The New Year
It was this post from @GeoMouldey which spurred me to do my first post for the year. He asked others to share what they do to create a supportive learning environment – so here it is:)
Considering ‘Learning For The Future In A Supportive Environment’ is our school mission statement, this approach is the first thing which I consider as I enter our space on the first day of Term. Over the years I have learnt how to do this quite effectively – I believe it is one of my strengths. Something I always share with others who I happen to be working alongside / collaborating with is this: take all the time you need to do this thoroughly. All those great things you want to happen in a classroom will be so much more genuine and real if learners in the space know that we care for each other, we respect each other’s differences, we are good listeners, and we are all there to help each other find success.
Building a supportive environment is crucial if we expect our kids to share, discuss, take risks, have opinions, learn in the pit, collaborate, and develop agency. These important learning capabilities, which Terry mentions in this great tweet below, sit alongside the knowledge learnt through literacy, maths and other curriculum ‘subjects’.
For me, this beginning year mahi has been different from previous years. I went into my classroom on day 1 knowing every single one of my 30 learners except one lovely student who had been added to my class list. This has not happened before (I did have 15 out of 30 continue through with me in 2016) but this is a whole class. The picture below is some of Room 6 2018 and also some of last year’s kids who visit every morning before the bell goes:)
Our first week was just awesome – I think we were ALL far less anxious and worried because we already knew each other. However it didn’t mean I wasn’t going to make sure the same expectations were in place as last year. Our week consisted of re-visiting all the important concepts we knew and had cultivated from last year. However, I wanted these kids to take more ownership of how our class would ‘look’ so I went about getting their voice on all the important foundations of a supportive environment.
Our class mantra’s came first. Last year my co-teacher and I had a set of mantra’s we put in place which we felt were important for all of us in our learning space. We re-visited these and the class were happy with keeping them … so here they are:
They also completed a paddle / hoe for our waka. Watch this space for a photo of this completed activity.
We went on to do a session on WHAT DO WE KEEP * WHAT DO WE CHANGE * WHAT DO WE DITCH. This was an opportunity to show that I meant what I said about their voice being important.
Here are some of the topics they were sent off to discuss … we ran out of time last week to complete this so will revisit in week 2.
So, in groups, they went about discussing some of the class stuff we did last year and deciding if it was necessary, needed, valuable, useful, or whether we wanted it but it needed to be changed or if we needed to bin it completely (and give reasons!). What came out of this was regardless of the space we learn in (new collaborative space or traditional single classroom) how we go about it all can continue to be innovative.
Wow … there was some fantastic discussion as I moved the class. I also engaged in some wonderful discussions with the kids who were making very thoughtful suggestions and changes. It was exciting to see them engaging in this activity and helping to co-construct how our class would look and run itself. There was a suggestion for compulsory cultural learning which included learning a language and I also got their voice on whether they wanted to make use of the Science Room once a week – a resounding YES. So we negotiated the best time: Period 1 and 2 on a Friday. It is cool to have these kids co-constructing our weekly timetable. It is giving them ownership.
They love the learning tribes but realised they would look different from last year as there are only 30 of them now – so possibly 5 tribes of 6 or 6 tribes of 5 – they will decide how to set them up and what we call them.
They see the value in levels of agency and decided to keep this. We even got as far as identifying our level of agency ready for when we get into our own timetables which they also want to keep. The picture below shows initials of those students who feel they are free range learners – once again this includes the initials of kids who happened to be in the room but not in my class! They couldn’t help themselves.
They love the playlist as a way to share learning ideas for the week/fortnight – especially the way I add in extra links and ideas for those who want extra stuff! It was decided we keep the columns of #NZreadaloud, Maths, and LearningMYway. We might however look at changing the headings and adding in a new one like ‘Are you Curious?’
They want to keep MYtimeMonday – a day of learner-led learning! As much as I love this concept and many find it valuable to follow their own interests for a whole day, I shared my concerns from last year when some of the ‘learning’ seemed to lack purpose. So this is definitely a work-on for myself. To chat with them about how we make sure MYtimeMonday is meaningful learning which is driven by curiosity and also has a purpose to it.
We will keep Flipgrids but make them optional. This was the suggestion. So I asked them to think about what the other options would be if they chose not to add to a Flipgrid for a particular aspect of learning. We had an example come up immediately. All the kids revisited their levels of agency and I gave them 3 options as to HOW to share their goals: Flipgrid, Seesaw, or in their scrapbooks. Worked a treat!
Word soup is staying. A compulsory activity for learning new words and extending our vocabulary that allows us to eliminate pointless spelling lists! We mainly use kupu which we come across in our #NZreadaliud study.
It was the majority who decided student-led PE needed to be ditched or at the least changed somehow. When discussing why with the kids it came up that many had experienced times when there were arguments about the game and some people ended up taking over and not listening to what others had to say. I see this as a wicked little problem which we could do some problem-solving around! Watch this space.
Lastly, Twitter, it was probably one which I didn’t need to put on the board to be fair as there were only a couple in this year’s class who we had learn about Twitter last year, so many had nothing to base their opinion on. After realising this, I decided to do a session on Twitter and what it is and how we can use it. I set up a practice chat with my co-teacher from last year so the kids who had not used it before could see how immediate responses could be and how interactive it is to be involved in sharing with others. Engagement right here!
We also managed to fit in a session where we revisited Growth Mindset.
The Fixed Mindset to Growth Mindset activity is really valuable to revisit and their Growth Mindset sticky notes ended up being turned into posters for a colleague who sat in and observed my lesson and wanted to use them in her technology room. Some authentic uses for our revision right there! Here are 3 of the kids’ posters of their own quotes.
This Growth Mindset session was also really valuable as it ended in some quite deep thinking which is on the plan for discussing next week. This question came up as being a fixed mindset statement. I said to the kids I was unsure if I would call it a fixed mindset statement or rather a really good question about what we are all doing here! That made them think! And we decided to keep it on the board and continue to think until we discuss next week. I added some other important questions we will discuss too.
I am loving how what we do in class is determined by what has been discussed the previous day/week. So planning becomes tricky as it is an organic thing which evolves as we go! If that makes sense.
What does your planning look like while you are building your supportive environment?