A noisy classroom!

A noisy classroom!

Talking makes thinking better and thinking makes learning better

It is with trepidation and fingers definitely crossed, that I consider this coming Summer term. How wonderful it will be to have a normal term! When I reflect on the Science planning, encouraging the children’s thinking skills will be an important aim. Activities will be organised to facilitate lots of group discussion, working together and assisting the exploration of some of their own ideas.  Discussion engages and motivates children, gets them thinking and helps their learning. Gauging the progress of children in their thinking and problem solving was quite challenging to do remotely. Viewing learners on a screen leaves quite a lot to be desired! 

I look forward in particular, to trying out some of the ideas that were presented in this year’s ASE conference for Science teachers. Stuart Naylor’s keynote speech stressed the benefits of a lively classroom unlike in years gone by, when a quiet classroom may have been considered the ideal. Enquiry based activities get the children exploring and using and applying their own ideas. Working together helps them work out their own thinking, highlighting where they are uncertain or disagree with each other and giving them a purpose and a focus for finding out more. As Naylor says, “Talking makes thinking better and thinking makes learning better”. 

I will be trialing some of his ideas, for example Fierce or Friendly. This activity requires the children to discuss whether animals are fierce or friendly and to place the animal their group is considering, on a spectrum line. I will set up a line numbered from one to ten in the classroom with fierce at one end and friendly at the other and then invite each group to stand on the line where they think their animal should be. Their justification should lead to discussion on patterns that emerge and may lead to discussions on predators and prey, herbivores and carnivores, animals as we see them or in their habitats. For example, we see robins as relatively tame but male robins are very territorial and can fight each other very aggressively even to the death. Follow on work would involve the children trying to find out answers to some of their own questions, giving their learning a purpose. Naylor calls this self-imposed pressure.  

Some of the skills we will be practicing include group skills, turn sharing, supporting each other, respecting each other’s ideas and encouraging each other. Hopefully this can happen in a supportive environment in which the children are willing to share ideas and can do so with a growth rather than a fixed mindset. The classroom needs to be a blame free environment where mistakes can be opportunities to learn rather than problems.  

A further idea to promote good thinking and useful dialogue involves using a bullseye with the rings representing how far an animal can travel in a minute, with the centre representing practically no movement and the outer ring to indicate five kilometres a second. Hopefully the children will be able to come up with an animal for each of the eight rings in the movement bullseye. Follow on discussion may consider why some are fast and some slow, why some never move and what allows each animal to be successful. In this way a focus is given to work on life processes, habitats and adaptation with some useful cross curricular work on their Maths skills. The likelihood that each group will probably not be able to place an animal in each ring will hopefully create this “self-imposed pressure” to research, to find out the answers to the gaps in their knowledge. 

I will also be using the Mind map technique which gets children to create their own mind map laying out what they know about a topic at the beginning of the teaching. This technique uses a central theme, for example, light and then expands outwards based on associations their own brain makes. Light, eye, reflections, shadows, light sources, speed of light- each of these could radiate from the central idea.  Each idea can be accompanied with an appropriate image. Every mind map is personal albeit containing common information. It is learning based on their own starting knowledge giving them a frame to start from and build on. The next step is to consider what they would like to find out. At the end of the topic they return to their own diagram and add what they have learned. Learning which has a personal element is often more successful as the memory retains it more successfully.  

On a final note, I am sure parents will be relieved not to have to assist in Science experiments at home! Thank you for all the support you gave to your children over the two lockdown periods. It was much appreciated. Let us hope we have a full Summer term in school with lots of great noisy learning! 

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Cargilfield Connected

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