In Social Studies, I was teaching my students about Early Settlers coming into Upper Canada, and the relationship they had with the First Nations people. I had them create a Flashback/Moment in the past (Conventions used to provide different perspectives on the action in a drama by showing events from an earlier time. A flashback might be used to explain the causes of an action in the present) without them even realizing it at first.
I told them I was going to pretend I was a Gr. 7 student coming into their classroom, and I needed their help to know all about how their classroom works. They filled me in on the technology and resources. They showed me where their supplies were, and how things were set up (just like the First Nations people help the Settlers). I then told them that I was going to take over most of their classroom, and they would have to stay in one part of the room and only use part of the supplies they had...the rest would be for me! With that, I had them move to one corner of the room.
I asked them how they were feeling in this moment, kind of like the Voices in the head strategy we learned in our drama class (Tap in/voices in the head occurs when students are participating in a drama activity or scene, and someone outside of the scene freezes the scene/act and taps a student (or students) on the head or shoulder. When a student is tapped, they must reveal the inner thoughts or feelings of their character).
They immediately told me how frustrating it was that I (as a Gr. 7 student) would take over the classroom. They told me it was unfair and that they were angry. They told me I wasn't being kind or respectful to them.
Before long, a student raised his hand and asked me, "Miss Wittek, are we like the First Nations people living on the land, and you are like the Early Settlers taking it over?"
I was thrilled to see, not only that they understood the concept, but that they were able to identify with the feelings of the First Nations people through our FLASHBACK.
What a powerful tool for teaching students how to take on the perspectives of others...this is the power of experiential learning, and of combining the elements of drama (role and character) into various curriculum areas.
In the next context, we used our knowledge of reducing waste to help the environment to make a web. One student said we should produce less trash, the next said we could do this by using reusable water bottles, the next mentioned wasting less water, and so on.
- Connecting the class and creating positive class culture: to accomplish this, webs can be used as they were in the first example. Students could find different ways that they are connected based on interests for example. They can search for people who have similar or connected interests, and before they know it, the whole class could be connected! This is a great way to help kids get to know each other at the beginning of the year, and for the teacher to get to know the students. It is also a great way to show that though interests might be different, the students themselves are still connected in some way and they can find similarities.
- For older students, webs can also be used as a tool to study for a test: The teacher could present a topic in the unit of study, and have the students start off by saying something about that topic. Each student could find a connection to that topic and share the connections as a way to review information. This way, they are working together to remember and reinforce the information.
- For younger or older students, the web can be used at the beginning of a unit to see how much students know about a topic. For example, if the unit was on plants, students could start the web with “flowers”, then someone may connect by sharing that flowers have leaves. The next person could connect leaves with trees, and so on until the whole class is part of the web in some way.
Connection webs are a great tool for increasing a positive classroom environment and making students feel comfortable. It really provides opportunities for participation so students see their input is important to the class. It also shows them that they themselves are a key part of the web of the classroom.