For the past six weeks, our Year 6 team have embarked on a journey of collaborative risk-taking, problem-solving and a whole lot of critical and creative thinking. We are piloting a new model for MYP 1 at our College called The Year 6 Learning Community.
The focus is on creating a program that nurtures the agency inherent within all learners through project-based learning, a strong focus on developing approaches to learning skills, and daily opportunity for reflection, self-assessment and personal goal setting.
We want to create the learning conditions for our students to become self-aware learners who can make thoughtful and considerate choices and act appropriately and confidently for their own learning needs. We want school to be a place of enjoyment that can inspire a love of learning and a community of independent and caring learners.
In order to develop this model we have had to work with two creative constraints:
- The timetable
- Compliance with all MYP subject requirements.
Let’s begin with the timetable. We knew that we had to work around our Middle and Senior School Timetable. The first step to jumping this hurdle was to assign a full-time team of teachers to the Year 6 Learning Community so the majority of the daily schedule can be flexible and needs-based. This full-time team has responsibility for the planning, teaching and assessing of the following MYP subjects:
- Individuals and Societies
- Language and Literature
We have a lovely, light-filled, open flexible learning space where this learning occurs. Our teaching team have strengths in these areas, for e.g., I come from a language, arts and design background, Katie comes from a sciences and mathematics background, Imogen and Nathan come from a PYP background and have experience teaching all subject areas, Susan comes from a language, arts and mathematics background and John and Balin (our just as valued and important .5-er’s) come from an arts, design and media background.
In addition to this full-time team of Year 6 teachers, specialist Physical and Health Education and Language Acquisition teachers also teach in the Year 6 area. Students head to the other areas of the College to engage in these subjects and during this time, our Year 6 teaching team collaboratively reflect and plan.
In order to create a weekly flexible schedule that meets the learning needs of our students and also adheres to the Australian Curriculum and the MYP requirements we chose to employ and create the following subjects:
- Morning Cafe: a Christian Studies, Visible Wellbeing and explicit approaches to learning skills development time
- Language and Literature
- World Studies: an interdisciplinary Sciences and Individuals and Societies learning area
- Creatorspace: an integrated Arts, Design and Christian Studies learning area (we are a Lutheran school and our Christ-centred mission is of utmost importance)
- Choose Your Own Adventure: a student-led project developed using the MYP projects cycle.
All these learning areas are connected through a single global context: Identities and Relationships. Next term students will choose which global context to focus on.
Rather than having multiple books for different subjects, students all have a process journal that demonstrates the process of learning. The process journal is a large scrapbook and students also develop online process journals in SEQTA Folios and Google Folders. In their process journal, students make the process of learning visible and are beginning to make connections within their process journal. In just six weeks some students have already filled 3 process journals. The idea is that by the end of the year they will have multiple process journals that can serve as a mini-exhibition of their learning. The process journal is where we as teachers also source evidence of learning.
Our weekly schedule is a flexible schedule that caters for meeting the MYP requirements and the Australian Curriculum requirements. Something to bear in mind, this is a flexible schedule and flexes based on student learning needs. The only two learning areas we cannot adjust are the Physical and Health Education and Langauge Acquisition times, as the teachers are locked into a timetable across Year 7 to Year 12. Our World Studies timeframe is flexible to an extent, however, this is also dependent on the availability and scheduling of our science labs. Everything else is flexible.
Students are at the point where they will choose when they want to focus on their Creatorspace project and their Choose Your Own Adventure project. They make these decisions based on the workshops available, the availability of resources and the decisions of those they are collaborating with.
Teacher-led Learning Areas
Our teacher-led learning areas are Morning Cafe, Mathematics, Language and Literature and World Studies.
Morning Cafe is a small group pastoral care and wellbeing approach each morning. Students form groups of 14 and are assigned to a Cafe advisor. A significant aspect of our program is to inspire a love of reading, so on Monday morning, we commence the week with a Cafe Book Club. Students engage in discussion surrounding what they are reading and using the TQE’s and the Harkness method engage in developing what we hope is a love of reading and sharing ideas. As students are new to the MYP, we are using the first term to explicitly unpack and teach the approaches to learning skills. Students make weekly goals for approaches to learning skills.
Mathematics and Language and Literature
Through the global context lens of Identities and Relationships, students engage in mathematics and language and literature lessons through a 10-day rotation. This includes one lesson per week in the library with the language and literature teachers team teaching with our Teacher Librarian. We have some significant literacy and numeracy needs within our Year 6 cohort, so we have extended this time to provide for deep learning and skill development, hence the longer lesson time.
At present, our language and literature and mathematics lessons are connected through the global context of Identities and Relationships. As we begin to develop students literacy and numeracy skills, the goal is to bring these two subjects together into an interdisciplinary subject that focusses on the idea that language and literature is the language of humans and mathematics is the language of the universe. By the second half of the year, these two learning areas will not be taught separately.
Our World Studies learning area is an interdisciplinary subject with a key focus on thinking skills. We want students to learn how to develop hypotheses, develop research questions and engage in both scientific and humanities-based investigations. We have this time blocked on the timetable as we use our labs and students are beginning to engage in experimentations and all sorts of lab work. The College Teacher Librarian plays an active role in this learning area in terms of research and academic honesty skill development.
Student-led and self-managed Learning Areas
The student-led project-based learning areas are Choose Your Own Adventure and Creatorspace. Teachers and students are developing workshops for explicit teaching of skills and interest areas. Students decide in our Morning Cafe time if they need to attend a workshop* and what workshop they need to attend. This model has been inspired by the Studio 5 model and we are so grateful for all they have shared on their journey.
A project-based learning approach is central to all teaching and learning in our Year 6 Learning Community. As a result, we have employed the MYP projects cycle and developed our own project cycles for the following learning areas:
- Choose Your Own Adventure
Creatorspace is an integration of Arts and Design objectives within a Christian Studies context. We have aligned the Arts and Design objectives and developed the following Creatorspace cycle:
Our Christian Studies focus is on Christ-centered service. Students determine an area of need that they can serve that is based on their interests and new skills they wish to develop within the Arts and Design areas. They then develop a Creatorspace intention. Independently and through the support of teacher-led workshops that involve explicit teaching and modelling, students follow the Creatorspace cycle to bring their Creatorspace intention to life. The process is made visible in their process journal and using this evidence students will be assessed using the MYP Arts and Design assessment criteria.
As students move into the creating stage of our Creatorspace Cycle, we will begin to invite students as experts from other year levels to coach and support our Year 6 students develop their skills and bring their Creatorspace intention to life.
Choose Your Own Adventure
Choose Your Own Adventure is a modified MYP projects cycle where students become project managers and we place a specific focus on the process of bringing an idea to life. Students independently follow the Choose Your Own Adventure cycle and experience explicit teaching of skills through workshops and one-on-one teacher conferencing. The process is made visible in their process journal.
This is not an assessed project as we want the focus to shift from teacher assessment to self-assessment and goal setting. Rather than assessment tasks, we will simply host pop-up exhibitions where students can exhibit their process.
The self-managed project-based learning approach coupled with workshops that involve explicit teaching and modelling of skills enables students to:
- Pursue learning that is of interest to them
- Experience failure and learn from this failure
- Develop as learners who think about their learning needs and make decisions accordingly
- Learn new skills and track their progress from a novice to a ninja (this is the language we use in our Year 6 Learning Community for self-assessment and peer-assessment of approaches to learning skills)
- Develop as project managers who can exercise their inherent agency.
We have carefully examined and addressed each of the requirements in the eight MYP subject guides to ensure that we are meeting the following requirements:
- We are employing the MYP key and related concepts, global contexts and approaches to learning skills.
- Students will be formally assessed, with evidence of learning in their process journals, against each criterion of each subject twice in an academic year.
- We report using the internationally-recognised MYP assessment criteria.
- Our approach is concept-driven and inquiry-based.
So far …
Over two evenings this past week, we hosted our Student-led Conferences and it was so lovely to see that after only five weeks, students were using the language of agency and demonstrating authentic ownership over their learning. There were honest reflections and goal setting. Their goals were clearly articulated and supported with evidence from their process journals. Parents are thrilled with the model, understand why we are taking this approach and are supportive because they can see how this project-based approach to teaching and learning is not only supporting their child’s growth academically, but they are holistically developing in a healthy and happy manner.
We are in the early stages and have much more to collaboratively develop. This has been an exciting and very big endeavour. The next step is to further distil the command terms and objectives and possibly develop a Year 6 Learning Community that is structured purely around the approaches to learning. For e.g., rather than having stand-alone or interdisciplinary subjects, create a communications learning area, a social learning area, a thinking learning area, etc.
The focus for our collaborative planning and reflection is on how we can best document the learning process, increased one-on-one conferencing between students and teachers and Year 6 students and students from other year levels, and guiding students in the process of reporting on their own learning. We want the reporting process to fully involve the students and be focused on reflection and goal setting.
* At the early stages of this Year 6 project some students often need additional support in becoming learners who can appropriately exercise agency. As a teaching team, we encourage students to attend various workshops based on their needs. For .e.g, a group of students were having a difficult time organising themselves but chose to not attend a Process Journal Organisation workshop. We know that they really did need this extra support, so nudged them in the right direction.