Using the School Garden to classify Pleasant & Unpleasant Sounds in Gr3 Science – connections to Hattie

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I have been enjoying my time at Buchanan School on Centre St N in Calgary. For the past few months I have been spending some time immersing myself in the world of teaching and learning. Through the generosity of teachers and the Principal, i’ve been able to put into practice some of the ideas I have reading about and sharing with teachers.

The other day in science, I shared the learning intent as being able to discern pleasant sounds from unpleasant sounds. First, we talked about the words and what they meant. Then we listened to a sample of sounds from a sound library. With a show of hands, students classified sounds as pleasant or unpleasant. These steps although not out of the ordinary were deliberate. Hattie’s (Visible Learning, 2009) identifies classroom discussion as a significant inflence on student achievement. in addition, questioning is also identified as a significant influence on achievement. I set out to have some discussion and ask some questions to move students towards the learning intent.

I then shared some information about the Scientific Method of having a question, making a hypothesis, conducting an experiment, and recording data, then analyzing the data. Students worked with their visual journals and wrote a prediction based on their best guess about whether the front of the school or the back of the school would have more pleasant sounds. I then shared with students a way of recording the data. All of this was done with a Direct Instruction approach – sharing out information, checking for understanding, and teaching to the ideas that kids struggled with. I did this quite deliberately as well as Hattie identifies Direct Instruction as a significant influence on student achievement.

The we went outside first to the front of the school for 5 minutes and then to the back of the school.

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It was amazing what we heard on busy Centre St N – geese flying overhead, cars and buses, birds signing in the trees, carpenters hammering, children playing down the street, a police car, the wind in the trees and on and on. Students recorded what they heard in their visual journals. This was an important part of the lesson for me. As the env/outdoor ed consultant with the CBE, I figured I should get these kids outdoors and engaged with the environment. Hattie’s research supports engaging students with outdoor education as well – another significant learning influence on student achievement.

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Then we returned indoors to our classroom. When we were all settled, we pulled out our visual journals and I asked students to circle the pleasant sounds with a blue pencil crayon and the unpleasant sounds with a red pencil crayon. Then we counted up which side of the school had more pleasant sounds – the Centre St N side or the Centre St. B side. If you had to make a prediction, knowing how busy Centre St N is, which side of the school would you predict had the highest frequency of pleasant sounds?

Kind of surprisingly most students found that the school garden on the Centre St N side of Buchanan School had a higher frequency of pleasant sounds.

There were lots of positives that came our of this very simple lesson. Students appreciating the natural world and the abundance of sounds that you can hear even on a busy street like Centre St N. Conducting an experiment. Using a mix of direct instruction, teacher questioning, and outdoor education. None of this rocket sceince, but I think it was good learning – an artifact was created that students could self assess their learning, that teachers could provide feedback on, and ideas that creating some stepping stones for the next lesson.

Thanks to teacher, Liz Laberge for sharing her grade 2/3 class with me. I have had such a terrific time teaching this fall!

Roy Strum

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