1. Jack Hill

    "Real Learning" interesting concept. What does it mean?

    Why are things outside school seen as real and things inside as something other? I am currently writing something on this subject that I will share soon.

    I am doing work on the topic of homework at our school this year – I will also share a reflection on that process that raises many of the insightful comments from your reflection. We all need to think more about our practice on these topics
    Thanks George.

    • georgecouros

      I am looking forward to seeing what you share Jack. Your thoughts are always appreciated. We need to know that "real learning" can happen anywhere, right?

  2. jhuistemurphy

    Hmm well to be useful and remembered it I think the class would almost have to have some sort of interactive internet presence. "check in with the class, read the notes about what we learned today, add your two cents, then share with us one thing you learned today on your extended field trip" It doesn't have to be written of course, a voice thread or video clip or glog, whatever the student wants to do. This of course requires the student to have a computer and internet connection, but if s/he doesn't have that perhaps a weekly check in at the public library or something.
    Perhaps, the teachers can provide a list of topics being taught during the leave and the student can go on a digital treasure hunt for anything related. I know some math clubs that start the day taking pictures of math in the environment.

    I read a blog post or two about 6 months ago (perhaps from Bud Hunt I think) about learning being a social activity. so the point really isn't giving the student work, but rather giving the student the opportunity to share what s/he is learning.

    • georgecouros

      The "social" aspect of learning is the biggest part of school in my opinion. How do we interact, work with, and share our ideas with others? Isn't that a crucial element. I appreciate the thought of having that online presence for each classroom and have found it to be valuable for our school, yet just has not caught on with our community in a mass way. I know it takes time.

      Thanks for your thoughts 🙂

  3. I struggle with this regularly in my Social Studies class. We are primarily structured around project based learning, and when students are ill, on vacation, suspended, etc…it is almost impossible to "send their homework to the office" so that a parent can pick it up. The answer to the question, "did I miss anything?" is a resounding YES! and the conversations, problem solving, and social struggles that were missed, are simply unable to made-up.

  4. When I was in school my parents pulled me out to send me to Greece to be with my family there for Christmas. It was a phenomenal experience to spend the time with my dad and extended family immersed in their culture. It enabled me to become more fluent in a second language, understand that needs and wants can differ based on geography etc. A few years ago my sister pulled my nephews in spring to take them to Greece for 3 weeks with my father. The experience of living in another culture and meet their extented family in my opinion is just as important as their traditional schooling. My father passed away after that and our whole family is thankful that our nephews had that time with him.
    I guess sometimes we just have to realize that there is a whole other world out there. Regardless of where they travel I feel that the time spent with their family is valued. For some families based on external factors (finance, work etc) they don't have the option of travelling when we are on break. I don't think we should feel in competition with learning experiences outside of the school. Rather welcome them as they can enrich our students' ives in a way that we can't.

  5. I'm so glad that you blogged about this because it's a dilemma that I often face too. I don't assign worksheets, and so I can't imagine putting together a homework package full of worksheets for a child that is missing school. Like you, I've often encouraged students to blog to help share their experiences with others and engage in dialogue with others too. Students are then at least involved in meaningful reading and writing activities! I've had students Skype from trips before to be a part of the class even when away, and I've also had students create videos or glogs detailing their learning when away too. Again this is purposeful work, and I see value in having students do it.

    Being away from school is difficult though, and if asked, I try to encourage parents to take students out on holidays instead of during the school year. There is so much that I can't package up and send with them, and being in school is just so important. I really believe that!

    I guess there's not one right answer here, but I'll be interested in hearing what others have to say!

  6. Hit submit too soon…

    If something can be packaged up in a packet of worksheets, then to me it is probably not worth doing in the first place. It is possible teachers are sending these "learning packets" home simply because they feel obligated to send work home.

  7. As a first grade teacher I don't send any homework off with my students when they will miss a week or more. If they are traveling, and many return to their native countries every couple of years for a month or more, I give them a bunch of books to read and a special journal to write in.

    While I believe that what we are doing every day in school is important, I'm not convinced it's more important than these opportunities. I have taken my own daughter, now in 2nd grade, out to visit her great-grandparents on more than one occasion.

    That said, I totally agree with others that what we are doing in school is not something that could be sent with an individual student. The discussions and sharing of our learning are too critical for that. If my students were likely to have access to the internet on their travels I would suggest our class blog as a way to interact, which would be fabulous. That would be highly unusual for our students, however.

  8. Cdmahan

    The dilemma of what to send  when parents ask for homework is something that I too have struggled with.  We know that learning is most powerful when the students make a connections to the concepts covered and in my experience work sheets packages do not enable these connections for most students. The  most powerful experience I have had in this area came  from telling one of my students the concepts we would be covering in class while he was going to be absent and then having him find practical applications of them in the place he was visiting! This year I had a student visit Mexico. It was fantastic to have this normally shy student stand up in front of our class and present his findings about the building materials and bridge designs used in mexico and explain why it is different from canada. He went on to compare the art, government and shapes he found in Mexico to what we have at home! The presentation when far above and beyond what I could have ever assigned!  It was very powerful for both him, his classmates and their teacher! 

  9. literacyspark

    I love this post! I can't tell you how many times I've had to tell a parent or a school clerk that I can't just "pack up" what we did that day into a neat little sheet. If not coming to school is the same as coming to school then we aren't very good teachers. I love the idea of posting on the class blog. That puts the student in the place of field expert and sets a real purpose for their learning during the trip. Plus, it's a great way for the class to benefit from this student's opportunity.

  10. Angie

    I've had several students go in week long holidays this year. I've worked with these children prior to the trio to help them pick out reading material for the plane trip,ormcar ride.I hope tom establish the habit of reading whilemon a holiday. Togetthernwe pick out a variety ofmtexts they specifically enjoy. Pictures books, magazines, short novels and articles. The only other thing I've done is send a scrapbook with the child and instructions to collect as many different types of text they encounter on a holiday. The student and family members assembly the book once they return from their trip.The student brings in the scrapbook and shares it wight the class. This has been a fabulous way of helping htw student organize their thinking and do and oral presentation to the class. It's also helped our students see the vast amount of text I. the world, maps, air line tickets, menus, brochures, admission tickets and luggage tags. The families love the scrapbook because it becomes a memory that lasts.
    We must value family time and honor it by not assigning busy work. This is how we build relationships with our families.

  11. kelly

    I do agree with you that the students that go on vacation should not be given a set of worksheets to complete, but I do feel students need to be in school as much as they can. We do a lot of experiments in our classroom, daily math activities, and discussions about every subject area that students will not be able to participate in if they are not in school.There are a lot of discussions that students engage in whenever we do anything even something simple like reading a book to the class. We debrief as a community what we just encountered to help all of us develop a better understanding. I have found virtual labs for students to do and virtual manipulatives, but it is not the same, and they do not have the same understanding of the concept. Our classroom is a community and when one of our community members is gone we all suffer. I am not saying students should not leave the classroom for trips, but they do miss our on things that we can not recreate for them, so it is best if they are in school.

  12. Jennifer

    I too have faced this dilemma with parents this year. I was very happy to have the parents be concerned about what their student would be missing as this sometimes is not the case. We have only just started really blogging in our classroom, but I love that idea and will be using it in the future.
    I think travel is one of the best ways we can learn and I think I was more excited about the kids' trips than they were. Before they left, we looked at where they were going on maps and I looked up a little information about the places, getting the whole class involved. I suggested reading materials and sent along an crisp, new notebook, a pencil, eraser, a pack of new crayons and a glue stick. Their "assignment" was to create a travel journal, with some writing about their adventures, pictures and any ephemera they picked up along the way. I told them that if they wanted when they got back, they could share it with the class. The students were excited, and not only the ones that were travelling.
    I have heard teachers grumble about students taking off for extra family vacations, but I think it's fabulous. Initially I too was a little disappointed, as we do so much as a class, but after some thought I realized what a great opportunity it was for learning. As a person who has lived and taught in a couple different countries, I know how valuable it can be to experience places for real. When the parents wanted work sheets I explained that a lot of what we do in the primary program is oral and hands on and can't really be "packaged". I tried to convey how excited I was that the students were going to have educational adventures of a different kind with their families and that's what important. Families exploring and making memories together. I can't wait to see the journals.

  13. You have the right idea — make the trip a learning adventure. Ask students on trips to document what they did with photos, videos, sound files, and writing. Show them that an active mind is always on and exploring.

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