In today’s technology age, virtual field trips can provide cognitive and affective gains similar to those of a real-life study trip. Field trips taken online can transport students to locations too far away to travel and are cost effective for the school district and parents as well. Teachers can guide and interact with all students in the class for the duration of the virtual field trip, which is often nearly impossible when participating in real-life field trips.
In the following example of a science virtual trip, a second grade class will take a virtual trip to several zoos to investigate the habitats certain animals live in and what needs they have. The planning of the unit lessons reflect Slavin’s QAIT model (Slavin, 1995b). Standards The DODEA standards for grade two Science that will be addressed in this virtual field trip are: 2Sb. 1: Recall the basic needs of animals (including air, water, food, and shelter) for energy, growth, and protection and 2Sb. 3: Explain how distinct environments throughout the world support the life of different types of animals (DODEA, n. d. ). Objective
The objective of the zoo virtual field trip is for the students to demonstrate an understanding of the needs and characteristics of animals as they interact in their own distinct environments. The students will have a clear understanding of why the lesson is being taught and why learning the material is important (Slavin, 2012). The objectives will be placed on the board and remain visible throughout the duration of the lesson. Materials The materials necessary to facilitate the virtual field trip to the zoo and the activities involved are numerous yet not time consuming. The teacher and students will need computers with internet access.
The teacher computer will be used to facilitate the instructional set, the guided practice and the independent practice activities. The students will use the computers to investigate and navigate the websites provided to view the zoo webcams. The smart board will be used to show the instructional set zoo cam, to display the Brain Pop Jr videos to the whole group and play the animal needs matching game. The Science textbook will be used for small group direct instruction. The shoe boxes, construction paper, glue, magazines, toy animals and recycled items will be used for the diorama project at the end of the lesson.
Procedures The students will enter the classroom the morning the lesson is going to be introduced and be able to view the live zoo web cam on the smart board. This will begin conversations among peers and orient students to the lesson to follow by establishing an attitude of readiness in the students (Slavin, p. 189, 2012). This may often be referred to as setting the stage. Later in the day when it is time for Science the students will gather on the carpet as a whole group to complete the KWL Chart on the topic of Animals. The students will raise their hand and tell the teacher something they know about animals.
The teacher will write in the student responses in the appropriate section of the chart. Next, the students will share some things they want to learn about animals. The teacher will write these responses in the appropriate section of the chart. Allowing the students to have a say in what they would like to learn about falls in line with the “I” in the QUAIT model (Slavin, 1995b). Students are more likely to be motivated to learn the material if it is topics they are interested in and feel that they have had a part in the planning.
The last section of the KWL chart, the “L”, is for what has been learned throughout the lesson. This will be completed at the conclusion of the lessons. Next the students stand and will be split into two equal groups. In the first group each student will receive an index card with a picture of an animal on it. In the second group each student will receive an index card with a picture of a habitat on it. The students will be tasked with finding the person who has the match to their card without the use of words, only gestures. Once they believe they have found their match they will be directed to sit down with their partner.
When all partners have been formed each pair will stand and share their animal and habitat with the class. A brief discussion of each habitat will take place. Keeping with “Q” in the QAIT model, the teacher will ask questions as to why they feel that is the habitat for that animal and what that habitat might feel or look like. At the end of the sharing the cards will be collected and students will be given time to return to their seats and illustrate a picture of one of the habitats shared in the activity and write two descriptive sentences about the habitat they chose.
The following day during the Science block the students will reconvene on the carpet for a brief review of the lesson from the day before and to watch the Brain Pop Jr. videos on animal classification and animal habitats. At the conclusion of each video the students will take the online quiz as a whole group. The students read the questions and respond with their answer choice by using their fingers. If they believe the answer is “A”, they raise 1 finger, “B” 2 fingers etc.
This allows for quick informal evaluation for the teacher as to who paid attention to the videos and obtained the information intended from the videos as well as preserves valuable learning time, “T” in the QAIT model, by keeping the discussions and interruptions to a minimum and completing the task at hand. At the completion of this activity, the student will be presented with a preview of the following day’s lesson, the actual virtual trip to the zoos in which they will be given the expectations for the activity.
Students will be expected to visit a minimum of two zoos and will write observations and details about a minimum of four different animals and their habitats. During the Science block of day 4 the students will meet in the computer lab. Each pair of students will be working at one computer. The teacher will model the steps on the smart board for each group to follow along. Students will log in and find the quick link on the desktops to access the Virtual Field Trip to the Zoo power point. Students will be reminded of the expectations and given time to explore and work in partners to navigate and take notes.
The notes will be used for a discussion review and for constructing the dioramas at the end of the unit study. Day five of the unit will be a center like rotation set up. The students will be teacher grouped to include high, middle and low students. The reasoning for this purposeful grouping is to give lower achieving students positive role models and the chance to be a successful part of a group (Slavin, p. 255, 2012). One center will be a direct instruction center with the teacher where the students will read the chapter in the text on animal’s basic needs and answer the questions at the end of the chapter.
Another center will be working collaboratively on the smart board to complete a matching activity on animals and their correct habitat. The activity is self-correcting and will not allow a line to be drawn to an incorrect answer. The third center is a silent reading station where students will have a choice of library books pre chosen by the teacher about animals and their habitats. Lastly on day five, the students will complete the written assessment on information learned in the unit. The first two days of the next week will be used to construct the dioramas with a partner and then presentations will follow the next two or three days.
According to the QUAIT model, time should be somewhat flexible and allow students sufficient periods to complete tasks. Diversity/Differentiation for Exceptionalities According to Slavin (2012), “The philosophy behind differentiated instruction emphasizes that all children can reach high standards but some may need tailored assistance to do so. ” The use of varied learning styles, modes of presentation, and student groupings contributes to the differentiation in this unit study of animals.
Also, the varied level of reading materials and the self- correcting activities are examples of differentiation. The virtual tour of the zoo and the rubric based diorama allow above grade students to extend their learning. Evaluations Van Brummelen states that the importance teachers place on assessments and how they go about the assessing creates meaning for their students (2009). Assessments should be a chance to celebrate success not failure and to identify skills or concepts that still need to be worked on.
The informal assessment like that of the index card matching activity and the smart board provides immediate feedback to the teacher on the students learning and allows for immediate feedback to the students. The formal written assessment is laid out to address and assess the student’s understanding of the standards. It is a combination of multiple choice questions, fill in the blank questions and short answer questions. The diorama project is assessed using a rubric that also addresses the standards for Science and incorporates presentation skills and written work as well.
Conclusion Online field trips allow for students and teachers to explore things and places from a classroom setting. Virtual fieldtrips are proven to allow for the same cognitive gains as would a real-life study trip. Utilizing the QAIT method in the planning of the lesson or units ensures student learning and success in acquiring the knowledge presented, as does the use of differentiation and valid assessments. Matthew 18:5 says, “Jesus adds that whoever welcomes a little child welcomes Jesus himself. ” Effective teachers welcome all students and their uniqueness as learners and followers of Jesus.