One thing that really struck me as I went around classrooms today was how teachers at our school cater for different learning styles of students in their classes. Here’s some examples:
This image shows Trish working with a student on his reading. It was clear that Trish was really taking the student’s learning styles into account as she dealt with the tricky issues of learning to read by using a game to make it more interesting for him. What could have been done (and often is) in a very mundane way was instead done in a motivating and entertaining way that the student was obviously enjoying.
Heida and her students were in the middle of a conversation about countries, borders, cultures, people, race and lots of other things when I went into their classroom. One thing I noticed was that the students were not expected to sit perfectly at their tables during the conversation, neither were they all on the carpet huddled around their teacher. Instead, they seemed to be given quite a bit of freedom to make choices – some of them were completely concentrating on the conversation, some zoned in and out, some of the more lively kids were allowed to fiddle or get up and do something while still participating in the discussion. I have been doing a lot of work over the last year or so on “the art of conversation” and I left this classroom with a few fresh ideas and questions, such as, is it always necessary to expect all 24 students to be looking at you and sitting still while having a conversation? Is that a realistic expectation for the “real world”? Is that how adults generally interact with each other?
I felt as though the natural atmosphere in the room allowed the students to be themselves while not detracting from the purposefulness of the conversation.
Believe it or not, these students are doing spelling. The Word Study programme being run in Year 3 encourages the students to develop their knowledge of the way words are put together by using a variety of media to construct the words. By building the words with lego or forming them with modeling clay, the students are able to remember the spelling patterns “automatically” (as one of them said). Hmmm… I thought I’d put them to the test, so I got a couple of them to show me some of the words they have been working on this week, I hid them and then got them to spell the words for me. They did it perfectly. I’m starting to understand why the majority of students that I have taught in Year 6 so far have arrived in my class as pretty strong spellers!
Just like all of us adults, kids have fairly unique positions that they find comfortable for reading – my favourite is lying on my stomach in bed with my head hanging over the side and my book on the floor! Jenny’s class were spread all over the place when I went in, they were all reading avidly too – I tried to distract them but they glanced up at me and ignored me! Their reading position was just part of their engagement with the books. Jenny has a few other things going on in there that gave me a few ideas for my own students.
Each student had a sort of box file thing with about 4 or 5 books in them. Jenny referred to the books as “Good Fit Books” and it is clear that her students are developing the valuable skills involved in selecting books that are just right for them. They use a system called “iPick”. P for Purpose – why am I reading? I for Interest – what am I interested in? C for Comprehension – do I understand the text? K for Know nearly all the words. These strategies have created a culture of student choice in this class and there was a real sense of self-management and the release of responsibility for book choices from the teacher to the students.