We have been very fortunate at St Bernadette's, Castle Hill, to have had Bertie Bee Bot with us for quite some time. The students were first introduced to Bertie (as we call him) during term four last year when they were in Kindergarten. Last year the students were exploring the ways Bertie could move and how to make him move. They developed a sound understanding of the need to give Bertie commands. They knew that Bertie was very clever and that he had a great memory, but more importantly they knew that Bertie was only clever when they told him what to do. This year the students are 'big' Year One children and have taken their learning journey with Bertie quite a bit further. We made a mat from different coloured squares and 'thinking' problems were created around the theme of Journeys. Bertie has two friends (which are just small soft toys) and he goes to visit his friends. The students have to determine the path or journey that Bertie is going to take to get to his destination. As we discovered there are always numerous paths and these are explored with great excitement and anticipation by the students. The delight in the students faces when Bertie does arrive at the right destination is priceless.
From a teacher's point of view, the Bertie experience has provided a wonderful opportunity for different learning styles and abilities to be showcased. Those students that are kinaesthetic learners can actually pretend they are Bertie and walk the path. The visual learners can walk the path with their body or just their eyes and place direction cards on the ground to visualise the journey. Those students who are able to complete their journey mentally can do so as well. I am fortunate enough to have a six year old student in my class who "blows me away" daily with his ideas and actions. One journey he mentally mapped out for Bertie had 18, yes, 18 commands!!! It is important that the students use whatever strategies that are meaningful to them to solve the problem.
Another strategy that I use in my classroom is to have "thinking time" once a problem is posed. During this time there are no waving hands. This gives all students time to think and strategise without feeling pressured.
As with most learning there are many miscalculations. We don't say "that's a mistake". Instead we call it a little 'hiccup' or 'challenge' and work our way around it, we never go back to the beginning and start again. That way students don't lose confidence in taking risks.
One of the most pleasing outcomes from our Bertie Journeys has been the development of collaborative thinking and co-operation. All students work together to get Bertie to his destination, no one wants to be the 'boss'. All around Bertie is a real winner at St Bernadette's. We would love to hear from anybody who may have great ideas for mat templates.