Since blogging (Pt1, and Pt2)about my efforts to create a framework to scaffold our negotiated projects I have worked with one group who produced a play for our Reception classes. Over the two week period we had a lot of time for reflection. Some of this was facilitated half way through execution of the project by the National College coming in to film what we are doing as a school around negotiated learning. Although this occurred in what would have been a practical session, it was actually really useful as it allowed us some time to sit down around a table mid project and reflect at length on how the project was progressing and how they could ensure it achieved its outcomes. The pupils were fantastic at this, even though we were being filmed, and my general structure for the planning and execution of the project seemed to make a lot of sense to them.
To be honest this framework had not progressed hugely since my last post on the topic, and is still fairly loose other than the phases of ‘Planning’, ‘Doing’ and ‘Sharing and Reflecting’. I originally intended to hammer out this framework myself and then present it to the pupils, but due to constraints on my time it has really slowly evolved in response to the needs of the pupils I have been working with. Today I was really glad that I have ended up approaching it like this because I stumbled on a great, but very simple idea.
We were working on a group session gathering lots of initial ideas for projects and were running into the recurring problem that the children have lots of interests but find it hard to frame these into a project they can plan. One group was throwing around lots of ideas about space such as black holes, other stars, life on other planets whilst the other was concentrating on mediums of expression such as clay work, powerpoints and podcasts. Whilst trying to help them frame these into projects I remembered John Davitt‘s (@johndavitt) ‘Random activity generator’, which I had had a go with in one of his workshop sessions at the SSAT primary conference last week.
Bascially this is a random generator which contains a large number of concepts, an randomly combines them with a long list of ways of expressing them to create cognitively challenging (and often wacky) challenges. Things such as presenting the history of weaving as a 20 second sound file, or expressing chemical changes as a stop motion animation. These are great for challenging children (and grown ups alike!), but what really grabbed me was the structure. The challenges are separated into two sections: ‘Do’ (containing the concept or knowledge to express), and ‘As’ (defining the medium of expression or end result). It struck me that this structure was exactly what my group needed to frame their myriad of ideas into achievable projects. Luckily I had a copy of the Generator iPhone app on me, and I explained it to them and showed the results. After generating a few random activities they soon ‘got’ the structure, and as a result found it much easier to combine their ideas and frame the concepts they were interested in learning about as achievable projects. In this case I want to remove the random element, as I really want them to define the ideas, but I can see this part of it being very interesting in other contexts.
‘Do x , As y’; a simple framework, but something I think could be a great addition to my structure for negotiated projects. This has really encouraged me that going with the children and developing the structure through their work is the way forward, as it needs to be simple enough to translate across year groups in the school, but powerful enough to allow their ideas to take their own course. I hated the idea of imposing structures on something so free, but I am glad that with some thought even this element can be defined in response to pupils needs.