The Second School!

An example of the second school in action!

And from the depths of my limited and muddled mind was born an idea of the ‘Second School‘. I don’t know if this term has been used before but I think that it fits quite well with the central idea for my post this week.

First let me tell you the story of how and why I came to use the term ‘Second School’.

Well, it all started about a year and a half ago. I had almost completed the first term of my first year in my new Year Three team, and to be honest, I was finding it difficult! I was really struggling to find a stable platform for my teaching.

There were a number of factors for this. The first being that the  class I was teaching were the liveliest class I had ever taught; and by lively, I mean they had an almost god-like ability to bring chaos to every learning activity they were involved in. The second factor was the ability range of the children in the class; some of the children were so gifted that they were working three years beyond their year group’s ability range whereas there were other children who were working two years behind their age ability. And then there was a third and final factor which was my own lack of confidence and understanding with students at this age!

Well, as you can probably imagine, these different factors had a significant impact on my life! Firstly my teaching confidence sunk to the lowest point it had ever been at. I also had the constant feeling of pressure and stress at both work and home. As a result, I lost faith in all of the good practice and teaching that I had carefully and meticulously built up in my previous year group.

So what happened next?

Well, the obvious I guess, I decided that I had to do something about the situation I was in. So I began to form new connections within my year group and school. These opening connections gave me a very small taste of what was actually happening in the wider world of education; particularly in the area of Education-Technology.

One of these initial connections, as I have mentioned in a previous post, was an introduction to TWITTER and it’s power to act as a Personal Learning Network for teachers and students. The door was suddenly open for me to connect with other parts of the school. I was now able to find out what was happening with the school’s extra-curricular community, with the secondary school, with individual students and with other primary year groups.

As my class and I spent more time following Tweets and responding to them, I started to wonder whether I was making the most out of this social networking medium. The question I was asking myself was ‘How could I safely activate and capture my students interest whilst also providing a better learning platform for them?’

An interesting question! I decided to look for an answer to the question within our school’s Twitter feed. And that is when I started to notice the large number of videos, photos and links connected to the Year Six children’s work. I also noticed that the children in my class were extremely animated when providing feedback and comments to the Year Six’s work they were seeing on the twitter feed. But the biggest surprise came when I found out that a lot of the fantastic projects that we were seeing on Twitter were actually being completed outside of the school.

What are we doing to promote critical thinking, questioning, and constructive criticism during lessons? Help students use Social Media to Empower, Not just connect – Andrew Marcinek – Edutopia 

And so the penny finally dropped…I needed to find a way to provide my students with a second school! If you like-it was a way of allowing them to build upon their classroom learning outside of school hours. In essence they would carry on with their individual learning journeys in a learning environment that they had created for themselves. Now I am aware that many of you have probably been doing this for a long time but for me it was an incredible experience as I started on this path towards a second school! I found myself re-vitalised and re-energised with the whole concept and idea.

PLN as an Engine of Support – And this must be transferred to our students as they begin to connect regularly both inside and outside of school. As educators, we must model positive use of learning networks and groups, and give students the proper foundations in the effective use of social media.  Help students use Social Media to Empower, Not just connect – Andrew Marcinek – Edutopia

So what have I done?

One of the first things I did was to make the online communication more regular and reciprocal between the students and myself. I made more use of the school’s email network to ensure that students felt confident and willing to open-up an online dialogue with me. I also created a weekly online story-writing challenge for the children to participate in while encouraging them to email each other more often in order to foster a greater connectivity and class togetherness. And so the ‘Second School’ came into being!

How do I keep it going?

The key to maintaining and building their interest in this second school has been a combination of the following areas and ideas:

1. Challenge and Reward Projects – The children take part in weekly or fornightly email challenges. These have included: writing a poem based on a picture; taking a photograph that really makes people think; creating a science experiment to investigate how we could find the answer to a particular question. These challenges are all rewarded with a set number of Dojo Points for their individual Class Dojo accounts (I have noticed that the children more actively participate when there is an actual reward – just like adults do).

2. Sharing their work with others on our school Twitter feed – The students work is shared with others on the school Twitter feed. Other teachers and classes then respond to this shared learning by tweeting their own comments.

3. Sharing with members of their own class – The children love sharing what they have done with their peers by reading stories, poems or science investigations they have created. They also enjoy explaining or teaching a new skill they have recently learnt to empower other children in the class to do the same.

I think that it is fair to say that the learning and creating they are carrying out in their second schools builds upon their learning in the classroom and, in most cases, improves on it! I know that there is a long way to go with this project but I think it is important for me to say that the second school has given me a new appreciation of what it means to be a teacher!

I want someone who has a sense of humor. I want someone who wants to learn, listen, and consistently share. I want someone who provokes my thinking. Help students use Social Media to Empower, Not just connect – Andrew Marcinek – Edutopia

Isn’t this what all students and teachers want?

2 thoughts on “The Second School!

  1. Hi Neil

    I totally agree with what you the importance of the second school is built on “their learning in the classroom.” The role of teacher is still very important to build up the community among the students, especially with the young students in elementary school. Thanks for sharing your idea and examples about the second school.


  2. Great post Neil. I know we’ve spoken about how certain activities might not work or be harder with younger kids but if I get the parents involved I could also do a weekly challenge. Maybe we’ll set up a little intra-school competition, post our pictures on Twitter and see who produces the photo of the week!

    This week, we set up a weekend book which the kids take turns in taking home and writing something – story, poem, recipe or whatever takes their fancy. I think I’ll use Twitter to publish what they create because they’d love the idea of the big Year 3s seeing their work 😉


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