Taking my own advice about field trips, I paid a visit to Willowpark Primary School in Birkenhead, Auckland, adding on my CRT day to a weekend in the big smoke. Willowpark has modified their furniture and classroom layouts significantly in the past 2 years, moving from one desk per child to a variety of spaces created within their traditional classroom environments. There has also been a move towards Self Regulated Learning, with a variety of models being used throughout the school. Student voice and highly visible learning was evident in the classrooms I visited.
Discoveries at Willowpark
Willowpark has set up MLE's in their traditional spaces. This has mostly been done with use of furniture. There are lots of different heights and spaces for individual and collaborative work.
It was great to see Emma Winder running her fantastic My Learning programme. The students were articulate, well organised and engaged in their learning programme. Their reflection blogs showed insight into their learning and I was impressed with the range of activities the students were participating in.
I visited Melinda Borland's awesome Year 5 class. Melinda makes extensive use of modelling books and these were very impressive. Her class constantly uses them as a resource to aid their independent learning. I really liked how every day activities were extended with thinking tools and student voice. For example, there are boxes of maths games and activities set up for students to practice their basic facts targets. For each activity, they complete a reflection about the purpose for their activity and how they did. Students were selecting maths games for their groups and making decisions about how they were progressing, deciding whether to change or not.
Melinda uses Mondays as "setting up" days in the classroom. This is where modelling, and class activities are organised for the week. Tuesday through Thursday is group teaching sessions and independent personalised learning. Friday is a conferencing day, to meet with students and discuss their learning.
It was interesting to see The Daily 5, a literacy programme running in a Year 4 classroom. This was one I hadn't heard of before, which I would like to find out more about. A neat gadget I saw was talking tins, being used by diverse learners for a variety of activities, including recording their thoughts for writing.
Wonderings at Willowpark
While seeing some excellent teaching and learning, I wondered, "How would this look if the teachers were team teaching collaboratively? How would their systems need to change? What would be the advantages and disadvantages?
How do you streamline tasks such as student's planning their own timetables, so that it doesn't take up too much class time? (A question I should have asked!)
I had a great day checking out the Willowpark teachers and learners. Thank you so much for having me to your school!
My name is Ngaire Shepherd-Wills. This website is a record of my TeachNZ sabbatical, Term 2, 2013 and then I have continued to share my wonderings and discoveries about Innovative Learning Practices. I now work for CORE Education. Views are my own.