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Toronto Catholic District School Board

It all began during our weekly team writing session that Mrs. Rego (our Gr. 5 teacher) and I started in October. At a recent session (November 20th to be exact!) I asked the Gr. 5 class what school would be like if we could choose what to learn about. I suggested that maybe we could write about it. I was pretty excited about the idea but when it came time to choose topics (our own self directed topics!)  not many  people wanted to write about self directed learning – didn’t sound that catchy. So instead the class wrote about dogs, the internet, food and hockey among other things. I wrote about self directed learning but Mrs. Rego couldn’t read what I wrote (I need to handwrite more neatly when I quick write!) Not to be thwarted, I came back after recess and said, “what if you could learn about anything you wanted, what would you choose?” Some looked at me blankly. Some seemed hungry (this class always seems to be eating, but they’re also a good, active group…WEMUV!), but eventually some ideas started to flow.
 
Each student listed one thing that they wanted to learn about. Mrs. Rego commented after that no one talked about wanting to learn more math or even reading or writing skills. Instead there was a variety of interesting and unique ideas.
One week later when I came in to visit, we started to talk a bit about self directed learning again. This time, I wasn’t met with as many blank stares and Alexandra asked the question I’d been waiting to hear, “Can we actually learn about some of the stuff we want to learn?”  Bingo!
 
We’re about to embark on a self directed learning journey. Of course, we’re still going to read, write and do mathematics, but maybe, just maybe, we can approach it in a different way. Not sure where the path will take us but looking forward to see where we end up. To quote anonymous (an excellent writer I might add!), “We would accomplish many more things if we didn’t think of them as impossible.” Self directed learning, let’s bring it!
 
Take a look at some of the things Mrs. Rego’s Gr. 5 students would like to learn about.
And soon, you’ll hopefully read some Gr. 5 thoughts on self directed learning (yep I’m still encouraging them but not forcing them to write about it!)
 
What we want to learn about
Fashion (Alexandra)
The science in hockey (Cristian)
Different foods around the world (Daniel)
How to take care of a turtle (Miguel)
History of fashion (Elise)
Astronomy (Emily)
Diseases and what causes them (Tommy and Jasmine)
Platypus (Esther)
Piggies (Andrea)                           
Internet (Chelsea)
Microlife (Katie)
Different ways to do slideshows like pwrpoint, slide rocket, etd (George)
Unicorns (Chantelle and Jeanine)
Lacrosse (Braeden, Daniel C)
Hamsters (Anna)
Dogs (Abbie and Dawn and Caroline)
Building things (Justin)
How to draw like George  (Mr. Fernandes)
 
What’s next?
How do we continue the path to self directed learning when we have a curriculum to follow?
 
That’ll be our next discussion. If you’re reading this and YOU have suggestions, please email roy.fernandes@tcdsb.org
 
You can also check out two videos on our check this out page of the school website that will show how the self directed learning journey began at St. Henry.
And if you still want to read more, my blog  details some of MY learning.

And in that continual learning process that is life, two recent thoughts (recent meaning in the last five minutes if you're reading this on November 28th!)
 
1.     Catholic graduate expectations are such a key element to all we do. As part of that self directed learning process, why not have students identify which one they’re going to focus on (we’ve done that) and then really try to mentor them and help them get to that goal
2.     If life is about the next step, then we are preparing our students for the workforce.   We’ve talked about doing a career day at St. Henry where we get guest speakers to come in and we could have a job fair where students go to see different presentations as to what interests them. Key parts of the presentation –  What do you do in your job?   What skills do you need to do it.  What did you learn in school OR life that helped you with this job.
 
Looking forward to adding #3, 4, 5, etc….