Thursday, 25 May 2017

Developing in Digital Worlds - Online PLG

This term I am taking part in an online professional learning group called Developing in Digital Worlds. The focus of this group is on "Argumentation" and the importance of developing ideas and skills around argumentation in the classroom. The sessions are lead by Naomi Rosedale, Stuart McNaughton and Cynthia Greenleaf. Sessions are going to be fortnightly and conducted through Google Hangouts.

The objectives of this group can be seen here:

The opportunity to take part in this professional learning group could not have come at a much better time. I have only recently reflected on how I often see students both in and out of the class have a very "my side" bias and how the conversation of "thinking about others feelings and how you would feel if you had been standing in their shoes" has reappeared quite regularly the last few weeks.

After the first session, I realised how I haven't been explicitly planning lessons to teach students this skill. I had placed the expectation to students that they would always be conscious of the ideas and feelings of others, however had never demonstrated what steps they had to take, vocabulary that could be used and what this would look like.

A few nights of ideas wizzing through my brain and I came up with the following idea. I would pose students with the scenario that we would be receiving a class pet. There would be three options: Tim the Tiger (who no longer fitted in his cage and needed a new home), Elijah the Elephant (he has been living in Africa but is now on his way in a ship and needs a new home) and Bella the Puppy (she has lost her mum and needs to be taken care of).

The lesson began with us talking about what a good listener is - does not talk over others, listens carefully by thinking about what the other person has said, may ask questions about what they have heard to find out more. We also discussed that in the activity everyone might have different ideas and we are allowed to change our minds as we hear what others think.

Next I told the class we were getting a pet!

As you could imagine with a class of 25 six and seven year olds, the excitement erupted (only one student did not seem convinced that this was really going to happen...I let the other students believe that this could be a very real scenario as I did not want to dampen the mood!)

After I flipped over the images of the three possible pets and what their story was I let the students bubble with excitement, sharing with their friends about the pet they wanted. I then asked the students to sit in a group by the pet they think the class should choose.

Next I posed the following questions to the students (questions and responses can be seen in the slides below), giving each group time to discuss and then also time to share their opinion with the class.

I was blown away by the thought that had been put into some of the responses (especially concerns over Elijah damaging the iPads with water!). The students had really thought hard about what each option would mean for the class. Some students had even started to realise that maybe their pet was not such a good option when other groups pointed out concerns such as tigers getting aggressive or elephants being huge!

I could definitely not fault students on engagement and participation (some of my quietest students spoke up for the first time with many great ideas!) I did notice that students were still very stuck on their own opinion and would fight to get their choice regardless of others suggestions. Some students were not very focused when others were speaking, more so waiting eagerly to share their own thoughts. This will be an area I will need to look into more for the next activity.

Would definitely recommend having a go at argumentation in your class, as I learnt so much about my own teaching and the students in the process. Let me know how the activity goes in your class or any other suggestions you may have!

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