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3rd year English are working on Scotland History / Mystery: a quick revision run through information literacy (keywords, skimming, scanning, note making, planning) followed by an investigation into a Scottish mystery or folktale. The challenge is to retell the story in an interesting or unusual way. In the past we’ve had a puppet show version of the Flannan Isle disappearances, re-enactments of meetings with the Big Grey Man of Ben MacDhui, recreations of Sawney Bean’s cave, a Borders legend comic strip and ghost quizzes along with the usual posters and talks. Powerpoint is banned completely (much to the pupils’ horror).

This is the first year we’ve used the investigation with 3rd year as an introduction to the Added Value Units. Having an extra year allows us to extend the presentation options to include iMovie, Garageband and Comic Life because the pupils have tried out the software by this stage and have a fair idea of its (and their own) capabilities. We’re also including an information literacy assessment, but they’ve not really been taking it seriously, perhaps because they don’t take information literacy seriously, or perhaps because they believe they know it all already and anyone saying otherwise is just being pedantic.

And of course, it’s loads of fun. I’ve never discovered a pupil who didn’t find something to intrigue them. In fact, the two biggest problems are choosing something with too much information to select from, or choosing something so precise that it’s difficult to find anything.  There’s far more material available in the books than online so they’ve got to rely on the catalogue, and of course, record where they discovered everything because I can practically guarantee that their notes will have discrepancies. Myth and legend tend to the ambiguous.

History / Mystery is wonderful because it demands brain stretching in lots of different directions – no lazy powerpoints, no copying/pasting, a demand for decent levels of research. Absolute deadlines improve their time management. Bibliography sheets insist they pay attention to where their information is coming from. And since they will be assessing each other, there’s a subtle level of competition going on but also a lot of mutual support.

It’s a glorious riot of creativity from start to finish and I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

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