It was last Friday that I excitedly attended the annual ASE conference. In the past week, I have been able to reflect on the workshops I attended and the impact these will have on teaching and learning in the classroom.
First, I attended the Brenda Keogh Keynote. Paul (McCrory) delivered an engaging and inspiring talk, which set the scene for the primary section of the conference. Paul's approach to science is one that resonates with me. Fun. Not the contrived and falsified 'fun factor' that can sometimes be observed in a primary classroom. Pure fun and passion for science. Curiosity.
When I embarked on my journey to become a teacher. One thing became, and still is my mantra. Above the attainment of children in literacy and maths. Beyond life without levels. Is this: the children in my class need to leave more curious, asking more questions, than they did at the start of the school year.
Paul discussed how this can truly be achieved through a number of ways. The most important of which, I believe, is children's emotional connection with the lesson. Why should any child interact in your lesson if there isn't a reason for them to? How am I going to hook them into learning? In my opinion, questions allow this. A question can allow a child to peer into the unknown and develop their understanding. So what about the role of the teacher? Lead, facilitate. Whatever the current on trend word is; show your children something just beyond their current understanding and let them discover it for themselves.
But how? How do you really know what turns them on? What will the emotional connection be?
Just this week, I taught my usual science lesson. However this time, I stood by my mantra, and Paul's advice. I attempted to hook the attention of my class from the start. How? Context. In what is typically an uninspiring lesson (exploring materials), I used our topic; the great fire of London to set a challenge. What would be the best material for carrying a large amount of water? Previously, this lesson has had the potential to turn into a "let's play" lesson. However, the simple use of a context I know the children are already emotionally engaged with, and a challenging question, allowed the children to focus and exceed the set learning objective. Children had moved beyond the initial "does it bend?" closed answers. To asking their own questions. "I wonder if I could make a bucket from play dough?" "What if the plastic is thicker?" "could I use straws?"
Nothing is more exciting than seeing a child ask these questions, open up and question the world around them.
Sadly, I can't ignore the data driven, evidence based world we work in. However, I am now more confident to follow my mantra and teach in a way that I believe is beginning to really allow my children to question their world. Do we need KWL grids if children are already asking the questions? Children start school full of ideas and questions about the world around them. However, as they spend more time in school, these questions appear to diminish. How do we break this cycle and ensure all children ask that one fundamental question. Why?
The ASE http://www.ase.org.uk/home/
Learn Differently (Paul's website) http://learn-differently.com/
Maintaining Curiousity (Ofsted, 2013) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/maintaining-curiosity-a-survey-into-science-education-in-schools