Teaching Tips,  Units of work!

Sailing the oceans… looking at the First Fleet

HISTORY! I love teaching history and watching my little students faces scrunch up, thinking and wondering about why people in the past did certain things or why certain things occurred. I love having these conversations with them, answering their questions or researching these questions together! I strongly believe though that teaching areas, like history, should be inquiry based and lead by student wondering and questioning, as well as teacher led.

SO I decided to write a quick little post about what I am doing with my students, what they are learning and how I am fostering the wonder of questions, creating powerful learning in the classroom! Feel free to take any of these ideas or comment below how you would add to this 🙂


To start off this learning we really wanted to find out what our students already knew about Australia, Australia’s first peoples and the arrival of the First Fleet. We did this by having a few discussions by posing questions like:

  • What knowledge do you already know around these topics?
  • What wonderings do you have already knowing we are going to cover this learning?

Using questions like this opened up our students to be able to share the things they had learnt already that they found interesting, as well as some questions they still had unanswered or had misunderstood.


We started our unit by looking at Australia’s first peoples, the Aboriginal Australians. Diving into how long they have inhabited this land, how many people lived here and their language groups, as well as their connection between country and place. The students were intrigued by this knowledge and led certain discussions around:

  • How and why connections were important
  • What the meaning of family and respect was
  • Why their land was so sacred to them

The ability for my students to make connections between themselves and the beliefs and traditions of the Aboriginal Australians, allowed them to further understand and identify the importance of the learning we were covering/discussing. This content was covered over a few weeks and explored deeply giving students a perspective from what life was like before the arrival of The First Fleet.


Link to slides on TPT


We then moved on to what life was like in the 1700’s in London. My students were intrigued by the ways things worked back then… the way people lived, the types of jobs they had and how they made things by hand. We had a massive discussion around why people lost their jobs and why crime increased during the time of the industrial revolution. This was a great way to dive into the perspective of these people, relating to what their lives would have been like and why some of them did the things they did. I found this to be extremely helpful for my students to deepen their understanding of the content by building a connection between themselves, the people and the issues people had during this time.


Link to slides on TPT

As my ancestors were a part of the First Fleet I found the researching and the journey one of the most fascinating parts to teach! My family gave me a book about our lineage, which I brought in to show and share with my students. Being able to show them a real resource they could use to research people, what happened and where they travelled, was great as they were all so engaged in finding out about my family and how we came here. This was such a great learning moment for myself and for my students!

When talking about how the First Fleet travelled to Australia, we got them to map out the journey as we were discussing where they went, why and for how long. The students had many questions around:

  • Why did they stop there?
  • Where the convicts allowed off the ships?
  • How long did they stop for?
  • What would the travelling be like?
  • How did they get sick?

These questions were only a few that these little minds had, but definitely showed us that we had grabbed their attention and that they were engaged in their learning. They were very proud of their maps and were excited to show their parents the work they had done around this!

Worksheets linked with First Fleet Slides


Moving forward from this the students had lots of questions about what happened when they arrived at Port Jackson?… What happened with the Aboriginal Australians?… How did they live?

At this point we started looking at their assessment piece to write a historical narrative from the perspective of either a captain, guard/soldier, convict or Aboriginal Australian. We discussed and looked at all the information we had covered that occurred before, during and after The First Fleet from those perspectives. This was all student lead from the information that was taught as well as what they had researched individually.

This is what we came up with, which gave them the base for what they might write about in their narratives:



Looking at the perspectives of different people affected by this arrival and changed is a big part of this curriculum link and definitely was not and should not be skimmed over lightly. A lot of thought and care went in to explaining to the students about what happened once the First Fleet arrived and how each party was affected. To get students to understand deeply about what may have been thought or felt by the Aboriginal peoples and the convicts, we put it into a perspective that the students could connect with and understand. The students were then able to process this information and retell back to us a situation for them that may be similar and we adjusted the thought process from there.


To display the students knowledge and to aid in their understanding, as well as remind them of many of the terms we had learnt in this unit, I created a word wall for the to refer back to! This also had all the information from the slides that we covered as a class, so they could refer back to it if they were getting confused during their researching or writing time.


Word Wall


Reading their historical narratives made me extremely proud to see how much information they included and how detailed they were in their writing! They were also very proud of themselves with what they achieved over this term, as they should be 😀

It was amazing to see how much of a difference it makes when you create valuable discussions with your students around their learning and allow them to become fully immersed in the learning, posing questions and following their thought process. It allowed them to build a connection with the past and grasp an understanding of the way things were, as well as the issues that took place. This unit was a huge success in my classroom and I hope it can be in yours as well!


There are links attached under the images that takes you to the content taught, as well as resources made and used! Let me know if this is useful to you at all and if you would use it in your classroom 😀

Attached here is also a unit overview that can be found on TPT

Let me know what you think and how you would use this information in your own classroom… Or if you have done something similar please feel free to share that as well!

Love Mel xx

I am a new educator in my second year of teaching. I have worked with children for five years prior to this in an after school care. I absolutely love teaching and the importance of this career. I believe that every student should be immersed in a safe, supportive, calm environment to aid them in achieving the best outcomes they possibly can!

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