Saturday, September 05, 2009

Creativity with boat design

A lovely couple of sessions at Randwick School where one of the activities was boat building. We provided the dried flower stems from harakeke (flax), kebab sticks, knives and chopping boards plus a couple of articles that would provide ideas and suggestions. The actual design was left to the students (so as you can see we are part way toward a student directed session).

We started with some safety issues around using knives (direct instruction still has a part to play in Discovery Time!). Then we basically left them to it.

The students experimented, struggled, redisigned but all persisted!

As teachers we kept an eye on safety, helped out with any particularly difficult cutting and asked questions.
"Do you think it will float? How can we find out?"
"How will your boat move?"
"What else do you need?"
"What do you think might happen to sellotape in water?"

As teachers we discovered:
  • That the students really didn't know a lot about boats and we probably could have done some preparatory work on this or linked it to a picture book or reading text.
  • That our students were very creative and tenacious. No one gave up!
  • That some students were able to forward plan and get the water tray ready for the second session.

The students discovered:
  • That at times it helped to work with a friend, epecially when things went wrong and you need some support and new ideas.
  • That sails need to be vertical rather than horizontal and that light material works better than polar fleece!
  • That for a fair race the boats have to start at the same time.
Student Directed Learning

Jackie West (Resource Teacher Learning & Behaviour Maori) and I ran a workshop on Thursday for teachers from two local kura. As part of the session we delved more deeply into the issue of teacher directed versus student directed sessions: what each would look like in a discovery time session and how to make the shift toward giving students more control.

As teachers we are generally very good at directing the action and feel very comfortable doing so, but it can be quite a scary prospect to pass control over to the students.

One of the discussions centered on what the shift might look like.

Teacher directed session
"This is the card we are going to make for father's day. You can cut out these flowers and stick them on and write a message to dad inside."

Teacher /student shared session:
"I thought some of you might like to make cards for father's day so I've put some paper and card out for you." (teacher)
"Has anyone got any ideas for how they might do this?"

Student directed session:
"Can we make cards for father's day?" (student)
"What ideas have you got for doing that?" (teacher)
"What might you need?"

Change happens slowly, and the move to a student directed session may take time. Teachers need time to learn to stand back, while students need time to realise that they really can direct the action.