Australian bush fire unit using Microsoft OneNote Class Notebook

This term I had to teach a unit on Australian bush fires as part of the Year 5 curriculum. The content descriptor is: The impact of bush fires or floods on environments and communities, and how people can respond (ACHASSK114) .

Previously I have taught this unit with the help of a Microsoft SharePoint page which I created for the unit. I use SharePoint as it is our whole school’s learning platform, but you could achieve the same effect using any web based page. On my bush fires page, I set out lessons and support materials for both students and teachers to access in order to provide students with a background knowledge of bush fires (lessons and materials can be viewed in the video at the end of this post, and or downloaded as a word document under the video) .

Then I decided to take a risk and delve into a resource which I wasn’t confident in using, Microsoft OneNote Class Notebook. OneNote Class Notebook allows teachers to set up a personal work space for every student (each student can only view their own work space), a content library for handouts (all students can view but can’t edit), and a collaboration space (all students can view and edit). I had dabbled with this resource previously, but with little confidence nor success.

When creating my OneNote Class Notebook, I decided to create a content library with the assessment task and assessment rubric, so that students had a clear understanding of what was required of them.  For the purpose of this unit, students were required to choose an Australian bush fire (Black Saturday, Ash Wednesday or Sampson Flat 2015 bush fires), brainstorm a list of possible inquiry questions, choose 4 of their inquiry questions, conduct research and present findings in the form of an information report.

In addition, students needed to use and reference a range of both primary and secondary sources.  “A primary source provides direct or firsthand evidence about an event, object, person, or work of art. Primary sources include historical and legal documents, eyewitness accounts, results of experiments, statistical data, pieces of creative writing, audio and video recordings, speeches, and art objects. Whereas secondary sources describe, discuss, interpret, comment upon, analyse, evaluate, summarise, and process primary sources. Secondary source materials can be articles in newspapers or popular magazines, book or movie reviews, or articles found in scholarly journals that discuss or evaluate someone else’s original research” (source).

Finding primary sources for students can be challenging. To support students I invited a colleague from my school to speak about her experience during Ash Wednesday when she was 10 years of age and a retired teacher colleague, who experienced the Sampson Flat bush fires. I also asked a student to interview and record the audio of a guest speaker about the aftermath of Black Saturday.

Student feedback was very positive throughout and after this unit of work. Students liked getting feedback faster so they could adjust their learning/research path before getting to the end, and finding out the were on the wrong path to begin with. Some liked the collaborative space, where as some didn’t, they wanted to work by themselves and that is fine. One flaw I found with the OneNote Class Notebook is that students can delete your comments on their own pages, erasing evidence of your feedback. To reduce this, I typed my comments in red and asked students not to delete them, it seemed to work.

Below is a video showing one student’s progress throughout this unit of work. You can also download a copy of my program in word format below the video. Remember, sharing is caring, please acknowledge your source if using my resources.

Program_Geography_Australian_Bushfires_ JVillis-vqz1ov NOTE: You won’t be able to access portal/SharePoint links from the word document, as it is a secure internal link.



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