Willy explaining planning poker

The day we visited Ashram, we had the pleasure of experiencing what goes on in the classroom. One of the classes got introduced to estimating backlog and doing planning poker. It was just the second class in the morning, first class had left the room. And we were discussing what we observed in the first class while we were waiting.

IMG_1354Some moments later a new class entered the room. Willy was a little more firm on this class, no bags on the table, but same setting, all groups joining together. This time we got some more insight; this class went through the first two lessons. This, we learned, was basically about:

  • having a short introduction in eduScrum, the basics and principles
  • dividing in groups of four based on qualities
  • breaking down their first assignment, some chapters in their class book with an end assignment

Willy continued and explained they now had to estimate the backlog, they work they had broken down the previous class into tasks with post-its. Willy distributed planning poker cards and said the first tasks, the first page of a book was 2, they had to estimate accordingly. Class looked puzzled, so he continued: “I am going to explain you something about relative comparison. I am 50 Kg,” (which I have to tell you is a little off reality), “no I am 50 Apples, no I am 50 A, how much are you?” looking at one of the girls sitting in front of the class. A little hesitant she admitted she wouldn’t know, so he asked again: “I am 50 A, how much are you?”, “40 A?”, she said. “Thank you for the compliment! but accepted, so how about you?” looking at another student. “30 A?”, she replied. “Excellent, you get the idea. Just throw away the dimensions, but if I am 50 A, you are perfectly able to estimate your are less, and you are even lesser. So let’s continue,” and he walked to a group handing them cards, taking two activities, one he declared 2 and the other was obviously more complex. “Now,” he said, “take your cards, give your estimate, and on the count of three give me your number, 1, 2, 3,…. Too slow guys, once more and all at the same moment, 1, 2, 3 ….” We saw 8,2,5, 8, 2.”Can’t be, they cannot be same as the previous task do it again, 1,2,3 ..” and 8,8,8,5,8 popped up. He declared it eight and you say some students in the other groups making sound they start to understand. He told once again the relevance of the relevant comparison, waiving away the need to be exact and stressing the importance of coming to understanding in a double blind proposal.

Some few moments later he had the impression students in all groups would understand and invited them to start estimating the complete backlog of the previous lesson. Some half hour passed, few questions, but most of all we just had time to watch and observe. And in the final minutes Willy invited everybody to add all numbers and call out the total: 250, 178, 320, 380, 290. 356, some were a little reluctant, but that would stop him.

“Now I take one of these numbers, 380, forget if it is right or not, it is the number of this group. If this is your estimation I just plot it here. We have ten lessons to go, forget about this and the previous lessons. We just take the 380, according to your estimation based on 2 for reading the first page, you need to do 380 points in 10 lessons. So 38 points per lesson (writing 38 p/l, introducing dimensional calculation at the same time again). We take the graph putting 380 on x=0 and drawing a straight line down to 0 at x=10″, basically drawing the burndown chart.

“Now next lesson you will come. It will be lesson zero and you do work. The next lesson you will come and put work from todo to done and count the numbers. It is expected you do 38 points work. That your will write done here. The next lesson you will come again doing the same. We will have two points and we know what your velocity, meaning points per lesson is.” he continued, “Now I do not care what your are doing, when you are doing it, where you are doing it. But you are expected to do 38 per lesson. If you are doing more, you are ok, having free time the last lessons. doing some french exam or something. It is up to you. If you do less however, I will ask and we will have to find a way together to go faster, ” he said, “However I do not expect you to do, since nobody ever did less”. “My experience is, ” he continued, “that first and second graders are right on the spot, eager as they are. Sixed graders however are like this, doing nothing the first two lessons and then catching on, but you will all make it on time, maybe even earlier if you just follow your own planning.”

“So it is up to you,” he said. And the buzzer went of, kids picking their bags, running of, “you just do whatever you like, but remember, ” as they went out the door, ” you listen to me and do as I tell you” and he showed a big smile because he just knows after two year, they all get it. Do their work, spent less on homework, hardly ever has to interrupt himself and they would all have higher grades.

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