Friday, 20 March 2015

Is it ok to give direct instruction to our students???

With the advent of an inquiry approach to instruction, many people assume that direct, or explicit instruction as we at Bradbury call it,  is no longer used or is appropriate. This is not quite true. While we do have a different approach to the acquisition of knowledge, we  acknowledge the importance of gaining skills. So, therefore, we will still explicitly teach the skills associated with writing and the skills of reading, for example. We believe that we need to scaffold our children's learning and help our students along the way at all times in a way that is appropriate to them.

Our framework for instruction is the Primary Years Programme (PYP). The PYP contains five essential elements for learning:
  • Knowledge
  • Skills
  • Attitudes
  • Concepts
  • Action
Each of these elements work together to make a well rounded curriculum for our students. We do not just attend to their knowledge, but also to other important facets of learning.

The importance of directly teaching skills was really brought home to me the other day when I was looking at some of the art that our Artist in Residence, Eleanor McColl, had been doing with our Year 1 students. On one half of a piece of paper, she had asked the students simply to draw a self portrait with no other direction or instruction.

She then had them put this aside and gave them some explicit teaching around how to do this, creating  signposts for them along the way by using fruits to help them apply what they were learning. So, lips were like bananas, eyeballs like blueberries etc. The students were then asked to do another self portrait, this time putting into practice what they had just learned.

Below are the results, which I found simply amazing! So yes, explicit instruction does have a place in our student's learning and can produce stunning results as we can see:

Friday, 6 March 2015

Living our mission and vision

Our mission and vision statements (M&V) are really important to us as a school community. They were developed collaboratively with representation from all stakeholder groups around five years ago (and incidentally will be formally reviewed in September) and represent our values, beliefs and aspirations around what we think is important for our students.

One of our statements reads like this:

(Bradbury School) Builds strong foundations in a dynamic, innovative and enjoyable learning environment.

So...we need to attend not just to the foundations of literacy and numeracy, but also to making our learning environments dynamic and innovative, as well as being enjoyable. Part of all of this is ensuring that our activities and spaces are developmentally appropriate for our students.

The early years team has been looking at different ways of achieving this, while preserving the integrity of our student's learning.One way is to have a 'play based' approach. Now, I know what this sounds like, but it is not actually just 'play'. It really refers to designing learning environments where children are encouraged to explore, solve problems, create and construct knowledge and to actively engage with people, objects and representations. It brings about an opportunity to ask questions, solve problems and engage in critical thinking while expanding knowledge, all with a view to creating a positive attitude to learning.

So our Year 2 team has redesigned their classroom spaces so that one area is devoted to play based enquiry, while the other has the tables and desks for collaborative work. Both classes share the space during the day so that all students have the opportunity to receive a balance of developmentally appropriate activities as well as the explicit teaching that our students are required to receive in order for them to meet the Year 2 learning objectives and outcomes.

I applaud this development. I think it is the best teachers who constantly challenge themselves to try new things and at Bradbury, this is positively encouraged. Our students can only benefit from new approaches to teaching and learning- after all, we don't want our children to be taught in the same way we were, or even in the same way of 10 years ago.

Educational thinking and practice has changed along with our changing world and at Bradbury, we embrace this!

This is a book that we have found useful to shape our thinking: Play-based Learning in the Primary School by Mary Briggs and Alice Hansen