Primary Preoccupation

A grade one teacher inviting the world into her classroom

Primary Preoccupation - A grade one teacher inviting the world into  her classroom

Kids Teaching Kids

For a long time, I’ve known that kids learn best from other kids, and I’ve tried to incorporate this into what we do in my classroom.

Last year, I taught what I thought were some great lessons about the difference between needs and wants.  At the end of the unit, I asked the students to use a Common Craft-style video to show the difference between the two. They all got to work and took turns video-taping each other.

When I reviewed the videos, it was clear to me that despite my brilliant teaching, three of my students obviously did not yet understand the concept. Instead of re-teaching the needs and wants unit, I instead chose to show these three students some of the completed videos from the students who HAD understood the concept.

It was like the lights came on.

In no time, those three students were able to create a new video that showed me that they, too, understood what the difference was between the two ideas.  Just by seeing and hearing their peers explain it.

Teaching in Flu Season

Last week flu season hit my classroom in a big way. That, combined with extreme windchills  of -43C  (-45F) meant very few children at school.  One day I had only eight students in the morning and sent two of those home ill through the day. Starting anything new seemed ridiculous, so among other things, we spent some time reviewing silent e at the end of a word.

I asked those students who were present to be the teachers for those who couldn’t be there. Each of my students made a video (again using a Common Craft style—it works SO well for young children) to show how a silent e changes a word.

The students were all motivated by the idea of being the instructors.  They worked hard on their “props” and even harder to get their images in the right place for the video. (We finally had to put strips of masking tape on the tabletop to indicate where the camera would be recording.)

Hopefully, most of my students will be back next week. Their peers are eager to let their videos help to teach. And kids can once again learn from other kids. I know it works.

Learning: It’s Easier Together

I’ve been doing an action research project about the work flow involved in using video to capture learning in my grade one classroom.  As I have been reflecting about what has happened and what I’ve learned, the thing that stands out most to me is that the video process helps my students to learn from each other.  

I have long been a proponent of students learning from each other, but when I first started this project, my intention was not that this would be a learning process, but that it would be a recording process. I thought that the students would learn how to go in pairs to a quiet part of the classroom or the hallway and film each other talking about their learning and then we would upload their video and post it on their blogs.  The other students would be able to see what the others had learned by watching the video on their friends’ blogs if they wished to.

What was I thinking?  It’s ALWAYS about the learning.  It only took me one trial to realize that the students NEEDED to see each other explaining what they had learned.  They needed to see students who used a different addition strategy and learn about another way they could add numbers. They needed to see some of the ways that their friends explained the difference between needs and wants so that it could expand their own understanding of this concept. And they needed to see the puppet stories that their classmates composed so that it would inspire more detail in their own stories.  Making  video in my classroom is not just a process of recording learning, but a process of learning in itself.

Doesn’t this sound like the way that we all learn? I certainly do.

Making Video, But No Faces Allowed

I posted a few weeks ago about the action research project I am doing in my classroom involving video.  To briefly recap, I want the students to be able (without too much teacher support) to capture their learning using video and post it on their blogs.  Simple enough in principle, but a bit more complicated when the students are six.  (I’ll talk more about that in another post.)

There is an added challenge to this process.  The policy I have for my online work is that only students’  first names are used, and that we do not match an image of that student to their name.  This means that no images of a student can be posted on their personal blog–only on mine.  One of the things I have been grappling with is how to best post video of the children’s learning without showing their faces.

We have so far come up with three different ways (be forewarned that students did the filming on these videos):

1.  Video of  the students, but not their faces, as in this puppet show video we made.

2.  Video of an artifact (in this case a poster) that the child has made with the child explaining the artifact.

3. Video of the child explaining their learning using a Common Craft type of video.

Interestingly, when we made this last video, I saw by their videos that there were several children who clearly did not yet understand the concept of needs and wants (what the video was to have explained).  I took these children aside.  Instead of re-teaching, I showed them a few of the videos that their friends had created.  The lights came on!  The words of their peers helped them understand more clearly than all of the activities we had previously done.  Each of them was then able to successfully create a new video to show that they clearly understood the concept.

I love the way these videos allowed us to capture a moment in the children’s learning.  I’m still on the lookout for more ways that we can use video without revealing the child’s identity.  Ideas anyone?

Little Kids…Big Potential

Below is a video that I made to show some of the tools and learning that takes place in my classroom.  It features my students from both last year and this year.  I submitted the video to a Mindshare Learning contest, and was fortunate to win lots of cool prizes, including a trip to the ISTE conference in Denver this summer.  My students are excited that “their movie”  has won a prize, but are more interested that an X-box will be arriving or our classroom.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvPZtTej0jQ]

My hope is that this video can contribute to thoughts and discussions about the possibility and potential of technology in primary classrooms.

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