If someone who had not been in a school for a while walked into one of our classrooms I think they would be shocked by what they would see. There have been so many changes on the educational landscape that nothing much remains of the typical classroom so many of us imagine and remember from when we were in school.
I think the first thing you might notice is the lack of desks and collaborative groups of students sitting around tables or working at various places throughout the classroom from the floor to any number of alternative learning spaces. There are a variety of different learning activities going on rather than the entire class focusing on one activity at a time. Gone are the days when learning was an individual activity and the different subjects such as math, English and Social Studies were taught in isolation.
The next biggest thing I think people would notice would be the teacher not being in front of the room feeding students with the regulated chunks of material they were responsible for learning. In today’s classroom a lot of the learning is done through inquiry and the teacher is more of a facilitator, guiding students toward individual learning goals.
On Friday as I walked around the school I walked in on our grade 3 students during math class. The classroom was noisy and busy and the energy of learning could be felt. The students were working at various stations around the classroom. Some were at the SMART board doing math activities.
Some were playing multiplication war on the carpet and were very engaged in the competitive nature of knowing their math facts faster than their partner.
Some were working together at the tables using 3 dimensional shapes trying to figure out how many faces, sides and vertices the various shapes had.
The teacher and the educational assistant were moving around the room helping where necessary and checking in with different students assessing their learning. I could not resist getting down on the carpet to see what the students were doing. They were getting good at math facts and were motivating each other to keep going in the spirit of competition.
I couldn’t help but think this was the very reason that children needed to be in school…that attendance is important…that not all things can be duplicated outside of the learning environment the teacher and students have created.
We often have children that are out of school for extended periods of time, sometimes a week, sometimes a month or more. Parents will want teachers to prepare work for those students when they will be away. This is a reasonable request and we certainly appreciate that it is important to parents to try to support their children’s learning. However, when we were in school working through textbooks and workbooks from page to page preparing work for students might have been easier. Now that learning is so active, student focused and question based, planning for students absent from the classroom is a much more difficult task. So much happens that depends on the learning environment, created by the teacher, but carried out by the students.
Things going on in classrooms today have changed in many ways. Expectations of learners have changed and teachers have made many adjustments to provide the best learning environment for our inquisitive, digitally confident, 21st century learners. Different does not mean the way most of us learned was bad or ineffective, but changes are necessary to meet the needs of today’s learner.
Please come and check out what happens in our classrooms on a daily basis- you are always welcome. You can check out our grade 3’s on their blog or follow them on twitter @plesdale3 to find out what else they have been up to.