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?

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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?

Creativity, Inquiry, Thinking

Informed Thinking

In a course I am doing at the moment on Creativity, we were asked to do some Informed Thinking. 

This is the task we were given:

You will inform your thinking about the scholarship of creativity studies through historical and contemporary resources.  Afterwards, you will share on the blackboard some key concepts, definitions, models, theories and information that is particularly important in your eyes.  This should be in the form of bulleted list of at least ten items. Each item should have a 1-2 sentence description to explain it.

We were given a curated list of videos, studies, research projects, Keynotes, visuals, documents to read/watch and then had to create our own ‘top ten’.

About half of the class have done the assignment and it is really interesting to see what others pulled out as ‘important’ or stand-out ideas. It is also really interesting to think about yourself as a reader/viewer when ideas you never heard of appear in someone else’s list. And it is a great way to summarize and inform your thinking in preparation for the follow-up task (which is to apply the new learning).

This would be a great way to guide students through the research phase of a unit that is heavy in names/dates, theories/ideas. One of the group said she is planning on using this during her G5 Governance unit.

I chose to add pictures to the mix in addition to the one or two sentences. I love icons (shout out to the Noun Project) and it helped me to consolidate my chosen ideas into a visual image.

Can you use this in your classroom?

informed-thinkinginformed-2

Inquiry, PYP

Math + Exhibition = Opportunity for Inquiry!

Euclid

There is a great opportunity for students to showcase their learning in math through the Exhibition.  For some classes during this time, “math class” is often a welcome relief in all the busy scheduling of Exhibition.  Many school keep a constant math period and continue to work through their curriculum while also working on math related to the Exhibition.

Three sources of internet-found brilliance are definitely worth taking a look at if you are interested in seeing how an inquiry approach can be taken to the integration of math in the Exhibition.

Authentic Inquiry Maths is a blog by Bruce Ferrington. He is interested in making “the kids do the thinking”. A teacher in Australia, Bruce’s blog has a number of posts related to the Exhibition that show how students have integrated their mathematical knowledge with their inquiry topic.  He has some great examples of interactive graphs, using balance scales for participants to voice their opinion, and graphing data pictorially.  The posts related to Exhibition are great but his whole blog is worth taking a look at for some great ideas about math inquiries.

Rebekah Madrid is a teacher at Yokohama International School. She has written an excellent, detailed post supported by real-life examples of the work of her students on the topic of Infographics – making numbers sing.  In this post she details how she has her kids make infographics using found household objects to convey their data points. The post is well documented and supported by loads of additional resources should you wish to recreate her lessons with your own students.

Would You Rather? is a great math blog that asks students to choose their own path and justify it using math.  Written by John Stevens, WYR? poses questions such as:

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This blog would be a great place to get inspiration for kids to write their own WYR questions based on the knowledge they acquire throughout the Exhibition process.

How do you showcase Math in the PYP Exhibition?

Inquiry, Technology

Technology is a Tool

I really like Smore – a website for designing beautiful flyers. Tonight I doubled the number of Smore Flyers that I have made in my life to make a grand total of 2 flyers.  The first one has been viewed over 6000 times.  We’ll see if this one is as popular!

I was thinking about both the COETAIL course I am currently working on and the unit of inquiry I am integrating on with the fourth grade team at my school.  I had a lot of links to videos that I was adding to an email but these get lost easily.  Instead of a few emails with a bunch of links, I have embedded videos into a Smore Flyer for the teachers to share with their classes.

Their unit falls under the theme How We Organize Ourselves.  The central idea: Technology is a tool that impacts our lives.

If you have any ideas (this is a new unit this year) or have links I could add to my flyer, please let me know!

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Click on image to go to full Smore page.
Inquiry, Presentations

Adobe Voice meets Powerful Provocations in PYP

The inquiry team at school is working on a series of staff meetings devoted to inquiry and building inquiry into our planning of units of work to allow students to grow individual inquiries.  It is our nod to Genius Hour and we want to see it embedded into units of inquiry in a way that lets students see that they can follow their passions and curiosities through the lens of an inquiry unit.

We are starting later this week with a look at our provocations. In preparing for this meeting, we started thinking about the criteria for a great provocation.  Very timely was the PYP chat on Sept 11th which was about….Provocations!  There are loads of great resources on the PYP Chat Wiki that you should check out.

As life would have it, I was ‘stuck’ (I will never complain about this part of being a mom) reading to and snuggling with my daughter so I missed the first 45 minutes of the Europe PYP Chat.  A quick read back indicated that there wasn’t a real tie in to what we were doing  in terms of creating provocation guidelines for teachers.  So I shared ours.  It looked like this:

Provocations

Some good ideas but the presentation? Not my cup of tea at all.  So, what to do?  I tend to think in pictures so started sketching out some ideas.  I shared these with our art teacher and we were on to something but then life and time (or lack thereof) got in the way and I knew I wasn’t giving her enough time to work her magic.  And then I remembered Adobe Voice.

I had shared this with our German teachers and I loved how easy it was to use.  It was perfect for the job at hand and in about 13 minutes, I had created this:

http://www.ccv.adobe.com/v1/player/JGoeHoXEf3V/embed

What do you consider when creating provocations?

What makes your provocations powerful?

Brain Research, Inquiry, Mindset, Play

Let Them Explore Their Passions!

Passion.  It is one of my favorite topics when it comes to education.  I know that there are people who will say that asking kids about their passion is a fruitless task – they are kids, what do they know about passion?  I tend to move away from those people and ask anyway.  I think kids are DEEPLY passionate about things.  As teachers (and as parents) one of our biggest challenges is to not get in the way and to allow for their passions, their curiosity, their sense of wonder, and their natural inquisitiveness rise to the surface. 

Last year, I worked with a small team at school on exploring the concept of authentic inquiry through Genius Hour.  Ultimately we decided an hour wasn’t enough and as a school, we will be looking into the idea of incorporating Genius Hour into every hour, every unit.  I have no idea how it will work, but I am excited to work with teachers to give it a go and see what we can come up with. 

To that end, I was intrigued when I read an article tonight titled, “Four Skills to Teach Students in the first Five Days of School” via Mind/Shift.  Here is one of the points from the article:

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This is a different take on the idea we grappled with all last year, but I like it.  I think like anything different, it will take some getting used to and some won’t know what to do, where to begin…but they will.  And in doing so, they will learn.  Lots.  About being self motivated, setting their own goals, or even learn how to ask for help when they need it.  

I love structure but I also love the freedom of an idea like this. As I throw around all of my beliefs about the importance of play, of collaborative learning, of cooperative learning, of finding your passion, the more I am becoming convinced that learning comes not as a result of pre-determined criteria and one way of showing what you know via an electronic flip-book or 3D sculpture.  

Learning is messy.  Learning sometimes is when things don’t work.  Learning is hard work. 

Thankfully, we were born to learn. 

Born to Learn

I know some people will argue that putting up posters,  or creating these sorts of posters with kids, or adding self affirming statements to papers or posters, and discussing the idea of a growth mindset with your kids will not do a thing.  Some people will even go so far to say that it feels fake, forced, artificial.  I disagree.  The idea that individuals can shape their destiny and that learning is real work are important things kids need to know to help them through the parts of their passion journey that aren’t so smooth.  

It will be tough.  You may want to quit.  Don’t do that. Today is just the first day….

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Inquiry, Leadership

Always Pick Yourself

Pick Yourself. It is a phrase coined (or popularized perhaps is a more apt description) by Seth Godin.  At his NYC day event that I was fortunate enough to attend two years ago, he gave out guitar picks with this written on them.

Pick yourself

I grabbed a handful of these at the event and they will often appear randomly around our house.  We just moved and whilst unpacking, I came across a purple Pick Yourself pick in a box. It now sits on my daughter’s bottle drying rack in our kitchen.

Pick Yourself.  Pick Yourself.  Pick Yourself.

This is a good reminder for me on a number of levels and yet I still often value other people picking me (external validation) over my own belief in myself.

Since I started sharing my thinking via this blog I have been approached by people asking for help with getting into international teaching, by people who would like to repost my posts, by publications wanting to publish my posts as articles, by the IBO to lead initiatives in sharing practice and in technology education. I have been validated by these people: “We pick you!” “We choose you!” I also am a sucker for the stats that are generated by WordPress.  How many pageviews?  From how many countries? These external motivators do just that: they motivate me to keep publishing, keep posting. They are not my only motivation but I am suckered in when I see other people “picking me”.

Today, I met with my principal to have, essentially, a “Pick Me” conversation. I want to be picked to continue on next year with some work I have started in my role as Curriculum Coordinator. The conversation was good and whilst I do not know the outcome of our discussion in terms of me continuing in the role, it has had me thinking all day: am I picking myself or waiting to be picked?  What if I am not picked? Do I pick myself anyway?  Do I do the work for free, in my own time? Do I show that titles don’t matter, having a heart for change is what is important?

I know what Seth would say:

It’s a cultural instinct to wait to get picked. To seek out the permission and authority that comes from a publisher or talk show host or even a blogger saying, “I pick you.” Once you reject that impulse and realize that no one is going to select you–that Prince Charming has chosen another house–then you can actually get to work.

If you’re hoping that the HR people you sent your resume to are about to pick you, it’s going to be a long wait. Once you understand that there are problems just waiting to be solved, once you realize that you have all the tools and all the permission you need, then opportunities to contribute abound.

No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.

~Seth Godin, Reject the Tyranny of Being Picked: Pick Yourself

 

So I started to do this.  I wrote what is essentially my own “job description” and I have a plan for what I would like to do. There is still a part of me that questions: How do I know that the opportunities I see and the problems I want to solve, match the vision and purpose of my school? Do I wait for our paths to align or do I pull them together? This is where the permission-seeker in me dwells: in that place between ruckus-maker and rule-follower.  Between employee and innovator.

The whole process has been thought-provoking. The outcome, unknown.

Innovation, Inquiry, Math

A Geometry Inquiry with Attitude

One of my concerns is that math in my classroom is not as inquiry based as I would like it to be.  My students and I just began a unit on Geometry.  I gave the pretest and for the most part, students had a spattering of knowledge and the test was completed with much hair pulling and cries of “Man! I KNOW this….but….I forgot!”.  When we went over the paper, I could see a collective “aha” from the majority of the students as they started to dust off the vocabulary sitting at the back of their minds.  So, what to do?

I did some scouring of the internet and came up with a couple of really interesting reads: Angle Measurement – An Opportunity for Equity, and Inquiry Maths: A Parallel Lines Inquiry.

After reading these articles, the next day my students and I sat with the pretest and pulled the vocabulary from it.  They spent the lesson with math dictionaries, math tools, the Khan Academy, and various math text books from the classroom shelves in order to create an understanding of what these terms meant.  They found all these connections that I wanted them to know but didn’t want to just tell them: that perpendicular lines were also intersecting lines but not all intersecting lines are perpendicular.  Same with equilateral triangles and isosceles triangles (all equilateral triangles are isosceles but all isosceles are not equilateral). Some asked if they could work on their “Math Dictionaries” at home.  Others took screen shots of Khan Academy videos and added their own notes.  I told them they were preparing for an inquiry and they needed to be well equipped!

The next day, we discussed the idea of using math as a language. I drew a rectangle on the board in purple marker.  If this were to be described using the English language, I would call it “Purple Box”.  If it were to be described using Math language, I would call it “A rectangular quadrangle with interior angles of 90 degrees each (right angles) formed by a set of horizontal, parallel line segments and a set of vertical, parallel line segments. They got the idea.

I told the class that this was an open, collaborative inquiry. That meant they were free to consult any source they needed in order to extend their inquiry and that the work was collaborative in that I wanted them to build off each others ideas.  I have 18 students (I know, I am blessed!) and so I printed off 9 pictures (3 of each image) so that children had a choice of where to work in the small room.  I also wanted to be able to have them come together with other groups during the next lesson to share and compare their findings. Before I showed them the images, I shared the Success Criteria for the lesson:

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Here are the images I used, the first one from the Parallel Lines inquiry and the second and third from another Inquiry Maths Inquiry:

Image

Image

Image

 

My students were shown the pictures, reminded of the Success Criteria for the lesson,  and were off!  It was fascinating.  They partnered up in a similar fashion to the day before when they were creating their vocabulary understandings and quickly started to use their knowledge to describe their image. I “casually” asked if anyone wanted a protractor (YES! YES! YES!).  As I wandered around I saw children reading, questioning, measuring and using their math language to describe the image in front of them.  “Can we draw on it?”  Yes!  For one group who had the star shaped image, this led to some pretty crazy coloring/marking which to my naive eye looked more like silly scribbling than serious math but I let them keep going.  One group started talking about symmetry and I found some mirrors and laid them on their table which started another investigation into where that line of symmetry actually was.

This was supposed to last 15 minutes but it was clear they had more than 15 minutes of math language in them!  As the end of the lesson neared, I asked them to briefly group with the other people who had the same image to get an idea of what others had done. Cries of, “I was going to do that next!”, “I hadn’t thought of that!”, “I forgot to put that, too! ” and  “Where did you get a mirror from?!” were heard around the room.

I have a really great class of kids but like all kids they need to be asked to think about why they do what they do and how they are behaving.  As a PYP school, we offer a values-laden curriculum so teaching about attitudes is part of what we do.  We are currently working on the culminating project of the PYP – the Exhibition.  It requires a lot of group work and one of the things I am noticing is that students need more than to be physically placed in a pod of four students, for group work to be successful.  We have been looking at the type of attitudes we expect to see at our school and I wanted them to see the connection to this in math class so I gave them the following exit slip for the lesson:

Success Criteria

 

Their comments were so insightful:

curiosity…because I wanted to see just how much I could write in math language

confidence…because I knew I knew a lot about this and I knew I could describe the picture in a lot of details

respect…because I listened to the ideas of the person I was working with and also added my ideas

and the student that I thought was goofing off:

creativity…because I was able to add really colorful and interesting designs to our star and it looked really good and then it also helped my group see patterns within the star and we were able to add a lot more information

 

I think the students were not the only ones learning something today!

To download a PDF of the lesson plan and materials used today, click here

 

 

Inquiry, PYP

PYP Exhibition – Video Inspiration to take Action Six Different Ways

The following information is a direct cut and paste from my classroom blog.  The blog is used as a communication tool between home and school.  I also post homework, ideas, polls, and all things related to life in 4D. Over the course of the year, we have gone from “What is a blog?” to “Can you please put it on the blog?” and now “I wrote my first blog post last night!” as we start our own journey into blogging in our Exhibition groups.

In the process of unpacking our Central Idea, I shared a number of videos that opened up amazing discussions. Some were oldies but goodies, some were hot off the internet, all of them were inspiring. If you are looking for a longer list than the five I am sharing below, take a look at the playlists created by Terri Eichholz of Engage Their Minds.  They are for students and teachers via Pinterest (which, thankfully is unblocked at my school now!) and I plan on sharing the link with my students to peruse the library of inspiration!

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“Taking Action” is a big part of the PYP and also a big part in our Exhibition.  Before we even began, I was hearing the deafening roar of, “We are going to hold a sale…”.  In reading the idea behind action as a key component of the PYP, I wasn’t getting the connection to the selling of stuff. I reached out to my friend Marina who put me in touch with the work of Richard Black, whom I had visited (virtually) before. He had a great way of explaining a much more fleshed out picture of what action was. I turned his words into cute cards, but they are all his thinking. We have them up as a permanent visual that in reality, we are taking action at all times which I actually think is freeing the kids up from the ‘bake sale’ idea and potentially (I will keep you posted) opening them up to a more diverse path of action.

What inspires your kids?

How do you encourage authentic action?

On to the class blog post….

Today we looked at the central idea for our Exhibition unit:

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We discussed as a class what this meant:

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We then watched some videos to support our understanding of the central idea and the Exhibition process:

Follow the Frog – This video is all about what the Exhibition is NOT about.  It is not about going over the top with wild, crazy expectations.  It is about inquiring into topics that you are passionate about and finding out what action you can take to make an impact.  Take a BIG issue and think about taking action on a SMALL scale. It doesn’t have to stop there, however it is often the smallest of actions that can make the biggest impact. 

Kindness Boomerang – This video highlights how one small action can make an impact that can grow exponentially.  You might not ever know the impact of your actions and one action is never too small in the eyes of the person it impacts. 

Emily’s Hair – Some people say “but I’m just a kid, what can I do to make an impact?”…those people need to hear 3 year old Emily’s story.  She shows that through the simple action of cutting her hair, she is making an impact.  It doesn’t matter how old you are, it matters how much you care. 

The Race – The Exhibition is like this race.  We have been ‘training’ for it all through our years in the Junior School.  We are prepared.  We can do it!  BUT….we might fall.  It doesn’t matter when, where, why, or how hard we fall, what matters is what we do AFTER we fall.  That will be a determining factor in the success of our Exhibition journey. 

Sarah’s Softball Story – This is one of my favorite stories.  To me, it highlights what life is all about – helping others to achieve greatness, doing the right thing, paying it forward, and always choosing kind. The students who helps Sarah, Mallory and Liz embody what it means to a PYP student and to be an inspirational human. 

Tomorrow we will be digging deeper into what it means to take action.  Today we looked briefly at six different ways of taking action (with thanks to Richard Black, PYP teacher in Canberra, Australia – his words, my layout):

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