Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Reflecting right from the start

Inquiry teachers, PYP or any other variety, most likely have a unit planner that has a section at the end for an End of Unit reflection. We all know the importance of taking time to make note of ideas, changes, etc. so one has prior knowledge to review before any necessary revising/modifying next time the unit is studied.  I aim this year to make notes of any reflections as the unit unfolds, so I can bring them to my team PLC meeting for discussion.

We have barely started with our brand new "Learning to Learn" unit and I already have some thoughts based on our initial planning sessions some time ago and on what I have learned so far about my new class and their inquiry experience and competency.

Our new Learning to Learn unit for Grade 5 has this Enduring Understanding:

Understanding what influences our learning can help us make better learning choices.

Essential Questions:

How does my brain work?
What does my brain have to do with learning?
What can I do to get the best out of my brain?
What are my responsibilities as a learner?

In our planner, we hope that students would be inquiring into the ways in which learning is influenced by both extrinsic and intrinsic factors. The initial plan, when we met as a team of eleven, (I wonder if that's too many perhaps) was that the inquiry would be focused primarily on an investigation of the brain – how it works and what impacts its functioning.  From there students would be able to transfer their new learning to their current situation. They would be better able to make choices that will support their learning and participate in an informed way, in setting up the classroom community as a learning environment.  They'd look into the needs of learners focusing on how to be successful in areas such as:  organization, responsibilities, peer-pressure, self-management (use of time, sleep, diet, exercise patterns), self-awareness, confidence, social/emotional development, learning styles, multiple intelligences, goal setting, and reflecting on learning.) 

Now that I have met my class, I think this is a huge task. We have 3 weeks, initially, to be followed with continuation throughout the year alongside our other units. (and that long list of time-consuming start up stuff....)

In a previous school, where students had grown up with the inquiry process from early childhood, I could have seen grade 5 students pick up this unit and run with it. My new class will need a lot of scaffolding to help them with inquiry which is a new way of learning. That means that maybe for the start of this year I might not see students' own thoughtful questions which will guide their inquiry. I might not see the deep investigating. I might not see a great deal of that all-important transfer... But, important to be on the lookout for all these things nonetheless.

This is where my own reflections are so important to my own learning. Taking note of how students are learning and what they need support in during this process will be invaluable, more so at this stage than checking off the bits of knowledge they collect about the brain... I need to remember and keep students mindful that this unit is about learning to learn and not just gathering "Fun Facts" about the brain!

More to come....

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