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Students telling stories (Spain)

This story relates the experience of Gonzalo Garcia, a Maths teacher engaged in the cycle 4 of iTEC pilots (March-June 2013). It gives an overview on what happenned in the classroom and on the impact of these activities as analysed by Gonzalo.

At a glance

  • Localtion:  Pontevedra, Spain
  • School: Colegio Internacional SEK-Atlántico
  • Teacher: Gonzalo Garcia
  • Age of students: 15 - 16
  • The subject: Maths
  • Piloted activities:  Activities : Dream, Explore, Map, Make, Ask, Re-Make, Show - and Learning Story chosen was "Telling a Story"

Lesson objectives 

Communication and context in Maths is a difficult topic to develop through the course program. Implementing the LS “Telling a Story”, the goals are to learn techniques to solve equations or logarithms or any other Math stuff and to discuss and explain the results obtained in a given problem to a given audience.

A "walk-through" of the lesson

The teacher introduced the LS “Telling a Story” (1 session – “Dream” activity) through two selected videos from the Internet (one chapter of BBC “Horrible Histories” – “Terrible Tudors” and a Math rap published by Westerville South High School – “Getting’ Triggy Wit’ It”) to point out the importance of considering the three basic pillars of telling a story: the plot (what-to-tell), the audience target (who-to-tell-to) and the vehicle (how-to-tell). After that, students were grouped into teams of 5 (using TeamUp) and each student proposed a story, an audience and a vehicle. From the 50 proposals (25 each class) the students voted (using TeamUp voting feature) to select the 5 stories per class to be developed; those stories were distributed in a random way (1 session). The teams started defining the plot with a first script and transformed it into a storyboard, taking into account the selected audience and the vehicle (4 sessions – “Map” activity). Once the storyboard was written, they started with the “Making” activity: some teams recording the scenes to edit into a movie, others by starting with the animation process (5 sessions). The almost-final movies were presented (2 sessions - “Ask” activity) to the class in order to obtain feedback and to improve the results; at the same time, in an international collaboration with a Turkish school, we shared our products through a closed Facebook group and received more interesting feedback from another point of view. Finally, with the improvements done (2 sessions - “Re-make” activity ) the teams published their final movies in Youtube to share them with the community (1 session - “Show” activity).

iTEC technologies and other tools used

TeamUp for team making and relfection; SMART widgets to select students randomly, to limit the time in certain activities, to encourage reflection with different points of view; blogs to maintain the information flow; dropbox to keep information and process updated, sharing folders with the teams in order to facilitate process monitorization and assessment; Microsoft Movie Maker, VideoPad, Adobe Premiere to edit some of the videos; Extreme Collaboration to share opinions and ideas with the students in the final reflection; Facebook closed group to collaborate with our international partner.

Teacher feedback

It's a totally different way to assess Maths, as the students are pacing a way through the learning process. The students perceive Math content as a tool and not as an end, and this new point of view makes them feel more comfortable with Maths, making its concepts more accessible to them. Anyway, the change of mind of considering Maths as an everyday life aspect is challenging for some students, but as soon as they start working in teams the challenge is met. Once the basic rules of Maths have been established, you can use this approach of telling a Math story as a way for the students to go in a deeper understanding of the concepts as they try to relate them with the facts of their real life. It’s surprising how the students are able to find aspects of daily life in which they can apply Math concepts, so it’s important to give them an open enough field to develop their ideas, encouraging creativity and originality.

Students feedback

The possibility of participating in the decision making process was a key fact. The minimum guidance through the process was beneficial as it encouraged autonomy, teamwork and creativity; but, on the other hand, it made it harder to face some of the challenges we found (e.g. how to build a storyboard, copyright issues, sharing with our international partners, etc). This way of learning requires more student work than the traditional one, but the stuff learnt is better learnt. This is a great way of learning, but there are topics more suitable for it than others (Maths are a challenge themselves, and trying to relate them to real life is a big one). We are used to be guided in a very close way, and when given more responsibility (= freedom of action) we find it difficult to face with some simple challenges; it was a really great way to make us aware of the importance of autonomy and self-managing of our learning.

Key innovations identified

Students share responsibilities with the teacher in all aspects of the process (from topic selection to the assessment process, through forming teams and giving feedback). Creativity was considered as an essential aspect of their work, giving the students almost total freedom to complete their tasks. Peer assessment was an important way to transfer students expertise acquired through the process as part of their learning experience.

Success factors

Sharing responsibility with the students makes them feel the project as their own. The decision making process is an added value to encourage their autonomy; in addition, letting them engage in the assessment process (usually out of their hands) make them to be more compromised with the scheduled task. The use of on line storage, sharing, publishing and collaboration tools enhance the students sharing and feedback practices, making the assessment process more complete. International collaboration activities were definitive to get students engaged throughout the whole project, and gave them an additional goal to think of and try to make their best to complete their tasks.

Successful outcomes

Creativity was the most interesting feature we get: through creativity our students engaged in their projects. They have learnt that sharing experiences as part of the learning process is enriching both for the one who gives and for the one who receives; it was another step for them to engage the activities. When peer assessment came into scene, they were much more demanding than the teachers, but always with a positive feedback on their criticism.

Tips and advice to other teachers

Let students creativity flow: give them the opportunity to express themselves in their own way. Try to be as flexible as you can with "program fitness", as the important thing is that the students can learn through their own experience.

Videos or classroom activities

  • Dream: ;
  • Explore: ;
  • Map: ;
  • Make: ;
  • Reflect: ;
  • Examples of students work : Maths & Music: ;
  • Da Vinci Code: ;
  • The Grand Theft: ;
  • The Roulette Probability: ;
  • Newton and Me: ;
  • Murder by Numbers: ;
  • Maths & Life: ;
  • Helicopters Stability: