Shift happens

I’m sure you’ve seen this series of videos before on the rapidly changing world we reside in. I showed it to the class the other day after the principal prompted some thought on how education is/should be changing when discussing this with the class.

So I asked: What does this mean for your education? For WHAT and HOW you should be learning?

Here are their ideas:

  • Maybe sports are not useful. But perhaps it helps with your health.
  • You need to be taught to think for yourself.
  • You need to be taught how to be independent.
  • It’s more about teaching us skills than knowing a bunch of stuff.
  • You need to learn to problem solve.
  • The basics are always going to be important – maths, reading and writing…
  • Perhaps art is not important.
  • Letting students be creative is important – thinking outside the box.
  • Teach us strategies to work things out for ourselves, but not the answers.
  • Kids need to know where their next steps are.
  • Kids need to be taught how to cope with changes.
  • Be adaptable.
  • Be patient.
  • Listening skills.
  • How to research and find out things for yourself.
  • Collaboration.
  • Confidence.
  • Respecting others’ ideas and differences.
  • Being committed, self disciplined and dedicated.
  • Thinking of others, not just yourself.
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First week of “In Your Element Afternoons”

We started talking more about being ‘in your element’ (see previous blog post on this) in my class recently, which as been really successful. Here’s what we’ve done so far.

On the first day of term:

First we clarified what being in your element actually meant – when passion meets talent.

Then we wrote little paragraphs about when we were in our element. Children had to explain how they were passionate and talented at a certain thing, which we wrote of small pieces of paper and put on the wall, grouped after writing them into areas eg. mathematicians, gamers and writers. Evidently these talents didn’t have to solely reside within the confines of school!

We then used this to come up with teaching sessions, taken by the students that had talents in these areas. These would be attended by the whole class and every child had to take at least one lesson. They could choose whether this would be by themselves or in pairs.

The first week:

We had lessons on gymnastics, origami and character drawing, all of which were successful.

One week down, here are the students’ initial thoughts:

  • Like getting to lead others.
  • Like getting to boss people around!
  • Everyone can try tricky/new things.
  • There are a range of lessons, something for everyone.
  • You get to suck up others’ goodness/talent.
  • You get to know what others are good at/like doing.
  • You get a buzz out of teaching others.
  • You learn something new.
  • It’s a good thing to add onto/enhance My-learning.
  • You get exercise with some of the meetings.
  • It’s fun!
  • Shy people get to take center stage.

Learning darts update.

We have had quite a few little chats about the learning dart board idea that came from one of the the students.  It’s been interesting as the thoughts of the children have changed and developed over time and it has really shown how they have matured as learners throughout the year..

To begin with, we discussed whether we wanted to use the idea in the class and the overwhelming consensus was YES! This was because it allowed them to reflect visually, and they could use this on their blogs to help explain where they were at. They also thought it would show themselves and others the frequency with which they reflected, if every time they reflected they drew a dot. Lastly, the class thought that it  would be useful to show progression, if you used arrows to show movement from feeling less to more confident about a learning intention.

In the end, they decided  that a little copy of a dart board to have in their books each week was the best use of the idea. But then we got a comment on my blog:

What an amazing idea. If one was to put up a target that students could put their names on then students who need support could then see those who feel more confident and then approach them for support. Kids are amazing at coming up with innovative solutions and that takes the pressure off us as teachers and the whole learning experience becomes shared and collaborative. Give him a “thumbs up” from me or should that rather be a “bullseye”!

This prompted a whole new round of discussion, the end result of which was to have 4 large targets for each of the core areas of learning (reading, writing, maths and inquiry). These would go on the windows of the classroom so other teachers could steal the idea and use it in their classes too (these kids really understand how teachers are learners too and we all grow by sharing ideas). Each class member would have 4 laminated names which could be Velcro-ed onto each target, depending on how they were feeling about a subject. The point of having big targets that everyone could see, was so kids could give and receive help based on other people’s reflections and placement on the target.

I asked if you would feel bad about yourself if you were on the outer ring and others were further in. To which the children looked at me as if I had lost my mind. They didn’t feel this way at all because they all have different things to work on, if would allow them to get help from other people more easily and if they were on the bulls eye of the target all the time, it would mean the work wasn’t challenging enough anyway.

Apparently “thumbs” are way out of date

When I want the kids to reflect on their learning really quickly I often say “show me thumbs” (i.e. thumbs up means feeling good, through to thumbs down meaning not feeling confident about something at all).  It works well, since it is simple and effective and really easily understood by me. In a glance I can see children who need extending and children who need extra help.

But apparently we have over done this! A boy in my class decided to create his own solution though, which I discovered by accident in his book recently. He has a target whereby if you’ve ‘got’ something a bullet hole is left in the center,  if you need a bit more work the bullet goes into the 50 ring, and if something is really hard a bullet goes in the outer ring. Luckily there are no bullets that completely miss the target! He said he does this whenever he feels the need to reflect on something, which is relatively frequently given the number of bullet holes on the target for one week. There is also a code/key so he can indicate his thoughts on different subjects.

I guess what excited me about discovering this was the way it indicates the frequency and organic manner in which the class reflect. Most of the time, I don’t realise just how natural self assessment and reflection are for the children, but it has become part of the way in which they learn.

The next step for me will be to get this student to talk to the class about what he has done and how it works for him. The class can then think about how they reflect and if it should be shown in a visual way, such as this. We also need to discuss what we do already and what we could do if the bullet falls into the 25 ring. What strategies are there to move the bullet into the 100 ring?

True Ownership

Two days ago we started the final term of the year. We started off the day discussing what we needed to learn this term. What did we need to cover to be well prepared for intermediate? In truth, this was partially a little test, to see how much they actually knew about their learning and what their next steps were. Luckily they passed with flying colours!

Below is the list the class made, with just two additions from me. The ideas in italics indicate that this is something the whole class needs to learn and the rest will become opt-in meetings. They will be well prepared for intermediate!

Things we need to learn this term:

  • Handwriting
  • Drama – to do with our Unit of Inquiry
  • Geography – where places are
  • Art – maybe portraits? Using dye?
  • Maths – algebra, prime numbers, magic squares, geometry, maths goal, IKAN test in week 3
  • Writing – debating, spelling, writing goal, magazine articles
  • Reading – vocabulary, reading aloud, comprehension, self-monitoring, summarising, activating prior knowledge, research skills, key words, visualising, synthesising, questioning, skimming and scanning
  • Unit of Inquiry –  team work, researching
  • P.E – volleyball, swimming and athletics