I’d like to consider myself a fairly organized and tidy person (just don’t take a look into my bedroom). Everything has a place it belongs, my classroom bins have matching labels, my students know where their note totes and water bottles go every morning, and they always know where to find the extra paper. I try my best to teach them the skill of organization by building it into my plans; at the end of every school day, I have my students help tidy up the classroom and straighten out the tables to set ourselves up for the next day. However, if you were to look into my classroom during the day, you would describe my room as loud, messy, and most importantly, full of student learning!
I can pinpoint the first time I really let go of “neat and tidy” learning… Last year, I had my Grade 1 students dive into a completely student-directed project on the human body. There were iPads, books, markers, paper, and students EVERYWHERE. I was completely blown away with the presentations that my 6 year old students produced… ENTIRELY ON THEIR OWN! (#NorthStarSpotting)
This was so successful last year, I had them do it again this year in Grade 2! While it wasn’t as loud or messy (thanks to a smaller class size), the learning was still amazing. Students worked with partners to learn all about one animal group and look a little deeper into one specific animal from that group. I have never seen so much excitement about chameleons, bumble bees, and spotted frogs!
I have come to know how important it is to incorporate aspects of self-directed learning into my primary levelled teaching program. I have seen students develop collaboration skills, build their confidence, explore topics that that interest them, fall in love with learning, and create incredible final products (which they have gone back to reflect on). What can I say? …Students learn best by doing!
THIS IS WHY I EMBRACE THE MESS.
As a next step for myself… I would like to figure out how to shift these types of activities away from being “just projects” and move towards more project-based learning (PBL). There are many resources (websites/podcasts/blogs) readily available to me, but I encourage you to comment below with any must-read (or listen to) articles/books/blogs/podcasts to help me try and kick this off in the new year.