Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Student Choice in Their Learning

Why do children love choice in their academic work, well they just do. Think about it  if your principal asked you to do something according to the book at precisely the same time each day, wouldn't you think it's time to change it up? Well it's the same with children. They need choice. 

When I first began teaching which was about 15 years ago, I taught according to the prescribed mode. That means Reading, Writing and Math were at particular times of the day and all class members had to do the subject as I saw fit. But that is how I was trained and that's the way I thought would work. For me I found this system draining and the children themselves did not enjoy the routine day in and day out. 

During my professional development time with a particular North Auckland School we were part of a school cluster which shared information and ideas. One day we had a day of lectures, workshops and teaching which we elected to do. One of these Lectures involved an Australian Principal who explained the way her students learned and teachers taught. Essentially the students dictated the learning. They choose the curriculum subjects and objectives they wanted to learn. The teachers became facilitators rather than teachers. The students called them by their first name.
So then in my classroom I decided to try and implement these ideas into my classroom. I photocopied a number of learning sheets and wrote down a number of topic ideas for the children to choose to complete by the end of the that period. Now remember this was radical teaching for me at that stage. How did it work? It worked pretty well actually. Yes there are those kids who are unfocused and don't complete all the learning material by a set point, but what it did is it gave students choice in their learning. The students themselves told me they preferred this method because they felt they had some sense of control. For me it was great in that the class were on task, doing topics they wanted to do first and then knew what to  do once they finished. 

Fast forward 10 years and what do I see? In many classes in Hastings at least, I see a number of classes who have combined together. That means two classes as one. The students design their timetable for the day and get on with their morning or day work. If I the teacher can help I do. Of course while independent learning is going on, the teachers take reading, writing and math workshops. This enables students to opt to take classes which they feel will aid them. 

The jury is out whether I like the two classroom idea. I prefer the once classroom idea really. There just seems to be bodies everywhere in this system. It's slightly easier for the teacher because it is two people planning the classroom learning. But sometimes it's nice of have control over what it is you want to teach students yourself and not give it up to another teacher. 

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