You’re on your own!

We are currently doing a unit of inquiry into systems of government and organisation and decided to get the students putting their learning into practice this week. Could they organise themselves without the teacher present?

At 9:00 yesterday the Year 6 teachers played a short video explaining we were now relaxing on a beach in Fiji (if only!) and would be unavailable to them for the day. We then spent the day peeking in on our classes, but not interfering and certainly not giving guidance. Room 3 did incredibly well. The class looked much the same as it does when I’m in there. Meetings were taken by kids, not me. Children did their work and were really rather on task and engaged, given they had no teacher. I might have made myself redundant!

At the end of the day, the students reflected on the experience and I was surprised at how negative they were. They have such high expectations of themselves. Here is a summary of their reflections:

  • How much learning did you do?

Heaps – 0% —— A good amount -52% —– Average – 38% —– Not much – 9% —– Almost nothing – 0%

  • How respectful were you?

Incredibly – 14% —– A good amount – 62% —– Average – 24% —– Not very – 0% —– Not at all – 0%

  • Did you like it? Yes – 95%    No 5%
  • Would you like to do it again? Yes – 81%     No – 19%
  • Was it a worthwhile experience? Yes – 95%    No 5%

I was in two minds about whether or not to continue this today. On the one hand, I think the class had got all the learning they were going to get out of it. But on the other hand, they had reflected on the experience and knew what changes they would make if they had the opportunity to do this again. So we continued the little social experiment again for one hour today, which I’m glad I did. The leadership was smooth and fair, the class respectful of the leader (and other class members) and plenty of learning was done. Here are their reflections for the second time around:

  • How much learning did you do?

Heaps – 30% —— A good amount -61% —– Average – 9% —– Not much – 0% —– Almost nothing – 0%

  • How respectful were you?

Incredibly – 70% —– A good amount – 30% —– Average – 0% —– Not very – 0% —– Not at all – 0%

The class learned how capable they were, independent of the teacher, and were able to teach each other with absolutely no notice, because they had the resources to do this, thanks to plenty of work on personalising their learning. They saw how difficult it was to be leader and what sort of characteristics were required of both leaders and followers. They solved problems collaboratively and were really keen to rectify the (minor, I think) issues they had on the first day. I think the whole experiment demonstrated the kids’ value of learning too, as they could have easily spent the day playing. I must say, I was pretty impressed with these 10 and 11 year old’s capabilities.

Having a blog

Well, it’s almost been a year that I’ve had my blog and I’ve been reflecting about whether it’s been of any use. I think it’s had a number of benefits aside from getting my ideas out there, which was the initial purpose:

  1. Writing and articulating ideas helps to clarify my thoughts.
  2. It’s meant I’ve had to keep up with my own P.D, so I have worthwhile things to blog about.
  3. It’s kept me accountable, as everything I write about is really open and transparent.
  4. I have to keep reflecting and thinking about the best way to teach and the way kids learn, so I have useful things to say.
  5. It’s improved my confidence in writing.
  6. This, along with clarifying my thoughts on the pedagogy of my class and beyond, has improved my confidence in talking to others about what I do in real life.
  7. It’s provided me with a place to record my ‘journey’ and allows me to look back and reflect.
  8. It helps visitors to my class understand what goes on in the class prior to their visit, and keep updated following the visit.
  9. I’ve enjoyed communicating with others via the comments on my blog.
  10. And I feel I have to make a nice list of ten, so I’ve also enjoyed watching number of views from around the world build too. That’s exciting.

Overall, I’d absolutely recommend it!

How democratic is your class?

The Year 6 students did an interesting experiment today, for our unit on government systems and human rights. We arbitrarily split the kids into ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ then outlined the different rights (or lack there-of) each group were to have for the day. It was definitely unfair and lacking in equality, the idea being that the students would grasp the importance of equality and having human rights for all.

The students were up in arms! They tweeted their frustration, wrote me letters arguing for change, made placards, wrote petitions, read out Martin Luther King’s speech to the class and generally caused a ruckus! It was incredibly interesting to observe and a really powerful learning experience.

The really intriguing thing though, was the differences in reaction between the classes. The kids in my class were proactive and took action to make change as a collective group. I think this is because they are used to having a voice and operating in a really democratic classroom. They have become accustomed to having a say, instigating change and solving problems within the class collectively.

In the end, I was really proud of the students. They are the ones that will make a difference  and make changes in our world. Our class is no dictatorship, and nor should it be.

It’s report writing time.

Well, it’s that time of year again… report writing time. So there’s been a fair bit of testing going on and the students and I have been having good discussions based on this. We’ve talked about what all their assessments mean the whole way through the year so this is nothing new to them. What is new though is the comparisons they are making between the beginning of the year and now.

So what are we doing with this information?

In the classroom:

For maths, we have decided to throw maths groups out the window for the remainder of the year. It’s taken a while, but the students have a much clearer idea of exactly what they need to work on in maths. I have found it hard to ensure the kids have a clear understanding of the strategies they need to learn, because they don’t know what they don’t know. But we’ve got there! So we will have a series of “opt-in” meetings on strategy and knowledge based concepts that children have signed up for. There are such differences, even within groups of children at the same stage, that this is absolutely necessary to teach every child exactly what they need to know.

As for reading, the children have been very aware of the reading skills they need to work on for quite some time now, so I am happy to throw reading groups out for the end for the term too. Instead I am going to try a mixture between reciprocal reading, literature circles and book clubs. Basically, the children will be able to pick their book, pick their group and discuss the book they are reading with particular focus on the skills they need to work on. We’ll see how it goes!

Report writing:

It’s interesting to me that the students in the class could write their own reports. Everything I know about their learning, they know too. I talked to a group of children about this today and they didn’t really believe me. So I asked what comments they would write about their reading – no different to what I had written. Their attitude grades? – No difference.  In the end, I convinced them: I had no secret knowledge about their learning. They knew it all.

I wonder if I can pass the (rather dull!) job of report writing on to the kids?!