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Learning Challenges

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Scenario 4: Just One Playground


teacher on playground

Teacher:   Kiristin Bijur

School:     San Francisco Community School

Grade:       fifth

Video:        Episode 5, Feelings Count. Segment begins approximately 11 minutes 45 seconds into the program.

Primary Learning Objectives

When the students complete their discussion with the teacher on the playground they should be able to:

  • recognize they can resolve conflicts by discussing them and brainstorming solutions
  • use the discussion skills modeled by the teacher to address problems
  • recognize that the school is a safe place, where teachers are understanding and helpful
  • manage their emotions better in potentially confrontational situations
Learning Activities

Two groups of students who wanted to play different sports in the same playground space had to resolve the issue peacefully. One group participated in a problem-solving and debriefing discussion of the situation with their teacher.

Learning theories to consider
  • Emotions and Learning
  • Development and Learning
  • Cognitive Apprenticeship
  • Creating Classrooms and Schools That Support Learning

In this scenario Kristin Bijur listens as a group of boys discuss their concern about girls who infringed upon the limited playground space they are using to play soccer. The boys share that they have moved their space already -- showing their empathy for the girls' needs -- but now realize that the problem has not been solved. By listening to the boys, Kristin Bijur provides them with a structure to manage their feelings by asking them to "talk out loud" about how they feel and what some possible solutions might be. Along the way, she commends them for trying to solve the space issue in a "peaceful and harmonious" way.

Her intent is to provide a safe environment where students can express their likes and dislikes without fearing verbal and/or physical confrontation. An emotionally safe environment motivates students to trust that the teacher will listen without bias and will help them work through their conflicts. The trust that is established between the teacher and students ultimately begins to transfer among students.

The theory of Emotions and Learning is demonstrated when Kristin Bijur helps students express how they feel while solving the playground space issue in an acceptable way. She understands that students' emotions have an impact on their learning and uses the turf issue as a teachable moment to assist students in resolving conflict before it moves from the playground into the classroom. The theory of Development and Learning suggests that students at this age are not always developmentally ready to handle their own problems. Bijur supplies students with a structure for solving their problem by asking questions to get them to move beyond blame to resolution. As she acknowledges the students' thoughts and actions she is also making the conflict resolution process more visible. This application of Cognitive Apprenticeship theory helps remove the emotional charge of the situation. It further motivates students to be in charge of their emotions as they solve problems instead of withdrawing or striking out in unproductive ways. This also helps them to feel good about themselves. Kristin Bijur demonstrates how to create Schools That Support Learning by taking advantage of a teachable moment whenever or wherever it occurs. Her instruction resolves a need that students had that could have been detrimental to classroom subject matter learning.

Sequenced Writing Assignments:
  1. Make a list of up to five key ideas from each of the four learning theories presented: emotions and learning, development and learning, cognitive apprenticeship and creating schools that support learning. Next, try to identify a way the teacher applied each of those key ideas as she reacted and worked through this scenario. For example, under "cognitive apprenticeship," you might list, "articulation and reflection - the teacher asked students to think about the situation they face and what they had done to resolve it, describe how they came to that resolution, and tell her in their own words how they felt about the process."

    You may find it useful to put your list in the form of a table. We have provided templates in either Word or PDF format if you choose to do this.

    You may find that some key ideas from the learning theories are not represented in the scenario. For now, leave a blank space after them. You will also find that you are repeating some of the things the teacher did because they are applications of key ideas from more than one learning theory.
  1. Review your list of key ideas and fill in the blanks from Assignment A by suggesting things the teacher could do to apply the key ideas you listed but did NOT see represented already. Suggest other practical things the teacher could do to incorporate key learning theory ideas into her classroom activities.
  1. Reflect on the completed table and record your reflections about how the theories intersect or interact. How might your own teaching practices take advantage of what you see happening in this scenario?

  2. As an alternative to these tasks, follow the directions of your group leader or the teacher of your class to write about this scenario and how one or more learning theories might apply to it. Or decide as a group how you might use it as a case for further study and discussion.

Samples and tools to help you with the scenario assignments

  • Sample rubrics in html or PDF format to assess your writings
  • Writing sample for Scenario Four, Assignments A and B, (in PDF format) to use as a model.
  • Templates in Word or PDF format for the assignments

Return to the Support Materials for Session 5.

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