Childhood » Age Six to Twelve » Elementary » Typical Day

Typical Day

When they arrive at the start of the day, many children already have a clear idea of what they intend to work on and get straight on with it. This is worth repeating: many children come in and start their work without any intervention or direction from their Guide. Often little conversations take place in the cloakroom between two or more children as they put on their indoor shoes, ‘Shall we do the Verb Grammar Box together?’ or ‘Do you want to carry on our rivers research?’

As working groups establish themselves at the start of the day, the children also look to see what presentations (lessons) they have that day. These are not scheduled for particular times. The timing of them is chosen by the Guide and is flexible to allow children are already deeply engaged to continue uninterrupted.

In a mixed-age community of around 30 children the Guide will likely have half a dozen quick conversations with those that need more support to get started, before gathering a small group for the first presentation of the day. Today that presentation is ‘Squaring a Sum’. The children fetch the materials the Guide needs from the shelf and gather around. Meanwhile the 25 other children work independently in small groups or individually. The 15-20 minute lesson is given, showing the children how to use the materials. The children understand that, once shown, their job is to use the materials to get really good at – in this instance – squaring a sum. At the end of the presentation 3 of the children start working on squaring a sum, others take out other work, and will come back to the maths material another time.

Meanwhile, three children started the morning continuing their work making paper. They have previously made a deckle and frame, and are now creating the pulp. Four others are using the History Question Charts to guide their comparative study of cultures in 3000 BCE, exploring the Sumerians, Egyptians and Neolithic Britain.

Nearby, an older child is spell-checking a story a younger child has just finished, offering positive comments about a character. At the same table two girls and a boy are labelling the Trinomial Cube with algebraic labels for each piece – a3, a2b etc. A small group of 4 children have hung their nametags on the board to say they have gone across the courtyard into the North Woods. They are looking for dry and succulent fruits, following on from a presentation the previous day.

Two children are reading on the sofa. Occasionally they share a sentence from the book they are reading that they think is funny. They are not disturbed by the sound of the tone bars a few metres away. Three children have invented a game to learn the note names. One of them plays a note (as part of a scale) and, without looking, the other two have to say the name of it. They giggle a little as they hide their faces to prove they are not looking.

One child is weighing a bearded dragon. When she has recorded its weight, she returns it and takes out the next animal. She is graphing their weights as a way of monitoring their health. Her friend invites her to join a group trying to classify all the species of the order cetacea.

Some of these activities may carry on for the whole morning, others – such as reading a book – may finish more quickly and other work then found. There is a flow and hum to the environment, much like that of an open plan office. Having completed the first presentation, the Guide may invite one or two children to get ready for One-to-One meetings, where the guide meets with them to review their week. The Guide asks what the child is most proud of this week. They look at the work together; discuss what is going well and anything that is proving difficult. Depending on the child, the Guide may ask what their plan is for the coming week, or agree clear goals for them.

The morning unfolds with this great variety of work interspersed with presentations by the Guide, One to One meetings and the myriad of other questions and conversations that make up Elementary community life.

At 11.45 a child rings the singing bowl to get everyone’s attention. Three children are about to present to the class their work calculating the volumes of all the planets in the solar system.

At 12pm one of the older children dismisses the children to lunch, asking them to name animals beginning with a particular letter in order to leave to wash their hands. The children lay the table, serve each other and wash up afterwards before heading into the courtyard or woods for ‘garden time’.

The afternoon unfolds in a similar way, perhaps with some singing or other short group at the beginning. At the end of the afternoon work-cycle the children complete their community job, tidying the room and caring for the plants and animals before they all settle down for ‘Read Aloud’ when the Guide reads to them for 20-30 minutes.