Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Classroom Experiments

Yesterday I moved in with the class with whom I am to spend the rest of the year. The class' long term teacher is counting down the days until she becomes a first time mother and the children are grieving her departure. She has left me a lovely group of children with a broad range of abilities, interests and temperaments. So... my thanks to her!

And so... It's not my classroom BUT I'm not handing it back to anyone so it's more mine than the other two have been. Yay! Let the fun experiments learning begin!

I'm really proud of some of the work my last class did and will share that soon but I'm incredibly excited about what I'm doing with my new class. I've been reading, viewing and listening to a flood of inspirational educators recently and I'm adopting what I can into my own practice. Let me share just one:

Professor Dylan Wiliam is a 'teaching guru' who, amongst other things, argues that we can improve student engagement and success without spending squillions of dollars and has a whole toolkit of ideas to do so. BBC2 made a two part documentary about some of these ideas which is an easy but engaging way to spend a couple of hours. Some of his ideas are of the 'd'oh,why didn't I think of that?' kind, and others are a little more inspired.  I've taken three of these ideas and tweaked them.

My new class has already learnt that during class discussions we don't raise our hands unless to ask a question. I have all of their names on 'lollipop sticks' (actually they're tongue depressors because they're bigger and I don't have to strain to read the names, oh... and it's what we had in the art cupboard!) and every child needs to be prepared for every question or point. Everyone is engaged and thinking all the time. It's not just the usual kids with the answers raising their hands that have airtime but everyone. I LOVE this way of working. I'm also making a huge effort to listen to the answer and pull another name to give feedback/add to the answer/question the answer rather than simply say 'yes, great answer'. So much great thinking and discussion coming from just this change.

As the class is new to me, I didn't know everyone's name. I provided a simple template and some scrabble letters for them to cut & paste (that was purely because I liked the look and I needed something easy to read) onto a triangular prism folded name plaque. The other two sides have the words "I'd like some help please' and 'I understand!' printed on them. (This is a MAJOR tweak from an idea to use three coloured cups to indicate understanding.) While the children work at their desk they move their name plaque to the appropriate sign OR during direct instruction I ask them to hold up their plaques. I can then pull small groups who need help while the others move forward independently. I'm not sure who more loves this idea: me or the children.

Mini whiteboards are the best classroom tool! Today the students used them while they were working in pairs to show me the outcome of their discussion; individually to show me their understanding of a particular term; and in small groups to show me a life cycle diagram. Having the whiteboards held up for me to glance around the room meant I can quickly gauge understanding and better direct the rest of my instruction. LOVE IT!

Another work I'm enjoying at the moment is Harry Wong's First Days of School which prompted me to put together a powerpoint presentation with (just about) everything I wanted my class to know about me and my expectations. It set a great tone and there have been very few surprises for them as we've moved forward.

And forward we are moving. Forward with our experiments learning.

1 comment:

  1. It is inspiring watching you engage with your chosen vocation and I look forward to hearing more of each of the stories associated with your journey.