Opening doors and opening minds: learning from each other!

Collaborative learning is one of those occurring “buzzwords” at the minute which most teachers can tag on to almost any learning opportunity set up in their classrooms. It is a wonderful way to see children engaging in learning conversations with their peers and allows you a brilliant stance by which to listen in and evaluate how well they are doing. But to end this term I tried something different for my pupils and I literally opened the doors to the classroom and invited the parents in.

Parents being involved in school has been an area that I wanted to develop this term and we have sought out fresh ways of doing this. We set up a reading for enjoyment session where parents came in and took small groups of pupils so that everyone was reading at the same time. What became apparent straight away was the sharing of thoughts, feelings and ideas that a teacher cannot get effectively when reading a class novel. I should point out here that I have a multi-composite (primary 1-3) class so even choosing a book can cause us a big debate!

We have tried to set up our classroom practice to include aspects of collaboration and sharing in all lessons with jigsaw learning, group challenges, elbow partners, working groups, table groups and active learning rotation groups…at times the pupils really do make me proud with their ability to make choices about their learning!

Yesterday was a different kettle of fish- they had the chance to show first hand what “successful learners” they had become. Our topic this term has been the Ancient Egyptians. The pupils engaged in ever lesson and particularly loved the gory bits of mummification. We made canopic jars, plaster casts of mummies, created death masks, made model shadufs and tried our hand at heiroglyphics to name just a few lessons. Yesterday allowed me to see just how much they had taken in and my heart fluttered to hear one of my youngest pupils (5 years old) explaining to their mum,

 “this is my canopic jar but you don’t put the brain in cos it gets pulled out your nose. This is just for your lungs or liver or stomach or guts!”

The engagement in each little face was incredible!

Some pupils did not have a parent there but what I also liked to see was them asking their friends if they could show their parents some of their learning (the embodiment of confident individuals in my opinion). They were literally seeking out people to tell about the weighing of the heart ceremony!

Sharing between pupils allows them all to learn from each other.

Organising this came as the result of having done something similar for the other class in school and again we saw brilliant collaborative learning. This way we could ensure that everyone had someone to talk with. The photos of this are now up on display and the pupils were still going to the pictures and telling others about what was happening.

This child-lead teaching has really seen a difference and a number of pupils told me that this has been their favourite topic so far. What was a little more prominent was the number of parents who told me that their children have been coming home to tell them about life in Ancient Egypt- one told me

“I feel she’s come on more this term because she wanted to come home and teach me because I just don’t know anything about it!”

 To end the whole afternoon off we presented our “Walk Like An Egyptian” dance festival entry- a fantastic way to engage all learners, young and older! Confidence was over flowing- the four capacities certainly seem to be at work. We would not have had these opportunities without the collaboration between my pupils, between them and their peers, and between them and their parents.

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