Finds on twitter have definitely been the source of inspiration for breaking the blog drought this weekend – that and my head is obviously a lot clearer than it has been these past few weeks! Roll on the end of term and I will be all set for #CENZ15.
I read Rachel Burgess’ blog this week – ‘3 ideas for a relatively-traditional English class’ and was reminded that it is these types of ideas that teachers love to read about because they are often the ones that they can immediately take away and implement in their own practice. It also reminded me of a piece of work that I did with our English department last year as part of the Sport in Education Project, where English teachers found it particularly successful introducing the element of competitiveness into their teaching and learning programmes. This is the success story from the English department as part of a cross-curricular Year 10 Commonwealth Games unit (Physical Education, Mathematics, English, and Food Technology). I hope you might find some small ‘take-aways’ to use in your own practice.
English in a Commonwealth Games context
A cross-curriculum Year 10 unit centred around the Commonwealth Games generated multiple opportunities to integrate aspects of English with the learning in other subject areas.
What was the main aim?
The English teachers were keen to make meaningful connections between the learning they planned and the English demands of tasks planned by other learning areas for inclusion in the Commonwealth Games unit. The faculty leader for English set up meeting with colleagues from other departments to discuss how they could integrate aspects of their curriculum areas with English, with the aim of developing a holistic approach to the unit. The teachers hoped that students would see that skills learned in one subject were transferrable to other subject areas.
What learning activities were involved?
Examples of integrated tasks the teachers co-developed were:
- Using learning about athlete’s nutrition and foods unique to a country to create a cook book with recipes from participating countries. Students gathered the information in food technology and crafted the writing in English, with an emphasis on fitness for purpose and audience.
- Producing an information leaflet in English that described an athlete’s village or was a tourist information leaflet for the games’ venue. This acted as a precursor to the formal assessment, and writing skills were taught and revised prior to the assessment.
- Producing a poster to promote the Aotea Games event (link to Physical Education)
- Using the cost analysis completed in maths to write a persuasive letter requesting sponsorship to attend the games. This task provided the overall assessment activity for the unit, with the knowledge and understanding gained in maths supporting full participation in the writing task.
The English teachers introduced a competitive element, grouping students in ‘countries’, and awarded points to these teams for various activities, and for demonstration of the school values, which were also discussed throughout the unit and related to the learning. (What do these values mean? How can athletes use these values? How can we show these values in this competition?). At the end of the unit the teachers presented medals to the winning ‘countries’ in a special ceremony.
How did the teachers know these activities had an impact?
Both teachers and students noted that it was beneficial to see how activities done in one subject potentially worked as part of a wider whole. The competitive element generated good ‘buy in’ from the students and some groups were seen in the library at lunchtimes working on their homework together so they could get points for their assigned country team.
Most students achieved at the curriculum level expected of a year 10 student, with a few achieving at a higher level. The few students who did not achieve either had poor attendance, were working below stanine 3, or were ESOL students.
Most students said they enjoyed this unit of work and liked the cross curricular approach. They also enjoyed working with people they normally wouldn’t work with. The students had a sense of pride in achievement when they saw their own work (posters) advertising the Year 10 Aotea Games.
Many thanks to Bena Haider, Asst HOD English for her hard work in making this happen, and to the English department for giving this cross-curricular approach a go. Thanks also to Rose Hipkins and Sally Boyd from NZCER for assisting us with the writing of our success stories.