Ten-O-Pedia: what did they learn?

Every high school teacher in NSW knows that this time of the year is really tough when it comes to teaching Year 10. OK, maybe using the word ‘every’ is hyperbolic … I should have said ‘lots of’ or ‘every teacher I know’ – for those of you who may have epic success teaching Year 10 after the School Certificate and before they finally burst from their junior school cocoon, big props to you … you should probably stop reading now. This post is not for you.

Keeping Year 10 ‘busy’ is the challenge of most teachers this time of year. It’s funny cos it’s the only time of the year where learning just seems to not be a priority. But really, if we’re honest, lots of time throughout the year the activities planned for students are simply designed to keep them ‘busy’. (Although, admittedly that’s probably not the case for you, dear reader, because you wouldn’t be reading this post if you didn’t care about learning, right?) My head teacher said to me today, ‘Bianca, if we’re honest with ourselves a lot of the work teachers plan for students is busy-work. It’s really not about teaching students to think.’ And he’s right. It’s during conversations like these that I say a silent thank you for working with this man.

On the way to HSC marking yesterday, my colleague and I were chatting about how we were going to keep Year 10 busy over the next week and a half. I had envisioned a cool mini-project where they would create fan-fiction/satire/mash-up of one of the texts we studied in class this year … the idea is still a bud in my brain. Why? HSC marking pretty much fertilised my brain with bad shit and as a result the project did not bloom. A shame. Maybe next year. So me and my workmate were chatting about this failed idea and trying to conjure something else. This time of year colouring-in seems a good option. I was thinking maybe making a picture book could be good; my colleague suggested a dictionary. Hmmm … I said, ‘Maybe a visual dictionary? She said yes … it could be based on what the students have learnt over the year. Winner! If you look here you can see the end product of that five minutes brainstorm.

This morning I walked into work and was greeted by a cheery prac student (not mine), Adam, who told me he loved the Ten-O-Pedia idea (he’d seen my tweet about it last night) and said he wanted to use it with his Year 10 class too. So by the time the bell went to teach these edgy burgeoning-young adults there were three teachers launching a mini-project designed to keep the kids busy, but also aiming at getting some data on what the students learnt over the year … what things could they recall having spent time learning. What would be included and what would be left out?

Well to be honest after all of the hype of planning the activity (and all the mental and physical high fives) it was a bit of a fizzer for me, haha. For an activity that I thought would last a few lessons, the kids whizzed through it and mostly didn’t do the world’s best job. They thought the task was a bit random and had significant issues remembering anything we’d studied in class beginning with the letter they had been allocated. There was a lot of ‘Hey miss, what’s something we learnt starting with (insert any letter of the alphabet)?’ It was a riotous lesson with lots of laughter, coloured pens being thrown around and silliness. By the time the bell rang I had about 20 pages of the Ten-O-Pedia blue-tacked to my whiteboard. There were many sheets left half-completed on the tables and pens all around the place. But the kids left with a smile and a laugh and some hung around to chat about our up-coming excursion to MacICT.

When they had all gone, I took a look at the things they had chosen to include as their entries … so what did they learn in our class this year that they could – pretty much – easily bring to consciousness? Well there were some funny (and obvious) things like the names of characters and poetic techniques … one student included ‘noun’ as an entry … but there were lovely ones that I wanna mention cos they made me all warm-like in my belly. For ‘H’ we had ‘Habits of Mind’, for ‘C’ we had ‘Cave work’, for ‘L’ we had ‘Learning in teams’ and for ‘P’ we had ‘Persistence’. Cool, huh? These selections resonated with me simply because I know that if I had run this same task at the end of last year I would never have received those responses. My students have been impacted (positively?) by my evolving attitudes towards learning – it was made visible today.

One of the other teachers got her students to blue-tack all of their Ten-O-Pedia on the wall outside of her classroom. So I followed suit … even if we didn’t get an entry for each letter and the pictures were stick figures with crazy coloured hair. The walls of the English corridor are decorated with Year 10 learning … nice!

If you’re thinking of a way of keeping Year 10 busy, maybe you wanna try this activity? It probably will only last a lesson, but it’s fun and worthwhile I think.

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4 thoughts on “Ten-O-Pedia: what did they learn?

  1. What’s “Cave work”? (and we send our year 10s off to do more work experience and then a week of volunteer work – it’s a nice deal as we only have to “entertain” them for a week or so after the exams 🙂 )

    • Oh ‘cave work’ refers to the three learning spaces I refer to in my classroom – campfire, waterhole, cave. I’ve blogged about it in the past … mythic/archetypal learning spaces or some such jazz, lol.
      Yeah our kids have a 2 week kinda in-school excursion thing where they do a bunch of workshops and stuff. I do like the idea of volunteer work though – must be a big job to organise that!

      • Oh, ok, just went back and found the post. I like your classroom set-up. Do you change it each lesson? I have been experimenting with my classroom set-up and earlier this year changed from a double horse-shoe to small group of tables (I had table-points going as well, similar to your group points system – it works great with the boys!). I like the groups (pods?) for many things, but whole class discussion is very difficult! Changing things up for the task might alleviate that. I imagine that the kids would get pretty quick at arranging the room when necessary or does it take much time out of each lesson? Every other classroom in my school is in rows. It makes me want to cry 😦

  2. Well pretty much my classroom moves each lesson but I have devised a structure that means students (for the most part) only have to move their chairs to get into the ‘campfire’ arrangement … I have tables in groups around edge of the room and large gap in the centre for the campfire time. When it’s ‘cave’ work the students put in their headphones (and no, this isn’t school policy), go outside in the hall or sit on the floor, move their table/chair away from their peers … it’s not conventional by any means but it works. I always put the lesson on the board accompanied by the learning space expected for each activity.
    It takes time for them to ‘get it’ – but it can be done. And yeah, lots of rows in my school too but it is changing!

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