We need to stop talking about the 21st Century as if it is the future, we are already in it.
We need to stop trying to address new situations and challenges with old models and moulds.
If we are in any way serious about moving education forward, or even just catching up, we need to be in the business of breaking moulds. If we keep using the same old moulds, it doesn’t matter what we put into them… the end product will always be the same.
Here are some educational moulds that could do with being broken:
- Leadership – Leadership roles in schools tend to be very restrictive as there is usually only one possible way to advance if we are ambitious and wish to expand our scope of influence. The career path usually takes us further away from kids, further away from learning. This will inevitably make leaders less relevant! Why not break a few of those moulds and create alternative career paths for people so they can continue to be their best?
- Homework – For all the talk about homework, there is still remarkably little change. Thousands of teachers are still handing out homework to thousands and thousands of students that is still in the same mould as it was 5, 10, 15 and 20 years ago. We have moved on so…. let’s move on. We could even go so far as to break that mould and then simply not replace it!
- Reports – Another mould that we continue to use even though we know it isn’t the right mould. Break it, rethink it, redesign it, discard it… anything but carry on with the same.
- Classrooms – It is such an uncomfortable feeling to walk into a classroom (for any age) and find it to resemble classrooms we endured when we were kids. It is so refreshing, on the other hand, to walk into a classroom that breaks those moulds. Imagine a classroom with different seating options, different shapes and heights of tables, different lighting options, different smells and sounds… Teachers need to have a daily routine of asking themselves “would I like to be a student in my own class?”
- End-of-year class parties – just adding this as our school year comes to an end and I have been around every classroom and found mountains of junk food, packaging, throw-away cups and plates and wide-eyed over-indulged children who ate lunch only an hour beforehand. Time to think again people! Have a pool party like we did in Year 6 at NIST, have a class sports day, go out somewhere, bring someone in to do something different with them. Or, at the very least, cancel lunch on that day.
- Technology – Funny isn’t it, most of us actually think 21st Century leaning actually means using technology. We are mistaken. It actually involves, but doesn’t mean, using technology to make learning different to how it was before, not simply replicating what is used to be like but using a computer or other device instead. Use technology to break a few moulds, then it may serve a purpose. Be careful, we are in danger of creating some rather dull new moulds in the way we currently use technology.
- Committees – Instead of creating a few of those dull old committees and populating them with people who have to be in a committee, how about using an inquiry style of leadership and letting teachers determine what needs to be done to improve their schools and then empowering them to take action and make those improvements happen. Teachers who feel empowered to create change have a much better chance of nurturing students who feel empowered to create change.
- Timetables – The fragmentation of the school day is often done with little thought about the flow of learning or the time needed for genuine inquiries to take shape. Discrete lessons, certainly in primary education, may be close to obsolete. In fact, in my teaching practice over the last few years, I would struggle to give an example of a lesson that actually ended – many began, many had middles, but I can’t think of any that had an end. And, I wouldn’t want them to!
- Meetings – Any time any person is running any meeting, they should consciously try to make it unlike a meeting. This is really hard, the meeting is a very strong mould! But, if we can just approach them with the determination to chip away at the mould we will start to create something different.
- Professional development – Throw some money at it, get on a plane somewhere, sit and listen to someone, take away one or two things, implement one of them, share nothing. All too often, PD falls into that trap. Great for getting around the world, meeting people and making connections… don’t get me wrong. Hopeless for moving a school forward. Even bringing in big names and filling rooms with teachers can sometimes have little or no impact. Good professional development should have a sustainable impact on a school’s culture of learning and to do so it needs to be dynamic and multi-faceted. A model that we are experimenting with and getting a lot of success is bringing in practitioners, people who still teach, and setting them up to have an effect on the teaching and learning in the school in multiple ways – team-teaching, demonstration teaching, helping with planning, working with parents etc… there’s lots of ways to do it. Give it a try!
- Learning – Yep, even learning is stuck in a type of mould. While doing a teacher appraisal today, I snapped a photo of this image that was on top of one of my colleague’s files – it pretty much represents the mould of teacher/student relationship that is being broken and needs to be broken more!
Anyway… enough from me. What moulds are you breaking? What moulds would you like to break?
Image from OKFoundryCompany on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jamesoneil/
The main aim of the language arts presentations was to get a good understanding of our current beliefs and practices about language teaching and learning so that we can look at how they compare with PYP philosophy.
One of the main constants in every team’s presentations was a belief in “integration”, “transdisciplinary teaching” and “language as a vehicle for inquiry” (see the images below).
These beliefs are clearly aligned with the first two sections of the incredibly helpful chart on p. 71 of “Making the PYP Happen:
So, the next step is to see if our practices are just as aligned as our beliefs. The plan is to do this through planning sessions using this diagram from page 4 of the Language Scope and Sequence Document:
We will do this in the planning session following the initial planning of the unit of inquiry by which the following would normally have been covered:
- Cross-examination and clarification of the central idea
- Outlining desired conceptual understandings
- Consensus on assessment tools and/or strategies
At this point, it is appropriate to look at what receptive language will be needed/developed in the unit for students to receive and process information, and the expressive language that will be needed/developed in the unit or students to express their understanding. The outcome of this should be:
- Clear transdisciplinary links between the unit and language, i.e. language as a genuine “vehicle for inquiry”
- Clear areas for stand-alone focus
- Clear direction for skills development
- Clear focus for Learning Support and ESL Teachers
Year 5 stepped up to the front of the Theatre and were instantly very honest with their audience. They told us that the process of working towards this presentation had been very difficult for them, that they had struggled through it, that there had been tensions, flare-ups and strong emotions as they tried to establish common ground in the area of Language Arts.
Then, they outlined their conclusions in the following way:
Engaging: Students are interested and curious about language arts. They feel connected and understand the power and value in language as a way to communicate with the wider world. Students will more likely be engaged when learning is relevant and connected to something that they can use and apply.
Intention: There needs to be a focus, something that awaits the students on the other side of the lesson or learning experience. If there is a clear intention, one that the students is aware of then they will know what they are working towards.
Experiences: A wide range of experiences are given for students to explore and experiment with in their learning. The experiences need to be balanced and offer something different. Be creative and innovative in the ‘how’ of teaching and learning.
Evidence: Evidence of learning is really important. Students need to be honest about where and who they are as learners. Evidence of learning needs to come in many different forms. It is most powerful when it is from then and they have arrived at that conclusion on their own.
Empowering: This is where a lot of trust comes in. Students feel as if they are in control of their learning and they are responsible for it. This is where they can really pursue their own passions and interests and take their learning to the next level.
Explicit: Teaching and learning needs to be a process. A process that is at their level and allows the students to construct their meaning by adding on to past lessons and experiences.
The Year 3 Team used this Domino game to get us thinking about their language beliefs and practices. Here are their instructions:
Here’s the answers to the game! When the Year 3 Team shared the answers to the game with us we all really appreciated the simplicity and clarity of their message. They all took turns to share their beliefs and spoke very briefly and concisely about each point.
The presentations were kicked off this time by the Early Years team and a variety of guest performers. They had made a very professional video in the form of a breaking news story about the recent high demand for teaching positions in Early Years! The video was extremely funny but also set out key points about how language is taught and learned. Viewers were challenged to complete a puzzle in order to have a chance of working in EY and the main message of the puzzle was “It’s all about language”. The team feel very strongly that everything they do is about language development, there are no moments in Early Years teaching and learning that do not involve language enrichment.
Here is their video:
Year 4 shared the work they have done for the presentations by using Glogster. This is a very visual, online tool that is designed for reading on the screen, so it was difficult for the Year 4 team to present it formally.I think it’s probably best, when presenting in the form of a website, blog or Glogster, if the audience view it on their own laptops. I don’t think the team wanted it to be a formal presentation and had more of a chat in mind. But, the audience all sat so far away from them it became much more formal!!!
Year 4 clearly place a heavy emphasis on constructivism and believe that exploratory talk, collaborative inquiry and metacognition really underpin that philosophy. They base much of their thinking on the First Steps Oral Language Developmental Curriculum and the work of Vygotsky.
This quote from David Bohm, in particular, seems to sum up their shared beliefs:
“For our classrooms to become true language labs, we must immerse all children in motivating , meaning -based experiences that will engage them at the edge of their linguistic competence.”
How do you use “purposeful talk” in your classroom?
Bonnie Campbell-Hill’s Writing Continuum is a fantastic resource for informing teaching and learning. When used on a regular basis it is extremely powerful. It is a part of NISTs language assessment methods.
I would like to achieve two things with this posting:
- Get a sense of who is using the Writing Continuum on a regular basis in their classroom.
- Encourage all of us to start being honest about what we are doing and not doing in our teaching.
So, I will start. I have been using the Writing Continuum for four years prior to coming to NIST… but have not used it since I have been teaching here as I have been caught up in doing other things.
What about you?
Are you using the Writing Continuum? If so, how do you use it? If not, why is that?
Conceptual understandings from IB Language Arts Scope and Sequence Document
Image from hatta affendy on Flickr
Hopefully, each of the teaching teams should now know about the “Team Presentation”.
Homeroom Coordinators, please make a brief comment to share your team’s thoughts on how to go about doing the presentations. Hopefully, this will serve the dual purpose of sharing ideas and illustrating how flexible the task is and how important it is that teams present in a way that represents who they are.
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.