The primary classroom is a busy place and there is often so much to do that it can be easy to often spend little time taking a step back to appreciate how much learning has happened in such a small space of time. This week I decided to put in some time within class to reflect on what has been achieved so far in year 2. Children are the greatest critics of their own work and indeed their own learning, so my thinking on Monday and Wednesday was to provide children with time to look at their books with a critical eye and consider how their learning is progressing across all aspects of the curriculum.
Year 2 and I talk all the time about their books being like windows to their learning and year 2 will rightly say that out of a window we like a nice view! With this is mind the children took time on Monday and Wednesday to look through their “windows”. As the room filled with the sounds of turning pages, another sound started to silently sweep across the room. On every table I started to hear conversations about presentation, about writing stamina, comparisons of earlier pages to later pages. Children began to compare their books to their peers and as these exchanges took place, the children praised each other for how much their work was changing.
As I listened to all these different conversations, I noticed that as children looked at some pages, their facial expressions appeared disappointed or nervous and I asked children what the reasons were. I was so impressed that children answered by picking out the areas that they needed to develop and also it was lovely to hear them say things like “Well I don’t think I tried my best on this piece of work, but if you look here you can see I have started to…” The children enjoyed spending time carrying out their own work scrutiny and they were able to pick out for themselves different areas that they need to focus on. For me, it was their celebrations of how far they have come that was such a powerful outcome of their time with their “learning windows”
Listening to the learners in the classroom is so important and taking time to hear about how they feel about different activities, tasks and experiences, allows me as the teacher an opportunity to design learning that moves children onto their next steps. In maths this week I have been giving the children opportunities to choose their own level of challenge. This means that learners can decide where they feel they need to start a task, so some children may feel that they want to do some simpler practice questions before they move onto a puzzle or problem that needs more unpicking. Other children may feel confident with an aspect of maths, so go straight for the problem or puzzle.
It was really good to see that children picked the right level of challenge for them and on talking to the children, it was clear that they felt in control of their own learning and felt that they had ownership. One child said that he liked choosing the level of challenge because he could work at his own pace and on receiving feedback, quickly move on or do some more practice. For me, listening to learners and talking about the process of learning is the key to unlocking learning potential. By always actively listening to what the children around me say, I have learnt that everyday brings new insights to different ways to change and shape the learning journey of children at Unsworth.
On Tuesday I travelled to Sheffield with Mrs Reynolds to listen to Dame Alison Peacock (Head teacher of The Wroxham School) talk about her school and its approach to enriching children’s learning journeys to ensure they meet their full potential. Listening to the stories about different learners from the school made me reflect on different learners I have encountered over the years and how their needs have helped shape Unsworth as a school. Dame Alison talked about the fact that it is so important for children to have the opportunity to work towards being whatever they want to be. In assembly this week the children talked about the value of “freedom” and for me children need the freedom in the classroom to access irresistible learning that makes them listen to learn from the experiences they have, whilst the adults around listen to them as learners and design learning that makes their aspirations a possibility.
It is a powerful thought to think that through actively listening to sometimes the smallest of comments or taking on board the expression on someone’s face, changes can be made to a task, challenge or situation that really can make a difference. One boy this week in year 2 demonstrated this when he said during our discussion about our learning windows:
“Mr Rhodes, I think its really good when one of the other children on my table talks to me about my window, because sometimes they understand how hard I have been trying and it makes me feel good about myself.”