Authentic Year 7 History Project

Over the past few weeks I have been visiting a local primary school to observe how ICT is being integrated in the classroom. In a previous post I described how students were creating maths quizzes, animated PowerPoint presentations and stop motion animated videos.  Today I would like to explain the planning process the teachers used to design and implement an authentic history task about Ancient Rome. I hope this information will be useful for pre-service and qualified teachers who would like to implement authentic project-based learning approaches in their classrooms.

The first thing I noticed was the classroom setup. Tables are not arranged in rows like other classrooms, they are arranged in squares so students can work in groups of four. Ms Patton explained that students are allocated into different groups for each project so they have the opportunity to work with different people. She also mentions that teachers new to this interactive learning approach usually find it very messy, noisy and disorganised when first exposed to it. However, they soon realise that the lessons are well planned, the teachers have put a lot of thought and effort into creating a task that meets the Year 7 curriculum requirements and that the students are actively engaged in the learning.

CC Flickr: Moyan Brenn, 2010 - Ancient Rome

CC Flickr: Moyan Brenn, 2010 – Ancient Rome

Background information
The Year 7 curriculum provides a study of history from the time of the earliest human communities to the end of the ancient period, approximately 60 000 BC (BCE) – c.650 AD (CE). It was a period defined by the development of cultural practices and organised societies. The study of the ancient world includes the discoveries (the remains of the past and what we know) and the mysteries (what we do not know) about this period of history, in a range of societies including Australia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, China and India. Prior to commencing this in depth study students should have completed the overview content outlined in the curriculum. The overview content identifies important features of the period as part of an expansive chronology to help students understand broad patterns of historical change. The overview content provides the broader context for the teaching of this in depth study and is used to give students an introduction to the historical period (Australian Curriculum, Year7).

ACARA logo

Curriculum: Depth Study 2: The Mediterranean world – Rome
ACDSEH039 The significant beliefs, values, practices of the ancient Romans, with a particular emphasis on one of the following areas: Everyday life, death and funerary customs.

Project Overview
This project requires students to assume the role of a history teacher. They step back in time to discover what life was like in ancient Rome and explore the links between our modern world and the ancient Roman world to teach their peers about a specific area of ancient Roman life. Many aspects of our life today can be directly linked to ancient Roman times. For example: many of the names of the months in the year and the planets in the solar system. This project will enable students to put their learning about Ancient Roman life into practical action. In groups they will research information to construct a PowerPoint presentation with quiz questions to teach their peers about a specific aspect of Ancient Roman life. Example aspects may include: sport & entertainment (The Colosseum), engineering (aqueducts), architecture (Roman buildings), culture & art (statues), gods & goddesses. At the end of the project each group will deliver their PowerPoint presentation on the Smartboard to the whole class and their students (fellow classmates) will complete the quiz to check their understanding of the topic they presented.

Project Plan
Ancient Rome - planning diagram

Lesson schedule
2 history lessons per week over 3 weeks = 6 lessons

  • Lesson 1 – Task explained, group allocation, determine research focus questions, brainstorm plan questions
  • Lesson 2 & 3 – Research information from focus questions (Books & Internet)
  • Lesson 4 & 5 – PowerPoint presentation and quiz questions
  • Lesson 6 – Presentations (in class to fellow students) on Smartboard

Lesson management
As with any well planned lesson the teacher needs to document the learning process, ensure all required equipment is available and booked and the necessary resources are located or created before each of the lessons. They also need to factor in contingency plans for program schedule changes or technology glitches and include extension activities for early finishers.

I observed very few teacher-centered activities over the three weeks I visited during this project and the main role of the teacher was that of a facilitator. As the students worked on their tasks, the teacher moved around the room checking they were on track, asking questions to encourage students to think more deeply about the content and the product they are creating and guiding them forward when they stalled or got side-tracked. It was wonderful to see how engaged the students were throughout the whole project and how the technology was used by students to support their learning.

I am looking forward to visiting this class again this term as they are commencing a new project about  Remembrance day. Students will research and read about Remembrance Day and document their knowledge, understanding and thoughts about it. They will  write a poem to express what they think  the meaning of courage is today and present all of their work on their own wiki page on the class wiki. The wiki will be a tribute for our fallen soldiers that will be shared with the the whole school on the 11th of November.

Acknowledgement
I would like to express my sincere thanks to Mrs Patton and her school for allowing me to visit and to write about the great learning experiences happening in their classrooms.

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