WALT, WALA, TIB & WILF – How do YOU use learning intentions? 

A teacher’s take on using WALTs effectively across the whole week…

I wrote some time ago about the use of the learning intention acronyms WALT, WALA, WILF and TIB: Meet WALT, WILF, WALA & TIB.

Currently teaching Level One, truth-be-told, WALT/WALA is just about all they can handle. TIB is generally put across verbally or in making explicit links to prior or future learning, and WILF – the success criteria – usually takes the form of a very simple rubric or checklist, or again verbally. But, the question I want to pose is…

For how long do you display and refer to your learning intentions?

This came up during a recent observation session of myself by a leading teacher at my school. She noticed that I do the following…

I begin each week with a clean slate, so-to-speak. Each lesson, I will write up the new WALT (under its subject heading such as Reading, Spelling, Mathematics etc), and discuss the WALT along with any new vocabulary that it might feature, before starting the whole class tuning in. That WALT stays on my board all week! At the start of each lesson, I’ll add a new WALT and sometimes, if for example we are doing a unit or sequence of lessons, it might stay the same. The result by the week’s end is a nice collection of 3-4 WALTs for each key curriculum area!

This struck the observing teacher as odd, even pointless. To me, it makes sense to leave recent WALTs up. Learning is a continuum. Concepts and skills are transferable. New lessons relate to past and future learning. I feel as though my technique clearly shows the students this, rather then having them falsely believe that each lesson stands in isolation.

The other benefit is – and I haven’t written about this before – my school has a heavily student-centered developmental curriculum. Some may say ‘play-based’ but I think there might be some negative connotations around that term and it paints a misrepresentation of what exactly goes on. As such, as students navigate their Investigations I and they can refer to our week’s learning intentions and make wonderful, genuine connections between their experiences and what naysayers would call the ‘real learning’. Put simply, having a broader range of WALTs to refer back to, opens up more opportunities for meaningful connections.

That’s my opinion anyway…

So what do you do in your classroom?

What is education, anyway? Pt.3

A teacher’s take on rethinking education…

So, following my last two posts – the first in response Ken Robinson’s Ted Talk on ‘how schools kill creativity’, the second regarding his ‘new’ model of education – I’ve been pondering what exactly this means for me, as a teacher, and what it means for my students. Ideas are spinning around in my head such as providing an education based on diversity as all kids are completely different. Why do we focus so greatly on academic talent and celebrate academic achievement? There is a clear ‘hierarchy’ of subjects in schools in which literacy, mathematics and science are on top with the humanities, physical education and visual and performing arts at the bottom. Are we actually discouraging childrens’ natural creative abilities? If education was designed to meet the need of industrialism, why has it changed so little in the last hundred or so years?

I know that I personally am always hoping to provide an education which considers these factors. An education which sees children truly engaged, rather than simply compliant. However, given  that I, as a teacher, have so little control over curriculum (what I teach ), my good intentions will only get me so far. I have slightly more control over pedagogy (how I teach) and as such I am able to try to shake things up somewhat, but at the end of the day if my school/system/state/community ‘demands’ that I teacher certain things, as hard as I try, those same old principles will still come through.

Regarding the compliance vs engagement idea I touched on previously, a blog post I read titled ‘What we learn with pleasure, we never forget’ made some excellent points that make me feel a bit better about all this. “Why do we assume that learning only occurs when kids are serious and quiet?… The belief remains strong that learning can only take place when kids are quiet and the work laborious, that any activities where engaged kids seem to be enjoying themselves must be superfluous, and that teachers who make learning fun run the risk of being declared unprofessional. This thinking is having an adverse effect on what kids learn and how they are taught.” So perhaps, at the very least, even if teachers must work with curriculum that is uninspired, outdated (despite constant re-writes) and academia-heavy, we can teach it in a way that is engaging, personalised, and provides opportunities for creativity and learning through a child’s unique talents.

Think about all of the great work that teachers and schools do despite the current dominant model of education… Now think about how fantastic education would be if we were to rethink, not just pedagogy, but curriculum too (and no, I don’t mean the kind of ‘curriculum revolution’ that governments all around the world push particularly at election time, which always ends up being essentially  a very expensive re-formatting of the same old content)!

Will we ever see a true revolution in the education?

Teachling <WordPress> <Tumblr> < Twitter>

Read a great blog post on this topic here, that Norah Colvin directed me to.

More on this topic from Teachling:
Ken Robinson’s take on how we should be viewing education…
Ken Robinson’s take on schools, and how they kill creativity…
A teacher’s take on “How Children Learn”…

Common Core For Dummies

An Australian teacher’s take on America’s Common Core State Standards…

I’ll start by saying I know nothing about the Common Core State Initiative, other than the often negative posts I read whilst blog-browsing (Read some heartfelt anti-Common Core posts here, here and here). So, here’s what little ol’ me down here in Australia has figured out so far…

What is the ‘Common Core’?
Most USA states have adopted the Common Core Standards which are purported to prepare students for their future – college and career. It has set new assessment benchmarks and specifies what children are expected to know and what skills they should master by the end of each year. Am I right so far?

Well there’s obviously been a great deal of backlash over the Standards and I’m in the process of figuring out why. I had a click around the Common Core website and it actually very much reminded me of Australia’s new National Curriculum. So, I’m clicking around thinking this aint so bad. In fact, I found the ‘anchor standards’ quite interesting and there isn’t anything too wrong with hoping for a consistent education for a country’s children, is there? So what’s the issue?

What’s the problem?
Could it be that, like most things to do with education at a political level, it has been written by businessmen, and politicians with no real grasp on the purpose of education, let alone what actually goes on at a classroom level? Is there an underlying issue that it has been developed to make money for the private sector, such as text book publishers, education business and so on? That doesn’t seem like enough to get so many American educators so furious. After all, sadly for education, that will always be a problem, until governments set their egos aside and allow teachers, parents and students to write the curriculum!

Is it the tests?
In Australia, we have so-called NAPLAN tests which students take every two years. These tests do virtually nothing to improve their learning, particularly as they are so infrequent and it takes many months for them to receive their scores after each test. Oddly, one of the primary uses of the NAPLAN data is to compare schools against other schools. Again, what does this do to improve student learning – and let’s not forget that that’s the whole reason we do this thing called education!? From what I’ve read it seems like one of the foundations of the Common Core is the rigorous testing schedule. Exactly how often kids are made to sit tests I’m not sure, but from my experience, biennial NAPLAN tests are more than often enough! Any American teacher reading this, exactly how often are your students expected to sit standardised tests? Standardised tests lead to stressed and depressed students as well as teachers. The whole ‘game’ of learning becomes about the test score. Teachers end up ‘teaching to the test’ in an effort to raise grades. Tests do little if anything to improve student learning and some say the assigning of grades actually damages learning.

Is it ruining education?
Aside from the fact that in most countries, standards are developed by people and companies that know little about education, and the downsides of tests, what other issues are there? Standards that are too rigid leave little room for creativity and teaching off-the-cuff or based on students’ passions, interests and most importantly, their learning needs. I’ve heard that the Common Core sets the standards, but it’s up to each state to develop their own curricula based on the standards, but I don’t know how that works in practice? Does the Common Core leave room for differentiating, or teaching students at their point of need, or is it the case that all year 4 students will learn the year 4 standards regardless of whether they should actually be learning year 3 standards or extended to year 5 or beyond? Is it a one-size-fits-all approach? Consider though, that pedagogy has a greater impact on student learning than curriculum. Could teachers say, oh well, these are the standards I have to teach to, but I can make it my own. Or has that been taken away too? Finally, do the standards focus on skills, understandings, applications, etc, or is it about rote learning?

So, I guess the question remains… Will the Common Core improve learning for all American students?

 Like I said, I don’t know much about these much-talked-about standards, so maybe some fellow bloggers can enlighten me, and as always, share their 2 cents!

 –  Teachling <WordPress> <Tumblr>

More from Teachling:
A teacher’s take on “How Children Learn”…