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Demonstrating Progress: Tree of Knowledge

April 21, 2013

This being my first official post I would like to start out by sharing this one fact: I love my laminator. You will see as this blog progresses that almost everything will be laminated, so let’s just get this out of the way: yes, I am aware that it is an addiction; no, I don’t want to ‘see someone’; and actually, I think that a healthy obsession in “To Preserve and Protect” can be a positive thing. For example…

The Tree of Knowledge

This is not a new idea. I am not claiming it as my own. However, I have turned it into a colourful, laminated and differentiated display of learning progress.

The 'Tree of Knowledge'

The ‘Tree of Knowledge’

This image shows the finished piece (minus the learning). It was set up outside of the classroom – so please don’t go away and think that no learning takes place in my lessons!

The backboard displays the outline of the tree – naked branches, lack of foliage, random velcro pieces – everything you would expect from classroom shrubbery. The leaves vary in colour and size, but there is a method to the madness. The larger leaves are for ‘big ideas’ and the smaller leaves are for ‘small ideas’. Big ideas include arguments, debates or anything where the children have to explain why. The smaller leaves are for things like key words, or information that is necessary to the learning, but might not require a description. In other words, they’re differentiated, and the idea is that pupils can either choose their own level of challenge when it comes to what they have learned.

Of course, you could give each child one of each – a small idea, a medium-sized idea and a big idea – and that way you won’t always get that one child who is capable of more but ‘cops out’ of all the self-management and independent learner tasks you throw their way.

The whole idea of this tree is that is shows progress – however quickly you want it to. In theory, you could get it added to every 20 minutes, and tick that wonderfully welcomed OFSTED box. I find, however, that at the end of every session, or even unit, is better because of the quality of progress that is expressed on the leaves. Then again, you’re always going to get that one kid who, no matter how much you know that he’s learned about Judaism, and no matter how much he knows he has learned about Judaism, always writes something about Hitler.

A bit of a reflection:

If I was to make this again I’d put ‘roots’ onto the bottom to show foundational knowledge. Plus, deciding whether their contribution is foundational or developmental encourages the children to be reflective about their work and helps the visual learners especially to grasp the ‘big picture’.

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