For the last four weeks, my Year 6/7 class have been planning their own timetables. What started as a finishing off week during Week 10 of Term 2 has turned into something that has engaged students more than anything all year.
During Week 10, my students had a number of tasks that they needed to complete prior to school holidays. They were all at different stages, so I told them that they could plan their time in a way that would enable them to finish the tasks. They met up with other students that they were working with and programmed time together. They were on-task for the entire week and completed some great learning. Part way through the week, they asked if we could continue learning this way next term. During the holidays, I considered how this might look.
I started by programming everything that was locked in to set times: NIT subjects, Kitchen Garden, Literacy support, Building Maths, Buddy Class, Growth and Development, team meeetings, assemblies and Friday activities. This left most of Tuesdays and Thursdays free and a couple of lessons on Wednesdays and Fridays. I provided students with this timetable and asked them to program in their current projects, which ranged from designing and creating a teenage retreat to scale in Tinkercad, immersion in the ancient civilisations, reading investigations, personal learning investigations.
We trialled this, and whilst most students were able to plan appropriately, some students decided that they wouldn’t complete particular topics and would focus all their time on to one project. I also found that some projects were taking longer than expected and that students found it difficult to break each project down into smaller parts. I ran goal setting workshops – 10 students at a time – and we looked at how to develop a S.M.A.R.T. goal for each day. Students practised writing their own goal for the day and received feedback from their peers. This has now become a daily practice. I have also started adding timelines to projects, and I’m encouraging students to manage their schedules so that they are able to complete projects on time.
We still have a lot of work to do to ensure that we are making the most of our time, but the feedback I have received from students makes me want to work hard at ensuring this does succeed. I emailed my students with a link to a survey with five questions. Below are some of the responses I received:
- Do you prefer to plan your own timetable?
- 23 out of 24 students replied ‘Yes’.
- The one student who replied ‘No’ might have done so by accident. His/her response to Question 2 was, “Iike it because it enables you to prioritize your learning the way you want so it is eazy for you.”
- Explain your answer to Question 1. What is it that you like or dislike?
- All of the responses talked about having freedom to choose what they learned at what time of the day, becoming responsible and independent, and being self-managers. A few of their responses are below.
- “What I like about planning my own timetable is that we are allowed more time to finish work at school rather than have a whole pile of work to do at home. It also helps us to set our own goals which we can achieve, helping us to improve the way we learn.”
- “I like how we get to be independed and take control of the things we do and learn. I also like the idea of how we can have workshops if we dont know/understand one of the subjects.”
- “i like the idea of choosing what you want to do because we can become more self managable.”
- Does being able to program your own timetable help you to learn better?
- 23 out of 24 students responded “Yes”.
- One student responded “No”.
- Explain your answer to Question 3. How does it help you to learn better? OR How does it impact your learning negatively?
- The students that responded “Yes” talked about how they can focus their time on learning what they need to learn (rather than everyone learning the same thing at the same time), they can help each other with tasks as sometimes they learn better from each other, and they are being responsible for their own learning (rather than the teacher being responsible).
- “It helps me learn better because, let’s just say I’m already good at that task that the teacher has set for us, then I wouldn’t have to learn the same thing over again and instead I would be able to complete something new AND learn new information.”
- “It helps us to learn better because when we set our own goals we really want to achieve, it changes the way we learn, making it become more personalised, and the way our thinking process works, enabling us to focus and concentrate independently.”
- The student that responded “No” to Question 3 gave the following reason: “it is still the same learning as before except at different times.”
- What do you want me to be doing? How can I best support you?
- Students were unanimous in wanting me to float around and hold small workshops for those that needed help.
- “You can help support me by explaining to me and helping me when I’m stuck on something I don’t know. I also think that supporting one person at a time or a group of people that need help is more efficient than explaining to the whole class becuase sometimes a piece of people don’t understand but the other piece understands already.”
- “I think that you should wonder around the class and if anyone needs extra help then you can ask the class if anyone else is stuck on that thing.”
- “you can support me when i need a litttle bit of help i and i am stuck on something but its not to tell me the answers just to give me a bit of help.”
My next steps are to ensure that students continue to set S.M.A.R.T. goals, that they reflect on these goals at the end of each day, and that deadlines are being met. I will also schedule workshops to support students where needed.