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.









Students teaching students – Part 2

How can I get my students to revisit their writing in a purposeful way and rework it to make it even more engaging?

I had been sitting with this question for a long while.

It then occured to me (again!!!) that if I valued this, I would need to set aside the time for this to happen.

I decided to use the students own work to promote good writing techniques as this would engage them more than examples from authors who are usually adults anyway. I wanted them to see that each student’s writing had elements in it that could be celebrated. I was also hoping that they would then see what they were capable of.

We started by referring back to their journal rubric. (My colleagues and I had put one together to give clear guidelines for what is required for a good journal text in Year 4.) Each student had been given their own copy of the rubric from the first journal writing session. When the rubric referred to descriptve words and imagery, we then looked for examples of this in their writing. Next we shared these and discussed the power of their descriptive words and images. When the rubric referred to writer’s voice (and defined what this meant) we then looked for examples of this in their writing and discussed their effect on the reader. And so on.

I was so excited by their response… they felt proud to share their efforts and were very appreciative of examples taken from their peers’ writing. And what’s even more exciting is – they enthusiastically asked for time to have another go at working on their piece to make it more engaging for the reader.

I can’t wait to read what they write…

Students teaching students… powerful learning for students and teachers.

Setting the scene…

Over the last four weeks, Charlie (a colleague) and I have been teaching “Time” to our Year 4 students. We realised from the pre-test that student understanding varied from very basic to extensive. We decided to combine our students to allow us to more successfully differentiate our teaching.

Differentiating across two classes really helped us to manage the learning. Charlie was able to consolidate and extend her group’s understanding of time. I was able differentiate within my group again and target teach to their needs. I was also able to work at a pace that suited all of my students. As different students grasped time I regrouped them again according to their needs.

Towards the end of the four weeks, Charlie’s group became very confident in all aspects of time and we decided to let them teach 24 hour time to my students. This would provide them with an opportunity to apply their learning in a meaningful way and would give my students an opportunity to have one-on-one teaching and guide the teaching by stating their needs.

Students teaching students

In discussion with Charlie, her students came up with the best ways they could think of to teach their peers. Some decided to do a pre-test to see what their peer already knew about 24 hour time and time in general. Several gathered concrete materials to use, such as mini clocks and mini whiteboards. Some created teaching aids. They prepared all of this in one 40 minute lesson. In the next lesson, we paired students up and the video shows the teaching and learning happening.

Student feedback demonstrated that they found this way of learning enjoyable and successful. They felt they learned a lot from each other by learning in this way.

What the students taught Charlie and I:

*It didn’t matter who paired up as they were so engaged in the experience.
*Purposeful learning happened for both the student teacher and the student being taught.
*Students know what works to support their teaching and the learning.
*Student teachers adapted to the needs of their student without needing to be told.
*Students applied many skills in addition to the mathematical ones.
*This was differentiation and target teaching at its best!!!
*Giving students ownership of their learning supports learning.

We should look for opportunities for students to teach students more often.