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7. Preparing for the presentation to the client

We're almost at the end of term now and it sounds like you are still getting plenty of buy in and interest from the children in the class, Miguel?

Engagement is not a problem. Every time I think I'm going to lose them, I just say 'are you ready to get into your groups?' and off they go." Sharing the 'work in process' with the Voki of Grace was a really useful way to check in with the overall purpose.

That's great to hear! I've really enjoyed seeing the photos of the children and work and hearing how committed they are to getting their ideas across, whether that's through writing or speaking. Today we discussed a possible tension which can arise with written work .... With children so pushed for time, and focussing on the CONTENT rather than the FORM or POLISH of their writing, how can a teacher scaffold the children to ensure their written work is edited? You mentioned that it's been fairly rough quality so far? What are you seeing in the writing - can you expand on that?

I have found it difficult at times to allow them to run away with their ideas at the expense of writing to a good standard. I don't want to be marking their punctuation or spelling. I want their ideas.

I do understand the tension for a teacher where the 'quality' of writing is being seen the thinking behind it rather than in the quality of presentation or accuracy or neatness. I guess, given the choice, I'd always prefer to emphasise the thinking. But there is still room for polish and accuracy. This can be framed within the imagined world (our client expects polished work - we are professionals) or it can be addressed in the 'real world' of the classroom, if you use the rough writing as the basis for a 'literacy' lesson on editing. I'd always be asking, does polish and publishable quality matter for the commission, if so, insist on it. If not, it's OK to teach that sometimes we use scruffy writing for processing stuff. Be interested to hear how you decide to address this issue Miguel?

I love the idea of making the quality of the writing part of the drama. What I have learnt this time round is that most of the learning that they do can be done with the Mantle of the Expert on their shoulders. Next time I will make the quality of their work a part of the drama world so that it is up to 'professional' standard. We could have incorporated an editing lesson into the unit as part of the company's professional development program. There isn't enough time this time round...learning curves...

The other thing we talked about today was a question about whether children having a deep learning experience and them realising what they have learned. Tell us about how this came up Miguel?

Yes, I have been struggling a little with my teacher voice/guidance/influence. When the students were practising their FFs I went around questioning "so - what's all this got to do with our term theme of Identity?" and they couldn't answer. Eventually I pushed it. "Where's the identity in this story? What has identity got to do with the Adze?". Stumped. "Whose identity does it have?". I had to quietly ask over and over...forcing myself to be silent. It was so hard! Eventually - they replied "Whoever is holding it?'. They talked about the Adze holding the spirit of the person who owned it, taking on the values of the family or tribe that held it or representing something so powerful that people were prepared to die for it.

This shows they are doing some deep thinking. It also shows how crucial it is for the teacher to ensure the children bring that thinking into their consciousness. Well done you for realising that and making sure it happens!

That's it...I've been feeling that, right now, they are happily engaged - the next step is to make the meaning clear in their conscious minds. But I've been struggling to do this without stealing the learning from them. I want THEM to come to their own realisations, not me TELLING them what it all means.

You've identified something really important about Mantle of the Expert there. It's easy to forget that reflection is one of the core elements in the fun of all the doing.  But deep reflection needs to happen - including back in the "real" world where we stop and make connections and check in with what all this means for us. I think it's perfectly OK to do this overtly. By asking questions like, "so what's all this got to do with us?" "Are there connections to our school wide topic of identity?" or "If the principal came in now and asked us - could we tell him?" Not all the learning in mantle of the expert has to 'creep up on them'.

Hoorah! - I was feeling the lack of this and it's great to know that reflection is not cheating!

It reminds me of that quote from John Dewey: "We don't learn through experience, we learn from reflecting on experience".

...Or Dorothy Heathcote when she was talking about spending  "One minute in (the imagined world), five minutes out (reflecting and talking about it)!" Hey - how come I can still remember that quote?

Because you're brilliant? And maybe when you were at Uni I made sure you had opportunities to reflect on it!!

Hah! - I'm better than I thought and it's all your fault!

So where to from here?

There are only three days to go. The main priority is to finish this, bringing it to completion, their engagement and energy needs to be valued and rewarded with a meaningful closure to their learning journey. The Principal is coming in (representing Mr Jackson Mana (the owner of the company) and a few other teachers have said they'd like to come and watch, representing the local Iwi.  I want it to be amazing - because I want people to really 'get' what Mantle can do. I also know that someone is going to ask, 'what have you learned?' and 'how does this tie in with the theme of identity?'...

You could possibly ask the students in each group to create a 6 word poem to summarise the theme of identity. 6 word poems are great for adding instant dramatic effect, and encouraging participants to think about the essence. Fewer words = deeper meaning. Let them find the words to describe identity in their freeze frame.Then you could read this over the freeze frames as they are performed. This will also add a theatrical element to the sharing.

We will definitely do that. I'll get them to come up with six words each to describe the identity in their FF and we will choose the best six for each group so that all are represented. Overall the work we've been doing with the freeze frames has been so good. They have really gotten into the acting of it, interrogating the visual language and honing the language. Last lesson we asked one of the groups if they wanted to share what they had so far so that we could dissect their work and give them some constructive criticism. They ALL wanted to! We chose two groups and we picked apart each feature of their work. So good to hear the childrens' ideas and their advice for their peers.

                             So good :)
   Such drama!

We talked about a couple of other strategies that can also help with interrogating the freeze frames - and might be used in the final sharing too. I've listed them below - perhaps you could take a moment to describe how they might be used, in case anyone reading wants to give them a go:

We'll do all of these next time!

* Pointy finger.

"Point to something in the FF that is telling the story particularly well". This is a great way to let the kids find the best examples of the FFs and share their opinions why. Then maybe use it themselves next time.

* Voices in the head.

"Go and stand next to someone in the FF, copy their body shape and then tell us what YOU think is going through their mind". Same as above but more hands on and this tactic may bring up different ideas from one person to the next. It shows that there are different ways to interpret the same's all in the eye of the beholder.

* Heathcote's five powerful questions:
1. Who are you?
2. What are you doing?
3. What are you thinking? (Not the same as what are you saying?)
4. Who taught you this?
5. What should life be for one such as you?

V: Oh wow - I've just noticed those five questions have heaps to do with identity...! That's handy!

I know right! This questioning will really lead to deeper learning and reflection. I can't wait to put it into action...the rehearsing continues...



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3. The opening sequence

Viv says:

Last time we talked, we looked at a possible sequence for the opening few sessions. I'll share this outline here but I bet things changed in practice, right Miguel?

Yes they did :) We also had much shorter lessons than anticipated and fewer lessons due to school closures and meetings. That's ok though as I am enjoying the challenge of fitting in the MOTE whenever we can, and I have been excitedly saying things like "hopefully we will have time to do some drama later?" Yay!

Suggested sequence was:

1. A warm up on preparing to play / imagine through the "Scarf game" (kind of like the object transformation in this link)

This went swimmingly. The kids first co-constructed the requirements for a safe drama environment and then agreed to honour them for their classmates. They enjoyed the scarf game and they were pumped to get started.

2. A trading game activity on the question "what is identity?" (Trading game described here by Brian Edmiston)

10. Responses and Final Reflections.

Phew! All done, what a ride! I think it took us 7 weeks all in. Considering the amount of upheaval that we experienced, we did a great job. What I wanted to prove most of all was that YOU CAN DO THIS. In a very short time. I'm a 2nd-year teacher struggling to get my program together...but won't I always be? Yes, the cross-curricular work was not to the best standard but that was through my inexperience. I now see that I could EASILY have improved the standard of the work by either:

making the quality of the work PART of the Mantlehaving some forethought about my core subject teaching, and theming that work according to the topic and our focusMy MOTE was very separate from my core subjects. This needn't/shouldn't be the case. I did this because it was the first term and there was too much going on with assessment and class setup and what not. Next time I will integrate the MOTE story across the curriculum. It's easiest to do with art but making it part of literacy an…

2. Planning discussions

Viv says:

We began our journey with several planning conversations in January / February. Here's some of the background information we discussed in those meetings.

Who are the learners?

Intermediate age children in New Plymouth schoolVery 'willing' class who have already established strong relationships with each otherSchool wide inquiry topic for the term:  Identity Client, commission and responsible team selected: The class will be positioned as a team of museum curators commissioned by the local council to investigate a traditional greenstone Adze found by a builder digging in a local park. Note: Miguel made the very sensible and pragmatic decision to adapt an existing plan he'd experienced himself as a student at university. He could see how that resonated strongly with the required topic of 'identity'. 

Possible curriculum tasks emerging: Investigating the original purpose, meaning and manufacture of Adzes in Māori culture. Exploring why this Adze might have been …