When our class began this new inquiry unit, entitled Conflict and Perspective, I had no idea where it was going to take us. I planned some engagement activities assuming my students’ interests would stay within the realm of personal conflict: fights with siblings, arguments on the playground, etc. However, three things became apparent quite quickly:
1. My 5th graders were burnt out on this theme of “why don’t we all just get along.” It was a conversation they had been having since grade one . . . and they were tired of it.
2. I was reading about multiple international conflicts daily in the news and was struggling with a way to share such current events in class.
3. During our “Tuning In” phase, students were asking deeper and more global conflict questions such as, “What is going on with the Ukraine exactly?” or “How do big governments get into conflicts?”
These three observations created an opportunity that was too good to pass up! By combining what my students were interested in with the importance of what was going on in the world, I saw a new direction to take this unit. I decided to guide my students from evaluating their own worlds of personal conflict to researching and reflecting on current global conflicts. The engagement level in the class, the conversations that started at home, the higher order questions that were being asked, the collaboration amongst students and community members, all sky rocketed due to this more global shift. It was an amazing experience for all of us. Here is a sampling of what it looked like:
3. Israel/Palestine Conflict 2014 Sample Final Student Common Craft video. The only involvement I had was to narrate during the taping.
Reflection: What worked?
- high engagement
- relevant learning, immediately applicable to our world today
- community involvement with guest speakers
- grouping sizes best for collaboration
- student choice and individual creativity
- conversations initiated at home as a result
Reflection: What could be added/changed/deleted to improve the inquiry?
- create a rubric for the final Common Craft video
- create a google doc template for each student to record reflections
- integrate more lessons on perspective
- invite parents in as guest speakers to share their experiences
- broaden the audience for the final videos
From my perspective, this unit was successful in reaching our enduring understanding of “our perspectives influence our choices when dealing with conflict.” Both the students and I learned from our community, had fun together, and became more informed global citizens as a result. Perhaps this mother’s email sums it up best . . .
“I wanted to send you a thank you for the great job you are doing teaching [our son] this year and share with you the impact you have made on him and therefore us. We were driving in the car listening to NPR when the situation with Gaza was covered. His older sister asked what prompted the attacks and what was the root of the issue between Israel and the Palestinians. To be perfectly honest with you – I was pretty hesitant to get into it because it’s pretty complex. While I was struggling how to start, [our son] asked if he could explain it – and he did . . . beautifully. He was succinct and knowledgable on the subject. I especially appreciated the unbiased presentation of the facts. When I asked him where he learned this – his answer was simple: ‘in class, of course.'”
As Course 1 comes to a close, I am definitely seeing the benefits of COETAIL conversations being translated into my teaching. Many new ideas have come to the surface for me and this time I am left wondering: How can I replicate this quality of learning experience for my students in other units throughout the year?