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Traveller’s Tales

May 10, 2014

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This week I regaled students with tales of how the Eiffel Tower creeps up on you as a visitor to Paris…

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We discussed relationships of parts to wholes, perspective, the effect of skewed or limited vision, and the necessity of taking conditions such as  framing into account. In exchange, they related what I had missed and how they had been travelling in my absence.

We managed to forge links between their studies in Society & Environment – Egyptian mummies – our current weather pattern, and the metaphoric thunderstorm on next week’s horizon that is NAPLAN.

This was our provocative question:

How is NAPLAN like a mummy?

And their group-devised responses:

  • they are both frightening
  • difficult to construct
  • real
  • people made them
  • put together from parts
  • they are both old
  • and (there’s always one) boring

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Together, looking through past test papers and questions, we discovered patterns and processes that made meaning out of something they admitted was scary and possibly stressful. From this, groups devised suggestion lists organised around Dos and Don’ts with a quarantine area in the middle to distinguish anomalies.

The most significant anomaly? Guess the answer. They tussled over whether this was classified as a do or a don’t. There was teasing of the nuanced implications:

Better to read closely and know you are right – do your best. We want to get good marks. The right answer is there, right in front of you. In multiple choice answers, there’s a 25% chance of being right. Was guessing like cheating? (the latter significantly emphasised as first pick on our Do Not).

In our final debrief, year 7 students shared past experiences of NAPLAN testing and how they had learned to cope. Powerful learning.


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My contribution – the teaching part of the activity – was clearly contextualised and largely peripheral.

Scene setter. Art director. Flame fanner. Motivator. Time keeper. Activator.

Here in my Saturday-study with the luxury of reflection, I envisage future opportunities to engage students across the school in designing the learning episodes and roles. For me, the fresh insight available to a traveller is worth recording; invisibility is my goal.

Fare forward, travellers! Not escaping from the past 
Into indifferent lives, or into any future; 
You are not the same people who left that station 
Or who will arrive at any terminus, 
While the narrowing rails slide together behind you; 
And on the deck of the drumming liner 
Watching the furrow that widens behind you, 
You shall not think ‘the past is finished’ 
Or ‘the future is before us’ (Eliot, 1943, p. 35).

Selected reference

Eliot, T.S. (1943). Four quartets. Orlando, Florida: Harcourt.

 

 

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