Since returning after Christmas I have tried to encourage my more able groups be a lot more independent. I keep reading about how the children should be the hardest working people in the room, not the teacher. As a result I thought I would give it a go.
My first query when I sat down to plan this was “What, in my head, would a class of independent learners, working harder than the teacher look like?” After some contemplating I came up with a number of guidelines but the one I had the main issue with was…
- Children receive instructions for a source other than the teacher’s mouth allowing them to put their own spin on what they are being asked to do and not be influenced by the adult in the room.
How would I get the children doing what I wanted without me stood in front of them for 20 minutes! It’s all I know! I talk, children work. That’s the way it’s always been! “No” I thought to myself, must resist the temptation to talk at the start. Let them do it themselves.
As they walked into the room this morning I had written a decimal number to three places (0.451) on the whiteboard in a cloud. Coming off the cloud I picked out everything that the children in Year 4 and 5 might be asked to do. I halved it, doubled it, partitioned it, converted it to fractions amongst plenty of others. Basically, everything I could think of that they might need to know. Then, on my interactive whiteboard, I wrote instructions explaining what I wanted to see evidence of by break time.
Some were baffled, why isn’t the teacher talking to us? Some didn’t read the instructions, but eventually I cleared up any misconceptions without having to stop the class. So, off they went.
My TA and I couldn’t believe it. They were analysing the whiteboard, attempting to work out what it was I had done on each of the arms. Delighted, I circled the room asking more probing questions about the way children were working and what they were understanding.
By the end of the lesson all the high achievers had discussed what difference having a number other than 0 in the units column would make (although we will go over this again tomorrow) having also done their own three decimal place number in their book. The middle ability had done their own three decimal place number in their book but hadn’t quite got to changing the 0 in the units column. The lower, middle worked collaboratively with my TA and had understood about 75% of the arms through discussion with her. (They need more work on converting to fractions.)
All in all it was an enlightening experience that I will most definitely be attempting again. I encourage those who have never tried teaching like this to try it, even if you don’t like it, you’ve tried it!
I’m off to plan another lesson like it for tomorrow!