Active Learning – Are you the BULL or the MATADOR?

Active Learning - God what a battle!

You just want kids to do something without groaning.  You know that effective teaching needs active learning. But sometimes you feel like the bull. A lot of charging but getting nowhere fast. And you know where the bulls end up. Spanish burgers!

So which one are you? The bull or the matador?

Don't get me wrong. I hate bull fighting. It is the most cruel, disgusting sport there is. But it makes a great analogy.

The classroom environment.

Seating for active learning.

Seating really has an impact on the classroom environment. The problem for relief teaching is you have to move the tables and chairs back to where they were.  But if you are prepared for that minor disruption, it can make a difference.

There are basically 3 options here.

1. Sit the kids in their desk, all facing the board.

  •  Minimal student interaction, not suited to active learning but the classroom environment will be calmer.
  • Caters well for effective teaching if keeping the kids quiet is a goal.
  • I use this for heavily controlled teacher directed instruction.
  • It is the least preferred option for active learning.
  • Definitely not suited to peer tutoring as you have to unsettle the whole room to create working groups.

2. In groups.

  • This is a great classroom environment for group work. It is easy to communicate with peers, so peer tutoring is possible. In fact this is the best arrangement if your teaching strategies caters for a lot of peer tutoring.
  • Most suited for peer tutoring and discussion in maths, language, girl friends, last Saturday's football match, Justin Beiber's hair style is certainly easy with this structure.
  • Keeping the kids on task is a full time job.
  • I use this for the lower end teaching strategies and activities where chatter won't interfere with effective teaching. (Art, construction, investigations).
  • Invariably some little miscreant will find himself sitting by himself because he can't control himself - or rather, your teaching strategies enable too much active learning from HIM.

3. In a horseshoe shape.

  • This is suitable for a range of teaching strategies which have active learning as a focus.
  • Teaching strategies which require participative discussion matches well with this classroom environment.
  • I love this for the day-to-day learning activities. I like two or more u shaped  lines.
  • Peer tutoring is just a matter of tuning around to face the row behind, class discussion is easy as everyone can see each other, shut up and face the board teaching strategies are catered for nicely to.
  • Yep! This is pretty much my favoured classroom environment for active learning.
  • So be the matador and control your classroom environment so it suits the teaching strategies you want to put into place for active learning.

 Active Learning in Writing.

The effective teaching matadorPower Writing is a comprehensive relief teaching opportunity and a great strategy to keep in your relief teaching arsenal.

I like it because it takes the pressure off you and places it onto the kids. You are the matador and the kids are the little bulls.

You are turning and cajoling them. The success of this activity is determined by your matadorial skills.

I start my relief teaching day like a bull at a gate (imagine the bull just being released into the ring) rather than a red caped matador, so I keep this for after lunch time when my energies are lower. (Hey, I miss my Poppy nap when I work!)

I have used this strategy often with middle to upper primary but it could suit high school students.

I built some handy resources to support this activity and I have included these Relief Day 2.

Relief Day 2 - A day of relief teaching

I have also included a well mapped out strategy to get this off the ground..

In essence, you fire the kids up and get them to write uninterrupted and quickly in spurts. I find 3 minutes spurts sufficient.

In Relief Day 2 I explain this in-depth but in essence the kids are presented with motivational images and are powered into writing by your relief teaching matador cape!

It really is effective teaching at its best and definitely one to keep in your relief teaching bag of tricks.

So which am I?

Active Learning Are you a Bull or a Matador

I love to start off as the bull. Enter the classroom to the cheers of the crowd. Stamp and stomp and dare someone to take me on.

And them, when the time is appropriate, I become the matador cajoling active learning, leading students to engage here and there.

Are you a bull or a matador?

 

 

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(4) comments

Jacob T

The horseshoe shape teaching strategy sounds like a wonderful way to teach children, but I have to admit it’s little out of my comfort zone. I had a wonderful teacher in high school who had a very distinctive way of teaching. Our first class started like any other classroom, but then as we started getting more comfortable with each other and him, he started to put us in groups and at times we’d line up all our tables on the walls so could encircle him sat in our chair only while he spoke. Your article brought back some fond memories and it also made me realize that I can try to be a little more inventive with my teaching.

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    Bob

    That’s great Jacob. Isn’t it fabulous that we remember the best parts of our schooling so fondly? I now see quite a few U shaped class patterns. Certainly, more than previously.

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Carter

This really gives me lots of ideas to try out in my classroom, but do you think it would be better to slowly get my students to get used to the new type of class? Or should I just go ahead and try the U class right away. I can think of situations that would be more suited for group classroom and some for the U classroom, but I guess what I want to know is if I should get their feet wet to the new environment with a smaller, and maybe more comfortable setting of a group.

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Bob

Great comment Carter. You are perfectly correct about matching the seating to the situation. I would move to the situation which best suits your teaching eg. If you want a whole class discussion where kids respond to each other, move into a U straight away and start your “discussion” lesson. It won’t work if you move into a U shape but continue to teach from the front and discourage talking all the time. A very thought provoking comment. Thank you.

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