Basic activities and a rythmic weekplan
In a Jenaplanschool there is a variety of learning situations. Fundamental are the so-called basic activities of living together: dialogue, playing, working and celebrating (in German: Feier). These are all expressions of a fundamental concept in the Jenaplan theory: pedagogically intended situations. Situations can be planned in the sense of creating conditions for acting, but the personal choices made by the pupils, their personal answers to the situations cannot be planned. In pedagogically intended situations this personal existential answer is essential.
Therefore in many cases pedagogical planning will be a planning for what might happen instead of what should happen. This kind of planning has nothing to do with a laisser faire approach, for the teacher still is and will be responsible for this particular group of children, for their well-being and possibilities of development. In some situations the teacher has to demonstrate a direct and firm leadership towards individual children.
A rythmic weekplan
Together and in their alternation the four main basic activities contribute to a rythmic weekplan. The formal way of dialogue takes place in a Circle where everybody sees everybody, where nobody dominates. When the Circle is being formed, all tables are put aside. The Circle situation is in principle absolutely democratic. Democratic behaviour is required from both teacher and students. The Monday morning Circle has a planning character (what the group is going to do this week - special projects, arrangements, paying attention to agreements made about discipline, etc.). The week-closing Circle however, has an evaluative character. In both Circles and in additonal.
Midweek Circles current events are being discussed. Some questions which arise and cannot be straightforwardly answered, are put into the hands of the student-volunteers, who will work on them either individually or with a partner, or in small group during the daily periods of independent seatwork.
When the students have finished their study, the group leader decides whether the reports are ready for reporting to the whole group. In the incidental reporting Circles the members of the study-group first report alternately, then answer the questions from the group. In Kindergarten and the multiage Intermediate the Show-and-Tell Circle has an important function in acquiring skills in Speech, Listening, Communication and further Inquiring.
Working in the intermediate stage means attending basic skill classes, exercising skills in the daily period of independent seatwork, working on individual inquiries in world orientation, doing artwork, etc. Working in the upper stage means attending scheduled classes in homogeneous basic skillgroups, in input groups for special skills and exercising skills during the daily period of independent seatwork, as well as working on projects and individual inquiries in world orientation.
Learning in the upper area is characterized as Learning by DOING.
Playing is an important activity in itself and a way of learning
Exercising the basic skills in the intermediate area is done to a large extent through learning-games. Learning in the multiage Intermediate in Jenaplanschools should be, in general, learning by PLAYING. Learning in the Kindergarten is done by PLAYING, or what is usually considered by adults as nothing but playing. There is not one thing haphazard or outdated in this approach.
The Jenaplan Kindergarten and Intermediate are rooted in Froebels Philosopy of Education, as are many of the British Infant and Primary schools. When these are family-grouped there is hardly any difference between them. Celebrations finally, from different points of view - both character and content and leaderschip - can vary in many ways. There are week opening and closing Assemblies, either by the whole school community or in the homeroom. It depends on the school whether the teacher is accountable, or the teacher together with some advanced students or just the student themselves. The nature of the celebrations differs, depending on the situation. Birthday celebrations are normally fully in the hand of the children. For some years attention has again been paid to the individual and spiritual nucleus of the social basic activities and to the importance of silence, meditation and close observation for growing as a person.