Progressive Classroom Activities (PCA) for August

For this month we have 4 classroom activities for you! From Dr. Seuss to Pacman, from green eggs to fruit salad, from Math to English, from preschool to the early grades…click on the links to check out the activities.

PRESCHOOL

EARLY GRADES

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“Creative Schools” should focus on these 8 C’s

I’m currently reading Sir Ken Robinson‘s latest book, “Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution that’s Transforming Education” and he sums up what schools should focus on with these 8 C’s. Forego ABC’s or forget the 3 R’s, these 8 C’s are the core competencies that children should be able to develop and wherein all curricula should focus on:

CURIOSITY: The ability to ask questions and explore how the world works

Remember when all we hear in the classroom is the teacher’s voice because we were told to keep quiet the whole time? The learning process is a 2-way street. Encouraging learners to ask questions in the classroom, deepens their curiosity and makes them more engaged in the topic being discussed.

CREATIVITY: The ability to generate new ideas and to apply them in practice

The most downloaded and watched TEDTalk is Sir Ken Robinson’s “How Schools Kill Creativity”. Let’s be part of the statistic and watch it because it sums it all up..

CRITICISM: The ability to analyze information and ideas and to form reasoned arguments and judgments

Schools should focus more on critical thinking rather than information. Robinson says that they should be data-driven and not data-informed. Kids these days are in the middle of information explosions. They are bombarded with so much information online and even offline. They need to strengthen their critical thinking to know how to make use of these data, how to incorporate it correctly in his life and how to determine the truth from fallacy.

COMMUNICATION: The ability to express thoughts and feelings clearly and confidently in a range of media and forms

Children should be able to communicate their thoughts and express their feelings well. They should also be allowed to express it not just in written and verbal form but also in other media like the arts, dance, theater, etc.

COLLABORATION. The ability to work constructively with others

Children are social beings and an important skill is for them to be able to work/play well with others. Bouncing off ideas with one another not only strengthens their social domain, but also encourages good communication and critical thinking.

COMPASSION: The ability to empathize with other others and act accordingly

Major behavioral problems like bullying, prejudices, and violence stem from the inability of a child to empathize with others. Together with Collaboration, schools should have a culture of Compassion all the way from teachers being able to understand the plight of their students up to students being sensitive to the needs of the people around them. A lot of times, Conduct is only based on how the child behaves in the classroom, during class. Conduct is how a child conducts himself whether the teacher is looking or not.

COMPOSURE: The ability to connect with the inner life of feeling and develop a sense of personal harmony and balance

There are a lot of cases these days of children going through depression, anxiety and severe stress. Children need to develop not only compassion for others but also compassion for themselves. Schools focus more on the outside world when there is an inner world that kids dwell in daily which is built by their ability to control, understand and connect their feelings with what is going on around them. Socio-emotional development should be as important as cognitive development which is why schools should have programs that encourage kids to digress, step back, assess and express how they feel.

CITIZENSHIP: The ability to engage constructively with society and to participate in the processes that sustain it

The progressive theorist John Dewey said, “Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.” Children should be sensitive to the current events of the world around them be able to understand and have an opinion on their rights, on the responsibility of government and the laws that protect them. Schools should not just talk about this in Social Studies but rather develop a sense of citizenship (not necessarily conformity) and love of country.

How a progressive curriculum is implemented OR Why playing Minecraft is a good example of the learning process

Okay, so I caught you on the clickbait. Bear with me. Minecraft will eventually appear on this post. In number 4 to be exact.

The scope of any progressive school is the same as any traditional school because we are all under the Department of Education. The department hands down a curriculum that guides schools on content. Then what differentiates the progressive school from all others when they need to follow the same scope? Actually , even progressive schools may have different APPROACHES on being progressive but the following are the general definitives on a progressive approach:

1. They maintain small class sizes. Even if there is a set scope provided by the Department of Education, the small class size allows the teacher to check out the individual strength and weakness of each child and can check if the class in general can assimilate the curriculum.

2. The teachers are given freedom to implement the curriculum based on class skill level. If they find a child that has difficulty even with a developmentally appropriate curriculum, the teachers recommend for a developmental-pediatric consult to rule out any learning disability. On the other hand, if they find that their students are ready for concepts in the next level, they are exposed to such concepts in class.

3. Activities are planned to make the curriculum more experiential for the students. Learning through experience is the Dewey mantra. If I ask you what you remember most in school, it is usually wrapped around a story.. “I remember the story of The Little Prince because  I had so much fun drawing the snake eating an elephant which everyone thought was a hat” or “I remember the order of the presidents because a teacher sang a rap song in class! Hilarious! ” I hardly hear anyone say, “I remember the poem that Jose Rizal wrote because of a Social Studies exam I studied for”!

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To learn road safety and traffic rules, these students went to a Child Safety simulation place for their Social Studies lesson on Community.

 

4. The teachers use creative ways to pique the interest of the students. So much so that the students themselves are interested enough to research on their own and deepen or advance the concept. This is crucial. Finland’s excellent education system is based on internal motivation. They create lesson plans that makes the learner more curious of the topic to willingly research about it on his own. Check out the kids who play the computer game , Minecraft. They know every detail of the game! This is because it piqued their interest, they researched on their own and they have a community of other learners to bounce off ideas with! Now if every school concept can be creatively planned like this game, more kids can enjoy the learning process more.

5. There is peer-to-peer learning or group work. As described, playing Minecraft is a perfect example in today’s children’s learning process. An important part of the process is peer-to-peer learning. Children playing any computer game, starting a hobby or reading a book, usually consults the internet for other children doing the same thing and they learn from each other! The student then becomes a teacher. And that is crucial in a progressive classroom — the opportunity for students to bounce off ideas with one another with effective mediation from the teacher. This is why progressive classrooms are set up with the opportunity to group chairs and tables together and group work is a major part of the lesson plan. This not only encourages peer-to-peer learning, it also strengthens the student’s socio-emotional skill of working well with others.

6. Their developmental checklists (specially at the preschool level) is revisited annually to check if the skills are still applicable to the current age level. For samples of developmental checklists, check out the National Association for the Education of Young Children. For the elementary and secondary levels, most schools follow a prescribed curriculum by the state. All have the same goals, the difference is in the method of achieving the goals.

Ultimately, the question is, do children who have undergone progressive programs reach their full potential? They do! I have witnessed all of our students go on to different secondary schools and one thing is common for all of them. Because we have encouraged their strengths and helped them with their weaknesses, because we molded the curriculum around them so they can better understand it, because there is a sense of trust between teacher and student, they have gone on and conquered whatever curriculum they are faced with, whether traditional or progressive.

Are the students in progressive schools having too much fun?

It is a common misconception that a progressive school is one big playground where kids are just playing all day, not memorizing enough info and are just too free… like wild animals in the jungle. Though it is tempting to make a huge playground for them to play in all day (because what’s wrong with that??), progressive schools defy the old adage that learning is not supposed to be fun.

1. There’s no structure. Every school curriculum has structure. There are class schedules and routines,  scope and sequence charts and developmental checklists. Without these structures, we cannot reach our goals. Why doesn’t it look structured? Because the teachers make sure that the schedules, plans and activities are holistic. There are downtimes, creative times,  and play time… things needed in a child’s school day.

2. The students are too rowdy and noisyI’m all for obedience but Im also all for being opinionated and critical thinking. I like it when my students air out their opinions. My only rule is that they are respectful when they do so. And most of it is probably just the students having fun!

3. They won’t be ready for REAL LIFE if they go on that way. According to Dewey, “Education is not preparation for life but life itself.” The lives my students are leading now ARE their REAL LIVES. Lives that children should be living. They do experience pain, heartache and the burden of work.. and we teach them how to overcome these obstacles and challenges by developing their confidence and self-esteem. But most importantly, their present REAL LIVES should also be defined with a love of learning, enthusiasm in school and enjoyment in the process. The author Haruki Murakami said that “Unfortunately, the most important things in life are not learned in school.” Progressive schools aim to change that.

4. Grades aren’t important to them. Grades are important. But you know what is more important? The love of learning. And you know what’s more important than that? A teachable heart. You don’t believe me? Okay. Here’s a study that proves it (and no, it wasn’t written in the olden days…).

5. They don’t learn anything. They just play all day. Our students learn a lot of things and they enjoy the process in which they learn them. They even review for exams using board games. Why? Why not?! Studies show that experiences make children remember information better. And what’s wrong with play? I’ve listed down life lessons children learn in the playground here.

While writing this post, I spoke to a mom who taught in a very traditional school for many years and the main difference she felt when she observed in a progressive classroom is the high energy level of the children to learn the concepts and the creative ways the teachers plan their lessons. So to answer the question ” Are students in progressive schools having too much fun?”, my answer is YES! Learning is supposed to be fun.

Hello to another journey in 2015!

The journey that was 2014 was long, hard and fruitful for me as a teacher. It opened up a lot of opportunities to be the teacher I always aspired to be. I am thankful enough to sit and list them down to give thanks and appreciation that by the grace of God, I was able to do all these in His name:

1. I think the most mileage I got to spread progressive education and family tips is when I co-anchored “Kapamilya Konek” in DZMM Teleradyo first with friend Maricel Laxa Pangilinan then with broadcaster Jing Castaneda. Now that I’ve decided to move on from the program, I can say that the experience awakened a part of me I never thought was inside me..being a broadcaster! Whoduthunk?! Although my husband always says it was perfect because I usually talked too much (haha), never did I think I would sit behind a booth and speak to thousands of people via radio and TV to talk about family issues!

The Kapamilya Konek team made a heart-warming farewell AVP that summed up my stay in the show 🙂

2. I had my almost TED-talk experience by speaking for HomegrownPH’s Women series. It’s hard to talk when you’re given only 12 minutes to talk about a topic I want to talk about the whole day, How to Educate GIRLS!

3. Our school, Nest, has grown into the progressive school I dreamed of having. Now on its 13th year, I believe our staff of teachers this year is the best we’ve ever had in terms of heart and talent! And this clearly shows in the students and families that they have taught during the year.

4. I, together with some Nest teachers, have been invited my several institutions to train them about progressive education and some have asked for us to help them out in their curriculum development. I’ve always said that I wanted to keep Nest as small as possible to maintain it being progressive and the this opportunity of sharing our knowledge to others was a surprise blessing and opportunity for us to spread the advocacy to other schools instead. Shoot us an email at teachertinazamora (at) gmail (dot) com, if you want us to visit your school or institution.

5. Another collaboration I did with fellow Family Life and Child Development Specialists is a site called Ask Teacher — a child development classroom for PARENTS who want to ask teachers help on their parenting concerns. You should drop by and see!

6. I added “columnist” to my list of descriptions by contributing to the magazine, Celebrity Mom. I write about current parenting and school issues. Faced with word counts and deadlines, my writing entered a whole new level! I think I should set the same minimums for this blog!

Celebrity Mom

7. This website! I have been in and out of this blog for years and yet a lot of visitors have passed and asked a lot of questions about progressive education.. enough to for me to revive it! Thanks for passing by and hope you learn a lot from it!

What’s in store for 2015 for me as a teacher? Hopefully a lot more opportunities like the ones on this list. I have a few projects on the line to become more involved with more schools, more teachers, more parents and of course, more students!

The Leader of a Progressive School

Manager, administrator and leader are terms used to describe authority figures in groups or organizations (Taylor, 1989). In school management, the administrator’s organizational success is how well the needs of the children and employees are met.

In DECS Order No. 107 “Standard for the Organization and Operation of Preschools” , an administrator is defined as “a person who plans, implements, supervises, monitors or evaluates a school program.” It further prescribes that the administrator should have a college degree in a discipline allied to education
with at least 18 units of preschool education, preferably with a master’s degree in education and with at least two years of very satisfactory work experience in a school set up.

Being the Directress of Nest School for Whole Child Development, I’m proud to say I am in the company of men and women who are passionate about their schools and what they represent. Two women who I interviewed for my thesis are Teacher Francie Castaneda-Lacanilao of The Learning Tree (TLT) Child Growth Center and Teacher Feny de los Angeles-Bautista of Community of Learners (COLF).

All my daughters went to The Learning Tree and I know first-hand how Teacher Francie mans the helm of the school. She created her own personal approach to the philosophy. She called it the experiential-integrative approach. She also formed structures for her approach namely, feeling-acting integration which upholds the
progressive philosophy of being experiential, love for God, country and self, team collaboration, excellence in productivity, and a creative-expansive dimension to learning or the goal for her students to be critical thinkers. She clearly explained all of her philosophical concepts to the parents of her students.

The developmental-interactive approach is how Teacher Fenny defined her approach. She continued by explaining that the school “looks at the individual needs of children”. Since the school was opened to serve all children – including children with special learning disabilities, she described her philosophy in the acronym TEACH or “to teach all children”. She also stressed that her school is learner-centered and she envisioned it as a community of young and old learners, representing the students and the school personnel.

Both women put up progressive primary education because of a similar clamor. The parents of their graduates became frustrated because there was no progressive primary school that can continue what their preschools espoused. Most “big schools” were practicing the traditional stream of education. Teacher Fenny aspired further by establishing a secondary level in her progressive school. She has seen this problem since she taught in the UP-CDC. She felt there was no continuation of the progressive philosophy in the upper grades. She envisioned establishing progressive elementary and high school levels in her school even before its foundation. They did not mention any form of eclecticism in their philosophy. They adhered to the statements of Graff, Street, Kimbrough and Dykes (1966) of following a unifying educational philosophy. They apparently are focused on their philosophy. They are able to fully explain and define their philosophy and their approaches.

Teacher Francie and Teacher Feny inspire me to reach for a new level in educating children. They paved the way for progressive schools not only to gain ground but also to bring it to primary and secondary education.