When starting out with the Shapes of Learning it is important that the establishment of vocabulary is done in collaboration with those it is being used by (e.g. the students). This will allow for a shared language, deeper understanding, shared ownership of the process, and an ease of application.
Below is an outline of how I would go about setting it up with a class:
1. Begin with a familiar shape – the circle. Set the scene and ask for feedback from the following questions: “You walk into a classroom and you see people learning in this shape….
- How might they be positioned (seated/ standing – does it matter?)?
- Who would you see talking?
- What type of learning might this be useful for?
- What type of learning would it not be effective for?
- What, therefore, would the noise levels need to be in order for this to be effective?
2. Record their responses in simple language on a poster with the circle symbol prominent on it. This will serve as an “anchor chart” or reminder of their rules for this shape of learning: What does this learning look like, sound like, and what type of learning it represents.
3. A fun part is then to name the shape. We begin with the circle as it is often the easiest to label but it is important to ensure that the students think of a visual name rather than an abstract one. For example, for the circle shape, the suggestion of “Hula Hoop Learning” creates a simple and accessible mental image but “Hole in One Learning” requires too much thinking to make the connection to it’s shape. Display this newly established name on the collaborative poster that has been created.
4. Now look to practise the shape in your day to day learning, referring to the poster to establish the students’ positioning, noise level, and effectiveness of this type of learning for the task. This will only need to be explained initially but will help solidify the students’ understanding of its use for this type of learning and the efficiency at establish its setup.
5. Repeat this process for the remaining shapes and look to practise each one with your day to day classroom activities so that they and you become familiar with which types of learning are taking place. It is useful to have these shape symbols accessible on display so that they can be pinned next to your task instructions.
Initially, students are taught how to operate in and practise using each shape of learning effectively. Then as they become more proficient and confident, they can begin independently choosing an appropriate shape to complete their learning task or project.
It is the aim that the language of the shapes will be incorporated in to the everyday lesson explanation e.g. “We will begin the lesson with a short U learning time and then you will rotate around 2 activities. One of these will be Venn learning working on your spelling words, and the other will be a dot learning task where you will attempt to solve the problem on the board. This will help students with learning needs, particularly those who might struggle to work collaboratively, as they prepare to work with others in a short task. Furthermore, all students benefit as they can anticipate what skills and responsibilities they will require in each stage of the lesson according to the type of shape.
It is also the aim from this initiative that a teacher’s knowledge of the different Shapes of Learning will help them prepare lessons that are varied and accommodating to a range of learning styles.