So as many of you know I have started a new grade this year, grade 6. It has been fun but also very tiring.
My vision for grade 6 was to have a totally inquiry run program. I wanted my students to be engaged in asking questions and being part of the design of the curriculum. I was tired of the traditional classroom. Now I am far from being a traditional teacher but was still finding that I have held on to many traditional ways. Even though my practice had a lot of student voice there was room for more. I was tired of assessments not being read or student choice still being directed by me.
Here is my plan:
I started the year by changing the layout of my class. I got rid of traditional desks and opted for tables. I wanted the space to be creative and flow. To give my students the options depending on their needs. Now in no way is this the best situation but it has really opened up the traditional flow of a classroom.
I also started to do a more circular curriculum. Meaning that I teach a little of the curriculum at a time and keep circling back. It has allowed me to teach all of the curriculum in one term and making broader connections between strands and subjects. Students see the bigger picture and it has allowed them to make deeper connections.
I wanted to teach predominately through Inquiry and Project based learning. Now this wasn’t a stretch for me as I was doing this already but I really wanted to take this further. I wanted my students to really have direction and choice of where the projects would lead them. Now there is still the curriculum but I have let my students be a part of where they want to take the learning. This is done by setting the learning goals as the big ideas of the curriculum and then letting the students chose the avenue to present their learning. We then have a sharing session so that all of the students can hear what the others have learned.
I also have started many new things this year to incorporate as part of my vision. In other blog posts I have discussed Collaborative Problem Solving approach from Dr.Greene. I decided that part of making my students a part of the classroom was to have them talk as a classroom. We have started community circles to share our problems and frustrations. We then discuss how deal with them. I have noticed a real improvement in their behaviour and how they have matured. At the beginning of the year problems were very juvenile but they now are discussing how to make the classroom better versus who said what in the hall way.
I have also decided to throw out grades. Now this may seem weird but I have not given a letter grade at all to any of my students all year. Instead I provide feedback that is combined with their own feedback. We talk about what curriculum they have met and how they have met it. This allows them to see what they still have to accomplish and how. At the end we do discuss a final mark for their reports but this is often a collaborative discussion. Again I have seen a dramatic improvement with their work. Probably the biggest strides in learning I have ever seen. Students are more reflective and actual read their comments and compare it to the curriculum. My new goal is to have them write parts if not all of their reports.
So far all is going to plan. There has been some hiccups along the way but for the most part it has been really amazing. I have seen so much gains both academically and socially. My students have really matured and a lot faster than I have ever see any of the kids in the past.
What has been your vision this year? How is your year going? Any advice? Love to hear your comments.