Year 6 World War 1 lesson

The student 1:1 devices were not quite ready to be used and my timetable allocated me to one of the Year 6 classes to assist with an Inquiry Topic into World War 1. Hmm – how best to meet the brief?

I selected a number of texts from the Senior School Library, loaded them into a crate with wheels and headed north.

What did I choose? A range of texts about the “Great War” – including titles relating to Chinese soldiers, the Australian Imperial Forces (great language to discuss) and several volumes of the wonderful but underutilised Official history of Australia in the War of 1914-1918  by Charles Bean.

By taking these somewhat ancient tomes I was able to discuss the role of an official historian, censorship, and the age of our school (which is why we have these in our collection).

Students were invited to enter the book gallery and complete a table in any way that they felt appropriate.

The collaboration, obvious interest in content and active discussions around the room were wonderful to behold. The images below were taken with my staff laptop (Toshiba Z20) screen and they worked better than I thought they might.

A number of girls fell in love with Bean’s volumes.
I thought they would look at one volume and no more. Boy was I wrong!
They found a wide range of interesting snippets – and mainly from the text, not the diagrams or photographs.
Great discussion ensued.
The power of the index was realised with information about our town (I rarely see senior students using this vital asset within texts.
Deep thinking and intrigue were evident.
Their excitement and conversation were palpable.
And each time they were asked to move on they did it with alacrity and respect.

The Scene was set at the start with the opening paragraph from “The promise : the town that never forgets : n’oblions jamais l’Australie” by by Derek GuilleKaff-eine (Illustrator), Anne-Sophie Biguet (Translator).

We had 50 minutes together and it was truly wonderful. Thank you 6R.


These methods increase in complexity as you progress down the page.

1. The most basic form of collaborating is within a class. It can be technology free, for example, this Year 6 activity about the Great War, or this example of collecting data and developing ways of using it at senior level. Work can be shared by the teacher taking photographs and embedding into OneNote ClassNotebook, or, if mobile devices are permitted, by the students themselves.

2. Blogging by Grade 4 students in 2018, who were involved in collaborating with our regional Rural Industries Skill Training centre (usually training farmers and senior level agricultural students). Their experience can be seen here. 
This work was presented at a Microsoft Edumeet in Melbourne by the Grade 4 teacher, Stephen Mirtschin, and me in the middle of 2018.

3. A more advanced level of collaborating between schools is enabled by Office 365. It is aided by classes where students have 1:1 device access. This is an example being employed in 2019 with VCE Year 11 and 12 students studying History Revolutions using PowerPoint online.

Between schools teaching the French Revolution.

Class-based COLLABORATION – in VCE History Revolutions

Ways of sharing

When working through a subject, such as History: Revolutions, it is difficult to get the base knowledge mastered, yet the course requires students to consider different ways of looking at the same events in order to more deeply understand the range of perspectives from the time and the multitude of ways that historians have interpreted them.

The situation is exacerbated when the class is very small. In my class, we spend about 1/3 of our lesson time each week working together to collect and then analyse what we have found. I explain to the students that we can work more effectively together to maximise data collection, then give feedback to the collectors in terms of content and coverage of the topic.

It is a number of years ago since I first tried this with a class of 7 with the intention of getting my students thinking. That attempt is detailed here.

This worked brilliantly with the class concerned, but the next time I tried was unsuccessful as a number of students wanted to be silly.

Yesterday, I tried again and it was wonderful. here’s how the lesson unfolded

Step 1:

First I set a potential essay topic (selected to target the earliest part of the course): “How significant were preexisting tensions as a cause of the French Revolution of 1789?” Students were asked to work out the key topic words for each paragraph – could be four or five. Results looked like this once they were stacked in order of discussion.

Step 2:

Once the main concepts were stacked in paragraph order, I asked them to choose one main topic and use 3 small blocks to indicate the content of the sentences within the paragraph for that keyword.

Step 3:

Mind map in the same pairs as before what the essay will cover overall, using all class ideas to this point.

Step 4:

Providing feedback to the other teams on their mind map.


Students went home to write their planned essay over the weekend. The results were very pleasing – the longest first essays I have seen in many years of teaching this subject. Well done to all of them!