Space Out or Be Square

First day of school…new exercise books – reverently handed-out, carefully named. Each teacher makes their expectations very clear regarding the ‘presentation of learning’ (or of their ‘teaching’).

Thirty years later, things have changed, haven’t they? But as I’m writing this, a shifty-looking pile of Maths books sits on the shelf in my classroom and I wonder how much change there’s been, really. There are 2700 squares on each double page of those Maths books. My pupils are seven.

So…the expectation that pupils present their learning ‘in the abstract’, starts the year off; ‘One digit in one square’. All those squares to fill, too. A whole book of ‘em. It’s literally an eye-blurring mass of rigidness.

Fortunately, that pile of books has accepted its recent demotion to the more permanent position of ‘on the shelf’. We now, far more regularly, explore our learning on the floor tiles with whiteboard pens. Pupils are ‘on the move’ – we ‘walk and talk’. We draw the problem, build it, explain it, change it and reflect. We can all now, for the first time, see each other’s thinking clearly. We have the space to explore and present learning in a far more brain-friendly way. We capture it when appropriate. And nobody ever asks, ‘Can we write in our books, today?’ Seems silly to expect pupils to constantly structure the presentation of their learning within squares, and in books that aren’t generally shared.

It doesn’t add up – does it?