3 min read

Barclass Day 1

Today was the first day running a Barclass. Based on the Barcamp concept, and led by Mark Osborne's Ignite talk - I had set about trying to replicate some of that powerful spirit of learning in my room. I was also inspired by attending Kiwifoo in Feb of this year, as well as some twitter taunting from @taratj. Tara is also rolling Barclass/camp in her room - make sure you check out her reflections here and here.

I set two rules for Barclass:

  1. You lead the learning
  2. You engage in the learning

Took away the vote with your feet rule, to bring some measure of structure to the sessions.

On Monday - the class were set some parameters, to design their own sessions to teach to fellow students. They had to consider:

  1. The content - what were they going to share
  2. The sequence - how would they share and teach it
  3. The resources - What space and materials would they need

I gave a time limit of 15-30 minutes per session. This would allow us to have 2 sessions before morning tea, then another 2 before lunch. Our afternoons this week are taken up with formal prep and getting ready for EOTC.

One thing I hadn't discussed, but which all of the students did, was they setup lists of max numbers that they wanted to teach. Most wanted their sessions to be no more than 6-8 students. They like groups - small groups!

Tuesday today, and after sorting the roll, we set to it. The class all voted to not go out for morning fitness, which is unheard of.  I had used paper and a vivid to lineup the time slots, then students volunteered the sessions they would run. Quickly added a blank piece of paper for students to sign up - reviewed the 2 rules - and let them go to it.

Session 1:
Netball Shooting and Defensive skills
How to bowl a cricketball

Session 2:
Hiphop dancing
How to use stardolls.com

Morning tea

Session 3:
Yoga / Aerobics

Session 4:
How to solve a Rubiks cube
Using Scratch
Waterpolo skills

"The boys were really good to learn from, because they were organised, and told you when you were doing things well"

"The girls timed things well, and we got to enjoy a game at the end - it was great."

"Is it time for morning tea - it's gone so fast"

Student leader: "You've got great skills - why aren't you playing waterpolo?"
Student: "Because I can't swim"
Student leader: "Oh... right"

It was a fantastic day, listening to students language as they engaged, and observing their interactions.  Students were focused, engaged, listening to instructions, joining in tasks and laughing as they tried new things.They were consistently positive, affirming, inquiring but also brutally honest. One student told the leaders of a session, that they weren't very organised so it made it difficult to learn.

That made me wince a little bit, thinking about my own organisation at times. It made me wonder why we don't have more spaces for them to be that honest though. Are we afraid of that honesty personally - or do our systems/curriculum and processes prevent that honesty being appreciated?

My role was one of observer, timekeeper and helper with managing spaces and bits of equipment. Sorted some breakout rooms, grabbed some Macbooks, checked that PE materials were available - just simple things. The students got all their own materials, or told each other what to get. I helped out as wicketkeeper so that the two boys leading that session could focus on the skills teaching. It was brilliant, and I thought I was doing a great job, until one of the students laughed at me and said "What are you squatting there for!"

It was a joy to watch young people leading their learning, and as a byproduct of that process being engaged, organised, relating to others, managing themselves, and participating. Oddly enough - all of those are the key competencies. They were blindingly obvious when using a barcamp model of learning. Are they that obvious in our regular classroom based practice?

And the planning for this process took all of 10 minutes of conversation with two fellow teachers, my personal experiences, and a belief that young folk really, really do like to learn.

Students in the two classes either side of me were constantly stopping outside our door to check out what was going on, and one of my colleagues stopped in this afternoon to check out what had been going on. Their comment was that their students were complaining about having to do book work. There was a real buzz, and I must admit to feeling a little sorry for those other students when I stuck my head into their rooms today - compared to mine, who were rocking, they looked deflated. Keep in mind that we're all at the tail end of the year - technically my students should be similarly deflated. But they were kicking it barclass style.

Tomorrow we continue, we have 8 more slots, and 6 more sessions. Students at the end of today were already asking "Can we do a follow up session, we didn't get to finish our sharing". It's funny how learning can be infectious.

This video to finish is of the Scratch session, majority of these students had never used the software, and the two students leading it are Y7 boys.

I had to laugh at the closing comment.


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