Friday afternoons aren’t always an easy time to be productive. (Tbh, Sunday night's for blog writing aren't much better!) By that time, the week is feeling long and my energy is fading. It just isn’t the most conducive time for doing something, especially if it lands on a day when I have a prep period.
This past Friday, that exact situation happened. And because I just couldn’t get my head around doing any marking or reading emails or preparing for the next week, I went for a walk.
A learning walk, to be precise.
A learning walk, in my estimation, is a collaborative yet personally reflective experience. It involves observing student learning in other capacities/classrooms, thinking about what other teachers are doing, and considering how I might incorporate that into my own teaching….all to improve my practice and improve student learning.
If I thought that Friday afternoons weren’t a conducive time for ‘doing something’ I was very quickly proven wrong. I saw room after room of side-by-side learning, hands-on learning, and generally a lot of movement and energy and fun. In my twitter feed recently, the connection between learning and movement has been widespread, and although I don’t teach math, I follow Peter Liljedahl and was interested in his ideas of using vertical non-permanent learning surfaces. My goal last week was to get kids out of their seats as much as possible, and adapted this whiteboard approach to ELA. Granted, there are a lot of PAA classes offered in the afternoon, so they tend to be more hands-on to start with, but student engagement wasn’t limited to just Home Ec and IA. There was just very little student ‘sitting’ going on.
Obviously, I didn’t go into every classroom. I completely understand that although this isn’t a big deal for some, for others it would be a distraction and an intrusion. I get that. Plus I hadn’t asked…I sorta wandered into rooms that were open and active.
For me, my door is always open and I really like having people come in to see what we are doing. (Generally, the students don’t even balk at visitors anymore, although our VP is like a ninja…one minute he’s not there, and the next one he is!) But for the rooms I did stop to observe, I saw a lot of #prideandjoyatwork both from staff and students. I gleaned a better understanding of subject matter (got to see what kids were working on) as well as different colleague’s approaches to instruction…there is a lot of side-by-side learning going on in our school!
It really did give me a good chance to reflect on what I am doing in my room to facilitate both hands-on and side-by-side learning. One thing that has been really successful over the past three weeks has been our Friday game time. Gamification is a technological approach that totally has many benefits to it, but this is gamification ‘old school’ style. We literally break out Scrabble, Apples to Apples, Anomia, Tellestration, Pictionary and other ELA minded games, but also popular classics like Connect 4, Battleship, and Monopoly. It has been great for students to interact socially in small groups, to communicate with people who aren’t necessarily their best friends, and to play fair and follow the rules lol. Because if the banker in Monopoly doesn’t remember to give them $2 as they pass GO, or if they didn’t add their dice up correctly, they’ll let them know instantly! The first two weeks, I limited our time to about twenty minutes. This last week, they were so into their games that we played almost the whole period. It was awesome.
Part of my year-opening spiel to kids involves discussing the idea that I want students to have fun WHILE learning, not at the expense of learning. As teachers, we are constantly making decisions about what we make room for, and what we have to let go. I know that in the months ahead, I will continue to make room for movement and make interaction in learning a priority. I’ll also continue to use George Couros’s advice as a foundation – it’s posted on my back bulletin board, and I think of it often. Non-negotiables for schools: They are a welcoming and warm environment. They develop students as good people and learners. They model the learning they expect from their students. They stoke curiousity, not extinguish it.
As we head into this next week, everyone is welcome! Tawâw. Tervetuloa.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy...okay website template!