Author: Satu Herrala (M.A.) special education teacher in lower secondary school (grades 7-9), Takahuhti school, Tampere, Finland

In February, before the Covid-19 pandemic reached Finland, my class of 9th graders made a field trip to the Parliament house in Helsinki. The hostess of our visit was a Finnish MP Hanna-Leena Mattila who told us about the work of an MP. The students also had a chance to ask questions that they had prepared at school.

Back in school, we were supposed to study the process of legislation and the duties of the Parliament more closely. Then all of a sudden, the school was closed due to Covid-19 and we moved to distance learning. That literally happened overnight. We started using Microsoft Teams software tool and continued studying online. In social studies, the shift to distance learning was relatively easy. This is a description of our double lesson on the topic The duties of the Finnish Parliament.

Warm-up

In my class, we often use fixed groups, so we didn’t really have any grouping at the beginning of the lesson. If groups are created at the beginning of the lesson, you can easily use the grouping activities presented in LessonApp. To warm-up and to create a learning-friendly atmosphere we used a set of emojis, which I shared via Teams. The students picked an emoji which described their feelings and posted it in our WhatsApp group. The idea was to share the feelings of the day and about the topic.

Orientation – learning teams + mind mapping

To focus on the theme, the students first collected their pre-existing knowledge on the topic. In this case my students already had quite a lot to build on because of our visit to the Parliament.

First, I asked the students to draw (using only one colour) a mind map of what they already knew and remembered about the Parliament. This was done in small groups in Teams. At the same time, we practised how to use the channels for group work in Teams. The map was then presented to the whole class in Teams.

New knowledge acquisition – small group discussion

The students worked in groups of three to learn new things about the Parliament. The groups got the same set of questions, which they answered using their study books and the internet. I shared the students some links to useful websites where they could find accurate and reliable information.

The teacher and the assistant visited the channels and helped the groups and made sure that everybody was working. The groups had free hands to decide how they wanted to organize their work, but they had to have a plan for that.  

Practising and activating – teaching discussion

Based on the knowledge the groups had acquired, they now made questions to the other groups. In the discussion at the end of the class when the students linked their new knowledge to their prior knowledge and experiences, they came up with some new questions about the Parliament and the work of MPs. The students then decided to write down the questions and mail them to the MP we had met in the Parliament.

Reflection

At the end of the lesson, the students completed their mind maps (using a different colour) with new things they had learned during the double lesson.

Bonus Block: Rehearsing

Due to Codiv-19, the members of the Parliament decided to help the students in Finland and made a series of presentation videos about the Parliament (https://edustajalive.fi/). We watched the videos and rehearsed what we had learned.


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