I had hoped that by this time, I would be onto my third blog post. BUT, life sometimes throws you curveballs that give you time to think, and ponder your ideas. At the beginning of December, I broke two of the three bones in my ankle, and then for good measure dislocated it as well. One might assume that this is the perfect time to write a blog post, but for me anyway, my head wasn’t up to writing, and I certainly wasn’t very coherent.
However, my brain didn’t turn off completely, and I had time to think about my professional goal, which was to add my lines of inquiry throughout the year during the teaching process. This was to ensure they authentically reflected the learning and interests of my students.
I started to doubt my idea. For it to work, it relies heavily on me having enough authentic learning stories documented in Storypark, and due to the accident, I was way behind! It felt like I would never catch up and would be left with very little data and half-baked lines of inquiry.
As this was my professional learning goal, there was no chance of me just giving up. So I returned to school and set about adding more stories and catching up on those still in draft format.
Slowly but surely, I was getting myself and my head back into life when my principal asked all staff to ensure that their grade level Programme of Inquiry(POI) was up-to-date and ready to go online to be shared with the wider community. (My current school is in the process of applying for PYP accreditation and having a complete POI is a requirement of this). I spoke to my principal, who is incredibly supportive, about this issue as I did not want to be the one who didn’t meet this requirement! Together we decided I should work with my colleague to create lines of inquiries for each unit, while in the background, continue with my goal.
I approached my colleague for help in writing the lines of inquiry, and as we sat down to begin to write, she questioned why I wasn’t using the data generated by Storypark. I pointed out that I didn’t think I had enough, and that my gut was telling me that my plan may not be successful. She challenged me to give it a go saying that we may not get all the required lines of inquiry, but that it was worth a try. I wasn’t sure this would work, but I opened Storypark anyway and began retrieving the data.
Our approach was to collate all the stories tagged under each transdisciplinary heading. Storypark makes this incredibly easy using the “Reports” section.
Next, we summarised the main points of learning in each story. I knew I wouldn’t have enough data for Sharing the Planet, as this is something the children haven’t dug deeper into yet; however, to my surprise, I had enough for the other three units. From there, we worked to create authentic lines of inquiry, and I am feeling very proud of what we wrote.
While this process and experiment are not over, I do think I have learnt more than I expected at this point.
When I write my learning stories, the first half is me telling a story about what my students did/made/achieved during their play. The second half, I break down the learning, explain the purpose of an activity, or share the importance of an event or movement. I have always done this part, firstly for parents as a way for them to see that play IS learning. But mostly I have done this for myself; I find it a useful reflection tool, it helps me evaluate my teaching and practice as well as help me become stronger at articulating play. I have found through this process, that I have been more intentional in this part of my storytelling, and now more clearly articulate the connections to each unit. My writing has changed and for the better.
I have also learnt not to give up on my ideas so quickly. I need to trust myself, give it time and then at the end, make my judgement.
Those of you who have read my posts or seen my Twitter feed know that I am passionate about play and the role it has in early learning. I have always strived to find authentic and appropriate ways to put a child’s right to play first and forefront within the framework I use for teaching. Right now, this feels like I am on the right track, I am following the children, allowing their play to set the pace and content of my units. Every year will be different, as every class changes. Each unit would be a reflection of that year group and their wonderings, thinking, passions and interests. Right now, I feel like I am heading in the right direction to achieve my goal, but the jury is still out. I still need feedback from colleagues, my principal and anyone that reads this post (if you feel like commenting).
I am; however, feeling quietly confident.
Helen – I am always glad to know when you’re feeling quietly confident…but I do think you can be a bit louder now, because your inquiry into documenting children’s learning through play is really starting to pay dividends. You have held yourself and our collaborative team to a high standard and brought us all along on this journey. It pays to remain open-minded around you, because you do think outside-the-box, but more and more I see you backing up your thinking with the data, and triangulating your evidence. As a personal professional goal this year, I couldn’t be happier – you have evidenced students’ learning and the related data every step of the way. Thank you for helping us all understand just what is possible with our youngest learners.
Love your honesty and how you always make sure it is about the kids first. Can’t wait to hear more about this journey.