This afternoon, Ms. Sherrow’s third grade class was given the opportunity to develop their ideas on several concepts that then lead to the central idea of their next unit of inquiry. These are some large IB terms to put into a sentence. But what Ms. Sherrow asked her students to do was to engage in developing the central focus of learning from their next unit of study. They discussed terms like location, natural resources and economic development. It was a powerful moment of learning for the students. And it was something that we see as important, allowing students to lead in their learning. This connection to content with purpose really allows students to feel more involved.

Ms. McNeils’ Pre K students were working in different areas of the room. Students were engaged in interactive play areas. As I walked in, three students were using puppets to perform stories. Other groups were working in small group with adults and others were cooking and building. Ms. McNeil moved to the door of the classroom and turned off the lights. All of these little four years old lifted their hands in the air. And then one student quietly stated that centers were over, he directed the students to clean up and move to the circle to sit. All of his classmates offered him a thumbs up and moved to their clean up task.

Walking into second grade literacy block, I hear teachers sitting in small groups with students asking questions that engage students in expressing their own ideas and explaining their thinking about books. Kindergarten teachers ask mathematicians to express their ideas of work, asking to agree or question. I hear many times as I walk into classrooms, “explain your ideas”, “express yourself”, “make a choice” and “what do you think”. I don’t remember this type of learning when I grew up. But I also see how important this type of learning is to our students. As an adult learner, these are the options I give myself. I choose books that engage me. I find people to engage in conversation about different topics. I visit museums that interest me. Why not ask our students to also own their own learning? And through this engagement, perhaps deeper learning will happen.

At Joyner, we develop students to begin to see what type of learner they can be. We ask students to be metacognitive in their learning. We want them to think about their thinking. We do this through developing questions or welcoming their own questions. We also give them the opportunity to own their learning. They have choice in producing their work through multiple avenues. Our teachers consider multiple ways for students to express themselves.

I enjoy seeing the movement of learning that happens at Joyner. I am impressed with the work that our teachers do with students and even more impressed by how our students engage in learning, calling it their own.