This article is a reflection on involving students in collaborative planning to develop learner profile attributes.
“I was caring because I took a two-year old to his classroom when he was in our play area. He could have had an accident,” said one of my kindergarteners during circle time. It was the beginning of an interesting and spontaneous conversation about applying the IB learner profile attributes. The students were motivated to share more examples and eager to learn from each other. While listening to them, I reflected on how easy it is for children to understand and develop some attributes and how many concrete and explicit examples they need to understand others. That is the case of the attribute balanced.
The IB offers the following definition for the attribute balanced: “We understand the importance of intellectual, physical and emotional balance to achieve personal well-being for themselves and others.” (IB learner profile, 2013)
What opportunities can we create for learners to see an attribute, to feel it and live it? How can they contribute in the learning and teaching of attribute balance? How can we intrinsically motivate students to develop an attribute so that they can make it their own?
These are questions that opened a reflection on the importance of developing a more student-centred learning environment. Through teacher collaborative planning, we reflected on how to set up meaningful learning opportunities where inquiry can also include learner profile attributes. However, it was our observations and engaging in student’s interactions that gave us important insights on the matter: What if they joined our collaborative planning every week? It would be an opportunity to see how balanced their suggested activities would be.
During our circle time on Thursday, we told the students we needed their help with activities for the next day. They were surprised and wondered if they could do any activity they could think of; we told them that they just needed to take into account our unit of inquiry (How people interact and care for the natural environment). The students talked to their partners, brainstormed ideas together and then shared them with the whole class. It was an active and interesting discussion where the students explained to each other how fun their ideas would be. After listening to their exchange of ideas, it was time to make one list with the whole class:
- paint on a big poster board
- make paper flowers
- make jungle leaf garlands
- play “musical chairs”
- write on walls
- make posters and write “do not throw rubbish on the floor.”
- make a cake
We noticed how intertwined their ideas and the central idea were. We acknowledged their collaboration and started sorting out their suggestions by using a graphic organizer. The web map helped them to see a variety of activities such as writing, art and recreation that can contribute to their understanding of being balanced. Through the activities, they were not only nourishing their minds but also their hearts. They noticed writing activities did not necessarily involve pencil and paper for them to learn to write; that art is not only about painting but also about making crafts and dancing. They were aware of how collective and individual activities could also be enjoyable.
The next thing we did was to brainstorm the resources we were going to need for each activity. While completing the list of resources, some learners proposed having the Friday class outdoors. They called it Fun Friday and when it arrived, students freely visited the areas and engaged in their suggested activities. That first Fun Friday gave the students the opportunity to have their voices heard through direct and active participation. In addition, it helped them to be aware of how keeping a balance of activities could strengthen their well-being, learning and growth. Furthermore, it gave us, the teachers, the opportunity to trust learners’ choices and help them to nurture their understanding of the learner profile attributes needed for building intrinsic motivation.
Many Fun Fridays have followed that day and every Thursday learners remind us to plan for it. Since then, they have developed positive attitudes towards learning activities, shared their points of view confidently, and supported balanced activities when choosing from a myriad of options. Now, students can confidently share examples of being balanced because they have experienced and enjoyed it.
IB learner profile: http://www.ibo.org/globalassets/publications/recognition/learnerprofile-en.pdf
Rossana Quiroz is currently teaching kindergarten at Fleming College in Trujillo Peru. She is passionate about providing opportunities for children to develop their innate curiosity and enjoy learning. She previously taught ESL in language centers and charter schools in the USA. She holds a TESOL certificate and a MA in Linguistics. She believes teachers should be lifelong learners, too, that show their students the way to make their goals come true.