|Who is in control?|
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I've blogged about it a few times already how I give my students choice when it comes to their word work, their writing, their reading and many concepts taught in math. Yes I have literacy and numeracy stations for my students to work with, but I don't tell them which stations/activities they should go to. I rarely expect everyone to do the same thing in the same way. I am open to hear their suggestions, and I'm more likely to say "sure" if they have a clear understanding of why they want to do something differently than I had thought about.
I let my students work where they want to work. For some it's at a desk, for others it's with friends at the carpet, or around the class round table. For others it's outside the classroom door on the carpet in the hallway. I no longer care where they learn, as long as they are learning.
In most cases I let my students choose if they want to work on their own or with a friend or two. I've listened in on the negotiating that goes on when students work together to achieve a shared goal. I know that I learn more when I learn with others so I want that option for my students too. But I'm just as okay with them working on their own, if that's what they want to do.
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I do very little whole class activities. Yes we meet for many mini lessons on specific topics or skills but my walls aren't covered with similar looking art work, or similar writing pieces. At first this bothered me because my room doesn't look like other classrooms I've been in but neither does my teaching.
I don't spend hours on Pinterest looking for cute activities to do with my class. I'm not about cute I'm about good teaching and learning practices. But don't get me wrong I do see the value of many of the resources shared there, but I also see a lot of cute.
I explicitly teach social emotional skills. In fact there is time blocked out in my weekly timetable called community square where we discuss social emotional concepts. Explicitly. We've talked about using I Messages to solve problems, how to solve problems, how to use our voice, how to change negative thoughts into positive thoughts, how to be brave, how our brain works, strategies to keep calm, and strategies to regain calmness. The list goes on and on but the important thing is that I do EXPLICITLY teach these skills. But I also I reinforce them over, and over again through out the day. Each, and every day.
I don't spell for my students as a first go around. I encourage my students to try to write on their own. We celebrate those attempts. Mistakes are celebrated in my classroom because that is where the learning takes place.
I encourage my students to self assess their work. Sometimes it's with a four point scale - 1 - I didn't work well at all, 2. I worked but not my best, 3. I did my best, 4. I surprised myself and did even better than I thought I could. Sometimes it's with a thumbs up or thumbs down. Sometimes still it's through a private conference where they let me know what they've done well, and what they would like to improve. There is a lot of goal setting happening in my classroom, and ultimately my students are doing the goal setting.
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I have students who sometimes have trouble with this extra freedom to learn in ways that work best for them. This is where my role as the teacher comes in to play. While my students have choice, I still monitor and support those choices as needed. Those that need more guidance get more guidance from me. Some take longer to take over their learning in various situations but eventually they all seem to thrive in this environment. And my students are very typical. They have wiggles and giggles like six and seven year olds should have. They come from different home backgrounds with a unique variety of challenges and strengths. I strongly believe that putting my students at the centre of their learning embraces all their similarities and differences. Providing my students with choice hasn't made my job easier, it's made it more difficult but that hard work is worth it. I LOVE having motivated, self directed engaged students.
Now assessment for me doesn't seem to be as difficult as a concept as others seem to want to make it. My prescribed learning outcomes are clearly stated in my government documents. If I focus my assessment on those clearly stated requirements how my students chose to demonstrate those expectations is some what irrelevant for me. But again, I'd be lying if I didn't say that this is more work for me too. My students don't fit into a cookie cutter data gathering standard assessment tool. Each student is assessed individually, and the knowledge I gain from that assessment guides the way I push/encourage/support them to reach their next level.
So in my room I try hard not to be in control of my class. I want each of my students to be in control of their own learning. Who is in control of your class?