The other day as I was leaving the school, two of my former students came running up to me. They were eagerly chatting to me about Grade 2, and then they started talking about some of their favourite memories of Grade 1. One child said, “Remember Miss Dunsiger when we made the dinosaur world.” Another child replied, “Oh, you mean Jurassic World?” Then they went on and on about what they learned.
- They spoke about how the environment helped the dinosaurs get food and stay safe. “I remember how we made caves for the dinosaurs to hide in, and high and low areas, for those that could fly and those that couldn’t.”
- They spoke about their math and science learning. “Remember when we figured out that the sun had to be bigger than everything else, and we worked together to make the sun stay in the sky? Mr. Smith even helped us out!”
- They spoke about the different types of dinosaurs. “Remember when we learned about that dinosaur that was even bigger than the T-Rex? We read and wrote so much about dinosaurs. We even taught the Kindergarteners about them!”
- They spoke about the Grade 7 student that came in to teach us about dinosaurs. “I remember when he made those slideshows, and even asked us trivia questions. He also taught us how to make plasticine dinosaurs. He was so good! The next day, we made so many of our own.”
It was incredible just listening to their excited chatter! I couldn’t believe how much they remembered, even so many months later. This discussion reminded me of these important points.
- Learning has to be meaningful for students. Jurassic World evolved from student interest, and still connected, meaningfully, with curriculum expectations.
- Relationships matter. The students remembered the connections that they made with people as well as the content learned. Maybe these connections even helped them remember the content more.
- There’s value in “enjoyable learning.” I have yet to have a child remember a worksheet or a textbook question. These inquiry-based, student-initiated projects, are often what they remember. Is this something that we should think about more?
- Thinking matters. This dinosaur project had the students thinking a lot. They were constantly solving problems, modifying plans, researching more, reflecting on the information they learned, and making connections to other classroom learning. The more they thought, the more they seemed to remember … and it’s clear now, that this was not just remembered at the time, but also into the future.
These students made me wonder, what will my students from this year remember? What would I hope that they do? Maybe doing some thinking about the answers to these questions has value for us as we plan ahead. What do you think?
That is awesome! I have had similar talks with former students. You are correct that the relationships are at the centre. When we can connect emotionally to the learning, it stays with us for longer and is more easily accessible from our memory storage. We need to create more of these learning opportunities for all our students. In my new role I have been modelling inquiry for some junior and intermediate teachers who are interested but don’t feel prepared to do it on their own. What has been most startling for me is that the students have forgotten how to ask questions, how to be curious and how to wonder and explore. We have spent a lot of time over the last three weeks working on exploring questionning and helping the students to rediscover things they are interested in or passionate about. Despite this time and choice there are some students who just can’t seems to come up with a topic for their passion projects.
There have been so many questions come to my mind:
Where has the passion for learning gone?
How have our students lost connection with their own interests?
How can we promote the passion for learning in older students who have “checked out”?
What are student who have been through the FDK curriculum going to look like when they get to junior/intermediate? Will they still have that passion for learning or will our teaching methods have made them “check out” too?
Thanks for the post today Aviva, you have me thinking and it may turn into a post of my own.
Thanks for your comment, Sarah! It’s funny that you mentioned this, as I noticed similar things when I taught in the junior grades. This was a big observation of mine when I taught Grade 5 especially, as I was eager to inquire with the students, but most just wanted a textbook or a workbook page. It took a lot of time, connections with parents, discussions with students, and opportunities to really build schema (and dig deeply into content) for their thinking to change.
I can’t help but think of a guest blog post that a group of four of my former Grade 5 students wrote on this professional blog a couple of years ago. When the school year began, all of these students wanted the textbooks and worksheets, and would have never thought to question the norm. They didn’t understand the purpose in real world learning. But come the end of the year, they wrote a post like this (and all of my other students would have offered similar thoughts): http://adunsiger.com/2014/06/10/student-voices-on-probability-hear-what-we-have-to-say/
I really hope that the thinking behind FDK causes changes in other grades as well, and this inquiry approach continues to be embraced. It’s sad to think that any students have lost a passion for learning. How can we ensure that this doesn’t continue to happen? Please let me know if you do write a blog post of your own. I would love to read it!