Over 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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.”
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.
Audrey Mackay, primary music teacher at Wallacestone PS and St Mary’s RC PS, has been working with pupils on the BBC 10 Pieces initiative. Click here to learn more about this project.
A number of her classes have been listening and responding to classical music during the “Ten Pieces” project. This project is designed to introduce young people to the world of classical music in a fun and interesting way. Primary 7 at St Mary’s RC PS have been particularly inspired to create their own response to the music by working together to compose a fusion between the opening bars of Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, the familiar theme from Greig’s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” and Scottish Composer Anna Meredith’s body percussion piece “Connect”. The class are now in the final stage of rehearsing and hope to complete the video of their composition in the next week.
At Wallacestone PS, primary 5 classes attended the launch of the project at Cineworld in October and have been studying the various pieces during their Music lessons. Primary 5D chose Anna Meredith’s “Connect it” as the piece they would like to create a response to – click here to watch a performance of this piece. In co-operative learning groups they created their own body percussion compositions. Their performances were videoed for evaluation in class .
Primary 5E chose “A short ride in a fast machine” by John Adams. Their response was completely different to the other class. A suggestion from one child about playing the music whilst running his remote control car round the classroom led to a filming project in and around the school. Video clips were taken in various locations and then edited using Moviemaker. Whilst some children were filming others were experimenting with the mp3 track of the music and Audacity. The children were able to select how much or little of the original to use and then experiment with Audacity’s various features. After consultation with the class, one track was chosen to be the sound track for their film and was further edited using Audacity. The film is now in its final stages of editing and will hopefully be completed by 25 March 2015.
Audrey’s work is a good example of interdisciplinary learning, with pupils applying their musical literacy analysis skills while broadening their understanding of music in our society. The pupils have been able to use personalisation and choice and develop their creativity and ICT skills while creating their responses to their chosen pieces. Pupils will also develop understanding of how each subject within the expressive arts can be combined through a performance.
S 2 pupils at Graeme HS in Falkirk took part in an emotive interdiscplinary experience which deepened their understanding of the Holocaust in a very real and relevant way. Teachers in History, English, Art & Design, Music and Drama collaborated to plan this connected learning which broadened pupil understanding and developed new and existing skills. Click on the image above to watch the full story via YouTube.
This is an excellent example of type 2 interdisciplinary learning where subject skills, knowledge and understanding are integrated into a meaningful context. It is clear that the teachers involved collaborated effectively to synchronise how and when the learning would happen. Each member of staff was able to build in relevant course content which progressed learning via the engaging context and active approaches. In addition, the pupils would have been able to see how the work they did in each subject connected and enriched their understanding of the Holocaust and its continuing impact on modern society. Teachers encouraged their pupils to make effective use of their mobile phones and tablets to further enrich the experience and their engagement in their learning. This project exemplifies how effective integration and connection of teaching which would be done anyway within subject courses, becomes much greater than the sum of its parts when delivered in an interdisciplinary way.
Education Scotland states that interdisciplinary learning: “enables teachers and learners to make connections across learning through exploring clear and relevant links across the curriculum. It supports the use and application of what has been taught and learned in new and different ways. It provides opportunities for deepening learning, for example through answering big questions, exploring an issue, solving problems or completing a final project.”
The importance of interdisciplinary learning as one of the 4 contexts for learning is highlighted by this quotation. Education Scotland has just published assessment and moderation exemplar materials which show how teachers carefully select a relevant and related “bundle” of experiences and outcomes. These exemplars (click here to view the collection) provide an assessment overview of the significant aspects of learning being developed in one subject area, but almost always show the teacher making a type 1 connection between one or more subject areas and/or with the cross-cutting themes of Curriculum for Excellence.. Click here to see how E & Os within HWB & LIT were linked at early level. Click here to see how higher order reading skills were integrated with contexts for learning at first level. To see how modern language vocubulary skills and thinking skills within literacy were linked at second level, click here. To explore how RME & Buddhism were linked to modern life at third level, click here. These do not prescribe the way these things must be done – they simply show how teachers have planned, delivered and assessed linked learning for their pupils. They may act as useful examples of very focused IDL which provides breadth, challenge and/or application opportunities for pupils.
Michelle Cairns and her primary 6/7 pupils at Bonnybridge Primary School have been able to apply their debating, listening and talking skills by taking part in the BBC Commonwealth project. This project also offered some breadth and challenge for pupils because of the issues they had to consider while preparing for their debate. They considered homelessness as an issue in this country and other Commonwealth countries. They had to analyse their thinking and communicate their ideas using a range of technology including “Skyping” pupils in other countries. Visit http://glo.li/1fZfGyo for more detail and to link to the television and radio broadcasts which the children took part in.