Monday, 7 November 2011

Teaching Outside the Classroom: the corridor as a learning space

I have taken my classes outside the classroom four times so far this year to do science experiments or observe something that would help them link the abstract with an application. This is a much bigger number than in the past, but I still really don't like it.

Taking students out of the classroom is a good way to attract the attention of management. Some teachers love that, they thrive on a public "well done". I am not so confident in attracting the attention of management when I go outside; I worry about the negative and it makes me tense.

Will the students stay in the area I want them to. Will they bring their worksheets with them? Will the class behave as expected in the classroom, or more like they do at break and lunch? Will my group disturb the learning of other groups? How do I ensure they are doing and learning something when I don't have the same number of the behaviour management techniques available to me?

As stated, I have taken the students out of the classroom to learn four times this year:

The first to find the focal length of a lens. There are no plain walls in my classroom to project the image onto. We didn't go far, just into the corridor outside my room. We did disturb the next class, but everyone did the task and everyone came back when I asked.

The second to the dark room to observe Tonic Water under UV light. Instead of that the group ended up getting told off for poking each other, screaming and turning the light on and off. They were impressed that their school uniforms were glowing. Whether any member of the group will remember that UV can make some objects fluoresce, I am not confident.

The third time was the most risky. I took a group to reception to have a look at how the automatic door won't open if you stand still. Reception, where the head's office is and important people like the chair of governors come through. Fortunately the receptionist and the visitor thought the antics of the group were hilarious: obviously a group of 16 students were unable to stand still and the constant flow of other people through the doors meant that we had to have quite a few attempts to prove my point. Definitely worth it though, I will be doing that activity every time I have to teach the Doppler Effect from now on.

The most recent reason to venture outside the classroom was to measure the speed of the students walking down the corridor. How hard can it be to measure the corridor, mark points at 10 and 20 metres and then time yourself walking that distance? I discovered it can be very hard. The poor assistant head, who's office we were working outside of never complained, but he cannot have got any work done. I let the group take as long as they needed to get the results. I would have been easy for me to do it myself and give them data. I did have to do a lot of managing if their experiments though.

In the new ofsted framework will they see me taking the students out to make real measurements as risk taking and like it, or will they see off task students struggling and misbehaving and see a poor lesson? Should I worry about what others think or just do what I think is best for my groups? The students have requested we go out and measure the corridor again, so they seem to like it.

I don't think that I am brave enough to take my groups outside the classroom to a location with no walls yet though.

Location:Rudgleigh Ave, United Kingdom

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