Combining the best of athletics, team building activities, invasion games, and the future of technology.
Part 2: The Planning
This is going to be AWESOME!
– 5th grade student, after a small introduction to our next unit of inquiry
Previously, we discussed the BIG idea for the unit – the ‘why’ and ‘what’ behind such a massive endeavour. We looked into the standards and outcomes at the heart of the unit, as well as, how it would touch on concepts and activities to do with Track & Field, Invasion Games, Cooperative Games, and Technology.
Today we will look at the small steps taken in planning for such a unit to give a concrete outline so that you may implement such a unit in your classroom. You may also find these steps relevant if you are simply attempting to plan a new and innovative unit of your own.
Step 1 – Integration
Normally, within the integrated PYP framework, specialist and single subject teachers attempt to integrate with the overall Unit of Inquiry (UOI). In a UOI, students inquire into a broad ‘Central Idea’ through research and exploration of smaller subtopics called Lines of Inquiry. The planning is immense and burdensome, yet extremely beneficial for students’ engagement and understanding of material.
The UOI, which should be planned in conjunction with specialist teachers, uses the lines of inquiry and the central idea to facilitate the journey of student learning. However, if a unit does not organically overlap with a single-subject teachers’ focus (i.e. Exploration about outer space** vs. PE unit on cooperative learning), then the specialists will instead use the major concepts from that unit to integrate partially, but more authentically.
For this unit, 5th grade’s focus was How We Express Ourselves, a more artistically focused exploration, and so full integration was not possible. In cases such as this, single subjects like P.E. create and teach a stand-alone central idea and unit (see below).
Step 2: Planning a Progression
Once we had the “Central” or main idea we were then able to look closer at our previously designated PSPE outcomes and SHAPE standards. This allowed us to develop a natural progression of outcomes and objectives within the unit. Once the progression was set, a broad range of activities were chosen to fit those outcomes.
Through careful study of the standards we saw that “training sessions” were needed to equip students’ with the necessary skills to succeed in their Quest. Therefore, the unit was broken up into two halves – first half focusing on the practice of specific skills (see text box), the second half being the ‘Adventure’ itself.
Step 3: Seamless Technology
To create a natural flow to the adventure, we used the format of other role playing games such as Dungeons and DragonsTM. We also infused the leveling progressions of games like World of WarcraftTM and MinecraftTM. Through researching different applications, we found the most useful app for creating this type of adventure was ClasscraftTM.
Classcraft is a game based learning application which allows the creation of activities and tasks to fit the user. Users may input everything, from how a player may progress through levels to the amount of points players earn for finishing tasks. While many tasks, rewards, and such are already on the app, they are primarily designed for classroom teachers. Fortunately, the format does allow for some adaptation, making it easy for specialist teachers to adjust and input their content to any desired format.
Using this app, we created levels that correlated to the progression of learning. For example, Level One focused on the concept/outcome Diversity. All activities and challenges on Level One were related to this main idea. Each level was then divided into three distinct challenges.
The first challenge was catered to team building and cooperative activities. This involved a task teams would have to accomplish and solve together. In the second challenge, as a group, teams answered a question or word problem designed to explore their understanding of the major concept for that level (i.e. Diversity). The third challenge was where teams battled other teams in an invasion game. In this challenge, one team would enter the ‘Battlefield’ and challenge another team to a game such as soccer, handball, etc.
Through the use of iPads, teams would read, understand, and complete each challenge while directly inputting results (i.e. pictures, answers, etc.) into the application itself. Once teams had completed all three challenges, they could progress to the next level, the next three challenges, and the next concept.
With all these steps firmly planned and created, the only thing left was to set up ‘The Realm’.
**Quality Units of Inquiry are not usually theme-based (i.e. “Outer Space”), but for the sake of time I have condensed the Central Idea to a broader theme.