “competencies” which are central to the structure of the curriculum and seem to encapsulate our skills, attitudes and capacities. The main focus of staff training between now and August 2016 is these key competencies and formative assessment.

Storyline with Adult Language Learners: Shane Corbett, University College Dublin, shared his findings around his research question “Is storyline an effective method for teaching English as a second language?”. These included a huge increase in long utterances by students; greater and more varied vocabulary; enhanced enthusiasm and positivity about classes where storyline was used; greater confidence in using the language which resulted in increase autonomy in using new words in real life. All of this is very positive and makes me wonder if there could be a role for storyline in our 1 & 2, Scots Language and Gaelic programmes?

Round Table discussion about the role of storyline in secondary schools: I enjoyed facilitating this group – we had no trouble at all filling an hour with exploration of the potential value of storyline in secondary classrooms. We also had no trouble identifying the challenges involved in this – these were very similar to those cited by Ann-Catherine in the implementation of the new Finnish curriculum. I was able to offer some solutions being tried in Falkirk schools, such as the senior electives choices offered to pupils at Graeme HS.

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Closing Key Note: Brian Boyd delivered a humorous but thought-provoking overview of how storyline fits within education at the moment and the benefits it could and does bring. He linked storyline as a vehicle for powerful interdisciplinary learning through the writing and ideas of key figures like Bruner, Lipman and Vygotsky and I noted a short quotation which I felt encapsulated the aim of the whole conference for me “every child a thinking child and every school a thinking school.”

 

 

 

 

 

Great Arty Collaboration at Comely Park PS

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On 27th March, staff and pupils at Comely Park PS proudly presented their successful collaborative work  with The Park Gallery. This project was initiated by the gallery and was inspired by Ruth Nicol’s exhibition, Three Rivers Meet which combined landscape painting with poetry. The project links to Falkirk’s successful Creative Place Award and encouraged pupils to look at their place and select their favourite icons of the area.

Ruth Nicol is an award winning Scottish Contemporary landscape artist based in Edinburgh. In her exhibition Three Rivers Meet she is inspired by Alexander Moffat’s “Poets’ Pub”, and investigates the landscapes of the seven great Scottish poets. She worked directly with 8 P7 pupils from Comely Park School in her Edinburgh studio, where they produced their own landscape paintings of well-known Falkirk landmarks. The pupils had to go through a selection process to be one of the final 8 who learned new techniques and  created the stunning works included in this post.

Kelpies by Megan and Zara

Zara said it was “A really different experience from what we were used to.” Her partner Megan said “I was really glad I put my name down. I loved being in the real artist’s studio. It was great to work with Ruth.”

Reid and Amy chose to depict the Kelpies and said “It was really easy cos we’re best friends. I drew the background then we did a horse each.”

Heather and Lisa said “I just enjoyed a bit of everything about the paint – we sprayed, and painted and chucked everything, then it really started to come to life when we added parts in.”

Grangemouth by Molly and Tomi

Tomi said “I think my favourite bit was actually going to the artist’s studio. I’ve wanted to be an artist since I was 5”

Yvonne McBlain and other invited guests were highly impressed by the whole occasion and the work shared. The paintings took centre stage, but the poetry linked to their local area produced and read by the pupils was  well-written and moving. It was obvious that teachers Gillian Hepburn and Gillian Cain had maximised the value and impact of this interdisciplinary learning for their pupils in partnership with Ruth Nicol, and Barbara Murdoch, visual arts assistant with Falkirk Community Trust. Comely Park PS has a Makar named Ruby, who read her poem inspired by her local area and said “I like writing poems – it’s another way of expressing yourself.” Click here to see Barbara’s record of the second of the studio visits.

Ruth Nicol said:

“Working with the pupils and staff of Comely Park School was very exciting and has been a privilege. The creativity, commitment and expression of all the pupils was evident to see. I hope everyone enjoys the paintings and poems we have made together.”

The Kelpies by Reid and Amy             The steeple