Sunday, 30 July 2017

The power of noticing learning

Dr Margaret Carr, developer of learning stories in New Zealand,  says that in any one day there are 936 learning moments that a child takes part in.  936 moments a day.  936 opportunities to notice, recognise and respond.

Noticing is a valuable skill in the learning through play environment.  Te Whariki reminds us of the importance noticing plays in learning.

What do you notice about your students learning?  As I learn to teach in a play based environment, noticing has become essential. As my focus as a teacher has moved away from teacher directed learning and assessment, to student driven I have been amazed at what I have seen.

What is important to notice?

Firstly, I build relationships with students, without this step, I wouldn't know what is important, what is unusual or what to notice.

When this has occurred, I take note.  That is why I love learning stories so much.  They help me in my noticing.

Let me give you an example.


The students who I spend most of my time with are my Puna Ako group.  The group assigned to me, the ones close to my heart.  We have had a tumultuous journey,  and at the end of Term 2, we celebrated 6 weeks where no one ran away from our learning area.  Putting this into context, learning was focused on relationships.  Looking through Te Whariki's woven values, these would be Belonging and Wellbeing and the New Zealand Curriculum, Key Competencies.


One day some rocks turned up at school.  They were an extension of our water table, where we had sand and water.  Some children had fun playing with the sand by making dams, building water falls and playing an imaginary game.  Keegan saw the rocks and asked for a hammer.  He started to hammer the rocks.  He kept at this for some time.  He told me about the treasure he found inside.
The opening up of rocks was an activity that other children tried.  They came back to it time and time again, until we didn't have many rocks left.

I thought about the rocks.  The last time I had given rocks much thought was when I gave a speech at the age of 9 on the different types of rocks. I would need to do some googling.

I noticed how the children were so excited about their finds within the rocks.  I wondered, if I was to get more rocks that were different and set up a bit of a provocation, would they notice?

The rocks from the 'rock shop'.
The Provocation

The noticing and wondering.
Lining up smallest to biggest.

Going Deeper

I used our Haeata Inquiry process to frame the provocation.  From Awakening of curiosity to navigating our way to exploring, discovering and communicating.  The first part, was already achieved, the students were curious.  I just added to what I thought they might be interested in and waited to see.  I asked them if they had any questions.  In my space, the children learn through play most of the day.  So I made myself available to be at the rocks when I saw someone interested.

There were two really incredible questions that I was able to capture and write as learning stories.

Jim asks "Why do sponges have holes?"

Jim finds out why
Steve melts rock

If you have time, have a read.  They tell in detail two student's learning journeys so far.

They show some pretty revealing thinking and link to many of our Haeata Values and Dispositions.

Where to from here?

We have plenty of rocks left.   Steve continues to investigate the temperatures and fires.  A road trip is planned to find a place where there are very smooth rocks and where rocks are showing in the hillside.  More will be added to the provocations around fossils.  We will ask our secondary colleagues to come and spend some time investigating rock hardness and how that is measured.

Keys to success

Notice what the children are interested in.  Put out a provocation.  Listen to the questions and support these by going on a journey with the children.  Resource.  Learn alongside.  Capture in a learning story, linking to the New Zealand Curriculum, Te Whariki or school curriculum.  Share with the whanau and children,  go for another spin around the block and see where else you end up.

Have fun!

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