How did the first week go? Reviewing the learning logs.

It took us over two hours after school to review each student’s learning log and record the data for a parent report to go home on Monday.  But it was enlightening.

The learning log is the mechanism for each student to play their day.  They write down what they intend to do in each 30-minute learning block.  When we started, we had a rule to reconvene the entire class after each block to plan the next one.  This took up so much time that it became a “problem” and the solution chosen was to plan the entire day’s learning during the first community meeting.  Our hope is that eventually this would be done by the student ahead of time, maybe even in consultation with parents.  Since another rule is that you have to stick with whatever you choose for that 30 minutes (and the class settled on the length of time based on their belief that they could all stick with something they wanted to do for 30 minutes), we had developed yet another problem of students erasing what they had chosen (be truthful being another rule).  Ultimately the procedure became that the learning plan was checked by a teacher.  Once everyone’s plan was checked, we were ready to go!  This process still takes a fair amount of time, but will become more efficient with practice.

The learning log then is a record of what was chosen and completed by each student.  At the end of the week, we tally (eventually the students will do this) the choices:  how many reading, math, etc. and how many non-academic, which has included such things as extra recess, chess, other games, and our personal favorites:  sleeping, chips & pop & chat.

Aside:  Yesterday, I was just walking through the room and saw one students watching two others playing chess.  Since it is a rule that what you are doing must match what you said you were going to do, I asked to see his learning log.  He had written “relax.”  He definitely was relaxing, and wasn’t interferring with anyone else’s learning.  So no “problem.”

The log also has the reset sheet.  If a student is breaking one of the established rules, they receive a reset.  This is simply feedback to the student that they are breaking a rule and there is no further consequence. Resets may be given by anyone in the class, teachers or students.  If someone gives a reset that you don’t think you deserve,that is a “problem” and can be addressed by calling a community meeting.  When giving a reset, the giver writes the number of the rule that was broken and their name.  Thus there is a written record of rule breaking.

The first thing we noticed was that nearly every student showed clear progress toward complying with the rules.  Most rules are broken during community meetings, where side conversations and other distracting behaviors slow down the meeting process.  From Monday to Friday, the number of resets received declined dramatically, in one case from 10 the first day to 1 the last day.  Students dislike these meetings and are realizing that they can solve a problem and get it over with more quickly if they just listen, talk one at a time, and get the job done.  They are feeling the wrath of their own peers if they do otherwise–taking teachers much more out of that behavior equation. (Hallelujah)

The second thing we noticed was that, as expected, most students chose more non-academic choices than academic ones.  This appears to be in evolution, with some students moving toward more academic time as the week went on.  In a few notable cases, the student is clearly totally focussed on achieving certain academic goals.  One student, who is quite good in math, worked diligently at writing math assessments.  Another student, who finds math a challenge, spent the majority of his time reviewing and practicing in that area. Most importantly, those students who were attending to their academics were not bothered or interrupted by those who weren’t.  There have been practically NO behavior issues during learning blocks, although transition times still need work.

So which is a better choice for a reluctant student–fool around and disrupt a required math class or spend a couple of hours totally engaged in playing chess?

We think the frequency of non-academic choices will wane as the novelty of being able to make those choices wears off.  We also hope that the learning report that goes home Monday will encourage parents and students to discuss these learning choices and perhaps make some plans together.  We are eager to see if there is a shift in this as the 2nd week progresses.

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