It turns out that, based on the staffing available at the school this year, I’ll be teaching Year 7 and 8 SOSE for the first time in a while. Given my last couple of years have focused primarily on IT, and the year prior to that was Year 11 and 12 Accounting and Economics, it’s both exciting and daunting at the same time. Exciting because I think it’s going to be a LOT of fun, but a little daunting because it means engaging more deeply with the Australian Curriculum than I had expected would be the case. That said, after looking over the History Curriculum for Years 7 and 8, I’m feeling quite confident I can do a good job of it.
My plan for the year is to shake things up a bit – to bring a Challenge-Based Learning approach to the classes and see if, by facilitating and guiding the students, they can meet all of the Australian Curriculum outcomes without the need for me to explicitly teach every aspect of them. I’d like to see the kids really engage with the material in a more meaningful way – to start to actually participate with others in the class in a way that enables them to get more of an idea about what it was like to be alive in the periods of history we’ll be exploring. To instil in them a desire to find things out for themselves, rather than rely on the teacher to tell them what it is they need to know.
For year 7, that means becoming a part of Ancient Chinese society – to understand what it means to be a member of one of the main groups within that society, and how law, religion and beliefs shaped the way they act. Similarly, for year 8, an exploration of Renaissance Italy should give them an appreciation of the various influences culture, art and wealth had on the lives of the people. It would be easy to point the kids to content online and in textbooks and have them “learn” by taking it in from secondary sources, but to me the emphasis on content seems to be misplaced given that really, if they want to know about that stuff, the answers are all a couple of clicks away on an Internet search.
Our role as educators now is to spark a desire for learning in the minds of every one of our students. For some of them it’s going to be a scary thing – it means challenging the idea that you know what you need to know, and that your opinion may not be correct – but the emphasis on teamwork and collaboration I hope will enable them to understand and appreciate different perspectives; perhaps even allow them to identify what backgrounds and experiences contribute to the views held by others.
So what kind of tasks will I be asking students to complete? That will need to be negotiated with my colleagues and the kids of course, but I’d like to see students write their own historical fiction (whether it be books, serials, diary entries or screenplays/film trailers is up to them) that provides insight into the life and experiences of well known celebrities and the common people of the time; perhaps participate as a member of a church or government, making decisions and analysing the impacts of those decisions on themselves and their peers; maybe use what they’ve learned to draw parallels to modern society and how history has directly and indirectly influences the lives we live today.
As I said, it should make for an exciting year!