Saturday, 12 August 2017

A Glimpse Into Mantle of The Expert

This post is a little different from my normal.  I thought I would write a little about what a Mantle may look like in a junior room (that is play-based.)  I get a lot of questions about Mantle of the Expert and find it hard to sum it up in one short statement, so thought it may be useful to share what I am doing this term to give you an idea.  Also a Mantle can look a little different in a junior room and often seems quite impossible, I want to spread the word that it is not impossible and that the benefits for children and how they view themselves as learners are huge.

Number Agents is based on Mantle of the Expert.  The beginning of the year sees us hooking in, and building belief.  I like to step in slowly as I find that children buy in so much more when you take time with this.  We also take time to build up drama in our room so that the culture of acceptance is just right.

The rest of the year with Number Agents is about our daily clients and professional tasks to grow our agent brains.  So basically for us Number Agents is a Mantle that runs for the year.  Just before I go further into this, I had to share this recent poster by Jo Boaler.  This is what I base Number Agents on maths wise.  So powerful when you add in the drama, games and playfulness of agents.  Obviously as my recent post suggested a lot of my foundational maths comes out of play...I feel that gives us the best of both worlds.  My children honestly absolutely love being Agents and I am happy with the balance of self-directed play and teacher directed play we have been able to achieve. In fact if we don't go into agency on a certain day, I get very loudly reminded that I have forgotten!

Anyway, back to the point of my post.  One thing I have struggled with this year is that I have not had a genuine Mantle going.  I say genuine meaning a Mantle that integrates curriculum areas, as opposed by Number Agents that is basically mathematically based.  I've put up a few barriers or you could call them excuses, for example we have 40 now, that is harder, we have children coming in at different times, that is harder, we are huge believers in self-directed play as much as possible, so that makes it harder....lots of excuses.  But I know the value of Mantle, so do not want to deny my children of that experience, so I have done a lot of thinking and found a way.

Firstly I know that my children are achieving so much through play.   In fact my Science has all come out of play very authentically this year and we have explore a lot more than we would usually do.  However I hold this approach to delivering integrated inquiry so highly in regard I really wanted to try to run a Mantle this term that allowed me greater integration.  I still feel confident I can fit this in around our self-directed play sessions and am just aiming quite small, basically I have given myself an hour a week, so what we are doing is bite sized.

Rather than getting children into another responsible team, I decided to try to keep children in their team of agents, but propose to them (through head agent) that there was someone else that needed their skillset.  

This formed quite a discussion, with agents debating if we should help or not.  At the end we used the fingerprint scanner (whiteboard with two circles) to either express yes or no.  Three agents decided no, they did not want to help.  We then entered a discussion to try to convince them.  This is what I most love about Mantle, moral tensions are great learning.  One agent managed to convince them by saying, It is the right thing to do, we should help!

And so we embarked on as Planet Protectors.  

Obviously if you do not have a responsible team already set up in your room like I did, you will need to do more work on the hooking in and building belief.  We have already established all of that through Number Agents.

Agents went home that night to draw what they thought the leader of Rong looked like.


Roger then communicated with us.

From this came our first task, to teach the council of Rong the difference between non-living and living.  Of course this is where Mantle is great, obviously we needed to develop this knowledge before we could teach them.  We completed a sorting activity and discussed our decisions, using some clear criteria for living things.   This will be something we revisit over time and then continue to build connections from onto our other scientific understandings.

Our portal is a little purple table and the messages arrive in a bottle....children love this, it makes the activity seem so much more important.

And so from here we will be weaving in and out of professional tasks and the drama of it all.  

Basically the backstory of Rong is that it is messed up.  The air is dirty, the water is dirty, rubbish is taking over.  The people are miniscule (think Horton hears a who)  the planet is the size of a large marble.  The storyline is much like the Lorax.

Time in Rong flies faster than ours, one month is ten years in our time, this will allow us to make real change.

Our next steps are to receive the last eggs of endangered creatures from Rong and the planet itself for safe-keeping.  The eggs are hatchimals and the planet will be a large marble.  I am interested in how the children will decide to look after the planet and animals (once hatched) but that is entirely up to them.  

From here we will explore ideas further through the Lorax and Horton hears a who.  We will also take a step out of our team to create the 'surveillance' video that the council of Rong has of the litter bugs who have been causing the havoc on their planet.  They will need to 'tame' and 'teach' these litter bugs if they are to be successful.  We will then step back into our responsible team and 'view' the surveillance video as if we have never seen it before.

I can see huge spin offs into our play already, but where this goes will be up to the children.

While I have a plan, it is important to remember that this will probably change according to the direction the 'team' takes us and the discussions that we have.

I keep any session as short as possible and we only have about an hour in our week to expand on the story.  Children will do a lot of thinking at home and we'll be sharing a lot through seesaw.  

Just like in Number Agents children love this approach because it is like they are characters in a storybook.    In fact it would probably be a very good idea to write a picture book based on the journey of the planet protectors, would be great to be able to revisit it over and over again..(think I just gave myself an

Mantle of the Expert works because although it is imagined, it is very authentic.  We could explore the science within it in any other fashion, but it would not have the same meaning to children.  We already have a child asking her mother if they can clean up their road and we have not even really started yet.  They make the connections to their real world so quickly!

I love this little visual from Ken Robinson, I see Mantle as having these same benefits.

If you are stuck in the same old cycle of inquiry like we used to be, where what you are teaching is great, but how it is being delivered is not quite cutting the mustard, I really recommend you find out more about Mantle of the Expert.  We started from a point of wanting to Engage and Motivate more, the spin offs have been far greater than that. 

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