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Keeping the Work Whole

So often in our society we view learning in pieces. Teaching and learning are viewed separately, as though somehow isolated from each other. Curriculum is broken into discrepant lesson plans to a degree that it obscures connections – across disciplines and between the classroom and the larger world. But the connections are there. They are there and they are a crucial part of meaning making, of understanding our world.

At Opal School we strive to keep the work whole; to invite and support children to see the connections within and among all of the parts.  But what does that look like? What does it mean to keep the work whole?

Last week in Reader’s Workshop we began a conversation about the definition of schema. The children shared their ideas of what that word means to them:


Teacher: What do you know about the word schema?

RB: Schema is kind of like what you're thinking about the work.

OR: It's like we're thinking about schema– what you're really onto. You're thinking and collecting your information.

CG: Collecting what you know.

ZB: It’s thinking about what you know.

EC: Schema is like you know a lot about it. For example, I know a lot about skiing. I have schema for skiing.

RM: It's like whatever you're thinking about.

Author Debbie Miller defines schema like this:

 “Schema is all the stuff that’s already inside your head, like places you’ve been, things you’ve done, the books you’ve read—all the experiences you’ve had that make up who you are and what you know and believe to be true.” ~Debbie Miller, author of Reading with Meaning

I think that we support children (and ourselves) to see the many connections between and among the parts – that we keep it whole – when we develop a shared understanding of a word during reader’s workshop, and then use and apply that word to other situations to help describe a thought or idea.

It should come as no surprise then (although I found that I was surprised and delighted) that our conversation during reader’s workshop would transfer to other settings; that that word might show up in different experiences throughout our day.

In Project Workshop, as the children were exploring their theories around the question: “What is the difference between a human brain and an animal brain?” we heard this:

BV: I'm connecting the schema bubbles!

Teacher: Oooh, what is a schema bubble?

BV: Like what they know about stuff; their schema bubbles. It's sort of in our brain cells.

CR: Yeah, it’s in the bottom of the brain, it's the organ that helps you think, it's the schema bubble.

When we choose to keep the work whole, rather than segmented, we find that learning is more interesting and beautiful. In the wholeness of the work we find the greatest joy through connections, creativity, and learning.

December 09, 2013