This term our topic in Year 6 is ‘The Cradle of Civilisation’ and we have started exploring Ancient Sumer, a period of time that we quickly realised not many people had heard of or knew much about (myself included). For me, this is a fantastic opportunity to learn alongside the children and to show them how I am passionate about learning, as well as teaching.
We began with an archaeological dig in role as Leonard Wooley who was best known for his excavations at Ur in Mesopotamia. We did not tell the children the ancient time that we were going to be studying as we wanted them to consider this after the dig. The children used brushes and other tools to carefully uncover artefacts that had been ‘planted’ under sand in various areas of the classroom. At each new discovery the children discussed and made notes on what each artefact could be, what it could have been used for, what period of time it was from and what it might tell them about that period of time. The conversations were incredibly interesting, deep and thoughtful and the level of contemplation was really impressive. During this the children kept a ‘Dig Diary’ and wrote in role as Leonard Wooley about their discoveries, their feelings at the time and what they hoped would come from these discoveries.
The children (and staff!) are hooked on this topic and we are all looking forward to finding out even more about this ancient civilisation. I want to bring a real ‘audience’ to the work the children are going to be doing as part of their home learning and I need your help. In class, our big focus in on Science this term so much of our topic learning will focus on the scientific ideas that can be explored through looking back to Ancient Sumer. However, through the children’s home learning they will research aspects of Sumerian history and geography.
I have been thinking a lot about ‘home learning’ or ‘homework’ recently and have read a few posts by teachers who reflect how, often, it can be set without careful consideration of its purpose. Consequently, many tasks set for ‘homework’ can be less than desirable in terms of impact on learning and child engagement. Having read a recent post by Steve Wheeler on ‘10 characteristics of authentic learning‘, I have thought of homework project that I think will engage, inspire and impact children’s home learning.
With the help of twitter (and beyond, perhaps!) I hope to set a home learning challenge for my class to complete over the next few weeks. The project will be based around people’s questions and my class will be responsible for answering these questions in a way that they think would be most effective. They might choose to create a wiki, write a blog post, create a presentation, make a model, produce some artwork, etc. to help answer the questions that have been asked. The ‘end product/s’ will then be sent to the person who asked it who (hopefully) will give some feedback on the quality of the answer.
In terms of Steve Wheeler’s 10 characteristics, I think it encompasses the majority. This task is a complex task that would be completed over a few weeks (3). It has a real-world relevance (1) in terms of the audience for the project and requires pupils to define the tasks/activities (2) they need to complete themselves. Collaboration between pupils and question-askers would be crucial for a successful project (5) and they would receive authentic, real world assessment (7). The possible outcomes are multifaceted (9) and have the potential to be authentic and valuable in their own right (8).
Ancient Sumer is a period of time that I did not know much about and I had lots of questions about the Sumerians before we started studying them. Do you have any questions about that period of time that you’d like answered? Is there an aspect of Ancient Sumer that you would like to know more about? If there is, please complete this (very, very quick) Google form (developed by the children today) and let us know the question. If you could provide us with a contact address, that’d be great and your ‘answerer’ (need to think of another name for that!) will contact you with the answer.
I think this is a great opportunity to try something new in terms of the home learning I set my class and I hope that lots of people get involved! 🙂
If you can think of any ways of enhancing this project, please do let my class and I know!