Sunday, August 31, 2014

Term 3 Reflection - PML

PML (Planning My Learning) has changed a little bit - we have made changes to the structure of the board and moved it off the whiteboard.  It just was time for it to change.  I was finding the students were becoming more and more focussed on quantity rather than quality - it was about how many ticks were up on the board rather than the quality and time spent.  So, armed with information from a conversation with the students, we made 2 changes to the PML system (in my head I have 100 - but we have to start somewhere!)

1. Quality Reflective Buddies - when we spoke about the problem of 'quality vs quantity' the students agreed - they were focussed on 'getting through' the list rather than pushing the boundaries of their learning.  It was a great conversation and gave me insights in lots of ways.  The students came up with 2 main solutions:
- Go back to the old way of working in blocks and everyone doing the same thing at the same time
- Have a person to meet with to share if your work is quality or not

Interestingly, the first idea came from a student who I know finds the challenge of planning his day more difficult, but when this was put to the class it was overwhelmingly challenged out (26-2).  I'll be talking more with those 2 students to see how I can support them in developing their learning priorities.
The second idea is the one we have gone with - QLP  or Quality Learning Partners.  We had lots of discussion around how this could work. In the end I suggested stopping 15 minutes prior to the end of the day, so you could meet with your buddy and discuss your work, feed back, next steps etc.  This is where we have started.  The students then had the option to choose their own partner or to have some support from me to choose one.  We had to discuss being able to be supported and open and honest with the person you choose.  If you felt like you couldn't say 'hey, you need to go back and work on... to make this better' they probably weren't the person to be your QLP.

2. Leaving the Whiteboard - previously PML has been completed on the whiteboard.  The students know I personally disliked this system, I shared this with them and the why I disliked it.  But, I am not the one who has to work from it - so we carried on with it.  As the term has progressed I have heard snippets of conversations as students tick off their work schedule for the day and these conversations led me to setting up a new full wall with the system on it.  When introduced to the students I shared with them conversations and things that I had changed because of what I had heard.  That it was these things that made the decision to make the change - I then asked if they would like to use it and the kids were keen! (Phew - there were a lot of lines to stick up and staple!)  However, I knew many of my kids would need to see it before they would understand it.

One of my students then asked the question I had been waiting for - "how will we tick to say we have worked on it?"  "Great question" I replied... "How will we?"  This led to 6 students taking on the construction of a system that we could use on the PML wall to show a range of learning happening.  The last step was to share these with the rest of the class and then the students decided on voting for their favourite symbols that we will use.

It was great to see a range of ideas being put forward that showed students were really keen to push quality over quantity with the refined system.

Writing has continued to develop based on need and interested rather than a genre.  This week we were responding to a trip that we had to the Maritime Museum last week.  We chose Newspaper Reports, Letters or a Recount.  The students then signed up to the genre that they needed or wanted to write on.  3 different workshops then ran throughout the week and I continue to find the kids more engaged in their writing in this way.

There are a few challenges I need to work on...
1. Tracking the genres they choose.  I'm thinking I will create a genres checklist that they can tick when they have completed a finished piece of writing in that genre.  It will help them know more about the genres and what is out there also.
2. Creating/Finding/Sourcing/Using realistic, hands on and real life writing experiences that will foster the interest and passion of writing.  Also fitting these into the daily life of a classroom.  I have had a great conversation with the Year 2 teacher next door talking about how we may be able to both use this as a benefit to both our kids with their writing.  More to reflect and think about here.

There are so many ideas, challenges and thoughts currently roaming around in my head that 'where to start' is often a daily challenge for me at the moment.  My students have come a long way in concepts of knowing more about them as learners, having a voice within the classroom and making steps to be independent within their learning.  But there is so much more that I want to challenge them and myself on.

My office buddy and I have great conversations on a daily basis - reflecting on our day, our learners, our teaching and our classrooms and I feel like those conversations help to clarify decisions that are made.  I'm very lucky that we have younger students next door that provide a challenge and a platform for my students to be role models and teachers to them.  At the moment we are continuing to explore how we can develop our space for our students further.  This week we are beginning the younger students in planning and teaching workshops for the Year 2 and Year 5/6 students.  I am looking forward to seeing how these develop over the rest of the term.

Each day I struggle more and more with the constraints of what traditional education.  We can voice that we want ownership, student voice, self management, self-direction - but how does that actually work in the everyday education world with tests, assessments and standards?  It's a big question.  I'm ridiculously lucky in where I teach - I am trusted as a professional to make professional choices that best work because of my teaching knowledge, knowledge of my students and their learning.

There is so much that works about PML and the structure of my class but I know that it is not the end point of what I want the concept of school and learning to look and be like for my students.  This week the first of my students for the year got underway with DRIVE Time projects - which are personal learning tasks driven by their passions/needs.  There are lots of readings and thinking behind the way this is structured and was developed with a group of kids last year, based on these thoughts.  DRIVE is about students owning their learning and making those decisions.  At the heart is what learning actually is, our school values and school negotiated learning values as a teacher point hinge.  This is the big point of where I would like to get to with my students across a more full time range.  We (my students and I) are getting there... slowly... with careful thought and reflection... in time.

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