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Secondary school History: World War 1

Interactive Whiteboard and Causes of War in classroom session

Using the IWB in whole class collaborative learning in history

Teacher: Lloyd Brown
Year level: Year 9 boys (aged 13-14)
School: Chesterton Community College, Cambridge, UK

The lessons I designed for the Dialogue and IWBs project focused on trench warfare during the First World War.  The class was a mixed ability group, more towards the upper end of the ability range. I used a range of teaching and learning resources, including historical sources prepared on the IWB flipchart, video from YouTube showing an animated presentation of the poem ‘Dulce et Decorum Est’, a clip from the film ‘Paths of Glory’, a doctor’s diary from the time, along with nondigital mini whiteboards and other prepared picture sources on the IWB flipchart. Click here to download a zipped folder LB-Lesson-materials containing copies of my lesson plans and materials, including my ActivStudio flipcharts.

The 3-lesson sequence was based on the question, ‘How far can we imagine the experience of trench warfare?’ To begin with, the class studied sources together on an IWB flipchart from the beginning of the war and volunteers were asked to use the IWB pen to highlight or underline key words and phrases that revealed attitudes.

We then studied Wilfred Owen’s poem, Dulce et Decorum Est, again prepared on a flipchart. The ‘Spotlight’ tool on the Activstudio software made it easy to focus on single lines and words from the poem. I wanted to explore some of Owen’s phrases in depth with the class and this allowed us to do so, by only showing the parts of the poem we were focusing on at that point. I wanted us to build up an overview of what the poem was about but also to discuss why we felt Owen wrote particular parts of the poem as he did.

History teacher using interactive whiteboardIn the next lesson, we used video of the ‘attack’ scene in Paths of Glory, first using only the audio, to imagine what the noise of the Western Front would have been like. Then, we added in the video film to develop our thinking more on the key question.

In the final lesson, I wanted to pursue this collaborative approach further. I had prepared a flipchart with different pictures of trenches. Firstly, the class collaborated on drawing what we thought the inside of a trench might look like on a blank flipchart page; 6 students came up in turn and each added an element.  Then we looked at the different pictures and discussed whether there would have been such a thing as a ‘typical’ trench. As we worked, we recorded ideas linked to the question on another blank flipchart page. So by the end of the lesson sequence, the class had ‘rough notes’ collectively made, from which to refer when answering the key question. Click here to see an example of the rich class dialogue in Lesson 3.

The lessons emphasised the usefulness of the IWB in whole class teaching.  I have always been interested in students building understanding together and the different tools of the IWB facilitate this.  The multi-page flipchart allows the teacher and class to build up a record of thoughts and discussions. These can then be used by everyone when writing a final answer.  In the ‘write up’ lesson, students were encouraged to flip through the different pages to help them. As you can save annotations, the record of thinking that is so often lost in lessons when an ordinary board is wiped clean, can be retained and I’ve even used such records with another class to share ideas.

Working in a way where ideas are included and thinking is provisional, seems to increase the confidence of students to participate in dialogic learning. The IWB makes this easier and learners commented in the lesson evaluations that they enjoyed this way of learning and felt that contributions from many students that could be re-visited helped their own learning.