Week two - building belief
When we turned up in class for our second Tuesday with room 17 we found the classroom teacher had done a great job! During the week she had worked with the children / company deciding on a name (Mystery History Toys), designing logos and voting for the favourite, drawing up a timeline of the company's past history (including, as we learned today, the dreadful fire!) and mapping the company buildings. Each student had completed the picture of their office desk, and these were taped to the desk tops. I felt there was a palpable excitement in the air and I overheard one child say "I love Tuesdays!" - which is promising, given this is only our second visit.
During our planning meeting the day before, student teachers had asked about the place of "learning intentions" in this kind of teaching - and asked also about assessment. Not surprising I guess since they have been taught over and again to make the LIs explicit for the children, whereas Mantle works from a completely different approach... So I wanted to make my intentions for this lesson clear and overt (at least to the student teachers). I hoped that for the children the learning intentions would be folded in to the tasks and framed as part of the fictional world. I invited the student teachers to watch out for three things:
The use of 'genuine' questions to promote discussion about types of value
The children's responses to the teacher in role strategy (used for the first time this week)
Children's ability to collaborate in open ended creative tasks with other people
An agenda was put on the board.
[I wonder if one of the student teachers would like to comment on how this writing was carried out (did you notice that I did the whole thing without speaking?) What were children's responses to this? And what purpose was served by putting the Agenda up like this?]
Once we did start the meeting I deliberately adopted an adult register in my speech. Children / company members were asked whether there was any other business we needed to attend to. Suggestions included "we need to read the letters" "see if there are any recent messages" etc.
Children seemed very keen to update the "part timers" (student teachers) on what had happened in the company. Some individuals stood to speak to the whole group, then children moved off to meet in smaller groups with their familiar student teachers they'd met last week.
[Perhaps student teachers might like to comment below on what children reported in these small group discussions? Did you notice any change in the engagement level of children from last week? Any memorable comments made by children at this stage? Was their language collaborative - were they talking about "our company" and "us"...? And what about the register - did they sound like adult experts yet?]
Next on the agenda was a visit from the storeroom manager. The mention of 'storeroom' prompted some imaginative responses from one child - D - who reported that he had been down there and it was messy and untidy. He announced this to the company and requested that people put things away properly....
I told children that I was going to take on the role of the storeroom manager - I asked a quieter child to choose a name for this figure. She decided he was called Josh. I moved into role (signalled by a blue hat) and asked the children for advice in sorting some of the toys in the storage room. I presented 6 slips of paper handwritten with names of different toys written on them
Electric train set
Glove puppet (v old)
Packet of crayons
To build a little more of a picture of these toys, I questioned the children (in role as Josh) "Has anyone seen the electric train - you have B? Can you describe it to the company?" Children gave brief descriptions which made the toys seem a little more real. I numbered children off into 7 groups and gave them each a set of the labels. They were asked to use their expert opinion to order the labels with the most valuable at the top, and the least valuable at the bottom. The student teachers facilitated this discussion and listened in to the rich negotiations and conversations about "value" that emerged.... [Perhaps a student teacher would like to enlarge on this in the 'comments' section below?]
In feeding back to the whole group about their decisions, children made some thoughtful comments about different kinds of value and I, as "Josh" wrote the key words / concepts that were emerging. So for example, one of the students said that they had put David's toy at the top of the list because it was "one of a kind" and "couldn't be replaced". I put the word "unique" on the board and discussed the meaning of this kind of value. Other words that emerged included "sentimental" (A toy that is valuable "because it has been loved alot") "technological", "educational" and others. We are building a 'word bank' of terms associated with value, which we can return to again and again.
When I came out of role I was able to ask the children what they had done with Josh and what the words on the board were about. N was right on the button when he said "they are all words about different kinds of value"
At this stage I thought we were done on the sorting task - but then a comment from N caught my attention. He was visibly upset (a sensitive soul) and protested that "the packet of crayons was always left at the bottom....!" I always like to pick up on ethical / social justice issues as they arise - so thought "OK.... let's run with this!" I responded to his offer by saying, "Yes, that's true - if only we could hear what that feels like for the crayons.... who would like to be a crayon and tell us how it feels to be at the bottom of all those lists...?"
T was first - she stood up and responded to my question "What colour crayon are you" with the wonderful reply "I'm a green crayon, but right now I feel blue".... Classic! I asked the green crayon what she felt her true value was and she replied "I'm very good for drawing grass and leaves". Another child, L went into role as a crayon and added another value "We are portable - you can heft us around. With a playstation you have to stay plugged in, but crayons you can carry us out into the fields". Another student A(?), took things to a whole new emotional level with his monologue in role as the silver crayon:
" They just take me out and rub me on the concrete - they wear my tip right off. My friend the golden crayon died some time and I don't feel like colouring in the money any more".
When I asked silver crayon what his dream was - what life he wished for himself - he beamed and replied "To drive a car"....
Beautiful stuff.... how DO you assess this guys?
It's all going to play beautifully into the main commission, coming up, in which we invite the company to put together an exhibition of toys that have stories to tell. Clearly, already, the stories are starting to flow. I have a feeling we will hear more from these crayons!
There was one more key activity - involving student teachers in role as robots, and children carrying out a writing task. However, rather than keep on, I will leave the student teachers to describe this part of the lesson from their perspective.....
Sorry to go on at such length - but this was a wonderful session in so many ways... I really enjoyed telling the staff about it in the staffroom over lunch - you have got to love this way of teaching!