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We’re not completely useless without our computer suite, but we did have to make alternative plans.

Our Viking research has followed the same basic outline for the last few years:

  • show video clip and ask pupils to identify as many activities as they can taking place in Jarlshof Viking village;
  • pupils work in a group, choosing one activity apiece to research;
  • two periods of research, using books and web;
  • pupils finally create a powerpoint as if they were Viking settlers welcoming visitors to Jarlshof, explaining what the villagers are up to (complete with Viking names).

Each person submits just one page to the finished product, so there’s also a requirement for pupils to select their best information.

Rather than cause an argument about who had already used which resources, we decided to show video clips (mainly BBC class clips and Horrible Histories) and used the opportunity to talk to the class about making notes. Too many people assume that making notes is an instinctual ability, whereas in reality it can take years for an individual to find methods that they’re comfortable with (and I know it’s not just me).

On this particular occasion, we discussed:

  • how they took notes already;
  • the fact that they wouldn’t be able to write everything down;
  • the fact that they shouldn’t indiscriminately write everything down anyway;
  • what to listen out for: keywords, synonyms;
  • what to look out for: visual information equally important to audible or written information;
  • how to note the information: abbreviations, ignoring words, using symbols, emphasis;
  • how important it was to write down where the information came from!

Having searched and found numerous clips, I was rather dismayed that half of them weren’t appearing in our list, until I realised that I’d fallen into the common trap of creating a search for “Vikings” rather than “Viking”; using the plural ensured half my resources would be ignored.

Honestly, call myself an information professional?!

Watching the clips was good fun. The pupils were involved, concentrating, entertained, interested, participating and learning. There were plenty of questions (allowing me to show off my Viking knowledge – always a pleasure 🙂 ) and even some singing along, literally

Since every pupil had gathered a barrel-load of information, I suggested a final detour for a game of hnefatafl. It went down a storm, with kids yelling, ‘No, not that one, THAT ONE!’, demanding information about the game and giving us a final opportunity to get them using their imaginations:

Close your eyes, folks. Imagine you can smell smoke, and dirt, and you’re surrounded by your pals, it’s warm, it’s dark, and everyone’s yelling, telling you what to do. Because you guys are acting like Vikings right now!

A bit of fun, a bit of singing, a bit of learning, a lot of laughing. Not a bad lesson, even if I say so myself.

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