Creativity, Design, Learning

#cultivate your learning spaces

My feed is full of great stories from fellow teachers beginning a new school year. Many are inspiring me with the depth of thought that goes into starting a new school year. I especially liked this post from my new 2nd grade colleague, Nora, who reminded me in her post to take a minute to appreciate the special, clean start of a new year before everything levels up.

Today I read a post I have been waiting a year for. My friend Jocelyn in Singapore did amazing things with her learning space this time last year. She is not the type of person to sit with the status quo so I was super intrigued to see where she would head this year. She did not disappoint. Jocelyn has refined her thinking and continued her research all in the name of best supporting her students. She herself even says of her new learning spaces:

I also know that removing the 1 desk & chair per child will encourage me to adapt and broaden my teaching practice to move beyond ‘desk work’ activities.

Jocelyn Sutherland

I really respect the way she is leaning in on the third teacher to help her kids learn best. Jocelyn’s entire post which includes links to last year’s learning environment post, is definitely worth reading in its entirety. My biggest takeaway was the need for a variety of spaces in your classroom. Spaces known as: the cave, the watering hole, and the campfire:

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As per Jocelyn’s post, these spaces are described as:

CAVES: This is a space where students can reflect independently, journal or read. It allows students to process what they’ve learned and allows students private quiet time.

WATERING HOLES: This is the social space where students collaborate, share thinking and can work in small groups. Watering holes foster relationships in the classroom and encourage students to expand their friendship circles through mixed grouping opportunities.

CAMPFIRES: This space is used for whole class gatherings for morning meetings, storytelling, celebrations and presentations by experts. It stands as a ritual for bringing the entire classroom community together in one friendly space.

 

It’s never too late to change. Take a look at your room. Do you have these types of spaces in your learning environment? Could you? How might you #cultivate your learning spaces?

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Design, Inquiry, iPad, Thinking, Visible Thinking

TMI

One of the resources that I’m using a lot in my new role as a design teacher, is the book called Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary S. Stager. This book details an inquiry type cycle simply called TMI: Think, Make, Improve. This is very accessible language for students and most of the kids who have been in our school are very familiar with this terminology and how to put it into practice.

Here are each of the stages in a little more detail:




I particularly like the “improve” section. Once kids have made something they are challenged to ask themselves are they stuck or are they satisfied? Can I fix it or can I make it better?

Today I was working with Grade 3. Their challenge was to use what they had learned from previous lessons to create a balloon powered vehicle. We talked about TMI and as we talked about the first stage, I sat with the students and modeled how I might document my thinking. Using the Paper 53 app and my iPad Pro with Apple Pencil I was able to think aloud while drawing and projecting on our screen. This was my second time doing this lesson and I didn’t do the same kind of modeling of this documentation process with the first group. We really noticed a difference in quality when the kids were shown how it is possible to plan out their designs. 


I get to do this lesson for a third time tomorrow. I want to make sure that we refer back to the image of all the things that “thinking” entails and identify the elements that we touch on so the kids see that there is not just one way of thinking. Edit

How do you help your children to make their thinking visible?

Approaches to Learning, Design

Partner Frenzy

Today, I was introducing Little Bits to one of my classes. Here’s their tag line:

Screen Shot 2017-08-24 at 3.34.37 PM

Great! I thought. This will be awesome! I thought. I like mixing up teams and partners for working groups, so for this initial task of sorting the kit and then “making something that does something” (free exploration) for the 60 minute lesson, I thought I would just pair off down the register, students 1 and 2 together, 3 and 4, and so on. Total lucky dip.

During lunch I had taken a minute to open the new YouCubed posters:

2017-Norms-Poster 2

I think if you took the words “maths” and “mathematical” these norms could apply to many things students are challenged to do every day. In particular:

Poster-6-believe-2Poster-7-mistakes-1

Great! I thought. I will have a lesson in which the kids are challenged to use electronics (something they may not think they can do), they will struggle and grow their brains, and all this will be done under the umbrella of collaborative team work.

Or not.

The class was not impressed with my random pairings. Feet stomped, hands thrown in the air, students started suggesting other pairs, some said nothing, some said they were fine with their partner, one said, “NOBODY likes the person they have been partnered with!”  I had forgotten how dramatic fourth graders could be!

I let them go for a minute and then I stepped in. And in a firm, clear voice, I explained that we can do anything for 45 minutes. And we can certainly work with a classmate for that time on this task. And if you didn’t want to work with your assigned partner, that was your choice, but you would also be choosing to not work at all. All kids were heads down in the kits within 30 seconds.

We ended with a reflection. Short and sweet: “We can do anything for 45 minutes and we can always learn from and with each other or at the least, learn something about ourselves and who we are as learners.”

I want the kids to be challenged. I want them to try new things and do things they haven’t done before. I know this is already super challenging for some and the added dynamic of not choosing a partner adds another layer of stress for some. But how to overcome this when resources are limited and need to be shared? Earlier in the day on a different task for which we have an abundance of resources, the class could choose to work alone, pairs, threes, or fours. I loathe the hierarchy of “being picked” and like to avoid this as much as possible. But I also want kids to put all their energy into designing and making, tinkering, and improving, and I wonder if they don’t need to be in self-selected groups to do this at their best.

How do you group kids for learning groups?

Design, Play

Yes or No?

In a meeting yesterday we talked about the idea of saying no. Specifically saying no to technology when it is not needed, not appropriate, or time for something else. It was a good message of balance and of responsibility and of boundaries.

Today I read an article about saying yes. Specifically saying yes when saying no won’t kill you or harm you, when it will allow choice, when it gives kids the option to try something they have been thinking about, and when saying yes just makes things more fun.

Let Your Child Make Mistakes is a great read in how to help your child develop skills and behaviors that will serve them well as they grow into adulthood. It isn’t about being entitled or spoiling but about learning through being given the option to try something.

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My AMAZING new work space!

We are about to start a new school year. I am sitting in a gorgeous new workspace that is filled with all kinds of things kids are going to want to touch and play with. I am reading Responsive Classroom for Music, Art, PE, and other special areas and I am working on how to frame my introductory explorations in a way that includes more can’s than can not’s and more yes’s than no’s. The urge to touch is real! I want to embrace that.

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“Let’s do this!”

 

How do you empower?

How will you begin the school year in a way that actively involves your students?

Coetail, Design

Telling My Story In An Infographic Resume

As part of my COETAIL course, I took on the assignment to redesign my resume in an infographic style. I already had a fairly unique looking resume (it is still up on my Resume page but will be archived soon) but I wanted to get it down to a single page. After many revisions, here is the latest version:

Screen Shot 2015-03-09 at 19.15.11

Sonya terBorg – Resume (PDF)

My thoughts on this version:

  • I like the little icons (thanks Noun Project!) as I think they add a clean visual to the document
  • I like the photo of me and my daughter as it shows a very important part of who I am without me having to articulate that I am a mom
  • I like the QR code link to my personal blog
  • Creating the ‘bar graph’ of things I believe in was actually really hard – the ranking of items – and I liked that this gave me the opportunity to reflect on what was important to me, philosophically
  • I am on the fence with the L/R Brain although I do like the idea of this. I just took an online quiz and that was the result and so I took the key words from the test analysis and created the little graphic.
  • I really like the “Let me help you” and “Hire me” titles (this idea ‘remixed from #23 on this list) and these titles helped me to focus on what I wanted to say about my skills and my purpose
  • I thought the timeline was an easy way to see where I have been although it does make it clear how much I jump around!
  • I really wanted to keep the concentric circles but I modified the wordiness of them and refined my purpose.

I have spent so long looking at elements of good design that it really was hard to narrow this down.  I think the resume looks good (it is entirely done in Pages, btw, as I wanted to try not using anything ‘fancy’ but to see if I could create something in a fairly standard program).  I do think I will also create a ‘slick professional’ resume that is less infographic-ish.

I think this would stand out in a pile of resumes – I just hope for the right reasons and not because the recruiter wanted to be sure to not take a second look!  I think I would like to partner this resume with an online profile such as the one I am working on at about.me  and I updated a previous one that I had created at re.vu

Thoughts?

Creativity, Design, Inspiration

Don’t Wait For The World To Whack It To You

I am tired. And I should be in bed. But I am reading my email because the tiny human, furry human, and loving husband are in bed and the house is quiet.

And just delivered from GapingVoid is this little gem, hot off the press:

Shine Your Light

It comes with this explanation from Hugh:

Instead of waiting to be hit by the light, I decided to become the light instead.

It was my decision.

It was also one of the happiest and most profound moments of my life.

To use a familiar tennis metaphor, you’re spiritually better off once you teach yourself to always keep the ball inside your own court. Don’t wait for the world to whack it to you. A-men.

~Hugh MacLeod

I have had a lot of work to do with my students pastorally the last few weeks. I think we have reached the tipping point and things are now on the rise.  I hope this is true.  One of the things that changed my outlook on the situation was when I stopped and remembered one of those lists that I had read once – you know, the “things that you need to remember to live a happy and fulfilled life” lists. It was this one.

And part of that list read:

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 11.56.20 PM

Never take things personally.  Let me repeat that: NEVER TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY.

I really started questioning what I was doing as a teacher – or more specifically, what I was (or wasn’t) doing that was resulting in the behavior I was seeing.  How had I gone wrong?  What had I done?  Why am I so terrible at what I am supposed to love doing?

Then I remembered #8 and I remembered #10 and I remembered that according to #7 the Universe (which at the time meant a very supportive and proactive Principal) had my back.  And I decided to take a different tack. I decided to be the light. I decided to take the ball instead of waiting to be whacked – repeatedly – in the head with it.

I did all these things and then Hugh, bless, made me my own cartoon to commemorate my somewhat disastrous but ultimately insightful week.

A-men.

Design

Awesome Website: Canva

Canva-Logo

I was introduced to a new (beta-stage) website that is a design platform for those who find programs like InDesign and Photoshop a little wieldy. It is called Canva.  It is free with email or Facebook signup and has loads of possibilities for school use – the most prominent being to provide students with templates that can be customized to produce really slick presentations, infographics, posters and more. Their blog has lots of design ideas and I personally found the site very intuitive and easy to use. A lot of the features are free but some of the more ‘premium’ graphics and backgrounds are available for purchase. 

The introduction came via a blog I follow, written by a woman with a passion for writing and a desire to see children flourish as writers. I have posted before about Patricia Zaballos and her Writers Workshop and I really enjoyed her take in her latest post on using tools such as Canva for students to create their own infographics as a way of representing the research they have done. Take a look at her full post here. 

In honor of Patricia, I used her blog to try out one of the templates:

WONDER FARM

 

 

Our current unit is on How We Express Ourselves and the different reasons Artists create art.  I want my kids to take a look at some TED talks that highlight different art forms so I then went ahead and made the following graphic to share with my class tomorrow.  Clicking on the names takes you to the website. 

MY TOP 4 FILMS (1)

 

Simple.  Beautiful. Worth your time. 

Go check it out! 

 

Creativity, Design

Build. Make. Hack. Grow.

DIY

I have posted previously on enabling creativity. One of the resources I mentioned was the DIY Website. It has been going for a while now and really, just keeps getting better.  In short, it is a place to be inspired and inspire others with the things you can build, make, hack, or grow. Which makes it perfect for those of us who have Genius Hour (or a derivative thereof in our classrooms) or are encouraging kids to pursue a passion (and shouldn’t that be all of us?).

Trending

One of the features I haven’t noticed before is the what’s trending ladder on the home page.  This shows the topics that are most popular amongst the DIY community.  Clicking on any of these terms will take you to see what others have been doing.

In addition to showcasing what you have made to an online community, you can earn badges for completing projects. The badges have a number of challenges and upon completion of three of the challenges you will get your badge. Here is a selection of badges most recently added:

Skills Badges

And here is a closer look at the ‘Maker’ badge and the challenges you can choose from.  The ‘tools’ section on the right will take you to web pages of information associated with the skill set you are looking at. The challenges (not in picture) come with information to guide you through the challenge.

Maker Skills

 

You can sign up for weekly emails from DIY.  On Saturday morning, they send out suggestions for three weekend projects and ask if you have any questions to reply to the email and they will get back to you.  I have been subscribing for a while and when we began our Energy unit at the beginning of the year, I was asking about alternative energy skill sets and they do email back! I have always found the DIY people to be really receptive to feedback and I am sure eager to answer questions from kids – again teaching them about seeing out information for themselves.  Here are examples of this week’s weekend projects:

As we begin our Exhibition unit on Monday, this will be another of the resources shared with my kids.  I am interested in seeing where it takes them in learning more about their passions.

Have you used this website with your kids? 

Creativity, Design, Innovation, PYP

It’s All In Your Attitude

Last week, I flew to the Netherlands for a meeting.  I travelled with United.  Somewhat notoriously known for poor or lack of service, I had very low expectations for my flights.  Both there and back, my expectations were wildly exceeded.  I wasn’t upgraded, the food was no better, the seats no wider or delivering more legroom – everything was ‘standard’ for the class of service I was flying.  The thing that was different, was the attitude of the flight attendants. Friendly, chatty, attentive, thoughtful, humorous, kind, inquisitive, helpful.  They were all fantastic.  So much so that I told them personally and sent a little shout-out to the group via the United contact page – I hope they were recognized by their supervisors!

It is amazing what a difference an attitude can make.  I think this is part of the reason why the attitudes are a part of a PYP Curriculum.

 

As teachers, we see a lot of attitude in our classrooms – some great, some less than stellar, but all interesting and pointing us toward a better understanding of our children.  Today, my kids explored Lego Education Simple and Motorized Mechanisms  set. For some, this was like entering the promised land.  It was Christmas, Easter, Birthdays – all rolled into one.  I saw kids bursting with appreciation that they had been given this fabulous opportunity to explore and create.  They were committed to pitching in and challenging themselves to succeed.  There was courage, cooperation, creativity, curiosity, empath, enthusiasm, independence, integrity, respect and tolerance all sandwiched in between a Lego-Palooza!

In addition to the curriculum skills in math, science and technology, I was loving seeing the development of the social skills and attitudes that went along with successful Lego construction.  Some kids struggled.  Some kids flourished.  Some wandered in between the two.  For some kids, this was their moment.  A chance for them to become the expert, the teacher, the go-to-genius, the one who only needed to look at the Lego and have it jump into formation!  For some kids, this was their nemesis.  The pieces wouldn’t fit, the instructions didn’t work, the whole thing was a hot mess.

So what did I do?  I observed.  I guided.  I looked for ways to invite students to help students. And I loved seeing the kids who find their challenges elsewhere, have a chance to shine and showcase their talents. This is what I love about my job.  I spend a lot of time researching the best “this” or the lastest “that” and I know some people might consider it all too much, not worthwhile.  To me, finding a balance in my classroom and opening up avenues of success to all students so that everyone gets a chance to be the superhero, is my job.  I know I haven’t done that for all of my kids yet – but I’m working on it!

 

How do you encourage an attitude of enthusiasm within your classroom?  How do you look for ways to serve the needs of all students?