Big understandings realised in my own learning…

Since the last time I posted, which was nearly two months ago, I have been tuned into my own learning like never before. My learning during this time can be compared to being on a roll when building a puzzle and several pieces fall into place in a short space of time and a bigger picture emerges. 

What has caused this avalanche of learning? A combination of things: my own intrinsic motivation driving me to get better at noticing and naming what was happening, reflecting on and refining my teaching pedagogy, professional learning with Sam and Chad, positive responses from both my students and Charlie’s students to our team teaching efforts, positive responses from my own students to the changes I have implemented in my teaching, talking to colleagues, professional reading and probably other things I haven’t yet identified.

So much has happened…

Essentially I have been trying to live the following quote as I realised the importance of doing so more than a year a go but it’s taken me this long to understand what that looks like and how that feels – and I’m still learning… “Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you understand well, perhaps teaching will be different from before. “ Lori Malaguzzi

Some of the things I have learned from the changes I am implementing in my teaching practice…

  • team teaching opens up opportunities for me to notice things about my students’ learning while they are learning and allows me to meet individual needs more effectively
  • creating purposeful engagements and asking pertinent questions saves me time as I can support my students to make connections to knowledge and skills they have acquired which they can transfer and use in that context
  • creating simple learning engagements that tap into the essence of the learning and doing so in a way that students can connect to the concepts on a personal level, sets students up for powerful learning
  • taking the time to set the mood for learning saves time as students begin the task with the right intentions (sustaining the mood is not always easy though 🙂 )
  • knowing my students interests, strengths and insecurities enables me to takes the steps necessary to engage them in their learning
  • creating space for other options and possibilities that I may not have considered opens up learning for my students and for me
  • only teach students what they don’t know and can’t teach themselves
  • investing time in reflection empowers students to understand themselves as learners

Some of these understandings I have known and lived for a while, but in the last two months they have all  come together and as a result I have gained a different kind of clarity and my understanding of the familiar has grown.

On Friday we held a mini exhibition in Year 4 for the first time. To me it seemed like a logical culmination to our latest unit which falls under the transdisciplinary theme “How We Express Ourselves” (PYP).  Fortunately for me, my colleagues were open to the idea and prepared to go with the flow. Even more fortunately, our students loved the idea.

In the creative process leading up to this day, and in every opportunity that presented itself in other curriculum areas, I tried and tested (not always intentionally)  the changes I shared above.  I learned so much (as much from my mistakes as my successes) and have been so excited.

I felt it was time to write this post so that I could clarify my learning and capture the big understandings for my own benefit.










When students own the learning they are motivated…

Skills and attitudes demonstrating ownership of learning.

Skills and attitudes demonstrating ownership of learning.

“When can we do our mapping learning, Ms J?”
Various students have asked me this question since our mapping inquiry time on Friday and Monday. I love how excited many of them are.

During Monday’s mapping session, my students demonstrated ownership of learning throughout. They were totally engaged and noticed and named behaviours, skills and attitudes that relate to ownership of learning. I heard students saying things like, “We talked about it and now we’re back on track”; “I need to make that decision”; “I need to ask myself that question before going to ask Ms J”; ” We’re ready to move on to part 2 – we’ve thought about it and made a plan so we are ready.”

Some students worked independently and collaborated as needed. Others worked in groups and made an effort to compromised fairly when making decisions.

When we reflected using What Went Well? and What challenges did you face? Many groups responded that they faced no challenges on Monday – things went smoothly because they communicated and cooperated with each other.

I noticed how students used their strengths and knew who to go to for support with a skill they lacked or for feedback,etc. I noticed some students being mindful and reflective.

I can’t wait for our next mapping session on Friday either.

Keeping quiet makes room for students to think and share.

Last week I had five minutes with nothing urgent to do or planned. I had been thinking about taking Bruce Ferrington’s idea and decided to see how my students would respond. I simply threw out the question and then kept quiet. “Jina and I were wondering who has the tallest class. How could we find out?”.

Hands went up. I acknowledged them and they began to put forward their suggestions with growing interest and excitement.

“We can ask our parents how tall we are, bring that information to school and add it up.”
“We can measure each child using two metre rulers and use a calculator to find the total.”
“We can go outside and lie everyone down in a long line and see which class makes the longest line”.
“We could even measure the lines with a long measuring tape.”
“We could get Jesse to stand against the wall – he’s the tallest. Mark how tall he is. Then we can mark each child’s height on the wall and take the difference away from Jesse’s height to work out theirs. Then add them all together.”
“We could mark each child’s height on paper. Measure it using a ruler and then total them all up.”
“I’ve got a height measuring chart at home. I could bring that in and we can use it to read off our heights. And add them up.”

By this stage I was very excited and so were they. I had kept quiet – something that doesn’t come naturally to me as I usually get very engaged and can’t stay out of the discussion – and they came up with 7 different ways which we could use to work out the total height of our class!

I commended their thinking and creativity and suggested we use all the methods they had put forward and compare our findings and discuss which was most accurate, fun, quickest, etc.

Tomorrow is the start to our latest maths inquiry into who has the tallest class. I can’t wait. Based on the fact that some have been asking me when we will get started – they can’t either.

I am going to ask questions and keep quiet a whole lot more!!! Keeping quiet makes room for students to think and share. Keeping quiet gets students engaged naturally. Keeping quiet allows students to direct the inquiry and own it.