At Acera, our approach to thematic learning weaves philosophy and pedagogy for highly effective learning experiences and student growth.
View the schematic on Thematic Learning
How in the world is all this able to happen at once?
Through thematic learning, which is built around a topic or idea and which fosters a set of discussions, experiences, projects and culminating events around essential questions that are compelling and often do not have just one answer….or even a “right” answer at all.
In David Fodaski’s (“Mr. Fo”) classroom this year, the theme he created was “One Voice” to focus on consensus building and ensemble. From a literacy perspective, this is a collaborative writing model. This enables Fo to measure input and pushes students to truly listen to each other, and come upon something in which they can all contribute. The first project they did this on was space probes; students designed missions to planets and moons in our solar system as a search for life. They created schematics, conducted research, and worked together to create a presentation, including movies, to send their project concept to NASA. It emphasized the “get ready, do, done” executive function process, and supported their readiness to start their own IMP Passion projects, which began trimester 2.
Now, Fo’s class is about to start working on the culminating project for the year, which is adapting Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach for the stage, as children’s theatre. This will be a collaborative writing process, and a collaborative production creation. Some students are focusing more deeply on lighting design, some on music, etc and they are primed to create this together, and to create their own sets, costumes, make up. As well as the writing of the dialogue and designing a play that works on stage.
For Mr. Fo, the theme is less about constant content and is more about the group dynamic to establish ensemble in which students can rely on and trust one another in the classroom.
Fo collaborated with specialist teachers Alexis and Allison to co-lead and design theme-related learning. Together Alexis, Allison and Fo created a scope and sequence of astronomy and cosmology concepts. Today, for example, students learned about laser spectronomy in the classroom. Allison had them observe the light from burning elements, using alcohol; as students gazed at flames, they were able to identify the element through location of spectral lines.
A major presentation by student teams which includes mat video photography (making movies with their spacecraft). Students will use their movies as well as their research to propose the mission in a “Press Conference” which is open to a real audience.
Close reading and writing skills: their ability to leverage research writing frames and learning to create an introductory research paper. They are learning the model for science and proving that they are doing their research.
And the frosting on the dessert?
Because kids have a voice in creating authentic projects, in being heard and having learning tuned to their readiness level, and in having a role for levity, relationships and joy, kids’ intrinsic motivation can be tapped, enabling learning that sticks, and enabling an experience of community and connection at school.
With the Duck Variations Play, based upon student demand, this project to put on a shared play was intended to build community and trust in the group through working together and relying on each other on stage; this builds camaraderie, self awareness, risk taking, communication. The Duck Variations Play, held on a Friday afternoon in Fo’s class, with an audience of staff and parents, was a joyous event. Students paired up for their dialogues, with one student performing a dialogue with himself, and the energy in the room was contagious. Students who started school in the fall who seemed quiet, reserved or shy, were owning their parts on stage and delivering an amazing performance!