The Head’s Tales: Collaborative learning

Last week Mr. Giommi, our Deputy Head, and I attended a presentation put on by students from both the Comparative Civilizations 12 and Writing 12 classes. It was a great example of how two curriculums, even those with different learning outcomes, can be integrated to create more engaging learning opportunities for students.

The goal of the Comparative Civilizations curriculum is to compare various aspects of culture and civilization, including influential individuals and their contributions to the world over time. Students are asked to identify and discuss how events and individuals have influenced history – through words, actions, circumstances or their ability to leverage ideas, behaviours or emotions to engage people in embracing change. With this particular project, the World’s Most Influential Person Survivor Debate, the girls were asked to research an individual they feel was, or is, highly influential – keeping in mind that this can be either positive or negative. The culminating exercise was to present their findings to their peers and provide a compelling story and rationale that would allow them to be voted most likely to “survive the test of time.”

The Writing 12 curriculum is designed to help students learn about and apply various writing styles, realizing that you must write for and know your audience. For this project, the students took on different journalistic personas and wrote about the Comparative Civilizations students’ characters, highlighting those facts they felt were critical to capture and sustain the interests of their specific audience. After the presentations they were encouraged to ask questions of the presenters to include additional information that would enhance their storylines and appeal to their readers.

What made this activity so engaging was that it was all done in character; the Comparative Civilizations girls had to plead their case “in role” and the Writing students had to ask questions and report their findings in the genre they were writing for (entertainment tabloid, fashion magazine, blog, journal, etc…). 

The synergy behind this activity was palpable, with the Comparative Civilizations 12 girls providing the “material” for the Writing 12 girls (albeit journalists with a specific reporting agenda), who in turn formed the live audience to whom the girls had to make their case. Through this process, the girls demonstrated their research skills, presentation skills and written skills in a fun and interactive environment. Even the follow-up questions from the audience addressed the various ways people can use their power to influence opinions, harness peer pressure, and even enlist the power of social capital/media to get their message across. 

It will be interesting to see who the students choose as “most influential” and how each journalist reports these stories to reflect what they believe their readers want to know. This was a fabulous learning activity that reminds me that we all influence with and through: norms, actions and words. In this case the teachers, Ms. Chartrand and Ms. Hogan, demonstrated how teachers and students (across grades and curricula) can collaborate to integrate learning outcomes and create the best learning opportunities possible.

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