Educators' Guide to Innovation

Connecting educators interested in innovation

Secret Fortresses - Design and Analysis

Designing Secret Fortresses in 5/6B


I stumbled across this book, Rule the World, by Klutz, while browsing the shelves in a little bookshop in Caloundra while in QLD for Slide2Learn. It’s proving to be the best find I’ve ever made. The activities in the book have inspired many engaging literacy activities linked to VELS level 4.

We have done activities based around several of the 119 Shortcuts to total world domination, including selecting rulership styles, creating mottos, writing fan letters to ourselves, designing handshakes and telling near-death survival stories. Students have achieved great results in writing , and artistic talents have shone through in this unit of work. Our latest activity in the unit is Design a Secret Fortress.

Students needed to select their style of fortress (castle, treehouse or dormant volcano fortress) by using the decision-tree flowchart in the book. The flowchart in itself generated some good conversations, and I may try an activity where students create their own.

When the students had determined which fortress was best for them, they were given the design brief and assessment rubric for their task. Prior to this year, the students in my grade had never used rubrics. The use of rubrics with 5/6B was introduced in response to students having a general feeling of doing well at school without knowing how well, as shared by parents at parent-teacher interviews. Student feedback indicates that the design brief and rubric make explicit every expectation within the task, and there are no forgotten details or surprises closer to the due date. Students understand exactly how to achieve excellent results for any given task, and there is still plenty of room for individual ideas and artistic ability.

The assessment was drawn fromVELS  Level 4 Design, Creativity and Technology. The focus for students was to identify when they changed their design, why they changed it and how it would work better than the original design. 

The reflection table guided students in recording their thinking and identifying strengths and weaknesses in their designs. The design brief provided boundaries which some students really needed and others struggled with (“can I have zombies PLEASE?”). I created the design brief with student input by typing it with my laptop plugged into the Interactive White Board. Students were provided with about 5 hours of class time to work on this, and took their projects home to work on them there. Students searched the internet for information on ways electricity is created and collected, the weights of different materials such as metals, medieval weaponry, world maps to choose locations and more.
This was an engaging activity, and held the interest of the boys in the grade, which can be difficult for some literacy activities, particularly in writing. Students are becoming increasingly confident in using rubrics to assess their own work and develop personal learning goals as a result of their learning experiences.
The documents in this post are images that can be saved by right-clicking on the and selecting Save Image As… from the menu. 

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