Approaches to Learning, Communication, PYP

Needs-Based Planning

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I recently saw this graphic on Twitter. Posted by Bethany Hill , it was retweeted 48 times and liked 71 times, so obviously it was resonating with an audience.

I have been thinking a lot about communication and how we communicate. I was also thinking about how we communicate through things like our unit planners and the ideas we choose to focus on in our classroom.

Over lunch today, a colleague and I were discussing the idea of planning units based on observed needs of the students at our school. It just seemed to make sense to us. What if we were to observe our kids and identify things that stand out to us (both positive and negative) and build units of inquiry with those things embedded in them? What if we were to consciously plan to help kids address issues that continually arise within and across grade levels?

Sometimes it can seem like the issues that arise have to be put aside because of time or other things that need ‘covering’ but what if the issues were the thing? How might we plan differently if we started with the needs of our kids in mind?

In reviewing the Program of Inquiry, I would suggest we answer these sorts of questions:

  1. Are there needs not being met?
  2. What social skills do our kids lack?
  3. Do our kids have multiple ways to communicate?

What other questions should we be asking? Lets move beyond “vertical and horizontal articulation” and ensure the things we are choosing to focus on in our classrooms are reflective of the students in front of us.

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Inquiry, Learning

Find Your Water

I read a great post by Kath Murdoch on Getting Into The Habit Of Inquiry. The post has so much to offer that you should read it in its entirety if you are or aspire to be an inquiry focused teacher. As I read it, I couldn’t help but connect Kath’s ideas with those of David Foster Wallace. I believe Kath has “found her water”. Living life through inquiry is something as natural to her as living in water is to a fish.

This is Water-David Foster Wallace from alexander correll on Vimeo.

What I particularly appreciate about Kath’s post is that she doesn’t just say, “Oh, I couldn’t teach any other way – lucky me!” and that’s it. She gives some great advice on how to develop your own skills and strategies to becoming a stronger teacher.

My favorite advice? Include your students in your learning process. Can you imagine yourself saying this to your class:

Hi everyone! I was doing some reading over the last few days about questions and asking good questions, and about giving you time to think about and answer questions. I have learned about this thing called “wait time” which means I have to stop talking and let you talk! I have written down some reminders to myself to help me learn and I would love your help too in reminding me to let you talk!

Maybe that is a bit cheesy? I don’t know. But I do know that we expect our kids to articulate their learning goals. Why not show them authentically what this looks like? Why not also show them that you are learning too? That in this classroom, we are all learners – and actually show them what that means.  What if we dared to let our kids know that we don’t know it all, that we are always learning and changing our perspective on what good teaching and learning looks and sounds like? What if we acknowledge when we slip back into old ways and share our struggles with learning?

What if we were all learners?