From Walgett lower primary class - "this term's learning map, which was once again very powerful in supporting the children making sense of our work. Our unit was built around the Narran Lake dreaming story but I worked it so that we explored many aspects of how to tell story and how these can all be woven together to illustrate ways we can use to record our heritage.
We created a dance to tell story, we looked at artworks and created tableaux interpreting the scenes in pictures, we painted our own story pictures, we sang stories, we had a community member come and tell her story, we looked at many books and at how books are made and we culminated our unit in writing our own imaginative, family connected narratives using a software program 2CreateAStory (great resource for building students' sense of themselves as storytellers)."
Here is a learning map for a unit of work on Egypt for stage 3 students, from Jodie at Coonamble. The whole term's work is mapped out visually on the pyramid, with a little mummy being moved up each week to the next part. Model texts and vocab are also included. Note there is no specific "Australian Indigenous" content, but that the Aboriginal perspective comes through explicitly identifying and using an Aboriginal way of knowing - the visualising of a learning process as a journey.
And here is her planning for a maths unit, using the Quality Teaching Framework and Aboriginal ways of learning to inform her pedagogy.
(She has created this as a template for all her planning). Note that she draws the symbols in the planning to indicate where the ways of learning are being used. E.g. on the Monday, you can see that she has used a story to introduce the activity, has discussed links to community use of the knowledge, and that this lesson is part of a scaffolded process. These activities are not written in the plan, but drawn.
Below is a learning map for Nora's lower primary class at Walgett. The children can clearly see the texts they will encounter during the unit, how it relates to their learning, and how each text has knowledge to contribute to their end goal of having a picnic. Nora explicitly refers to non-linear thinking with this journey map - talks about "going off the beaten track" of the theme (e.g. to learn about bush food and money) to find learning that supports the culminating activity and answers the inquiry focus of the unit.
But this way of learning is not just for small children.
Below is a learning map for a stage four History class. Before working with the 8ways framework, the year's work was organised as Term 1: Ancient Egypt; Term 2: Imperial China; Term 3: Medieval Europe; Term 4: Aboriginal Australia. When these units were represented on a learning map by serpent-beings from all four cultural traditions, the teacher saw the opportunity to organise units by theme rather than by culture. So the winding path of this learning map starts at the tails of the serpents, winding through multi-cultural studies of time-lines, religion, trade, warfare, etc. with each unit exploring a topic from the four different cultural points of view. Each unit was also given the purpose of testing the truth of a statement from the set history text-book. The first statement tested was that China has the longest continuous living culture on the planet. This was tested by making comparative timelines of the four cultures and was found to be false.
When you look at this carving, you might not understand it right away, but that doesn't mean it's unknowable to you. Step into the cultural interface now, look and see what you can find at the intersection of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal learning practice.
Below are some ideas from Aboriginal Language classes in NSW where the 8 ways have been used successfully by Aboriginal teachers. These are included to show how Aboriginal content doesn't have to be dumbed down - it's more than johnny cakes. If you are working with Aboriginal knowledge as content, it deserves to be approached with intellectual rigour. But then, you also see in these examples how the 8 ways come in beyond content, bringing Aboriginal perspectives in at the level of pedagogy. This can be done with any subject matter from any culture or knowledge domain.
In one stage four Aboriginal language program in Western New South Wales, each unit was based on a Dreaming story. They didn’t want to teach body parts first, then family words, then animals and so forth, so instead they took their lessons from the story. They learned some body parts, animals and family names that were mentioned in the story, not as lists of words, but as parts of whole sentences in language that combined these things in a culturally meaningful way. In this way they were living Aboriginal language and culture, not just remembering some Aboriginal words.
In one stage four Aboriginal language program in Western New South Wales, the teacher mapped out the scope and sequence for the year based on a road that runs through her Country. Hills at the start of the journey represented early challenges like getting pronunciation right. Each bend in the road represented quarterly assessment tasks, while other landmarks indicated changes to new topics and units of work. A significant totemic animal from that language group was shown on the map, along with its tracks, to indicate that this map showed the journey of that animal.
In one Aboriginal language program in Western New South Wales, a traditional song about a process in the land was taught to students, but the focus was not on a word-for-word translation. The deeper knowledge of the song was unspoken, but conveyed through gestures to accompany the song, as well as through tone and expression. The tone was serious business and had to be done just right. There was meaning in the rhythm of the song, associated with the land process that the song helps to bring about. Deeper layers of meaning came from repetition and performance of the song in different contexts. When they got it right, evidence of the learning came when the land did what the song was asking it to do – a natural event that had not happened in a long time.
Symbols and Images.
In one school in Western New South Wales, some students created a sand painting using Aboriginal symbols taught by a local elder. Another group made a story map from a local Dreaming story, using both pictures and words to show where the main incidents in the story occurred on Country. Later, a group of stage four Aboriginal language students studied these images, linking them to the appropriate words and story in language. They then made message sticks about a common theme, using those images and others to represent language words and cultural concepts based on the theme of the unit. For oral assessment, they were expected to “read” the symbols on the message sticks to the class, using only the language words they had learnt.
In a stage four Aboriginal language course in Western New South Wales, a unit of work was planned in which the class mapped out the events of a local Dreaming story on a geographical map of the area, following the river system. Different kinds of country (eg. redsoil, blacksoil) were to be labelled in language, along with landmarks, animals and places in the main sites of the story events. Other stories that intersected with this one at certain places were also to be mapped out, showing the way stories from other Country intersected with this one at special places. This lead into a comparative study of regional languages and cultures.
In the planning of a stage four Aboriginal language course in Western New South Wales, we were looking at how to teach a continuous tense that was part of a story for study. Should we just say, “Here is the suffix, and you use it this way. Now, do some practice sentences”? No. That’s not how we learn. So we looked at the connection between this suffix and the body function it is linked to. We told funny stories about that and made a lot of rude jokes. Then we looked at a song about this, and the way a sense of striving comes through that body function and through a continuous action. We decided to use humour and song to teach the students the deeper meaning behind the way you use that continuous tense suffix. What was a grammar item before became a cultural lesson. The students would come to it from that different angle, and in doing this they would find a deeper meaning and retain the knowledge better.
In a stage three Aboriginal language class in Western New South Wales, students are supposed to be memorising the names of body parts. But they seem to be more interested in teasing each other. So the teachers present a dialogue of two students teasing each other in language. The insults are made up of body parts combined with pronouns and adjectives. The teachers perform the dialogue several times with gestures and expression getting the meaning across to the students. They discuss cultural ways of dealing with conflicts from past and present. They perform the dialogue several times, with students later following the text on a written handout, joining in and mimicking the funnier parts. They examine each line and look at how the structure is repeated. They sort the words into pronouns, adjectives and nouns and practice pronunciation. They keep these lists in the same order as the sentence structure, and then expand those lists with new vocab. They use these lists to create their own new insults, then in pairs build these into a funny dialogue which they practice and perform for the class.
In a stage four Aboriginal language course in Western New South Wales, students organise family language days to promote language revival, teach language to the community and showcase their work and skills for community evaluation. They perform songs and put on plays in language that are based on Dreaming stories, set up language activities for community members and hold competitions. This gives a purpose to all the work the students do in class, as they know every piece will end up being judged by their families. Community engagement and attendance at these days has been strongest when they have been held outside the school grounds, in a community space.