Volcanoes, SOLO, and I Pads

EtnaThe year eight group on my timetable this year were meeting me for the first time, so I was keen to try to capture their interest right from the off. After completing a quick ‘mental map’ lesson (outlined in August’s blog), I re-organised my scheme of work so that I could kick off with a section of work on volcanoes – one of my favourite topics.

I have identified the wider use of SOLO taxonomy and I Pad technology as two development areas this year, so I set out to blend these into my volcanoes lessons.

Before the students were aware of their new geography topic, I teased them with a starter question in the opening lesson:  “What causes it to rain fish?” This usually generates some interesting and unusual answers, before I reveal the story of Mount Tungurahura in Ecuador that erupted in 1886 raining fish on the plains below from the lake in the volcano crater. Following this, I used the Socrative app on the I Pads to get students to tell me what they knew about volcanoes. As the class responses appeared on the board, it was obvious they already had a good working knowledge of the topic, and I would be able to move quickly through some background subject matter and get on to some more creative work. The class was already familiar with the SOLO procedure (see May 2012 and November 2012 blog), so after establishing no-one was at the pre-structural stage, some students were able to place themselves at uni-structural or multi-structural stage at this very early point in the sequence of lessons.

QS3With a pretty solid foundation of knowledge in the class, I quickly went over some ‘background’ work. I used another question – “Why is Mr Berry’s favourite sweet like the structure of the earth?” to lead them into this. After establishing that purple Quality Streets were my sweets of choice, we unpicked the layers of crust, mantle and core using the analogy of the hazelnut, caramel and chocolate in the sweet. After handing out a few ‘mini earths’ as edible prizes, I reinforced the point by cutting an apple in half – pointing out the different layers, and stressing the correct scale representation of the thin crust layer. A plates jigsaw exercise took the background a little further, and sufficiently prepared the class for the work ahead.

For the main part of this unit, I wanted to use I Pads to complete a ‘mini investigation’.  I have found these tablets such a fantastic ‘all in one’ tool that opens up learning opportunities not previously available. I framed the investigation around a title question: “Are all volcanoes the same?”, and used the Padlet web site to start the students on their journey. After a brief discussion in small groups, they posted their ideas on the Padlet wall in real time, courtesy of Apple TV.ScreenHunter_01 Sep. 26 10.56

I then moved on to a few short demonstrations based on the comments posted by the class. I asked the students to film these, so they could use them in their own work later on. get-attachment2First up was a demonstration of different lava flows. After showing the students my ‘lava jars’ – filled with coloured water, olive oil, hair shampoo and syrup, we played around with the word ‘viscosity’. The students were already proficient in the use of the Explain Everything app, so I asked the them to use the sound recorder to tell me what they thought would happen when the different ‘lavas’ flowed down a slope (plastic tray). We trialled them one at a time, filming get-attachment5as we went along.

I wanted to make the link between the different lava flows and volcano shapes, so selected a pair of students to complete the next demonstration. They were each given a tub of Play Doh, and given 1 minute to create a volcano shape each – one created by a thin, runny lava flow (olive oil?) and one from a thick viscous lava flow (syrup?). photoThe rest of the class filmed, and then recorded their own observations from slides projected on the screen showing composite and shield volcanoes.

get-attachment3For the third demonstration, I wanted them to think about how volcanoes can have different eruptions. I showed them the ingredients for the classic simple experiment – baking soda and vinegar – and asked them to record a description and an explanation of what they think will happen when they are mixed together. After watching (and filming) the demonstration, students were asked to connect their thinking to the earlier lava demo.



get-attachment4I also used some bottled sodas to demonstrate a more explosive eruption. After vigorously shaking one of the bottles, I asked students to record what they thought would happen when I opened the lid. They were surprised by the first bottle (which unbeknown to them had lost its ‘fizz’ standing in my storeroom for a year), but the second bottle gave them the reaction they wanted! After wiping up the mess, I asked them to record an explanation, and we were able to have a brief discussion about pressure building up in a volcano in the same way as in the bottle. We also talked about ash eruptions, and I made a note to self to devise a quick demo to represent this type of eruption next time.

I like the quick sound recording technique, as all students do it at the same time, and therefore do not get chance to copy or exchange answers.

We then returned to the original question for the project, and students worked in groups using the Popplet mind mapping app to plan out how they might approach their answer over the coming lessons. A lot of their ideas were certainly hitting the relational stage of SOLO, and some were already heading to the extended abstract stage. I often have a bank of suggestions for creative approaches for students to pick from, such as song writing, raps, soap operas etc but this class were finding their own way – incorporating Play Doh models, filming of news reports, and the use of some of the creative apps on the I Pads.

I have curated a Scoop It page of resources for them to use in future lessons, but many will source their own information independently, and it was pleasing that a number of groups raided the supply of GCSE textbooks on the bookshelves.

Scoop It page:  http://www.scoopit.com/t/are-all-volcanoes-the-same


Tub of ‘slime’ from the pound shop makes good viscous lava!

Over the coming lessons, the students will use the Explain Everything app to build an answer to the original question. I look forward to giving them the opportunity to learn independently, and head off in any direction they see fit. I will watch from the sidelines, and make suggestions and offer guidance where appropriate, feeding in relevant resources where I can. At this point, I really have no idea what the end product will be!  I will stop them part-way through to sound record some ‘work in progress’ reports, and get them to peer-assess using this facility at the end of the project. When we get that far, I will post some of the results for you to see.


About devongeography

Head of Geography and Assistant Vice Principal at South Molton Community College, North Devon. Exeter Chiefs supporter!
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