Changes foster focus at Bluestone

'It's a better teaching environment'

TRACY MILES
Last updated 12:03 26/02/2014
bluestone school
MYTCHALL BRANSGROVE/ Fairfax NZ

NEW WAY: Bluestone School has created a new set up for its new entrants which enables three teachers to take on different roles in a T-shaped open plan classroom.

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Bluestone School has knocked down the walls between three classrooms and the teachers have joined together to teach and manage the children.

The new "team" of new entrants, their teachers, and the open plan classroom, is called Te Tahi (number one) and is what is known as a modern learning environment.

Two teachers have uninterrupted, focused teaching with groups of children while the third teacher works with other students to ensure they are on task, principal Ian Poulter said.

Although there have been open plan classrooms in the past, now more thought is being given to how teaching is done in them.

"It's hard to keep all kids on task all of the time," Mr Poulter said.

"In a normal classroom there are many other possible interruptions ... someone coming into the classroom, someone wetting their pants ... someone's lost their lunch, someone's mother has just delivered their lunch."

While two teachers are dedicated to reading with groups, for instance, the third teacher is there to handle the interruptions and help the children working at "action stations".

Children choose the station they want to work at, whether drawing and making cards or learning about trucks and space.

With the potential for young children to lack focus, the third teacher not only keeps them on task but challenges them to think about why they are doing an activity, and what they need to do to improve.

Team leader Karen MacLeod, Georgia Jackson and Chelsea Jenkins circulate within the roles.

A suitable set of classrooms was modified during the holidays, creating one open T-shaped space, but with dedicated spaces for different learning activities.

New ottoman style furniture and a mini stage have been added to help shape the space.

The idea grew out of a visit to Wanaka School to see how the creator of the Action Stations programme, Laetitia de Vries, does things.

They came home inspired by the whole model of teaching they observed there and put a proposal to Mr Poulter and the board of trustees.

That was followed by another trip to ensure they fully understood how it worked.

Some children, especially at age 5, do not engage as well in independent learning, Mr Poulter said.

"In this system this is far less likely to occur ... they're not able to fall through the gaps."

All three teachers get to know the children. Some children respond better to some teachers than others.

"There are a lot of chances for kids to build strong relationships."

The quality of the relationships between a teacher and a child makes a difference to learning, he said.

"Any of us could name a teacher we liked or worked hard for. You could do it at any level, it's just that we saw a possibility for our new entrant children, coming from very varied backgrounds."

The set up allows for an easier transition from kindergarten, allowing choice while still offering a structured programme.

The teachers also love the new set up.

"As teachers we can pull together our different strengths to best cater for the children. It's a better teaching environment, the kids are getting a far better deal," Mrs MacLeod said.

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"I'm really enjoying it," Chelsea Jenkins said. Now she is able to teach uninterrupted.

The model is also supportive of the key competencies of relating to others, managing self and participating and contributing.

SOUTH CANTERBURY HERALD

- © Fairfax NZ News

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