How does your physical location affect your opportunities? This year at Melbourne Girls Grammar, a goal of the Middle Years staff has been to plan and deliver authentic inquiry experiences to our students. Our aim is to explore new content knowledge, develop 21st-century learning skills all whilst incorporating new technologies to provide innovative learning experiences. This led to a Year 5 inquiry unit investigating the essential question, “How does our physical location affect our opportunities?”
We began with a confronting immersion task to encourage our students to consider the experiences of other children around the world. This enabled them to generate wonderings to drive our unit of inquiry (see picture). The students subsequently investigated the United Nations Rights of the Child to identify what opportunities all children should be afforded irrespective of country of birth.
We enlisted the help of our information services team to come to Year 5 and deliver specialist lessons on how to perform effective searches using our library’s online databases, as well as the pro’s and con’s of using Google to gather information. All students were encouraged to gather factual information about Australia such as imports, exports, climate, literacy levels, average household income etc which could be used as a means of comparison with a chosen country later in the unit.
After developing an understanding of the opportunities afforded to adults and children in Australia, the girls were challenged to choose a focus country outside of Australia to investigate and make comparisons. Students developed a geographical and social understanding of the country to determine if the opportunities afforded to, particularly children, were in line with the UN Rights of the Child treaty. They were specifically asked to attribute cause and effect; How were opportunities affected in that country and why was this the case? The girls loved comparing the physical size of their chosen country with Australia using The True Size website. They also had the opportunity to explore their country through pictures using the Pegman feature in Google Maps.
One of the most important and challenging elements of the unit was the “Call to Action”. An opportunity for girls to use their new knowledge to make a change. Students contacted outside agencies such as charities, businesses and even reached out to politicians. The girls wanted to suggest changes to laws, not only in other countries but also here in Australia. After learning about policies towards immigration and same-sex marriage in Canada and Sweden, they felt Australian laws could be improved.
The unit culminated with students either individually, or in pairs, presenting the information they had found. The girls were encouraged to present their information using Google Slides using a range of mediums, including; images, tables, graphs, and keywords. The Screencastify extension was then utilised to enhance their slide deck with students recording using their voice to create an immersive presentation for their audience. This was a time-efficient way to develop their presentation skills, without having to observe each group presenting.
Each presentation was uploaded into a Google MyMap which was used as an authentic showcase of learning which could be shared with parents. Some students even created Google Forms to share and test the audience’s knowledge after viewing their presentation. Students completed self and peer reflections on their learning which were also uploaded into the MyMap to give a complete picture of the learning journey of the students throughout the unit.
In summation, I believe student engagement is the gauge of the success of any lesson, or unit, in schools. Student Agency in this unit was at a premium. The investment in answering the essential question enabled authentic knowledge construction, opportunities for self-regulation, exploration of areas of digital citizenship, ICT for learning and effective communication. All of these skills will help our students succeed and adapt to the future world of work, whatever that might look like.
Year 5 Teacher
Melbourne Girls Grammar School
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