My brain has been working overtime on “wonderings” lately – largely inspired by the sparky minds of the #learningpowerpioneers community – a community of forward-thinking, “can do”, caring practitioners committed to deepening learning in their classrooms (by the way, if this is you, you are so welcome to join us – check out this blogpost for starters).
Here are a few ideas spinning around my head:
- How can I deepen learning in my EYFS learners?
- How can I capitalise on the learning environment to make it as welcoming, provocative and inspiring as possible?
- How can I take ideas from the children and put them in the driving seat of this journey?
- How can I adapt ideas and practices from previous years’ teaching to my new class of brilliant minds? What will stay the same? What will change? What will be completely new?
- Which “experts” can I connect with to improve and deepen my practice even further?
Wonderings from our Learning Power Pioneers group:
More specifically, our the Learning Power Pioneers group at our school has been wondering about how to make our learning environment as “Learning Powered” possible. We explored the ideas in chapter 4 of “Powering Up Children” and distilled our thinking into 5 driving questions:
Exploring each of these inquiries could take an entire year … they could take a lifetime! They’re really “juicy” (which is why I love them)! In fact, some of our group are deeply exploring some of these questions throughout the year – one has taken it upon herself to think deeply about how to use the learning pit and making it integral to the teaching and learning in her classroom. Not to have the pit on the wall as “wallpaper”; DEEPLY and thoughtfully plan with her learners how to explore the struggle of learning and make it an exciting part of their day-to-day, minute-to-minute learning.
Here, I am going to explore the final question, “How can we develop our classrooms as habitats of wonder?” I can’t claim this exciting, deeply important question as my own. It came from the brilliant mind of Kath Murdoch – specifically in this TEDtalk, which I love and has sparked so many ideas for my own approach and practice (thanks Kath!)
“How can we develop our classrooms as habitats of wonder?”
This question sends my mind into a flurry of buzzing excitement – I want my classroom to be a habitat of wonder. I want the children to come in, eyes wide, in awe of the learning they are co-creating and researching. I want this habitat to grow with the children – to be symbiotic in its nature – to be inspired from the children’s ideas, and then inspire the children back again – A learning environment that nurtures the children’s natural curiosity and feeds their insatiably curious minds.
This is no mean feat. It will be a journey that grows and continues throughout the year and I have no idea the places it will take us yet. I do have a few seedlings of ideas though. And I would love, love, love fellow practitioners who are inspired by this question, and have perhaps started to investigate it themselves, knowingly or unknowingly, to comment – to help me grow and nurture these seeds with my learners and create a truly rich learning environment – such is the spirit of the #learningpowerpioneers community – to coach and to be coached.
So, here are my initial ideas:
Gather questions – gather, gather, gather.
Again, inspired by Kath Murdoch’s TEDtalk above. She talks about gathering her children’s questions and inquiries and writing them on post-it notes. I have started to do this and share the wonderings with my learners when we are gathered together:
“I wonder why the magnet sticks this way but not that way …”
“Why do people have 2 eyes?”
“Why does the ice melt? Where does ice come from?”
And, perhaps my favourite so far:
“Why do you have dark hair but you don’t speak Thai like me?”
We had the most wonderful informal chat during play about this final question that explored ideas of race, identity, interculturalism and language. What a joy to be grappling with these important issues with the 4-year-olds in my care!
Now I am paying closer attention, the questions are coming so thick and fast!
Now, where to take them? Perhaps some questions are ripe for a Philosophy for Learning-style discussion. Others, might involve deeper, longer-term inquiry. Some questions might get answered, some might not – a wonderful way for children to learn that it’s okay “not to know”.
Child-led learning environment.
Last year, I took children’s ideas and made them into tuff spot investigations. Could these questions lead into tuff spot investigations? For example, with the magnet question, could I (with the children – even better) set up an investigation with magnets – perhaps using iron filings – to investigate how they work. If you have created a tuff spot investigation on magnets, please share it – It will help me envisage how this could look.
I need a place to gather these questions and value them. Again, last year, I had a “Wonder Wall” in the classroom where children would write awesome questions that came into their minds. We found times in the day to discuss these questions – fruit and milk time with last year’s class was perfect. We’d get our snack, settle down, and pick a question to discuss – usually a “meaty” one that didn’t have a clear answer. I would provoke the children to challenge and build on their thinking. For example, by asking questions like:
“Are you sure?”
“Are there any times where that may or may not be true?”
“Is that true for everyone?”
“Who can build on ….’s answer?”
“Who agrees/disagrees? Why?”
These discussions became a magical time to learn about turn-taking, debating and discussing diplomatically and to, very importantly, learn about acceptance of other points of view. They were an utter joy, stretched children’s thinking and built trust in the classroom. Oh, and placed a high value on the children’s curiosity and questions that were important to them.
So, now I am wondering:
- How can I incorporate or adapt ideas from last year’s learning with my year one class to my EYFS learners?
- How can I adapt my learning environment to gather, value and investigate these inquiries
And, always, always, always,
- What else can I do? What have I missed? Is there an even better way to do this?
What do you think? Would love your feedback.