We have a range of learning spaces in our class which provide the students with a chance to decide where they learn. Tall tables to keep an eye on the class, bean bags to slouch in, individual tables/spaces to work solo through to group tables that allow small to larger groups to work and learn together. It's been great to have the opportunity to watch students learn about what best works for them. Some subjects students prefer the hustle and bustle of group learning spaces and then other subjects they prefer to work on their own. If students know they have a lot of work to complete they often move themselves to the right space for them. It's been a great learning curve for myself and students.
Over the last term and a bit I have been working with my class of Year 5/6 students to plan their learning at the beginning of the day. Thus giving them a chance to decide when in the day their best learning happens.
A natural progression for the learners was to move into independent timetables. Though these are still a transition point. Everyday we discover a new way of doing these or small changes that help make this work. At the moment we plan on paper - day by day for the week to allow for changes each day. We have learnt to be increasingly flexible and work with what each day throws at us!
A few students plan on their iPod touch using the calendar feature and this works well for them. The planning at the start of the day allows the students to locate other students they would like to work with and to decide when their best learning happens and how. For some, this means getting the task they like the most completed first while for others it allows them to plan in more time for a task they know takes them a bit longer than what I would be able to allow them in a more structured setting.
Students work on a 'Must Do' and 'Can Do' system - where Must Do tasks are listed for their group - Maths, Reading and sometimes Writing. The 'Must Do' tasks MUST be completed by the end of the day and the 'Can Do' tasks allow for early finishers, other learning focuses or tasks that need to be completed. This means that at one time in the class students could be working on Xtramath, Brain Box sheets, reading to self, writing, completing reading tasks, filming, working with the teacher or any other variety of learning tasks.
At the start of the day the workshops are listed on the class planner. At the moment workshops are offered by groups moving soon in to needs as well. Each morning the student looks at the class planner to see what is on and when during the day will be independent planning time. They also need to check here to see when their teaching workshop is. They then check their group 'Must Do's' and 'Can Do's' and plan in their activities from here.
For some the planning of their learning came easily - it worked well for them. For other students they have required lots of checking in, reflection and conversations to help guide them on their way. It has required a lot of time and discussion as a class about what behaviours and attitudes we need to show and have to make it work in a respectful way for each other. It's a huge ask - but they are doing it and on asking my students what they would prefer.... hands down, independent planners are their choice.
One of the hardest things with the planners were students perception of time and time it would take to complete a task. Many would plan in unrealistic time frames - either too small or too big to complete tasks. This has been one of the hardest elements to develop in planning. We are moving towards more of a 'To Do List' type planning. Where the students list what they need to do and then add it to their planner when they have completed it. Knowing what they need to do and their timeframe could be a better way to plan the day for them. As adults this is generally the way we would go around planning our own learning - so it could be a more natural way of working through this. Especially for those students that find the time management harder to keep?
This has required a lot of big picture thinking combined with a lot of finer detail thinking and planning. The students enjoy it and it's great seeing learning conversations happen in the morning where students plan to meet up and complete tasks together - knowing that they work well in pairs or groups. There is still a long way to go but the changes and ideas that have formed from this have been great. I've been exceptionally lucky to share an office and a learning space with a very passionate teacher who is on a similar journey of independent learning with her students. We have had some amazing conversations about the challenges and the successes of this style of classroom. Without these conversations and a great thinker to learn alongside the process would have been more challenging. So, I'm very thankful for that opportunity.
Below I have attached links to free downloads for our planners that the students use. These have been refined and developed as we have gone along. They refinement and changes have come from the students. Some like the space to plan while other find knowing 20 minute blocks more manageable to plan within.
20 Minute Planner
Open Spaces Planner
Ten minutes before lunch we get together and reflect on our learning - plan in for the next day any learning that we haven't completed. The students can also plan with other students if they know they need some help or to work on something together.
We have a long way to go - but I'm proud of how far the students have come. I'm really happy with the journey we've made