Earlier this year in April, I was asked by the IBO to create a planner for the PYP. Under the new PYP Enhancements, schools are able to create their own planners. The IB have created a planning document to guide this process – kind of a ‘cheat sheet’ to ensure your planning is balanced and reflective of the PYP elements. After being asked to do this, I tapped into one of the most valuable resource a school has: its people. Within a very short space of time, I had our principal, math coach, literacy coach, 2 second grade teachers, and a 4th grade teacher ready to help. We met, standing up around a white board table with markers in hand, and we talked. And we listened. At the end of it, I would take our ideas and try and synthesise them into a visual planning tool that both reflected our beliefs about learning and the PYP ethos on learning and planning for learning. And then we’d do it all over again. And again. And again. Until we came up with version six or seven which was submitted to the IB.
The big ideas from this planner:
it is about each individual student
we need to take time to provoke and wonder
we use our observations and conversations to guide next steps
our role is to gently prod and guide kids to their zone of “I don’t quite know what I am doing but I know you’ll help me learn”
The document is on the PYP Communities page and can be downloaded by schools. I created it on Pages – which I know is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it is my tool of choice for projects like these. I still “own” the document and can share it and schools can choose to use it as it is or as a starting point for their own planning journey.
Recently, at the Learning2 Conference in Tokyo, Ben Sheridan shared an L2 Talk titled, “Together We Are Better”. And I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment.
What could have been a lone endeavor on my part became a collaborative undertaking. I learned a lot about listening, about digging into the intentions behind people’s words, about respecting ideas and asking questions to make sure I was understanding what others were trying to say. I am really proud of the work we have done. Is it the best planner ever? Almost 🙂 What it is though, is a reminder to me that we can harness the power within our schools to create great things when we work together.
Last night I recorded a Webinar with Sarah from the IB on the Planning Process. It will be released soon and contains a wealth of information for you if you are planning on embarking on your own planning odyssey. From my perspective, the freedom to do this is a welcome change to the PYP and the learning about learning that occurs as a result is priceless. Give it a go and then share your ideas. I would love to work on Version 67 of this planner we have drafted….but first, Christmas holidays in New Zealand 🙂
This week, our counselors and tech team hosted a parent coffee morning on the subject of “Parenting in the Digital Age”. As the parent of a rising first grader who will be asked to buy my child an iPad for use at school next year, I was very interested in hearing what was said at this morning meeting.
As a member of our school strategy team, I have been working with Grade 1 teachers to analyse at we already do in relation to iPad use. Our wonderings are focusing around the big ideas of:
educating students to be more mindful
the developmental path toward self-regulation
tech addiction – what are the facts?
what are our intentions for using technology in the first place
I recently came across the organization ZeroToThree. They caught my eye on Twitter when offering a webinar about screen time for young children in which they were planning on talking about “minimizing the negative effects of screen time”.
This was the first I had seen anyone suggest that negative effects existed. Take a look. Most people when you ask them (and I did) start talking about creation over consumption. This is good. I have said these same things before. But I haven’t known what to say when it comes to minimizing what we know to be true: that there are negative effects of extended time on screens. Here are my notes from the Webinar. And here is a really useful and detailed report on the research behind the webinar.
So, what are my big takeaways from looking into this thus far:
Negative effects of screen time can be minimised if the quality of content that your child is consuming/interacting with is high. If the TV they are watching is educational and interactive, if the apps are challenging and require mind-on thinking. ZeroToThree suggest you evaluate media and apps using E-AIMS:
Is it engaging? Is there a goal or story as part of the experience?
Is the child actively involved – that is, are they required to have their minds on? Are they responding to questions? Is it interactive?
Is the content meaningful? Does it reflect their everyday life and therefore can they relate to it?
Is it (or can it be) social? Is it language rich? Is there talking or responding? For some games or online experiences, this element can be provided by an adult or other child so there is an element of exchange within the experience.
The suggestion is that all media pass through a simple test:
Is it age appropriate?
Is your child on ‘auto-pilot’ while using?
Is your child challenged but not frustrated?
This made me think about apps we load on iPads. Do they pass this test? Are we paying as much time and attention to the apps our kids use as we do the books they read? Are we as discerning? Are we seeking out the same quality? Are we playing the games with our kids the same way we might read with them (or read the same book as them before they read it?).
Or, as Marina Gijzen put it:
Is it intentional or out of control?
Great question. I would argue that we have good intentions but our reality does not always match up. We are inconsistent. We are human. We want to allow for student choice – except when they make “poor” choices. In the case of technology, I would argue a need for a family/home/school/class agreement. I would also advocate for teachers to be mindful of when they are asking kids to use their tech and when it could be tech free. Sure there are great brainstorming apps, but there are markers and paper and they work well too. What percentage of your lesson are you expecting or allowing kids to be on a device? Now multiply that by the number of classes your child has in a day.
What is your school doing to address tech use in your school beyond the ‘creation/consumption’ mandate? How are we helping our kids to self-regulate their behavior?
In terms of my own parent community, I enjoyed listening to our parents at the coffee morning. It made me think that there is still somewhat of a “them and us” divide with regard to kids and tech when really we all want the same thing: happy, healthy kids. Now to keep the conversations moving forward on how best we might achieve this in a way that is respectful, meaningful, and mindful. Wish us luck!
Recently on Twitter, I posted a tweet in a moment of frustration but also deep questioning, hoping against all hope, that the ‘sunshine and jellybean’ type posts which Twitter EDU is somewhat known for, might step to the side for a moment so that my unperfect question could be posed. To my surprise, I quickly found I was not alone in my wondering, and, I got a massive amount of comments that were thoughtful, inspired, and most of all, really helpful.
How do you “trust students to take control of their own learning” when some learners set the bar so ridiculously low? Serious question. Some kids want to do amazing things. Others are satisfied with the minimum possible effort. How do you coach more out of them? #mypchat#agency
Here are some of the responses that really got me thinking:
Finding the Sweet Spot
This image from Maggie has definitely been a huge help when talking with students about their work.
It’s about having a conversation. Putting agency w/Ss to think about how challenging something might be;hence, placing motivation/ power with them. It is a tool we continually reference as a conversation starter in my classroom. Can easily be adapted! pic.twitter.com/TaQWiPzV5P
It actually reminded me of some posts on questions that I have used with students in the past when trying to create their own inquiries. Ask Great Questions speaks to the depth and quality of questions we can ask with students. And Questioning Conceptually which drives home the idea of developing questions worth inquiring into via a number of thinking routines – in particular, the Visible Thinking routine Question Sorts This routine is used by our grade 4 CNU teachers to help students choose ideas worth inquiring into and would transfer to any aged audience – especially middle school.
Drive mentions autonomy, mastery and purpose. These all come into play. I find getting the balance right can be a challenge.
Autonomy. Mastery. Purpose. These things are somewhat out of whack for me and my kids (I think). Most of all purpose. “Why do you want to do this?” or “How might you share your learning” are really difficult questions for some kids to answer. What I am finding though, is “Show it on the TV screens around the school” is becoming a really popular response. They want their peers to see their work – simple. They want that feedback. Other kids are looking to go further. Just this morning I got this email from one of my 8th Graders:
How cool is this kid? I love stuff like this! Motivated by other students to rally his advisory group to action. I can’t wait to support him on this. Celebrating those who ARE motivated and keeping trying with those who are not as per this suggestion:
Great discussion thanks. I have come across lot of demotivated Ss, my aim was to contanstly provide platform to showcase their work & appreciate, they will catch up one day. What do we do if one of our own children is motivated other is not? Keep trying @MYPChat#MYPChat
Time is a massive factor. Fortunately, we have a lot of teachers all working together and we are each allocated students to mentor. This tweet stood out to me:
And how do you battle time constraints of supporting these students to find what they might be interested in while adequately spending time with those who just ‘get on with it’ without you. The could use the time, too, but are often the last to get to….
Thinking about this I put together the following spreadsheet of questions. I am able to check in with 2 or 3 students during the X-block hour that I am working with my group. I have modeled these questions from this Kath Murdoch blog post: Getting Personal.
Having students respond to the question, “How do you know what success will look like? is proving to also be helpful. It puts the ownership of the project back in the hands of the students and reinforces that they are not doing this for me or for a rubric or even for a grade, but for a purpose of their own choosing. Which is challenging but also empowering for some. Working hand in hand with TIME, is it’s friend…
Today on Twitter, Tania Mansfield posted the following:
The word TRUST kept jumping out at me as this is something we talked about earlier in the year as being vital in building a cohesive team as per the Lencioni Trust Pyramid (in which an absence of trust is a leading cause of dysfunction within a team).
So I responded to Tania’s tweet:
Trust. I am finding this is key to most things – learner agency being one of them. Trusting in the process, in the student, in myself.
To which Tania replied to the original thread on student agency in MYP:
2/2 Trust is a culture to be developed and nurtured in EY and carried up through the years, so when you come across these wonderful learners in the MYP they have this culture of trust within who they are. Give them time…. #cultureoftrust#kidsdeserveit
This made me think of what happened when I did just what Tania suggests we do in her tweet:
2/2 they both showed up, asked for the help they needed, tried some new ideas out, changed their plan a little. I am guilty of missing the forest for the trees sometimes and get too bogged down by setbacks that I forget to celebrate the wins #mypchat#agency
Do I think there is a ‘secret’ to Agency? Probably. The secret is going to be different for different kids though – and that is the secret within itself. My tweet is not indicative of ALL students – just the one or two I worked with on that day. Their purpose is becoming more clear, we are spending more time with each other, I am showing them I can be trusted to support them should they choose to take greater risks in the challenges they set themselves. It is an ever changing game or dance between the two of us. Learning about each other and what we are capable of, who we are, what we can do or can’t do….yet.
Recently, I led Extended Sessions on “Prioritizing Play” at the Learning2 conference hosted by the American School in Japan.
This was my third L2 and my second time as an L2 Leader. As I began researching for this event I realized that I was accumulating a mountain of material. How to condense this into 2 and a half hours?
With my decisions made and my presentation curated, I began. I am not “a natural” when it comes to working with adults in this more formal ‘classroom’ type setting. And despite polling the participants in order to tailor the session to their needs, I had that nagging doubt that I may not be leading them in the direction they needed or wanted to go.
My first session was high energy from the get-go. Keen participants, eager to share, eager to debate, discuss, and to reflect on their own learning. I was able to connect and relate and share ideas. I finished the session and it felt “successful”. This was reflected in the generous feedback I was given.
Great presenter – this should have been a whole day workshop. Too much good stuff to pack into the short time.
This session was amazing. Great presentation, lots of resources, approachable and knowledgeable presenter. Thank you
I thoroughly enjoyed the session and found it to be very informative.
L2 Participant Feedback
The second session felt different. A little more hesitant. A little more resistant? Pockets of energy and enthusiasm but a lot of critical thinkers. Deep questioners. We never got into the flow of the topic unlike the previous day. And I wasn’t able to turn that around. I left the second session buoyed by some of the personal connections I made but ultimately deflated by my inability to turn the discussion around. And my feedback reflected my reaction to the session. Numerically, I went from solid 4’s and 5’s (out of 5) to a more solid 3/4 mix with a healthy dose of 2’s and a few 5’s. One ‘other’ comment: “It was a bit draggy” leapt out at me, and I took that to heart. But then I looked at the other comments. When asked, “What is one “takeaway” you are going to act on?” some participants responded:
L2 Participant Comments
more play into my schedule.
to explore resources
Using play as a means of assessing students skills.
play into my teaching seamlessly, and understanding that it’s ok for children
to walk away from playing.
are different types of ‘play’, for my group of students I will be more
focused on guided play and games.
resources shared the presenter
students write their own rubrics, think about ways play can capture standards
that aren’t included in a given lesson, give every child a ball!
play is something I want to make time for. Letting go of “norms” I’m used to
as a teacher, and embracing the authentic learning that can come out of this
is something that inspires me to make more effort to include it in my
play, unstructured and structured play, in and outside the classroom to
enhance and optimize learning.
important for learners of all ages! Include play more often
students to define Play in their own words
activities for reinforcement or breaking into a new unit.
And I realized that whether or not I scored a 2 was beside the point to some extent. I just proved what Dylan Wiliam et.al say about grades vs. feedback. I had looked at the numbers and based my success or failure on these alone. Yet the comments suggest that the participants have been thinking, reflecting, and learning, despite what their numerical scores might say.
I still stand by the lower scores and will endeavor to make explicit the learning outcomes the next time I present. Perhaps these were unclear? Perhaps our jilted way of ‘dragging’ through the session meant that we disconnected from our intentions? One strategy I would like to try next time I present is to have the participants reframe the learning objectives for each stage of the session. If my first objective is made clear, how can each participant then make it personal?
If you haven’t seen an L2 talk before, here are some of my favorites (although truth be told, they were all pretty great!). This is a nice selection to get you going, constructed around the conference theme “It’s personal”.
Teaching Isn’t Magic – Geoff Derry
Geoff and I only “Twitter-knew” each other until we met in Tokyo. Through our interconnected network of friends and acquaintances, we started to see that our connection ran a little deeper than international schools – we both worked at Camp Pecometh on the Eastern Shore of Maryland back in the 90’s. It was a riot to meet Geoff and to share Pecometh memories and to marvel at how small the world feels sometimes. Geoff’s talk is pure magic.
Weirdness is a lot of things – Mike Bycraft
Mike is interesting, creative, a maker, a dad, a husband, an educator. And he’s weird. He delivers a personal talk about the power we all have to be like his 2nd grade teacher and embrace weirdness: “It does look a little weird. But that’s o.k.” -Ms. Taylor
Filling the Space – Tricia Friedman
Tricia is a good friend and a great educator. She is someone who is able to reflect deeply, care generously, discuss respectfully, and strive tirelessly to advocate for equality in all realms of life. Her experience as a queer educator and the support she offers ally’s, form the basis of this challenging talk.
Together We Are Better – Ben Sheridan
Ben’s talk on Professional Capital (Human/Social/Decisonal) and how that intersects with his own quest for a new tattoo, combine in this engaging talk about the power of being vulnerable in order to create something meaningful.
Culturally Responsive Teaching – Gary Gray
Gary’s talk is powerfully engaging. “You’re too black. You’re not black enough” – a call to teachers to embrace culturally responsive teaching. All educators need to read this and ask themselves if their students are seeing themselves in the books, movies, lessons in your classroom.
Photography Can Change the World – Dave Caleb
Visually stunning and a message that matches, Dave’s talk was inspiring for it’s depth, it’s beauty, and it’s meaning. A long-time fan of Dave’s photography, this was an L2 highlight for me. Every element of this talk could branch off into their own talks on relating to others, revealing truth, bearing witness, proving facts, protect what’s important, and celebrating our amazing world.
Information is already up on the website and the call for L2 Leaders is out. Come and join us at Nanjing International School next year and be a part of the L2 conference experience: a conference by teachers, for teachers. As Chair of the hosting school team, I am very excited to be a part of this conference and I am looking forward to seeing the ideas grow and develop as we prepare for next October. Mark your calendars!