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Melbourne, VIC, Australia
2nd Grade Teacher at a school in Melbourne, Australia. My job: push kids to think. My passion: helping kids to tackle the life-long skill of searching for meaning, skills, answers and more questions.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Diary of a Home Learner! Week One

Home Learning, huh?
Isn't that just an excuse to not use your diaries?  An excuse to not do work? 
Isn't it really just a cop-out?

Some people have been really positive with me about my Home Learning trial this month.  I must admit that others have played "Devil's Advocate" quite well.  And they have reason to worry.  This could well turn to farce before it's over.  I'm not predicting that, but it's a possibility.  Some concerns are legitimate.

  • 1.  Some kids might opt out and try to do the bare minimum. 
  • 2.  Some kids might use their diaries poorly.
  • 3.  Some kids might find the lack of direction hard to handle.
  • 4.  Some parents might find the lack of direction hard to handle.
  • 5.  Some parents might want their kids drilling skills rather than inquiring freely.
  • 6.  Some kids will happily inquire without having finished their class work.
  • 7 - 10. Four other possible concerns which I haven't thought of yet - one of which should include a wookie, a goat or approximately 7kg of cat litter......

I do set some guidelines for activities, but as you can see, there are a variety of options...  
You have hopefully seen our essential agreement before in a previous post.

So last week I decided to address some of these concerns head-on by making a song & dance about the use of student diaries.  Each day, I modelled good diary usage and I made a point of celebrating good diary usage from the students who had figured it out.

Today, I took photos of last week's diaries.  Every kid's diary was photographed.  I didn't just want the good, I wanted everyone's diary.  I am interested in the wonderful stories that make the system look amazing AS WELL AS the horror stories that make this system look doomed.

These diaries aren't filled in at 3:00pm every day.
They are filled in each night or early the next morning - outlining what was DONE.

The pictures should tell the story.  I'll post my thoughts in a supplemental on this blog post later.  Right now, check out the many, varied ways my kids have understood how their diaries should be used effectively.

Don't let a few spelling errors put you off... This kid 'gets it'

First time I've seen comments in the comments box for a loonnnnng time.  Awesome to see.

I'm not sure about the check boxes, looks kinda cool, but we're supposed to document what we have done...  The jury is out on this one.  I definitely appreciate the amount of learning taking place each night!

Completing class work! Cool to see.  Testing a year 11... hmmm.  I'd rather the year 11 tested YOU!

I love the times outlined.  I also love seeing what was learned from Wonderopolis on the Tuesday.  I would like to know what books were being read.  I think that's important.

Times... Cool.  Reading to a pillow is a reading aloud strategy - awesome to see.  I wonder what book was being read?

I like the sentence structure.  Another interesting approach.  Precise timings too!

Even telling me what she did on the Writers' Club!  Cooool. Watched News!  Awesome!

Those circled words represent self editing of spelling.  My dream.  What a great job!

What did you do on Writers' Club, Kiddo?  Cubs sounds RAD.  How long were you there?  What an amazing piece of info about Mum.  I don't know if I'd see that with the old way we used our diaries....

Times tables using a ball (throwing).  Counted money is interesting!  How much?  How did you do it?  Tell me more!

This guy often opted out of homework. With home learning, he is opting in.  Does he still need to vary his choices and aim for some more academic learning? Sure.  But he's involved.

I'd love to know what this guy did at cubs.  I miss the details.  They make a huge difference!

    Single words don't tell me the story.  I miss times here.  I'd also love to know who won Buzz!                                                  I'm really confused by "What!!!!"

A VERY interesting comment on Monday.  That needs unpacking.  Very interesting idea on Tuesday.   The mention of goals on the Wednesday is AWESOME.  A mixed bag of joy and concern here.

Awesome.  Sentence format.  Few glitches, but a great effort!

We're circling words!  That is really promising.  Now to complete the editing phase by finding the correct spellings...

I might let Moo in on the spelling issue tomorrow.  Particularly when she's actually quite talented at the violin...  Great to see parent communication in diaries.  I think this is where they belong, where possible.

All I want to know is, which book?  It must be a good one!  Awesome diary upkeep!

Terrific diary upkeep!  I can really see what time was spent learning.
My next step:  How to use our diaries on the weekends - or how to fill them in together on the Monday mornings.

So there you have it.   The good, the bad and the ugly.  
This was our first week of using our diaries for Home Learning.

Any comments or suggestions you might have for our next week of diary upkeep for Home Learning would be greatly appreciated.


Corisel said...

Hi Richard,
This is a really interesting approach.
My thoughts on the concerns you've raised:

1-2 these concerns would apply to any form of homework, not just the type you have set.

3 - I think the diary does provide a good structure. Plus self-directed learning is a skill we need to teach. Year Four is possibly a good age to begin this, in a supported way. Perhaps those who cannot self-direct could receive some further support, but most should handle it.

4.- You are the educational expert, not the parents. Some may not like the self-directed nature of it, but in my experience, most come around in the end. Its change that is usually the real problem not the methodology for many parents.

5. See above. Mathletics is also a drill quite often - its just presented more engagingly.

6. I'm pretty sure you can follow that up over a lunchtime if necessary.

7-10 Let the wookie win.

Like I said, I love your idea - especially the idea of the students setting their own learning goals. It is far more pedagogically sound than sending home sheets of practice drill.

Good luck with it. I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves!

Richard Black said...

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts here, Corisel. I really appreciate your input. I'll be sharing a few more diaries next week to see if there is any 'evolution' evident.
You're right about the wookie... just let him have his way and nobody needs to get hurt. Great advice.
I think we're on a winner and there are certainly no complaints yet. Perhaps that's because 5 kids in my class have a parent who teaches ON OUR Junior School staff? Or perhaps the storm is brewing.... I like to think they're happy and would say so if they were concerned.
Thanks again for your support. Makes a difference!

Anonymous said...

Wow Richard - just signed up to this and am impressed. But 5 kids with PYP teaching parents! Wow - that means they have the language, the values at home and at school. I don't get to teach my own children (sadly) but I notice that it doesn't stop me using PYP language here at home - they get it - I just hope they apply it to their (non-PYP) schooling.


Richard Black said...

Thank you Jenny. I'm thrilled that you've visited my ramblings.
I'm hoping that all of my kids understand the difference with what I'm trying.
This idea requires far more diligence from me too. I need to be communicating with the kidlets constantly so that they understand and participate fully. My heart is in it. I need them to invest theirs and then we all win.
Thanks again.

Nancy C said...

Hi Richard,
Thank you for sharing your student diaries with us. We use an agenda in our school to keep track of homework - really the kids are writing the assignments down and taking the agenda home. They don't mention how long they spend on individual assignments. In fact, I don't think the kids take the assignment notebook out of their backpack!

I have been thinking a lot about meaningful homework. You have inspired me to try giving students a choice in their homework (hopefully, based on their goals). It makes a lot of sense. Holding them accountable by completing the diary is a a great way to see who is doing what. I think you allowing them to include their after school activities validates their life outside of school.

Liking this and wondering if you might share you wonderful poster.

Nancy C.

Denise Krebs said...

Great ideas, Richard! When you give students choices, you are honoring who they are as learners. I hope any of your concerns are negated by the wonderful positives you all will experience. Great work!

Denise Krebs

Richard Black said...

Many thanks for your support, Nancy and Denise.
Nancy - anything I've made is yours. Which poster were you interested in? Can you open it and save it straight from the blog post? If not, let me know and I'll send you a copy.
Denise - I really pushed the diary usage with my kids again today and they are becoming more and more reflective, responsive and proactive.
Pleasing start. Just hope parents are as happy as I am and the kids seem to be.