Student choice and ownership of learning

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Our goal for this year is to ‘Increase opportunities for ownership of learning’. We, as a whole class, have discussed what owning learning means. The responses were profound:

  • Teachers walk us to the door – but they don’t push us through
  • Teachers can tell us where to go  – we choose how to get there
  • We can learn the way we want to – some like independence, some like groups
  • Making good choices about how, where and with whom we learn

It has been interesting to tie this closely to our inquiry into how people make decisions, the influences and impacts of such decisions. Students are exploring a range of learning styles and approaches as they reflect upon what works best for them. They are communicating their decisions to one another and reflecting on their learning experiences.

We are exploring writing and will be creating narratives that also link to decision making. I ask my students to think about the difference between being a writer and being an author. They consider which one they would rather be, and the skills and mindsets that need to be developed.

Interestingly, but unsurprisingly, their responses include:

  • Good spelling
  • Remember punctuation
  • Neat handwriting
  • Be descriptive
  • Use vocabulary

We discussed some authors that we are familiar with, including Rowling, Gleitzman, Dahl, Tolkien, Jennings to name a few. Do our students think these contemporaries are concerned about the above skills?

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So why can’t we move beyond what we think teachers want us to say? Does neat handwriting mean your writing is more creative? Does great vocabulary really make your writing that much better? Will a missing comma here, an extra apostrophe there really make such a difference to the overall authorship?

We are talking about developing a setting for our narrative. We decide as a class that authors create an visual image in the reader’s mind of where the story is taking place. Authors play on our senses:

  • ‘A deafening silence fell across the room…’
  • ‘Smashed glass, glistening like sparkling crystal, lay over the floor…’
  • ‘The clouds floated like marshmallows…’
  • ‘I felt the sand under my toes…’

We create an X-chart of four senses and use words and phrases that we could use in our writing in the future.

Sensory ideas fill our personal literacy books.

Now what? I asked students what they think authors would do…

  • B identifies that he has used a range of metaphors in his X-chart. We discuss what a metaphor is, and he realises that he has in fact used similes. He expresses his enjoyment and desire to develop them into more complex sentences, then posts them on the blog and shares his thinking with a global audience.
  • R is able to recognise that he has repeated words such as walk and say. He thinks he can add adverbs and synonyms to modify his pre-planning and stands at the tall table at the back of the room.
  • M is so excited to create a whole paragraph to build tension in her setting, so places her headphones on with her choice of music, sits on the floor with a small table and hones her skills.
  • R adds colour to her writing, because, as she suggests, colours give a sense of emotion and feeling in different settings.
  • J takes more time on his X-chart because he wants to have a bigger bank of ideas, and will decide later how he will expand on them

As a class of 26 we are all developing our writing skills. However, we are doing so in ways that we can later identify as our own.

I’ve learned there is a difference between student engagement and student ownership.

A difference between doing school and real learning

We need to challenge our learners to be independent thinkers, and reflect on their learning.

We need to share, celebrate and act on the way our students learn best.

 

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About Dean Kuran

I'm a primary school teacher at an IB PYP school in Melbourne, Australia. I believe in establishing positive environments in which students can develop confidence and curiosity, while nurturing the skills that will benefit them outside of the learning space.
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3 Responses to Student choice and ownership of learning

  1. lanafleiszig says:

    Great post Dean. There is so much in there! An awesome reflection of what real learning is all about. One size does not fit all!!!!

  2. jocblumgart says:

    Great post Dean. I so enjoyed reading about the learning culture that you are creating in your room. Looking forward to reading more.

  3. whatedsaid says:

    As Lana says… ‘so much in there’. You haven’t blogged in ages, so this one takes in a lot of reflection! Ownership of learning, decision making, ‘doing school’, encouraging writing… Looking forward to watching the year unfold in your class with all this bubbling under the surface. No wonder you’re exhausted 🙂

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