Learning Circles

Over the past few weeks, over 80 Transition Year students have taken part in our Learning Circles workshops. This was a Bridge21 activity that involved learning Leaving Certificate material, without an expert teacher to teach it, and then creating learning experiences for your peers.

There were three parts to the workshop. Part one involved each team discussing and presenting about how they like to learn. This included learning experiences they enjoyed both in and out of school so everything from interesting teachers and cool experiments to riding bikes and solving problems were mentioned. The students were very keen on working in teams and using technology, and we agree with them on that one!

In the next part of the workshop, each team was assigned a topic. The topics were recommended by teachers and were mostly taken from the Leaving Cert curriculum. These included Maths, Physics, Biology, History, Geography and (not on the curriculum) Chinese! Each team had use of two computers with internet access and they had each other! Their task was to learn as much as they could then prepare for part three.

The teams’ biggest challenge for the week was to teach their peers the topics they had just learned themselves, and to do it in the way they had all described earlier in the week. Most teams were able to teach themselves without too many problems but the task of coming up with interesting ways to cover the new material proved quite tricky for some. Lots of Powerpoint slides were prepared but the students quickly realised that “it might be the easiest way to teach, but it’s not the best way to learn”.  After this breakthrough, the really interesting ideas started to flow. The “Rhino Ducks” wrote and recorded a song about the digestive system, we were all introduced to gambling as part of a lesson on probability, there were Samba lessons while we learned about Brazil, Neil Armstrong used Facebook to “check in” on the moon and JFK “liked” it! There were lots of physics experiments involving light, water and glass, there was a performance of a short play in Chinese (It was a love story set in a take-away!) and five students each played the role of a different part of the digestive system while a Play-Doh “cheese-burger” was digested!

It was a very exciting month for all of us. It was an amazing demonstration of what motivated students can achieve and we can say that we learned a lot from all the students involved, literally!

What the students say…..

“You learn more by doing something and trying to create the learning experience.”

“It’s more like your friends telling you something than being taught by a teacher, which makes it easier to remember.”

“…..before you teach you have to double make sure you know what you’re talking about before teaching.”

” I love the way things are done around here, laid back, hardworking and not stressful at all.”

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