Did learning happen? Yes. Was it optimal? No.
I had fascinating content, eager learners and an obligation to empower my students in a way that would encourage them to synthesize and present their learning.
The next group of animals: insects and spiders. I collaborated with my co-lead, and used many of her observations and suggestions to approach the lesson differently. Her first observation: don’t be discouraged, our kiddos thrive with repetition. I held fast to the cooperative learning structure and emphasized my expectations for how they would work in groups. I gave examples of desirable comments and ones that should be left unsaid. I also spent time deliberately placing students in optimal learning groups. I did this by considering personality, and work and learning style.
Finally, I asked groups to discuss what each of them would contribute to the poster before one of them made a mark.
Then, I repeated the most important step of the learning process, observe and reflect. The buzz (what a nice pun) of their learning was a low hum. Students hovered forward, head to head watching and listening to iPads, they shared their ideas and complimented each other on their illustrations and sentences. Then, the beauty blossomed: the leaders emerged! Students normally soft-spoken and tentative we heard making comments to their groups like: “put that right here” “okay, I think we have enough.” Watching them as they learn, what joy!
The tea was steeping. Immersed in the curriculum, the posters and opportunity to share gave each presentation its own flavor and style. Take two: insects and spiders is also the lesson where we tweaked the sharing style. The group came before the class, but only the group member speaking stood and held the poster, while other members sat.
The lesson was much more tidy and there was a calm assurance that covered the class. They were able to listen and engage with their peers because they were not distracted by what they still wanted to add to their own posters. The sharing was smooth and the cooperation during the work time improved. The two students who struggled, did so because they were not at the first lesson. The struggle was over having no room to add to the poster and we remedied that with a small square of paper they could use and then add.
The sharing highlighted deep understanding of body structure, habitat, and subgroups. Some of our students who may have struggled to write what they learned soared when they were able to speak and illustrate it. Everyone was given the platform to conduct and demonstrate their learning.
They shone. They exuded confidence. They were primed to learn in this manner.