Slices of Life on Tuesdays Are Hosted by Stacey and Ruth
at the Two Writing Teachers Blog
My school’s Expo was held last Thursday. Excitement permeated the school in interesting ways in the days before. It’s always interesting to me that while the getting ready for the crowds holds challenges for everyone; the days before the event are calm, with students so focused on finishing their displays that it is eerily quiet in the school. As I explained in a post a few weeks ago, each student studies an individual topic around which the curriculum is written. Expo is a day and evening of celebration of the learning thus far for the year, with displays of products completed by each student.
The ways in which my school works is a difficult thing to explain in a few sentences, but in my many years’ experience here I believe much of the approach to learning has to do with questions. I thought I would share the beginnings of the school year with students and what I’ve asked them to do with me as their teacher. Each teacher might do this in a slightly different way, but the basics are the same, all having to do with questions, the answers discovered by both the student and the teacher: What are possible topics of interest? Why? What would you like to increase your skill in? What are your strengths? What might be challenges for you in these strengths? Where are your areas of weaknesses? What might be some ways you can improve these?
I realize that these are sophisticated questions for very young students, yet their teachers follow similar paths to discovery. They are the questions I asked my middle school students, who answered them through beginning research of their unit topic choices, through several conferences with me, and often through talks with their parents. No matter what the age, they are their ‘wonderings’ about something. I have been lately interested in reading about teachers who are exploring the site Wonderopolis because the site mirrors the goal of my school for its students, to find topics to wonder about and to pursue deeper learning within that topic.
After deciding on the topic, and answering some of the questions, a unit of expectations is written by the teacher for each student with input from the student. Weekly assignments are derived from that unit as the student’s weekly goal. The intent of the questions remains the same, but the ways they are asked depend on class levels and with each child. Teachers assess constantly by observing what a student is communicating through the work and through conferring often. A path may start one way and then veer another depending on new information learned and the needs and interests of the student. It is complex, but encompasses all that is being discussed as inquiry and/or project based learning. Students are motivated when they have choice, and Expo is a celebration of the results of their learning choices.
I’ve included a slide show of examples of displays from all the classrooms. Some of the photos show students in process of completing the work and some few show visitors. I didn’t include the crowded evening with parents, grandparents, neighbors, but at that time, the classrooms and halls are filled with those interested in visiting as many displays as possible and learning about the topics themselves.
I visited all day Thursday, asking questions as the students played host to their displays, and taking pictures of representations of the work. It was hard to choose what to show. Over 250 topics have been researched. My mind was swirling as I ended the day, full of questions of my own about certain topics. It is a satisfying celebration of work well done.
Next, students will continue on their journeys with the same topics or will choose another topic of inquiry for the remainder of the year. Lifelong learning is a continuing journey we want all our students to enjoy. Please take a look at some of the photos. There are many, but I wanted to include some from all the ages, five through fourteen.
Slide Show - Expo