Collaborative planning with my class
Choice engages the emotional brain and enhances motivation for children.
– Jackie Beere, The Perfect Ofsted Lesson
Now I know my last blog was based on something I’d read in Jackie Beere’s The Perfect Ofsted Lesson and I don’t want to go on about it, but this is another quote from that same book, which really stuck with me.
For some time now, I have been considering how to allow my class greater choice in their learning. Not only for the reasons Jackie outlines above, but also because I believe the soft skills of Enterprise education such as risk-taking and decision making are vital life skills and as a teacher, I need to give my class a safe environment in which to explore these.
Jackie suggests one way of allowing children some choice is to plan projects together. These can consist of a range of compulsory tasks, that all children have to complete, and a range of optional tasks that children can choose from. With this in mind, last Thursday I told my class that our big topic for next half term was going to be Bolivia – each class in school is going to be focussing on a South American country. I also explained that at the end of the topic, we were going to ‘turn’ our classroom into Boliva so that other people could visit it and experience some elements of Bolivian life and culture.
Then I set them the challenge: what activities would you like to do related to this topic? I explained that I had thought of three activities that I thought everyone should do:
- Complete a map of South America showing all the countries and capital cities
- Complete a more detailed map of Bolivia showing main cities, rivers etc
- Write your own traditional South American tale
The rest would be up to them. So, in pairs, off they went to mindmap their ideas.
It soon become clear that children need practise at this. Initially, many came up with questions such as ‘what food do they eat there?’ or ‘how rich or poor is it?’ instead of actual activities or tasks. They needed further prompting from me to turn these questions into ideas for activities. I had to encourage them to put their ‘teacher hat’ on and think of activities they could do that would answer their questions. Not an easy task!
All in all, it took an entire afternoon, but this is what we, as a class, came up with.
I certainly wouldn’t have come up with all of these ideas on my own. I’ve challenged all children to complete two of the optional activities (the compulsory ones are in orange), but as this is the first time of doing it, this might need to be modified as we go. Each pupil will get their own copy of the topic map and will colour in any sections they complete and I will also sign off any completed sections. In our first lesson back after half term, children will pick their two tasks, decide who they want to work with on it and create an action plan, thinking about what resources or help they will need as well as planning how long different tasks might take them. I’m intrigued as to how it will pan out…