Free2Learn Fridays

learning1I’m not sure why the graphic you see here appeals to me, except that the overall shape looks like a brain to me…  I see individuals in a colorful, inviting place, on their own path, taking the time to explore and discover.   I want this to be my classroom!

Today was a pretty awesome day in 3rd grade…  The best part was that I had no idea what was coming.  It was entirely spontaneous!  In our Morning Meeting, we talked about what we were going to learn today, and a student asked me if we were going to learn about something that is not part of our studies.  This launched a wonderful discussion about learning that was too good to pass up…  I reminded them of a journal topic a while back, asking them to think about what they would like to learn.

I’ll admit here that I had truly intended to schedule some time for them to pursue these “passions”.  Unfortunately, things got busy, and it seemed there was never time to go exploring…  I felt I had to maintain a strict pace in our core subjects.  We never got to it.

Today we took the time.  We talked in more depth about the things they might want to learn that were not taught at school – The topics ranged from animals to authors to historic events to inventions…  I ignored my lesson plans, dropped everything, and got the laptops.

I can honestly say that I have never seen my students so enthusiastic about learning.  The freedom they felt to explore any topic was overwhelming at first, but soon they felt like they could tackle anything!  They quickly learned how to follow links from kid-safe search engines, and were off and running.  I walked around and saw a Roald Dahl website, a video about flying cars, a National Geographic site on monkeys, a math game using coins, biography information on soccer player Steven Gerrard…  Kids started getting up and checking out what others were finding, then going back to explore.  Before I knew it, over an hour had flown by and it was almost time for P.E.!  At 10:30 I delivered them to P.E., and collapsed in my desk chair exhausted, yet exhilarated.

This prompted a decision to formally incorporate student-driven learning into my curriculum, now known as “Free2Learn Fridays”!  For one hour on Friday morning, we will take the time to explore and learn.  Students will be held accountable, and will be asked to share or write about what they have learned.  I showed them my Diigo page of bookmarks, and we’ll learn to keep track of their favorite sites on a class Diigo account.  So cool.

The fun didn’t end there.  When I picked the kids up from P.E., I found them in small groups on the gym floor.  I soon found that our P.E. teacher had charged them with creating a game!  They were busy recording the materials needed, rules for play, and other important information.  When finished, the groups had to take their “proposal” to the P.E. teacher and explain their game.  They will get to try the games and make any necessary modifications.  The final game rules will be published and kept for them to play in class.  What a great creative activity!

I’m excited about these great steps we are taking.  This quote I found sums it up quite nicely:

“You can teach a student a lesson for a day; but if you can teach him to learn by creating curiosity, he will continue the learning process as long as he lives.” ~Clay P. Bedford

10 thoughts on “Free2Learn Fridays

  1. Practically a perfect day! Reading this blog made me so miss my days of teaching! I love the class Diigo page . . . a great perpetual resource that will grow with your class and with your students for as long as they continue to experience that thrill of exploration, discovery and networking! You are creating a year of learning that your students will never forget.
    Can I come join your class?!

  2. Patti – what a great testament to giving up time and getting powerful learning. This would make a great PLP guest blog sometime soon!

  3. So what if you now took the PE game and made it into an online game or used voice thread to get others to add their 2 cents to how the game should be played. Then maybe have playoffs between kids in other places who responded to the game creation in VT. Flip Cam the playing of the game. Compete and do a Google spreadsheet score card. Think of how to move along the connected continuum.

  4. HOORAY PLPeep! Patti, what a great idea! I’m going to use it to bump up my reading instruction. I’ve being trying to offer kids choices in selecting guided reading group books, but I think this time I’m going to give everybody the opportunity to learn about the topic of their choice and integrate my reading skills into conferences about their learning.

  5. Pingback: Powerful Learning Practice, LLC » Blog Archive » Free 2 Learn Fridays

  6. Patti, this is so inspiring. I love how this all developed so naturally, and how you have now encorporated “Free2Learn Fridays” in to your weekly schedule. Also love how you have a class Diigo page. Fabulous!

  7. Thanks, all! I am so pleased with how it is going. The kids are getting more and more independent each week, and are going home and doing research there as well! Just the concept that they have control over their learning, and can go find answers on their own has given them a great deal of enthusiasm. Now if someone asks a question in class related to a topic we are studying, someone will say, “We can research that on Friday!” 🙂

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