Who has control?

Interestingly, when I’ve spoken to the students in Year 6 lately, they’ve told me that they have lots of control in the classroom. I can’t say I agree, though they may well have plenty of control compared to previous years at school. So, to give both myself and the kids in my class a better idea of who had control over the various aspects of the classroom, I decided to have a big discussion around this.

Below is the result of this discussion:

Miss Winder controls: Teacher and kids have joint control: Kids have control:
  • Deadlines
  • Direction of discussions
  • Mathletics tasks
  • Warnings
  • Units of inquiry- “big ideas”
  • Trips
  • Visitors
  • “Thoughts on this” board
  • Brain teasers

Planning:

  • Tasks
  • Opt in meetings
  • Group meetings
  • Class meetings
  • Learning intentions
  • Choosing goals
  • Deadlines
  • Noise level
  • Success criteria
  • “Did you know” board
  • Planning the day – decide when to do things
  • Where the furniture is in the room
  • How we behave
  • Who we work with or whether we work alone
  • How we use our time
  • Where we sit
  • What we do for fitness
  • Whether we attend opt in meetings
  • Choose how hard we try
  • Choose what rewards we get
  • Whether you need to get a drink or use the toilet
  • What/with whom/when you talk
  • Choose what you want to learn within the big idea in inquiry
  • Choose to add your ideas to the “thoughts on this” board
  • Choose what to write about for goal practice
  • Choose what to do when weekly tasks are finished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So what is the outcome of this discussion?

The students decided that they’d like a little more control now – they would like to add brain teasers to the board for their peers and they would like to suggest learning intentions for opt in meetings.

Later in the year, they’d like more control, in terms of planning, which we will do collectively like last year. But they don’t feel they are ready for this just yet and I definitely agree.

 

It’s very exciting to see the kids getting a better understanding of their place in the learning process. They have become quite reflective and realistic.

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Is there more to being a successful learner than concentrating hard and working hard?

It is interesting to ask students what successful learners do – you always get students who say the secret to success is to concentrate hard or work hard. I agree this is important, but is there more to a really great learner than that? I wanted to pose this question to the students in my class to get them to reflect and this is what they came up with:

“Concentrating hard” and “Working hard” is important and it’s about half the picture.

For example, I’m terrible at art and no matter how hard I concentrate on painting, it’s unlikely I’ll be the next Picasso.

If I concentrate really hard, will I come up with the next great ‘i’ device that we can’t live without? Maybe, but collaborating with others might help me extend my ideas…

concentrate

As a result of this discussion, we decided that students would have a learning buddy. The kids all wrote down 2 learning skills they were good at  and 2 they needed to work on. I then paired them up, so everyone is now a helper and being helped to make improvements by a more proficient peer. They have to plan out how they will help out their learning buddy and how they can pass their skills on, which is no mean feat. We’ll see how this goes!

Taking a step back: How are we doing?

I recently visited all 3 Year 6 classes and spoke informally to randomly chosen students. I had decided to do this to get an idea of where the students were at with their learning and what our next steps as teachers were. This is what we came up with after reflecting as a team on the students’ responses:

Things that are going well in our practice:

Next steps for us:
  • Students have come a long way since the beginning of term.
  • Majority of students know what their writing goals are off the top of their heads.
  • They can articulate good ideas regarding what they do already and what they could do to be a successful learner.
  • They are honest and open about their learning.
  • They are aware they aren’t ready for too much more control in the classroom quite yet.
  • Kids seem to feel they are in a partnership with us when constructing goals. They have a pretty good handle on what their strengths and weaknesses are.
  • We are offering children a fair bit of choice and flexibility and opportunity to be creative and this will increase throughout the year.
  • We think we are doing OK at individualising and differentiating learning for kids, mainly through individual goals.
 Putting skills to be a successful learner into place:

  • Collaboration – working on now. Lots of practice and reflection.
  • Putting into practice what they know to be the right thing to do. They have already made progress this year. Refection will continue to help this.
  • Unpack what “concentrating hard” and “working hard” actually mean, whether this is OK on its own and how to make this happen…

Also:

  • Make a table of what the teacher controls and what the kids control and where we would like to make changes in the future. Give the kids a better understanding of their role and our role in the class.
  • Photograph good and not so good seating choices and discuss.
  • Video groups/pairs working well together. Unpack how to have a good learning conversation.
  • Keep talking about the relevance of what we are learning, in all areas. This should help kids reflect on the relevance more than just “it will help me later in life/ for a job.” This should help them value their learning more too.

A need for discussion.

How many times have you attended a conference, PD session or seminar and ended up doing the most meaningful learning through informal discussions with fellow educators?

How often have you wished you had more time to meet up with other educators to discuss issues face-to-face?

How often have you wanted to connect more with like-minded educators beyond your school or position in the hierarchy?

I too identify with the above situations so have decided to do something about it.

Hence a new event – EduCafe.

There are many huge and poignant questions in the education sector that need to be debated by educators and practitioners ourselves. Our education system is not perfect. We do well in New Zealand but we have room for improvement and we are not consistently educating students well for the 21st Century. This, I believe  means we need robust discussion around key questions that pertain to educational improvement. I think the World Café structure allows for this.

World Café is a structure used to facilitate discussion between a group of people. It centers around a welcoming environment and small group discussion related to a poignant or provocative question. It hinges on the idea that potential answers to the problem are within the group of people and, through discussion, ideas will be crystallised, debated and potentially put into practice.

For more information – http://www.theworldcafe.com/ and http://educafeblog.com/

If that sounds like it could be of interest to you,

The first ever EduCafe event will be held on Thursday the 23rd May 2013!

7pm

Kelliher Charitable Trust

2 York St, Parnell

Drinks and nibbles provided.

50 tickets available – www.educafe.eventbrite.co.nz

Term 2 event question:

We know there is a need for us to change our teaching for the 21st century, we know why this is, we’re working towards it,

BUT what does 21st century teaching and learning actually look like in practice?

Format:

1. Introduction –

  • Welcome
  • Share question/topic
  • Articulate the background to the question/topic. Contextualise the question.
  • Outline the structure of the evening and role of the table host.

2. Discussion –

  • 2 rounds of discussion, each 15 minutes long.
  • Paper table cloths and pens provided to jot down thoughts, musings and ideas.
  • Host remains at table, other members move to a new spot around the room to spread ideas.

3. Opportunity for key ideas to be jotted down on key shaped pieces of paper on tables. 5-10mins

4. Break – wine and nibbles! Key ideas displayed on a wall for further discussion over the break time. Approximately 20mins.

5. One more round of discussion. Again, host remains at table, other members move to a new spot around the room.

6. Sharing of ideas and summing up as an entire group. Host’s responsibility to share ideas from the table, but others can contribute also.

7. Emma to sum up and announce the date and topic of discussion for the next event.

8. Ideas collated after event and posted on EduCafe blog.

What’s been happening this term? – “Skills and tools to make me a great learner”

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I was lucky enough to attend ICOT in January and got some great ideas and food for thought. One such idea that grew as the conference went on was to create a wall of skills and tools I thought the students needed to be great learners. The idea was to add skills/tools as the year proceeded and skills were taught. These skills relate to inquiry, like Lane Clark’s “Think Box” as well as being quite general in their application, for any learning that should occur.

So far, as you can see, we haven’t added too many tools and skills to the wall, but it is growing. As the year goes on, I plan to discuss and explicitly teach:

  • Different types of action one can take as a result of an inquiry, as well as how the success of such actions can be measured.
  • Ways in which students can be more independent.
  • Ways in which students can share or report their learning.
  • Skills to ensure collaboration in the classroom is effective.
  • Ways in which students can research and record information; and skills to use when researching to find relevant, true and useful information.
  • Thinking skills – including, but not limited to, “Visible Thinking Routines” which will be taught as and when necessary.
  • Ways in which to personalise learning – both to find out about things students are interested in and to work on things they struggle with.

The idea behind this wall is that each skill or tool will be recorded so students can see what they have learned throughout the year really clearly and so they can take responsibility to choose which tool to use in which situation. This should, in theory anyway, make them more independent learners who have more control over their learning.

What’s been happening this term? – Unpacking learning.

This year, the Year 6 syndicate started off the term with an intense focus on learning. We have focused on the following ideas:

What successful learners do.

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What switches us on and off learning.

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What meaningful learning is.

(Useful, get a sense of accomplishment out of it, enjoyable, interesting and challenging)

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We used the same lesson sequence as last year for this, but tweaked it a little and came up with a character that represented each aspect of what meaningful learning is for us in Room 3. This has been really successful.

Such an intense focus and the devotion of 3 weeks to this has made such a difference in setting up the classrooms with the learning focused relationships required for the rest of the year to run smoothly. It also gave students the opportunity to deeply reflect on what learning is, what they need to do to ensure their school day is useful and what the teacher’s role in this is.