Recently I was invited to join the 'Dynamically different classroom project' hosted by Janet Evans and Claire Gadsby. If you know me, you will know that I *love* a project: especially when my wonderful friend, and project partner in crime, Jane Hewitt is involved. We thrive in the face of adversity and play with the red tape put in front of us for our entertainment as a learning skipping rope. Jane has always been a massive influence on me. I've been taught to question...Where in the curriculum can this fit then? I've come to realise that teaching and learning is at its best when you feel something. The first dynamically different project meeting opened with a quote by the inspirational Maya Angelou that really resonates with me now and seems to have done so on several occasions throughout my professional career and personal experiences.
“People will forget what you say and forget
what you do, but they will never forget how
you made them feel.” Maya Angelou
I suppose that this quote has become my mantra. I repeatedly come back to it. I want Learners to feel something when they are in my lessons from the feeling of being stretched by challenge or curiosity to awe and wonder stuff.
Learning tacos filled with knowledge.
The brief I was given from Janet and Claire was to craft two dynamically different techniques into my lesson. They needed the photographs to illustrate the book they were writing called Dynamically Different Classrooms. There was an enormous selection of techniques to choose from such as to make a WAGOLL and WASOLL working wall.
Jane decided I should be the one to trial Balloon Burst and Helium Hideaway!
I was timetabled to teach a year 8 Nurture group P5 on a Wednesday. We were learning about the landscape artist Henri Rousseau. The challenge was how to authentically get the techniques into the lesson with discernment due to the complex needs of some of our most vulnerable learners. There was a lot of below the iceberg planning that went into this one. Would the sound of the balloons bursting scare them? Would they be able to touch the balloons? Would it be too over stimulating for them? Lots of questions as to why this project could potentially go wrong. It's at this point that what I've learnt from Jane kicks in. Some people would decide that there are too many factors that could go wrong and therefore it shouldn't be done resulting in another boring lesson. Instead, being influenced by Barnsley Teaching School Alliance and the likes of Hywel Roberts, Jane Hewitt, Kate Davies and Dave Whitaker I made it my business to remove any barriers and put measures in place to go ahead. I met with the learners before the lesson to find out the answers to my questions. They decided that it would be OK if a balloon burst but only if they were told when it was going to happen. Job done. My creative imagination went into over drive. Learners entered my room through overgrown vines, there was the sound of a tropical storm playing through the projector.
Dynamically Different Teaching Techniques
technique 1 Balloon burst
The "Balloon Burst" involved having several balloons in a net with instructions/challenges etc written on them.
I wrote keywords on such as the name of the artist, painting, words to describe, dates etc. and it became a knowledge gathering exercise. Some words were relevant but not all.
The balloons were fired into the air. They had to grab one and work collaboratively to decide if their word described the painting 'A Tiger in a Tropical Storm' or not. If they decided that they had grabbed some knowledge they then wrote it on the Wonderwall, a wall to share wonderful learning.
The other, "Helium Hideaway" technique involves helium balloons set at different heights with luggage tag style instructions attached to the strings. My first idea was to have these on tables so that the table then became the basket of a hot air balloon that floated above the jungle canopy, however I simply didn't have enough time. Instead the helium balloons were an extension to the knowledge gathering exercise outlined above.
The photo bottom left shows Theo who has made a den in the classroom to seek shelter from the tropical storm.
The main learning phase was to use the knowledge we had collected to create a collaborative piece of art in the style of the artist Henri Rousseau. I had learning stations set up around the classroom and learners opted into the preferred task. We needed a tropical stormy sky, an animal stalking its way through the jungle looking for its prey and a tropical jungle backdrop filled with exotic flowers and plants.
The display became the demonstrate phase of learning and also a place they could call theres in the future lessons they would spend in there. It was meaningful. It was beautiful. It was a celebration of their knowledge.
This is why I love teaching. Sometimes you have to take risks. Would Ofsted have loved this lesson? Not sure. But I know that the learning that happened here was important and that I felt something and hopefully they did too.