Some of the students at school speak German at home, and one of these sparked an interest in studying the language. There is now a small core progressing very fast, and a larger circle with a more casual interest. In the first group, the tutor is actually younger than her protégées.
I have checked what the local germanophiles retain after handing in their work for correcting by asking annoying, random questions throughout the day. Some remember every word they have read, some remember almost nothing. This appears to be almost entirely age dependent.
Exciting and impressive as this academic pursuit is, acquiring a new skill often starts off with gathering low-hanging fruit. Kids, and often adults too, get a rush of satisfaction from appearing to learn so much to begin with, so fast! Inevitably, you will reach a plateau where you just don’t progress very much. Traversing beyond that level we all need a complicated toolkit of good work habits, fixed deadlines, motivations, potential rewards for success and so on. We soon need to find some ways for the German group to be able to measure their progress.
But so far, this has been fun and inspiring to watch.
A quick guide to the daily schedule at school. Because your kids think this is natural and aren’t going to tell you anything.
There will be more in-depth information and discussion about the different points in the schedule later.
09:00 – 09:15 Morning assembly: As you all know, we start our days with a réunion du matin at 9 o’clock. A child chairs the meeting, they learn to get -and keep – the attention of a large group. We start with chanting together “en, to, tre, god morgen un, deux, trois bonjour”. We give short and important messages about what’s going on this particular day, and round it off with a song.
0915 – 1100: Work hours: After the assembly, the kids amble (mostly) peacefully to the classrooms. They pick up their books and get to work. The calm and determination is quite a magical sight. This is not something I would have thought possible, judging from my experience in other (entirely fine and adequate) schools. The teachers then ambulate, helping the ones who are stuck and paying attention to the ones who are off track. The children choose what subjects to work on, and assign themselves a quota for how much they need to do before they can ask to go to recess. Most kids reach their goals some time around or after 09:45. They ask the teacher to look over their work, and may then go, and come back at 10:15. Some kids are so engrossed in what they’re doing, they choose to forego free time and continue through the second work hour, 10:15 – 11:00.
Look, not every child is super diligent all the time. They’re children, and they have different personalities. But most set themselves goals that are reasonable while not being too easy. They do talk (in voices at library level) to their friends but don’t fool around endlessly, despite not being strictly supervised. When they have mistakes, they don’t get to leave until they’ve corrected their work.
We don’t point out every single spelling mistake, though. Getting significant volume and speed in writing and reading is more valuable than getting everything right at age six. (Insert snide and disrespectful comment here about French and Danish spelling conventions.)
12:00 Outdoors. The kids can go back in after 12:30.
12:30 (voluntary starting point) – 13:15 Reading hour. The students read books or comics. Again, not a common sight at other schools. Just a bunch of kids shutting up and reading. As the HUM guy here I have some issues about certain students reading below their level and have some plans, but come on. Most kids today never get peace and quiet to read on a daily basis.
13:15 – 15:00 Project hours. Starts with a roll call, and a short update about various projects. Sometimes (especially Wednesdays) there are presentations. The rest of the time is spent working on one’s project.
13:15 – 15:00 on Fridays: Conseil. This is the kids’ own agora, or town hall meeting. They get to evaluate the week and air various issues. This is also where we update our tickets.
Classes and lectures:Capsules, subject-specific classes (including music on Thursdays), are held at various points during work hours and project hours. These are voluntary, as the group’s diversity in age and kinds of competence is so high. Some children might go through phases where they are only interested in one or two subjects, but for the most part this seems to regulate itself over time. Their projects are normally structured in a way that incorporates many different subject areas. Having to write coherently and correctly when presenting a scientific project,e.g, and using historical or cultural references.
Today, we had our weekly project presentation. Today’s topics were rabbits, dogs, Italy, an analysis of a failed clay project, and paper airplanes.
Some of the educational benefits are obvious: It’s almost impossible to describe something to others without learning at least something about the subject itself. The students learn to limit their topics, to find sources, to pace their progress and to lead their projects to completion.
But another advantage of the presentation time is how the students get experience with fielding questions and feedback. Their peers offer interesting questions, but also occasionally quite unfair critcism. This is received and responded to with admirable stoicism, surely an essential skill to learn.
All groups can fall into slumps where they may exhibit a loss of imagination, a tendency to copy each other, to take short cuts, and a diminished sense of purpose. But remembering to define the goals and setting a schedule can work some serious magic.
Some students at the school have “Lemonade” as a project. They are currently working on creating a visual identity for their stand, which will offer wonderful refreshments this coming Monday, May 11th. Remember to carry cash.
A student brings her pet snails to school each day. Their names are Vendaline, Bella, Venus, Burger, Benny and Felle.
Snails are surprisingly charismatic and exciting friends. Also quite slimy.
This is an opportunity to mention the Danish book series “Den rustne verden” by Adam O. The story is set in a dystopian setting, where Denmark has been transformed to a giant junk yard by a multi-national corporation. And the main hero has snails.
Not everything about the ticket system we use at school is entirely self-explanatory. Here’s a short guide for the perplexed parent.
EFD has used so-called “tickets” since 2012. But it became seriously implemented during the first corona lockdown. to track what the students do, and for the kids to monitor themselves and make sense of where they are. (See further down for a more in-depth explanation of the ticket system.)
There are different flavors to the tickets.
“Plan du travail tickets” that lay out a plan for how much the child intends to work in the coming week in each of his or her workbook. E.g: “Uge 16 KonteXt 1b s.25 – 27” These tickets are posted on Fridays at conseil. The students are very good at fulfilling their self-assigned quotas. This said, few set themselves unreasonable goals.
“Capsule tickets”, that track subject-specific topics. Some are undertaken every time a student comes to the end of a workbook. A student will e.g. post three separate tickets called “The organs”, “The senses” and “The cells”, after finishing a science workbook. These projects need to be completed in order to advance to the next book
“Project tickets” about a particular, voluntarily chosen topic. These are the most demanding, as the student him- or herself needs to define a lot of parameters; a schedule, what resources they might need etc. I have become sensitive to how often these projects demand intense parental contributions in order to succeed. All of a sudden and quite unbidden the parents end up having to become robot engineers or confectioners. Sometimes this is really nice, but not always. Keep us posted on how this works for your family. See our ticket guidelines, published here. Not every initiated project of this kind is destined to be completed. Sometimes, you just have to admit you overreached. This is also a part of the learning process. But obviously, the kids will be encouraged to stick to what they’ve promised.
Below is a list other advantages of the ticket system. So far, most of us have only explored some of them. Cooperating and commenting on each other’s projects, e.g., is something we could do much more.
The kids learn to consider, and express, what they want. This is an exceedingly important skill, also for adults.
The Ticket system ensures all subjects are adequately covered by the student.
It ensures the kids stay on track in each subject.
The students learn issue tracking, a cornerstone in modern project management.
Just formulating a heading and typing it down gives the youngest ones significant writing experience.
Parents can keep up to date with what the kids are doing.
Tickets don’t disappear (as opposed to plan de travail on paper).
And then there are further benefits of issue tracking as such:
Others can see and contribute, promoting cooperation.
Descriptions of projects can serve as an inspiration for others, or even be the basis of other tickets.
No ambiguity about when a project is finished (“The definition of Done”.)
Feel free to get in touch if there’s anything specific you want to know.
The idea behind “The HUM update” is to let parents know what we’re doing in the humanistic subjects at school.
We don’t assign homework at this school. However, sometimes it’s nice for parents to check what their kids are learning. From my experience as a dad, kids don’t volunteer this information themselves. Also, some learning has to be based on repetition and memorization. The more you know by heart, the more time and energy you have to expend on creativity. I am hoping “The HUM update” will offer some pointers on what to discuss, if desired.
We will focus on the Middle Ages in History in the coming weeks, so we’re kicking off with the fall of Rome.
In the Roman Empire, people in Britain ate bread made from grain from present-day Tunisia, drank wine from present-day Provence, and used weapons forged from metals mined in Iberia. And in all these places, people could communicate in the same language.
Just some generations later, the same people subsisted on food farmed close to where they lived and spoke in almost only local languages.
I find this mind-blowing.
The date for the Fall of Rome is conventionally given as 476. This is the date I’ll ask the children to remember, even though it’s not entirely correct. But it’s easier to remember than “between 376 and 550”.
As you might know, the kids are free to choose if they want to attend what we call the teachers’ “capsules”, and can study on their own instead. I am in the process of creating some material relevant to the capsules, that can be used by all.
And one last thing: If you have any books that might be even vaguely relevant to the topics we focus on at school, feel free to bring them. They don’t have to be age-appropriate. Often, just a couple of pictures might trigger interest.