Category Archives: Student Learning

A Learning Journey

Every student has a learning journey, but who is in charge of that journey? When you think about a great teacher, what comes to mind? A teacher who cares, excites, motivates and inspires? What about a teacher who allows students to control their own learning?

Generally speaking, as teachers, I think we tend to want our classrooms to be neat and tidy and our lessons and teaching to be the same way.  However, the quote below rings true.

Edutopia 2

Teachers usually aren’t risk takers, however our students are. Our goal should be to have our students coming to school and feeling excited about what they will discover and find out that day. We want them to be curious about where their learning will take them.

Edutopia 1

I was lucky enough to attend a professional development day with Tom Barrett who spoke about an exciting approach to learning. Click here to find out more about Tom Barrett and NoTosh. Put simply, the process begins with teachers teaching the content – immersing students into a unit of work. Think about the titles you give to the units of work. ‘Gold’, ‘Antarctica’ – sound familiar? Create a title that excites and propels the students into a state of curiosity. Once the content has been covered, the students can use their new found knowledge to explore something that interests them.

Ben Johnson has said it perfectly “ yes, there are times when direct instruction is necessary, but only to be able to do something with that knowledge or skill, but a great teacher devises learning experiences that force all the students to be engaged much like being in the deep end of the swimming pool.”

Once the content has been covered, the focus shifts to what the students can do with that knowledge. Students jump into the driver’s seat and complete tasks in order to discover what they want to do with their knowledge and devise their own questions. Tom Barrett provided ideas for students to become problem finders, as opposed to problem solvers, such as encouraging students to devise questions beginning with ‘how might we…’. Once a specific question is chosen, ideas are generated by the students in small groups in an activity called ‘100 ideas in 10 minutes’ – which is exactly as the title suggests. The students then research and/or create according to their question and ideas. Click here and here for more activities and information.

Who knows what the students will come up with? Whatever it is that they want to do with their knowledge – it will be authentic. Learning is doing and true learning takes place when the students are interested, excited and in control.

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What if students controlled their own learning?

When I think about how I want students to be learning in my classroom, I imagine them carrying out the following.

  • Demonstrating their learning with confidence
  • Owning their learning
  • Presenting their work using a variety of tools
  • Challenging themselves
  • Enjoying learning
  • Discovering
  • Collaborating
  • Creating 

When I look back, the times the students are checking off each item on the above list, from Mathematics to Religion, is when they are provided with the opportunity to take control of their own learning – the students choose how they learn and how they present their knowledge. We need to be constantly asking ourselves how we can best encourage and facilitate our students to take greater control of their learning. 

In my classroom, students are taking control of their learning as they complete the following.

  • In H.S.I.E and Science, the students are able to select an activity and present it using one of the many provided tools/methods of their choice.
  • In Mathematics, apps such as ‘Show Me’ are used for students to create instructional videos to show to the class and peer teach.

Take a look at Mathstrain.tv – it’s a great website which features many instructional videos created by students.

Students owning and taking control of their learning ties in nicely with the flipped classroom model and it’s a good start. Click here, here and here for more information regarding the flipped classroom.

We need to be asking ourselves how our students can deliver the why and how and how teachers can facilitate and enable them.

How do your students control their own learning?

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Classroom Design

Effective communication in the classroom is essential if the teacher and students are to succeed. The kind of communication and the amount of communication is said to be linked to the seating arrangements of the students in the classroom. Evidently, seating arrangements in a classroom is a really important decision. There are so many options, with the most popular being rows, groups and horse shoe.

The following questions may be useful when thinking about your classroom design:

  • How much thought have you given to the seating arrangements in your classroom?
  • How often do you change the seating arrangements throughout the year?
  • Have you moved students as you get to know them to ensure they are in the best position possible for them to learn?
  • Does your current seating arrangement match the kind and amount of communication you would like to take place in your students’ learning?
  • Did you involve the students in the design process?
  • Do you provide students with freedom to move around while working?
  • Are you using your space effectively?
  • Are your students provided with the opportunity to work where they are comfortable?
  • Are students seated next to students they work well with?
  • Does the current seating arrangement assist students’ learning?
  • Do you have a range of seating options, for example desks, bean bags, cushions, ottomans, pillows, rug…?

What seating arrangement do you have in your classroom?

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Learning Should be Fun!

I don’t know about you, but I have heard far too many stories about teachers handing out the same worksheet time and time again,  completing boring joint constructions with the same two students participating, writing questions on the board for the students to answer… you get the gist!

I sincerely believe (along with supporting research such as here and here) that learning should be fun!

It is our job as teachers to motivate and engage our students in their learning. We need to be excited about what we are teaching. If we aren’t excited, how can we expect our students to be? The possibilities to make learning fun are endless!

Here are some of the ideas that I have come up with:

  • Integrate technology in meaningful ways:
    • Carefully select computer programs to help students achieve their goal
    • Find useful and interactive websites students can navigate
    • Download beneficial apps on the iPads
    • Allow your students to use cameras and video cameras to document their learning
    • Create WebQuests for your students
    • Find great YouTube videos to show your students
    • Integrate useful Web 2.0 tools
  • Provide your students with choice
  • Create different activities for your students to work on
  • Ensure your students are being challenged
  • Provide hands on activities
  • Allow your students to create something
  • Encourage your students to present their work in a variety of ways:
    • News Presenters
    • Blog Post
    • Website
    • Song
    • Video
    • Series of photos
    • Model
    • Dance
    • Posters
    • Pamphlets
    • Game Show

How do you make learning fun?

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Our Students and Technology

The students at Robin Hood School, Birmingham really got me thinking about what should be happening in our classrooms.

  • Are you catering to the 21st century learners?
  • Do you use iPods, iPads, computers, digital cameras and the interactive whiteboard?
  • Have you created and used podcasts and blogs?
  • Are you using technology in meaningful ways?
  • Are your students self reliant?
  • Are you providing your students with choices?
  • Are you allowing your students to be global citizens?
  • Are your students analysing and evaluating in creative ways?
  • Do your students care about what they are doing in your classroom each day?
  • How do your students communicate?
  • Are your students being challenged?
  • Are your students engaged?

This one year old girl is applying what she has learnt from an iPad to a magazine and it reminds me of this post I read. Technology is her environment. When the magazine doesn’t behave in the same way as an iPad, she becomes frustrated. Are you prepared to have a class full of students like her in your classroom in four years time?

What’s happening in your classroom?

What can you improve on?

What are your thoughts?

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Creativity in the Classroom

Creativity may be defined as the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods and interpretations.

As teachers, we need to encourage our students to:

  • question and investigate
  • experiment with new ideas
  • view mistakes as opportunities for learning
  • follow their interests
  • think “outside the square”

The above list can be achieved by encouraging creativity. Creativity not only enhances the learning experience, but allows students to develop the skills they need in order to become successful adults who are able to thrive in the ever changing world we live in today.

In order to encourage creativity; we must lead by example. Teachers need to demonstrate resourcefulness and adaptability. Surprise your students with a wide range of activities/ways of learning, which will encourage them to be creative while also keeping them excited about learning.

In order to encourage creativity, teachers need to provide students with opportunities to develop their own creative thinking. Students should be provided with different options. For example, when students are given a task or as assessment, teachers could provide the students with a variety of ways to complete the activity/assessment. E.g. use of technology, written response, illustration, writing a song etc.

It is so important that teachers don’t get stuck in a rut and provide students with the same activity over and over with a different question/topic. We should be constantly on the look out for new and exciting ways for our students to learn.

Keep an eye out on Twitter and blogs for great activities, web 2.0 tools and websites and save them in a word document for you to easily refer to when planning lessons. I reccomend subscribing to blogs and websites such as ICT to inspire and Teaching Generation Now which constantly provide exciting ideas and tools to use in the classroom.

Click here and here for the websites that helped to inspire this post and for more information.

So what are you waiting for? Get creative and you just might be surprised with what your students come up with!

How do you promote creativity in your classroom?

What blogs/websites inspire you to be creative?

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Homework

I am amazed at the vast difference in opinion regarding homework. Just in the last couple of days, I have heard a news story stating that homework is irrelevant to the 21st century and read a newspaper article stating that two hours of homework each night is beneficial to students. Click here for a previous post I have written about homework.

Isn’t there a happy medium?

In a discussion between @keelygriffiths and @M_Carreiro and myself (@ashleyazzopardi) we agreed that homework is relevant to the 21st century if it;

  • Revises concepts learnt in class
  • Builds on existing knowledge
  • Integrates ICT
  • Promotes inquiry learning
  • Includes open ended questions

Click here for a Prezi I have created in a previous post regarding learning in the 21st century.

I have seen many schools with the following recommendations for the maximum time spent on homework each night (including reading):

  • Kindergarten and Year One: 15 minutes
  • Year Two: 20 minutes
  • Year Three: 30 minutes
  • Year Four: 40 minutes
  • Year Five and Year Six: 60-90 minutes

What are your thoughts about homework?

Does your school have a homework policy?

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