Monday, June 2, 2014

PML 2014 - Tracking our Learning

PML is short for Plan My Learning, which is a phrase we use in Room 12 to explain how learners organise their daily learning tasks - the term was adopted from my amazing office buddy and team leader Kristyn a few years ago.  During class time from the beginning of the day to around lunch time students plan their learning PML style - this is where they plan in what they are learning and when they are learning it.  This means that at any one time in the classroom you could see students reading, working on maths, typing, writing, playing games, running workshops and more.  While students plan their learning, I run group and 1-1 workshops for students in specific teaching areas for them.  Sometimes these workshops are ability based and sometimes they work based on students goals and needs.

It's a huge system that takes a lot of time to establish in the classroom, but one that I am now convinced allows for a huge amount of self management and student voice.  I have watched students take more ownership in their learning and choices through running the classroom in this way.  Students are beginning to take up more opportunities to lead their learning and others' learning.  We have a year 2 classroom next door and we have worked a lot with them to support the philosophy of 'Tuakana/Teina' in our classrooms and this is one that KW and I are continuing to reflect on and challenge.  PML allows students time to run workshops and work with each other in a range of ways.

PML in 2014 had a rough start - my students were not in the same space as previous classes I have worked with, so systems that have worked before at the beginning of the year, didn't work so well.  It required a lot of reflection, deep thinking and change from me.  It was clear that the students needed and still need to develop their self management and reflective skills - which are 2 core areas we are currently continuing to work on.   Through a lot of conversations and reflections with the students we have now created a system that is working well for the students and myself.  This comes from time, reflection and conversations with the students - no other way.  In this post and the following posts (as there is so much to this post I have split it!)  I will explain and reflect on what has and is happening with PML this year.

Tracking Learning
At the beginning of the year we were using daily planners.  These were piece of paper with a whole week timetable on them.  Students would take what they had to complete for the week and plot this in throughout the week.  Lots of students struggled with this and we soon realised it wasn't working, so after much discussion decided to try a To Do styled list.  This was more suited to the class but again students were having problems as they disliked carrying their planning notebook around with them, they would forget to tick things they had completed off and a raft of other problems.  We sat down as a class and talked about what wasn't working and why.  Some students who I have again this year suggested using the format that we had used the previous year - the students were keen.  It is a large whiteboard set up with room for each student to tick off their tasks for the week and a space for them to add any extras they had worked on.  We continued to use the language of 'Learning Priorities' - the things that were the most important to them for their learning and 'Learning Possibilities' - other learning tasks they could undertake.  The language we chose was important to the students.  The whiteboard system has been a hit again this year as students felt there was more ownership to be taken as what they were doing was out there for all to see.  I am not such a fan of the system, however, it allows me to see students who are finding tasks difficult or not getting through their tasks for the week and gives me a conversation starter to chat to them about their learning for the week.  Though I'm not a fan of it, I know that it is my students who use it on a daily basis - so it doesn't really matter what I think, as long as it is working for them!

I have 3 students who work in different ways.  2 students use magazine boxes to track their learning on a daily basis, rather than weekly basis and 1 student who dislikes the whiteboard system but the To Do list was perfect for her.  So at the start of the week, she creates her own To Do list in her notebook and she is away.  The greatest thing about that is that she is starting to learn about what she needs to manage her workload and a way she can prioritise those things.  Students with devices have begun to ask about planning on these and again this is a next step for us to find the best way that works for them.

At the beginning of the week we set up our 'Learning Priorities' on the whiteboard list - we have some consistent learning priorities then other ones that pop up as part of our weekly learning.  Our more consistent learning tasks are DEAR (Silent reading), Maths work, Reading challenge, Basic Facts Practice, Maori Practice and Writing.  Students have the opportunity to work on their specific goals or learning within each of these areas.  Once these are set up and spoken about the students break off into their chosen Learning Priority.  Over the last few weeks I have seen a real trend of students choosing to do DEAR at the beginning of the day - so we have an almost unusual silence that descends on the class during this time.

Tracking learning is more about the students being able to see what they are doing and how they are using their time during the week.  It has allowed me to have a range of learning conversations with kids that contain strong evidence of how they are going with managing themselves, time and resources to complete what is expected.  The skills that this entails are life long skills that as adults we strive to have. Managing our time, resources, skills, people and more are all small elements of PML that the students have to utilise on a daily basis.  Students sometimes don't meet the target for the week and through their personal reflections you begin to see why this may have happened.  On the whiteboard it may look like a student hasn't completed much - but then you can see that they have actually chosen to spend more time on completing a set task to a higher standard than they did previously.  The first time always takes longer.  First glance at our whiteboard doesn't always tell the whole story!

As part of being able to plan their week students need to see the big picture of what's happening in class.  So for this reason students don't just see a what's on today - but rather a whole week view of what is happening in class.  This allows the students to see what time they have for PML and when we have other events that may interfere with this.  It is also teaching them about flexibility as sometimes planning a week in advance means that things change or don't happen in the same way.  That they need to be prepared for this!  The way that the weekly whiteboard has changed over the year so far is that there is more time set aside for iNeed workshops - which are student chosen workshops based on needs (I will explain these more in another post).  The hardest thing seems to be that now that students have the ability to opt in and ask for these sessions - the more they want of them.  Which is great, but a hard balance when there are still group sessions that need to be fit in!  There are still a group of students who don't ask for iNeed workshops or haven't seen the relevance for them, which is something I am currently reflecting on as to why they might not be asking for these.

This was our whiteboard earlier in the year - same format but very different now!
In following posts I will share and reflect on the other key elements of PML such as students knowing their learning, student voice and reflection.  These all place a integral part in the way the classroom is structured.

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