We feel that it is very important that strong and positive relationships are developed between all of our students as well as between the students and the staff members who work with them.
We spend a significant amount of time at the start of the year doing activities designed to help build healthy relationships and teach effective relationship skills. We consistently spend time throughout the school year to reinforce and renew our relationships with each other.
We have found that negative relationship issues like bullying diminish dramatically and often completely disappear as a direct result of all of the work that we do one building and maintaining positive relationships in our class.
Our students have indicated that the sense of belonging they feel in our classroom makes everyone feel accepted and glad to be at school. Our students are more engaged in their learning because of their relationships.
We believe that teamwork, leadership and relational learning are important skills and tools for every single student in their future personal and professional lives. ‘Works well with others’ is a highly sought after career skill. We teach it.
We work on communication skills, learning how to use strengths and weaknesses, developing presentation and decision making skills, learning risk management, and working and learning in teams.
The students work in learning teams where they are expected to help, teach, and work with each other. We work on a series of group work and initiative tasks throughout the year that are designed to explicitly teach the skills of working together.
Our students have shown us that they are more likely to be engaged and motivated when working with others and they often learn better from their peers as they respect peer knowledge more than any other at times. Our students have described how their learning teams help them every day.
We feel that being able to choose and have independence is important because throughout your life you will have to make choices all the time. This means that our students are treated as adults with lots of opportunities to make choices, make mistakes and deal with the natural consequences.
Our students are guided through a progression of bigger and bigger decision throughout the year and given opportunities to be independent in as much as possible every single school day.
It has been our experience that the more choice and independence our students are given and the more experienced they become with it, the more prepared for future education and real life they become.
Our students have clearly stated that they are more engaged in school and the learning we do because they have more control over what they are learning and how they go about it.
We feel that using student and teacher developed criteria to assess our work rather than marks or percentages, student involvement in the report card and learning from feedback and mistakes is important because it reflects the real world more accurately and helps our students learn more effectively.
Our students receive a criteria checklist for almost everything they do in our class so that they are completely aware of the expectations before they begin a project. Our students are encouraged and guided through feedback cycles and deadlines so that they are able to consistently improve things before the final deadline.
We have seen the quality of academic work improve dramatically as a result of timely and constant feedback. We have seen our students learn how to effectively and accurately assess themselves and others. .
Our students are more engaged in learning and in school because they are not focused on a mark. Instead, they are focused on the work and how they can improve it and make it as effective as possible.
We feel that being hands on and doing things instead of just learning about them, spending as much time outdoors as possible and learning in the best place at the best time is important because it better prepares students for the real world and it helps many students learn and remember more effectively.
We avoid lectures and notes and focus most of our teaching on getting the students to do something and through doing, learn all of the required curriculum. The less that we do and ‘teach’, the more our students do and learn.
Teaching this way liberates the teachers from having to do everything and puts more of the onus on the students which results in the students being more involved in their learning and remembering what they learned.
Many of our students have told us that they are way more engaged by hands on learning and being outside of the classroom. They feel that it is easier to stay focused and to do the work required.
PROJECT BASED LEARNING
We believe that doing long term and real life projects with integration of multiple subject areas is important because teaches skills, behaviors and ways of learning that more accurately reflect real life.
Our students are given projects to work on of ever increasing challenge throughout the year prior to any teaching taking place. This allows for greater differentiation of academic subject matter as those that require further teaching, approach and ask for it. The choice that exists in every project allows for more relevant connections to be made by each student.
The effective use of PBL allows our students to learn multiple subject areas within the context of one project. Projects mirror the real life fact that our adult world and jobs are not divided up into subject areas.
The student engagement around relevant projects is evident through the excitement, productive noise, absorbed silence, demands for more time to work, and final amazing products that are created. PBL works.
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