12 April 2013

It Takes a Village

One of the unexpected advantages of our year 5 and 6 open learning space is the wrap around pastoral and learning support the students are getting from having 3 teachers. Yes there are more students, so it’s not as if there are more teachers per child, but there are more teachers overseeing each child.

It feels a bit like a village with 3 three elders leading and taking care of the students. Some students might be with one teacher for literacy, one for maths and another for their home class, but even if they are only in learning groups with two or even one teacher, we do see all of the students in the space as our responsibility. We know them all well by now, and between us are able to provide different strengths, interests and ‘eyes’.

This has worked really well in situations where there have been behavioural or learning issues. Three adults monitoring, problem solving, backing up or helping, has been able to provide more support for that child than one teacher on his or her own could provide. From the child’s point of view this could this really could bring truth to the saying that ‘teachers have eyes in the back of their heads’ - there is no escaping!!

7 April 2013

How do we minimise the impact of extra learning opportunities in an open plan learning space?

Eight weeks in and the learning space is finally running to more of a routine. What a long set up!
The ‘chaos’ was due to several factors:

1. We chose to do a 2 week swimming rotation in weeks 2 and 3 so that it was before camp and swimming sports, and fitted around testing and the end of term Fiafia preparation.   A class group at a time was to roll through different time slots to the pool daily,. This, like all ‘class’ opportunities provided us with a headache. Our learning groups aren’t in ‘classes’ so to take a home class would mean for that 3 hours a day of swimming no learning groups were complete.
To get round this we took our maths learning groups with the idea that when we weren’t at swimming (80 minutes from leaving school till return), the other maths groups could go ahead. This did help in terms of setting up our maths learning for the year, but routines were shot. There was no set maths times, children had to swap into other swimming sessions to allow for remedial classes, school ambassador or monitor jobs, performing arts sessions, sports coaching and sports days out. We didn’t ever end up with only our maths groups or all of our maths groups. 

2. Weeks 4 and 5 were testing week. A matter of only 3 asttle tests, and done in learning groups again (this time we chose literacy
groups), but not a matter of only 3 testing sessions. 
To make sure we are getting the most accurate picture we can from a ‘one point in time’ or snapshot assessment, we assign students to the most appropriate leveled test. Then depending on how well they do they may need to re-sit at a higher or lower level with more elements within their range of achievement level. For about 50% of our students this meant at least one other tests.
Then due to absences, remedial classes, school roles, and sports days there were many catch up sessions to ensure all students were tested.

3. Week 5 and 6 were then preparing and going on School Camp. Another interruption to setting up our open learning space.

These extra activities are an important part of schooling and something I think Pt England does well, as do New Zealand Schools in general. We provide learning opportunities outside of the classroom and extra curricular activities to cater for different strengths and interests. The tricky thing is to get a balance of these so that the learning is enhanced but not replaced.  However the impact of ‘interruptions’ in an open learning space has so much more impact just because of the number of children, groups and teachers involved.

We have always had a thorough testing regime, many clubs, groups, remedial groups and sports to add value to our teaching and learning but the management of this in a single cell class is a little easier. It is easier to keep track of who is where, and who has done what when you have only one group of 32 children. When this crosses 3 groups or 32 for each teacher it can get messy - for both teacher and student.

How do we minimise the impact of extra learning opportunities in an open plan learning space?