CHAOS: All I really wanted was student VOICE and CHOICE!

Student voice and choice with lots of chaos

How did I start to tame the chaos? This post will outline steps that I took to guide and shape my students to become self directed learners. (While using learning videos accessed through scanning QR codes.)

(These students are only 4 and 5 years old at this time during the school year!)

Students were reflecting on our first few days of learning through video and all the responses were the same. They were vague and did not show evidence of learning about subject matter. I did not let this get me down, I turned it around and asked the students to think about WHY they were doing certain activities and HOW they knew they were learning. This was the TURNING POINT! The students took the challenge and took time to pair share with each other. (They did the pair share all by themselves, talk about taking the teaching moment and going with the flow!) It actually took me a few minutes to realize I was no longer the teacher. The students were becoming the teacher.  I must admit I was in awe and just stood in the middle of all this.

Back to how I got the students to take more ownership of their learning and guide their own learning. During the chaos of giving the kids videos linked to QR codes, I quickly demonstrated how to take learning seriously and be active in the learning process.

The steps we took to become active learners and teachers:

  1. The whole class talked about what it meant to learn
  2. The students broke off into groups to talk about how they learn best
  3. The whole class discussed key words; HOW and WHY in relation to learning
  4. The class agreed to have the words HOW and WHY become part of our classroom community and learning
  5. We used the center activities that had the QR codes on them
  6. After we used the center activities and QR code videos with the HOW and WHY for learning in mind, we had a class debrief to explain/share our personal HOW and WHY for learning.
  7. For the next week after each learning center session we had a class debrief to share our HOW and WHY for learning.
  8. The kids were starting to understand the importance of needing to know HOW and WHY they are learning/completing task, skills and learning goals.
  9.  Let the students explore learning activities

10. Start to share with students about documenting their learning.

The students were seeing the power in being able to express HOW they just learned something and WHY they just learned something.

Learning in my classroom was starting to evolve!! These kindergarten students were starting the process of becoming independent learners. BUT they were not quite there yet. I still needed to guide and demonstrate ways to push them to the next level. What that level would be I had no clue. I just KNEW I needed to keep this evolution going. Stay tuned for videos of students describing their learning.

“Teachers nurture the seeds of today so they may bloom into the flowers of tomorrow.” Anonymous Author

Why teach? One might say because it is unique, fun and always changing. For me teaching has always been about the children. Every day of the past twelve years, I have seen many children come through the doors of my classrooms. Some have had smiles, some frowns and even tears. Underneath it all, I would ask myself what can I do to help them lead their learning journey?

During the summer of 2012 in Bozeman Montana, I learned about QR codes. Rita Mortenson was presenting a session at DENSI 2012. Her session on QR code use in high school and middle schools made an impact on me. I left her session thinking about how to make it work in my Kindergarten classroom. When I first posed the thought to my school technology coach, all I got was a question “how would you do that with kindergarten?” As I told a few more people, most of the responses were,  kids can’t work independently, they can’t do things for themselves! Well that was all the motivation I needed. When you say the word “can’t” to me, that is “my” signal to prove you wrong!

These thoughts and comments got me thinking even more about how kids CAN do things and be leaders of their learning. I set out for the 2012-2013 school year fired up to prove that kids CAN work independently and be leaders of their learning. My answer to all this was through the use of QR codes. Now you see, I didn’t “really” have a plan on how it would all work, but I was just going to push through and make it work somehow. 

I threw myself into QR coding and used Rita Mortensons LiveBinder

(http://www.livebinders.com/play/play/472827?present=true) to help me. I made a YouTube channel and then made a Delivr account too. http://delivr.com/ is a free site to make and use QR codes. 

I started to make videos giving the directions for literacy centers. I then set out the materials for kids to scan the QR codes and complete the task. This was great the kids were actually working, as 4 and 5 year olds in the first 3-4 weeks of school. Sweet I was proving that kids CAN work independently. However the part about being leaders of their education was not so evident. So I went back to the students for feedback and ways to improve. All I got for responses were, “this is awesome,” “I love learning like this!” While these responses were good and made me smile, it did not give a why and how for the learning that was taking place. 

Over the next few weeks stay tuned to see more posts about how and why students were able to use QR codes and video to lead their personal learning journey.