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The First Foray

Last week I trialled the idea of project based learning in my class to start to iron out the practical implications of working this way. Initially I found it a real struggle to alter my thinking. I sat staring at the Primary Framework C3 block for some considerable time. The requirement was an investigation, involving measure with an element of comparison. The suggestion was “Does exercise improve performance?” Sounds good in theory, but I know from experience that it is a very flawed investigation.

I decided to take a break to eat my lunch and as I did so I read the latest copy of Autosport. I am a big Formula 1 fan and was very interested to read about the new Pirelli tyre contract for the 2011 season. The article discussed in some depth the issue of performance parameters and it dawned on me that here was an opportunity. It was also a key learning point for me as I realised that it was in exploring my interests that I had found the learning opportunity. This is clearly going to be true for the children as well.

Next years planning documents were not yet available so I planned it in a fairly traditional tabular way. This method does not lend itself well to this type of learning and I think in reality I held my planning in my head. I think the reality was that this was flawed as well and I can see very quickly how learning will be broadened with a more appropriate and thorough planning process.

Monday morning came and I will admit to being very excited! I had discussed the project at length with friends and family over the weekend and it seemed full of promise. The reality was a little different as the pupils spent most of the morning arguing, fussing and fighting. Not the dream learning scenario I had in mind. In truth I felt deflated, however with a little encouragement I revamped my efforts for Tuesday.

The transformation was incredible. I had a class, focused, having fun and learning in a high order way. I was staggered by how children who find this kind of activity difficult were independently pursuing lines of inquiry and solving problems.

From then on the project flew and the number of avenues that opened along the way was incredible. What surprised me the most was how child driven the week became. The children were asking the questions, not me. To assess their understanding all I had to do for most of the time was listen. This made the questioning I did use so much more valuable as it explored the odd shadow of uncertainty with real accuracy.  

Overall the week was a real success and I feel very positive about moving towards this full time. In a strange way the week felt a bit like how you imagine teaching to feel when you first imagine yourself in front of a class!

I would love to hear your comments and for you to watch the video that the children produced of the week’s learning.

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