Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Why I Love My Job - A Collaborative Classroom Community

Most days I come to work with a plan of what’s to come. Yet somehow it never happens - in the best way possible. So many days my students railroad my plans with THEIRS - and it is quite frankly what I love most.

Take today for example. I sat down in my classroom around 11am with my students all ready to share our summative assessment task for our How We Organise Ourselves unit about Food Systems. Simply put, the task was to create a recipe using procedural writing for a cookbook and provide a detailed rationale for the meal and choices of ingredients based on what they know. They were to demonstrate their knowledge as a consumer and document the reasoning behind their choices. We had thought they could then make and share their recipes one day in class. A good idea that has simply inspired the 'want to get started NOW', when I hadn’t planned on it until early-mid next week.

I had only got out that we were going to create recipes when the ideas came spewing from their mouths. Of cours,e they wanted to invite their parents first and foremost. Ever since we first invited our parents to our end of unit celebration for our first unit, my students have found sharing their work with their parents to be one of their top priorities forthe following units. Many teachers struggle to build that connection to home but when students are proud of their hard work they want to share it with an audience that is meaningful - who better than their parents.

My class also likes to create an atmosphere and experience for their parents when they share their work. Then they decided they wanted to make food stalls where they would offer samples to their guests. The idea of a market was a highly popular idea. Each booth could have a name and a display of some sort about their meal. They want to create a class menu for their parents with a map of the food market so parents could easily decide what they wanted to try and where they could find it. At the booths, the displays could display videos of how to cooking shows or commercials, animations or other ways of demonstrating their understanding.

One of my favourite ideas was the idea of connecting it to our new math unit about data handling. We had ONLY started the unit the period before and already they were thinking that they could have parents complete a survey to show their rating of the dish on a 1-5 scale for overall appeal, I had a student even asking me how we could use technology to create graphs so when the survey was being done it could be updated in real time.Once they gathered their data, after the market they could graph their individual data and then compare their findings with the other dishes in the class to see how their dishes rated compared to others. There was also talk about using a survey to help them decide which dish they wanted to create to begin with. If they surveyed the type of dish people liked or the flavours that were most popular or the cuisine people liked most first, then they could use that data in deciding which meal they wanted to prepare for the market. I was surprised and amazed to hear these students creating their own transdisciplinary experiences and wanting to use math in a meaningful real life context.

One thing I have learned is to let them go with it because as a class, they just build upon each others’ ideas ata rapid pace. It’s definitely part of their learning during our design thinking studies in our inventions unit and they’ve just taken off with it. It was hard to not adding my own ideas, but making it all about them is what it NEEDS to be.

I can’t even count the number of times this happens any more whether it’s redesigning our class website, creating and leading their own lessons, planning an assembly and parent classroom experience,  taking a small homework assignment and turning it into a full exhibition or changing any other lesson, assignment or summative task on the fly. They make it their own and they make it better than anything I would have planned on my own. They take their learning into their own hands and they make me a better teacher. But at the end of the day, they teach me more than I teach them and that, I can’t be more thankful for.

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