The bean bag boy

17th May 2016 at 16:40

Subject Genius, Phoebe, The bean bag boy

The bean bag boy grinned and explained to me ‘that the beans inside the bean bag stops all of my voice coming out the other side’.  After our discussion about this phenomenon he asked ‘Can I write it down now?’

It’s a moment every teacher dreads. That moment when the lesson’s learning objective (LO)and child’s efforts do not match up.

We were doing science and I had got together all my resources along with the printed LO. We were going to look at materials and the ways in which they can be changed. For example, some materials can be twisted, pushed or pulled easier than others.  I introduced the lesson and off they went, except I noticed something. One of my more excitable boys was captivated by a bean bag.

I shuffled closer, aware that I didn’t want to disturb his concentration. At first he said nothing, but putting the bean bag to his mouth, he started to speak through it, breaking into uncontrollable laughter. Resisting the urge to move closer and remind him of my expectations for the lesson, I continued to watch from the corner of my eye. “Look, look it changes my voice!” he showed a friend, who joined him in fascination for this newfound discovery.

Normally you are only left with two options at that point. One, you change the learning objective, or two you acknowledge that for this child it hasn’t been achieved.  Or maybe there’s a third. You challenge the role of the LO in the first place. Is it the be all and end all of the lesson, or is it something more flexible? A springboard to jump off from, then reshaped when circumstances dictate. Otherwise aren’t you in danger of quashing moments of enlightenment because they don’t fit into your weekly plan?

Most of us start our lessons in the same way. “Ok everyone, make sure you stick to your learning objective”.  We go through the LO with the children; and if we’re really conscientious we explain the success criteria too.  But the learning objective is the easy bit. You type it up, print it off, chop it up and voila! It’s ready. In theory, everything should go to plan, that’s the whole point of being organised isn’t it?

Except when you’re faced with a bean bag boy. Taking away that child’s moment of achievement for a set plan that tells me what he should be learning didn’t seem like the right choice at that moment.

At the end of the lesson he stood at the front of the class and read them his work, his face beaming.  Had the learning objective been achieved? No, but something much greater had: his personal objective. In my book that is what makes for outstanding learning.