Class Work

Helen Smith describes a classroom.

The children have gone out to play. The grade six classroom is quiet for now, a riot of colour and light. A space filled to overflowing with books, papers, pens, paints, equipment and boxes of curious objects. Computers are positioned around the room, jostling for space with displays of student work and a raft of other teaching and learning ‘props’.

The room has no defined ‘front’, no place, dominated by a blackboard or whiteboard, to mark the teacher’s authority; no place to be faced by the conforming class at all times. Here there are various points of focus—a pile of cushions, a sofa, banks of tables and chairs, a carpeted open space—that come into play as the day unfolds.

The classroom opens onto a small courtyard and when play ends, students flow back and forth—reading in a sunny corner, filming and editing their contribution to the grade six annual video competition, chatting over an Internet site, playing an intricate board game that involves complex mathematical calculations. Hoots of laughter can be heard from the ‘retreat’ adjacent to the classroom where a small group, practising a play for later presentation to the class, drape themselves with articles from the dress-up box. More laughter when they appear later to read their parts in the first full dress rehearsal; and cheers from the audience when the eloquent narrator breaks from the script with improvised asides.

The teacher moves from group to group, advising, listening, questioning, joining in the laughter, and the morning passes without her voice being heard above the hum of activity as the students work to their allotted tasks at a self-selected pace.

The morning concludes with a group reflection.

‘What did you learn?’ the teacher asks.

‘Where could you take that learning next?’

‘Who enjoyed themselves?’

‘What! Even the maths tasks?’

‘Well, haven’t we had a good day so far?’

Smith, Helen, Mary Kalantzis, and Bill Cope. 2006. ‘Australian Research Council Digital Literacies Project,’ Unpublished Manuscript.