PBL · Uncategorized

Week One: Welcome to a Curious Community

The first day of school is always my favourite. The first day of 2017 was particularly exciting as I had the opportunity of re-meeting my Year 8 Homgroup for the year, who are also the first labrats cohort of students to experience my school’s new Middle School program.

Our Approach

For a full run-down of exactly what our school’s new Middle School program is, check out my page on The New Approach. My team and I are tackling Term 1’s theme on Community from a metaphorical angle…

Ever wonder what your place would be in stories like Harry Potter, Star Wars and Adventure Time? Imagine a whole new world where you are in charge of creating this! Explore how fictional communities parallel the real world and how you can craft your own productive and sustainable community. Investigate community values through fictional examples, get sorted into fictional worlds, then create something bigger and grander by making your very own fictional community. How would your community look like if you were able to design it yourself?

Basically, we’re using Harry-freaking-Potter as a teaching context.

The Planning

Unfortunately, the majority of our planned planning did not occur like we thought it would. While we had set our goal, essential questions and projects for the class, we started our first week chasing our tails in regards to details. Realistically, I don’t think it would’ve happened any other way.

The positive thing was that we did still meet + plan as a team. Thanks to the redesign of our timetable, the lack of after-school meetings meant we could actually get together and hedge out the lessons, task delegation and focus for the week. Using google drive and google classroom has been essential – I honestly can’t think of an effective alternative to collaboratively plan and teach.

While we have an overall plan, the agreement has been to keep our weekly focus throughout the term… flexible. I won’t go into details now, but check my Week Two post about why this has been crucial for the actual success of our learning points so far.

The Lessons

As any teacher knows, the first week for first-year-high school students is largely about introductions, school tours, and expectations. Myself and my teaching buddy avoided slipping into the usual routine by immediately removing the dividing wall between our classrooms to create one giant room of 46 stunned 13 year olds.

It was important for us to set the right expectations – that learning as a community means working as a community – in ever-shifting groups under a range of circumstances through a variety of challenges. The best of which, have been:

The Sorting – students create accounts for Pottermore, get sorted into their Hogwarts House, and discover their wand and Patronus. These, in addition to ability and readiness, are the basis for a variety of ways we can ‘group’ our students.

The Scavenger Hunt – find the Wellbeing Office, find the canteen, where’s the gym…. the usual getting-to-know your-school features… however I had

a) accquired a Sorting Hat to randomly sort students into teams

b) hidden 4 Hogwarts House badges around the school, guarded by important teachers. Only those worthy of the House badge could retrieve it, and with only 4 on offer, it got competitive very quickly.

Those who did retrieve the pins came back and reported to the whole class with fantastic stories…

Slytherin enthusiastically described to our Year 12 Coordinator how they divulged their ambition to one-day become an Engineer, perhaps build and design buildings in Dubai… and what they had to do to achieve that. Not bad from someone in their third day of secondary school!

Ravenclaw clearly recounted how they had deciphered a riddle, found the lost book and returned it to our Learning Hub un-aided.

Hufflepuff humbly explained how they had comforted a friend in a time of need… coincidentally in front of the one teacher who had been holding the badge!

Gryffindor… well our fearless Principal had this badge. After two groups had already been turned away, the winning team boldly described how they had ventured into her office, graciously thanked her for her time, then asked how her Yoga lessons were going.

I can’t think of a better outcome for these students to get a sense of our school community than this, especially with so much support and involvement from others around the school.

The Quidditch Match – what better way to demonstrate the theory of a community than with a practical exercise?

Overall, the first week left our class of 46 exhausted!- but engaged and excited to come back the following week. And while those who know me will just say I’m always excited, my own end-of-week feeling was extraordinarily optimistic for the remainder of the term.


2 thoughts on “Week One: Welcome to a Curious Community

  1. Alison, great reflection and a wonderful way to kick off blogging challenge twenty17!!

    The success of our new MS approach is definitely dependent on the willingness of our teachers to be adventurous in their risk taking and flexible in responding to our kids needs, ideas and interests all the while time dedicating time and energy (both physical and emotional) to foster new creative and challenging learning opportunities for both us and our kids to immerse themselves in.

    I am so very grateful and super excited about the lead learners and edupunks we have in the team.

    #GoSlytherin :/


    1. I feel so grateful to be working in my PBL team and the community of teachers we have! You’d be pleased to know that Slytherin did well in their small group discussion about community exclusion today! ;;)


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