24 Nov 2013

The Star Model - 3 Steps To An Integrated Learning Environment for a High School

Life is not separated into subjects, we do not get told, "Now you will be using your english skills and now your science ones".  It makes sense to me that school education should be reflective of the world that our students will be living in.  Primary school does this really well and I think high school could recreate some of the things they do.  Don't get me wrong I do think there is value in specialisation, in getting involved in a subject to develop advanced technical skills, however not everything should be like this.

These three steps are how my school has integrated specific subject areas at a Year 9 level.

Before I start we do have some unique characteristics and it is designed to work with these,
  • 96 students
  • Year 9 only campus 
  • Boys School
  • 1:1 iPads supplied by the school
  • Every student is a boarding pupil
  • 10 teachers to coordinate
The Star Model is seperated into three distinct sections.  The Teacher Led, The Star Tasks, The Project.  Students put all their work on google sites, all teachers have access to this.

Click here for a Prezi that we used to explain the Process for the Students.

Step One - Teacher Led

This was two weeks of normal timetabled class periods.  The teachers planned curriculum outcomes based on skills that would be used and practiced in The Star Tasks and then applied in The Project.

Students created a google site that they used as a portfolio, kind of like their work book.

All their work would go onto this site to marked of by teachers.

Step Two - Star Tasks
This was a two week block of independent learning time.  All teachers had worked together to make a 'Smorgasboard' of tasks for the students to choose from.

Each task included multiple curriculum threads and had a rubric to measure their performance.  Each task was given 1, 2, or 3 stars depending of the time, size and difficulty.  Students were challenged to collect as many stars as possible (highly motivating for our students).

The time table changed to accommodate this style of learning.  Students were free to move to classrooms as they needed, check in with their mentors or get on with work.

All these tasks were accessed through the 'Hub'.

The links at the top take the student to instructions for the task on a google doc, video or other site. The links to students portfolios are by their name on the left along with their total for stars collected.

The second sheet is where we kept track of the students.  This is where teachers assigned stars and where feedback was written for the student and by the student.

Google drive was essential to make this work as it allowed one document that all could access.  This meant that any teacher could pick up where others left off.  The whole class is on the list down the left side and each has a row allocated to them.

Step 3 - Project
It important to start with the end in mind.  We did this at the end of our school year.  Our project was about Legacy.  The students would have one week to create a Legacy for the school.  This began with a short application process to ensure all ideas were possible and appropriate.  The hard part was once they all started and fielding the questions and requests from so many that were intent on finishing their project.

Examples of projects were, draw my life (the one displayed is not student work), writing a school song, murals for the gym, time capsule, speech etc.


Campbell Potter (@campbellpotter) Teacher at Dilworth Boys, Promoter of Paperless Classrooms, 21st Century Learning, Outdoor Educator, Digital Citizenship Pinterest, Blogger of Digital Learning and Team Building. New Zealand

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