Renewed Focus in Session 3

Spark learners may have told you about some new systems we introduced in Session 3. There are a lot!

Each learner now has a small chart posted next to their picture on the main bulletin board. There is a different row for each day of the week. It looks like this: 

In that first column, learners add stickers for reading (red), writing (yellow) and math (green) as they complete them during morning work. There is also a column for the “Learning Game,” which is explained in more detail below, a notes section, and a place where they can record their guide meeting for the week.

There is a lot packed into this little chart and the goals are many-fold. In the most obvious sense, this is a tactile, visual way for learners to see variety in their work. It gives them a way to track and record their own progress. Crucial here is that they are excited to give themselves those colorful little vinyl dots. They decide what constitutes enough work in each area to warrant a sticker. It’s also a great way for guides to see at a glance which areas the learners are engaging in most and in which areas they may need more support. 

Parents can also help learners reflect at home and at exhibition with questions about the chart. “What is the challenging work you did this week for reading?” You might throw in a few observations. “I notice there are two learning game points on Tuesday and four on Thursday. I wonder why you learned more later in the week.” Or “Wow, you must really like math. I see green dots every day this week!”

Maybe you want to help them see progress. “I see that you started out giving yourself one sticker each day, but now are earning three stickers per day. I wonder what that means?” Or you might help them reflect: “I wonder if you like being in charge of your own learning.” “What do you want to do differently next session?” “How have your feelings change about learning this session?”

As a side note, we talk a lot in all the studios about doing challenging work. Work that is not too easy, not too hard, but just right. We visualize this in Spark with the ‘challenge doughnut’ above. We also tell a story about Goldilocks visiting Spark studio. (I wonder if they can recount this for you at bedtime this weekend?) The goal is to help learners find and stay in their challenge zone, a skill that will help them in the Discovery studio and beyond. 

Now we come to the second column in our chart. The “learning game” is inspired by Becky Kennedy in her book Good Inside. This is pretty straightforward–when you learn something new, you give yourself a point. There’s no competition with other learners, as everyone’s points represent different things to them. The goal here is to get the children to look out for opportunities to try new things that they’ve never done before, to step outside their comfort zone. There’s a notes section where they can be more specific about what the points mean. Did they have a new lesson that day? Did they master a drawer? Did they complete a really hard math work for the first time?

These new systems are in the trial phase. We’ll try different things in the studio, keep what works, and phase out anything that doesn’t. But in just this first week, we’ve seen them generate lots of engaging work. Interestingly, it has bred more variety than usual. They are writing more complex stories, sharing them, asking for new lessons from guides, and teaching each other new, creative things they come up with. We can’t wait to see what they do in weeks 2 and 3! 

One thought on “Renewed Focus in Session 3

  1. Good Morning!

    As a second year Acton, I love reading your blog posts! They always inspire me. Thank you for letting “outsiders” subscribe!

    As the founder of Expedition and the Discovery Guide, I feel fairly confident about what we are doing in the studio. However, about 3 weeks ago, I challenged my Spark Guide (new this year) to switch-up studio guiding with me once a week so we can empower our learners in both studios on their ownership.

    We talk about the Challenge Donut all the time in Discovery. However, it has not been launched in Spark. I plan to do this launch at the beginning of our next session and am very curious about, “We also tell a story about Goldilocks visiting Spark studio.”

    Would you mind sharing this story with me? Thank you for considering this request.

    Many thanks, Happy


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