Sunday, August 5, 2012

But Why???

My Class August 2012...

I have always been interested in new learning ideas and my classroom is changing (developing) as I read and see more.  The main question I always have in the back of my mind is 'why' ~ why should students do this? I remember being at school and not having a lot of choice over my own learning.  Books were given to us...why? I was told where to sit....why? I had to write the date and underline it in red pen (with a ruler)...why? So in my class the 'why' has to reflect the students and their individual learning paths.

So why?

Learning Spaces:
One of the main changes the class have gone through are the learning spaces.  Over the past 10 months, my classroom has transformed from the 'traditional' seating areas to an interactive learning space....20th century building meets 21st century ideas...
Students do not have set seats...why? Students use the space that serves them best for the activity they are doing.  I thought about what 'areas' students would need and how can I make these four walls a great hub for learning!

Teaching Cove: We have a group of tables around the IWB.  This is designed for workshops (group lessons) and have 8 seats (usually the most students in a workshop) although I have another table behind it (which seats 6) if needed.  This teaching cove allows students easy access to the IWB (interactive whiteboard) and it is in a slight U shape so everyone can see and hear each other.

The Boardroom: This space is designed to cater for group projects.  There is enough seating for 6 - 8 students and has a whiteboard students use for collaborating ideas.

Connected: We also have a 'connected' area, where the iPads (5) can be easily charged.  This area has low lying kneeling tables and a couch.  The students tend to use the iPads in this area (for easy charging) as well as a group meeting area.

Independent areas: There is another table, where students tend to work independently.  There are a few power plugs around this table, so students tend to use the laptops in this area.

I do not choose where students sit - where they sit is determined by their learning needs.  If they have a workshop, they sit in the teaching cove, if they are working in a group, they might sit in the boardroom area.  This has meant students take greater responsibility for their learning.  

As I have mentioned in previous posts, students have their own ILP.  This teamed with the learning spaces allows greater use of the resources in the class.  Within the ILP, student have a range of activities from teacher-lead workshops to independent activities...the why again was asked...why do all students need to do say Maths at the same time? 

New activity within the ILP:

Writing has been a focus for our year 5 team.  After spending time teaching in the UK and implementing Big Writing from Ros Wilson. I have taken some of the ideas from this experience and designed a writing programme we call iWrite.  

How this works: students get a topic every Monday (usually related in some way to what is happening in the class/ school/ community/ globally). They go home and discuss this (with parents/ older siblings/ grandparents...) and formulate a plan which may consist of new vocabulary they might want to use, ideas from different view points, etc.  Students also think about the genre and structure that suits this piece of writing (e.g. an interview, story, play, report, poem).  On the Friday, students bring in this plan and have half an hour to write.  While they are writing, we play music (usually baroque although we have ventured into Adele upon request...why not!) and have an oil burner, scenting the room (vanilla, tea tree & lemongrass).  During the following week (in a workshop), we use this piece of writing and 'make it better', by looking at the vocabulary, connectives used, the way they have opened their sentences and their punctuation.  We usually focus on one or two of these four.  

The Why: If students can’t discuss and verbalise their ideas, how can we expect them to write them down?  This is the underlying idea behind iWrite.  It is one of the only whole class activities that we do and after just over a term, students are still really enthusiastic and motivated with this writing.  Why do students all need to do this at the same time? As the room needs to be quiet for students to concentrate for this half-hour...having the whole class write at the same time works the best.  This also ensures that this their own creation, so when we work on it in the following week, they know why they have used a certain word/phrase and what they may have meant.  Parents have also commented on how they love being part of this process and look forward to the new topic on Monday's.

Next steps: within the ILP, students have some optional activities that make up the remainder of their timetable.  One of the options is iWrite development, where they can continue working on their piece of writing.  Students also publish their writing to their writers club blog or their own wikispace.

So here is a snapshot of some of the new developments within my class - August 2012!

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