Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Lesson Plans by the Yarra

Image: 'Melbourne City Panorama'

Last night I went to my first edubloggers meetup. I met Graham Wegner in Melbourne when he and five other teachers from his school came over from Adelaide for the Teachers at Work conference with Jay McTighe. When Graham contacted me about a possible meetup I was very excited, and so we spent some time together having a meal and discussing common experiences and, of course, the conference. Towards the end of the evening when I was reluctantly talking about going home to prepare for the next days lessons, Graham and his colleagues, Annabel, Rebecca, Maria and Nancy came out with several alternative ideas I could use, all from the conference experience they had that day, hence the title of this blog post (thanks, Graham).

One of these was The Little Book made from a folded sheet of A4 paper that reminded me of the Literature Pocketmod made by The Reflective Teacher a while back. This one makes a 6 page little book with front and back covers that may be appealing for students to make and use. It could be used for example, to plan an essay or to summarise the characters in a text – one to a page. (I used mine to record the rest of the ideas that were flowing swiftly round the table.) Another idea was to get the students to make a sociogram of the characters in the text we are studying and have them show the impact the characters have on each other (very relevant for the text my year 11s are studying right now – Macbeth).

Another idea was to have students write the names of the characters or events in the text and work in groups to decide the rank from most important to least important and then present to the class, justifying their decision. Yet another idea was ABC graffiti. Students write the letters of the alphabet and brainstorm in groups a phrase or a word for each letter of the alphabet relating to their text. When brainstorming the idea is not to think too much about the word or phrase but to try to access the notable thing about the text that comes to mind first for that letter. The students could then use the list later to help summarise and revise the text.

Other ideas that the group remembered included the One Minute Write where students write in one minute all they can about a prompt, without lifting the pen from the page. They count up the number of words written and the number of three syllable words. Write down the score. Then the students could set themselves a goal to increase the number of complex words they are using, in other words to improve their vocabulary. They could discuss possible strategies to achieve the goal. . Of course as Graham pointed out, good writing in not always about the number of three syllable words used, but I think that focusing on a broader vocabulary in general would be a good thing. And finally, the memorable quote idea. Take a quote that people know: e.g. “Ask not what your country can do for you….” and rewrite it: e.g. “ask not what your class can do for you… etc”, in order to broaden perspective.

As you can see, the discussion was lively and enjoyable. I did not bring my camera and my iriver was had a flat battery, unfortunately, otherwise I could have given you all a multisensory account of our experience. Oh well, there’s always next time.


  1. Jo, it was a real privilege to meet you and chat. The words coming out of my colleagues' mouths were "lovely", "passionate" and "driven" - great compliments for you and the impact you make on the wide edublogging community cannot be underestimated. Melbourne is an exciting place to visit and it says a lot about the power on online professional networking that you were prepared to drive in for an hour just to catch up. Thanks, Jo.

  2. Maria8:26 pm

    Hi Jo. I would like to congratulate you on the wonderful summary of our "Lessons by the Yarra" we shared the other evening. As one of the teachers present(Maria), I was inspired by your passion and commitment to blogging. It was great to see your meeting with Graham unfold and was fortunate to be able to listen to the professional dialogue that unfolded. Although Graham has spoken to the staff about blogging on numerous occasions,this meeting has now encouraged me to visit his blogs and perhaps in time become a blogger myself in order to connect with others who share the same passion about using technology with teaching. I was very happy to hear your lessons went well and thoroughly enjoyed our brief meeting in Melbourne.Hope to see you visiting in Adelaide some time.