It’s been a few months since we first started Studio Time in my Year 3 class and we took some time this week to stop and reflect together. Consider this a summary of their thoughts and my thoughts, which happened to be pretty aligned. Here are some things we’ve noticed:
- An increase in curiosity and students knowing what actually sparks their interest
- More inquiries that don’t necessarily fall into the ‘normal’ categories of school subjects
- Less one off inquiries into small ideas/concepts and more in depth inquiries
- Improved self management skills, social skills and independence
- Greater interest in other inquiries which has lead to more natural connections between students and their inquiries
- More confidence to collaborate with different people (both within and outside of our class, and both within and outside of studio time)
- More making and creating! Inquiry does not equal researching on an iPad!
We’re not claiming it’s perfect, it’s not. Not every single inquiry reaches the depth that I wish for as a teacher, but they are becoming more confident, capable, curious and metacognitive. Each inquiry goes a step further, a step deeper, as we reflect on what went well and what to work on next. Overall we’ve noticed the importance and the value of being curious and inquiring into something that makes you wonder and want to know more. As a class we’ve decided that it’s near on impossible to have a quality inquiry that means anything to you if you don’t care about it, if it doesn’t make you question anything, if it doesn’t spark your curiosity. We’re now becoming less focused on ‘what do I want to do in this time?’ and more focused on…..’how do I find things that really, actually, truly sparking my curiosity?’
Which ideas are worthwhile to continue exploring? Deciding where to go next.
Some things we’ve been trying in order to help spark our curiosity and move our inquiries forward:
- Connecting with a Year 6 class and setting up ongoing mentorship where the students share their Studio Time experiences, answer questions, give advice and encourage each other. It will also hopefully lead to some authentic and meaningful connections between inquiries. This has been a game changer for us as it’s opened up so many possibilities in the minds of my students.
- Thinking about our inquiries using the ideas of ‘persevere’ and ‘pivot’ (inspired by Tania Mansfield and Studio 5). We also added in a third: ‘put aside’. This has given us the shared language to discuss the inquiries and help to ensure that they are worthwhile and have the potential to go deeper, to check that we are interested in them…to actually stop and think. It’s led to questions such as: Is it ok to put lots of inquiries aside and is there value in finding things that don’t spark your interest? What do I do if I want to keep pivoting in my inquiry? Should I persevere with this inquiry? We’ve created space in our room to record our thinking around these and make them visible.
- Finding unique ways to record our thinking that work for individuals. We’ve noticed there can be different starting points for different inquiries and that each inquiry looks different. One size definitely does not fit all. Some students are going to try sketchnoting to show their process and how their thinking changes throughout an investigation from the initial spark.
- Asking experts to come in and share their passions and interests with us. Interacting with others who are passionate about a whole range of things has opened up doorways for students who hadn’t considered those areas before or who were stuck in the mindset that their inquiry needed to fall within a specific school subject.
- Redesigning our learning space together to help it move from more of a functional space to an inspirational space which encourages curiosity, can be used flexibly and supports a culture of agency. Most importantly, they now have ownership of the space. (They’ve also got some great ideas for the future but I’m not sure we can get those banana hammocks attached to the roof….)
- Sharing what sparks our interest and why with each other when things pop up. Some definitely know immediately what makes them curious and for some, it’s not quite so easy. As part of this, I modelled my own inquiry into designing and creating a baby blanket for a family member and, through this, discussing: what sparked my curiosity, the challenges, the learning involved and what it looked like when I persevered through the hard parts. This visual representation complete with failed attempts and mistakes has provided another way of thinking about the process.
- Making more connections to others within our community. Who is an expert in this field? Who could we interview? Whose perspective would be helpful right now?
Some questions that I currently have:
- How can we tap into more resources within our community and beyond to help us?
- How do we become more aware of the skills and attitudes that we are developing and make them more visible?
- What workshops could I or the students run to help others with their studio time inquiries?
- Do we need more Studio Time in order to get into flow and to go deeper with inquiries?
- How do we make the maths within inquiries more visible during Studio Time?
As always, there are many things to think about moving forwards. An idea that’s always in the back of my mind is how elements of Studio Time could/should/have been flowing through into the rest of the learning time. Some current examples of things happening include:
- Students self selecting writing workshops based on their current needs and interests in writing
- Students volunteering to plan, organise and run reading and writing workshops based on something they have been investigating
- Developing their own strategies for solving problems in maths, justifying why they work and how efficient they are and teaching them to others
Side note: The students chose the original name ‘Personal Learning Time’ back at the beginning but have since decided to rename it Studio Time. Seems like semantics but they’ve decided that Studio Time more accurately represents how they work collaboratively, share their ideas and flexibly use the space to inquire and create. I think this is just another example of how, as a community of learners, we have evolved.