Exhibition

Together Everyone Achieves More!

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One of the main facets of the PYP Exhibition is the ability for students to work collaboratively. Teams of students are asked to work together with a common goal, heading toward a common goal.  This is not always easy for students (or adults for that matter!) and it could be really worthwhile to spend some time having newly created groups or teams come together and figure out how they are going to work as a team.

One part of this could involve having the students design their workspace. Giving the students the chance to create a learning space and have a dedicated wall space and learning blog may help them figure out their roles and purposes as a group.

Another way, would be to dedicate a few minutes each day for the first weeks of Exhibition to some team-building time. While looking at the Destination Imagination website, I saw these team building exercises.  They are pretty standard exercises that you may be familiar with but they also come with the reminder that time for reflection needs to be built into the exercise and they offer these suggestions for post-exercise evaluation:

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Here is the link to the PDF download of instructions and exercises.

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?

PYP

PYP Exhibition Website

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I mentioned in my last post that I had recently been introduced to Weebly as a website creation tool.  It is very intuitive, incredibly easy to customise, and utilizes the best of sites such as WordPress with an extensive theme library, and Wix with it’s drag and drop functionality. I really liked it and while I was initially planning on using Google Sites, I am pleased that I went with Weebly for this piece of work.

Here is a quick video tour that gives an overview of what’s included in the Exhibition website:

I would love to add other resources to this site.  I linked to some great resources on Action by Ed-ucation, a curated library of motivational videos by Terri Eichholz, and the library of Visible Thinking routines by Project Zero. If you have a favorite resource, video, app, idea, or download that you would like to share, please contact me and I can add it to the resources on the site.

I think one of the things I enjoyed the most about curating this website was reminding myself of the amazing resources that are out there to support our students as they go through this process. Two of my favorites are The Playbook and Ship It.  Both of these I have blogged about previously here and here (and are available in the Downloads section of the Exhibition Website).

As we progress through the journey as a school this year, I want to add in Weekly Checklists and other organizational tools for students and teachers. I also want to add to the websites, videos, and apps as we come across new things to support student learning.

Inspiration, PYP

Choose To Be Passionate

I saw a post on a blog about being passionate, and it really resonated with me.  Check it out yourself, but in a nutshell it proposes the idea that instead of waiting to be filled with passion (putting you in the passive role), you actively pursue passion.  Approach your work, your “art” with great passion and enthusiasm and ‘bring it’ – you ARE passion.

I keep rolling this idea around in my head. There are lots of ways to think about this and I think the reason it resonates so loudly with me is because I have continually come up against (but not in a really negative way) students (or parents) who declare that they “don’t have a passion” or “aren’t passionate about anything” and those statements really put up road-blocks when you are embarking on a Passion Project!

For those embarking on Passion Projects, Genius Hour, or the PYP Exhibition, I say to you, keep pushing on! I believe that we all have in us the passion to live a fulfilling life and I think that starts with 1. Loving what you are doing. 2. Doing it wholeheartedly. 3. Helping others realize their passion too. So you might not know what you are passionate about but you can work with passion. I have been posting a lot about starting with questions built from concepts, but maybe some of our students just need to start by helping others who are already on track with their passion? Perhaps passion is born from inspiration, from the sharing of ideas, from seeing the fires other people have lit?

In my dream world, such projects look like this:

Be Inspired!

 

A never-ending process of giving and receiving inspiration from each other – the ‘other’ being those in the room, down the hall, in the school, in the community, or out in the connected, internet-world! Show up. Be passionate. Learn from each other. Repeat. Like love, passion shouldn’t be a chore, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t involve work.

If you haven’t seen this gem, take 2 minutes.  If the message doesn’t inspire you, the gorgeous lettering surely will!

Inspired to Inspire from Nathan Yoder on Vimeo.

 

And if you are still looking for inspiration to get you really passionate take a look at this blog post.  Pennies of Time is a blog dedicated to ‘teaching kids to serve’ and has a post highlighting other blogs with a similar message.  Mostly on the topic of random acts of kindness and ways to be giving, these are all very child focused ideas that could provide a springboard for inspiration and the development of passion. Click on the image below for more:

BloggersInspires Collage

Inquiry

Concept-Question Cards

concept cards 2

concept cards 1

Last year, I wrote a post about Questioning Conceptually.  The basic premise of this post was a look at how teachers and students could use the PYP concepts to deepen their inquiries through the generation of a wider range of questions. The post goes on to help narrow the focus of the inquiry into an area of interest that one is really passionate about, that you care about, and that is worthwhile spending time on.

I followed this up with another post about the same topic: More Conceptual Questions.

Both of these posts make reference to a set of Concept-Question Cards.  These cards have one side with a PYP concept, guiding question, and explanation and another side with sample questions from different subject areas.

I have had sets of these cards in my ‘toolbox’ for some time now.  They are great.

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To download a PDF set of cards, click here.

Let me know what you use them for!

PYP, Teaching

Questioning Conceptually

We are two weeks into our Passion Project and my kids have pretty much narrowed down their area of focus for their passion: travel, gardening, healthy living, animals, music….the list goes on.  These are all big, broad areas of interest, so how do we begin on our passion journey?

Our ‘way in’ was through the PYP concepts. We thought about these in two ways: as lenses and as keys. Some kids really bought into the idea that they were picking up and putting on different glasses with different colored lenses through which they would look at their topic.  Some kids bought into the idea that they were standing in a room with eight colored doors and each key in their hand unlocked a different door to step through to their passion. I was pretty impressed with the speed at which they figured this out, actually!

concept cards 2 concept cards 1

Each child made a set of concept cards using the following information.  A descriptor of the concept on one side, and curriculum area sample questions on the reverse. These were mounted on different colored cards and bound together with a ring. We were ready to begin!

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I started with the whole class and a topic close to my own heart and one they could relate to: dogs. We started going through the concepts and thinking of questions that would fit that lens:

FORM: What are the distintive characteristics of a dog?

FUNCTION: How do the lungs of a dog work?

CHANGE: What are the newest medical advances that are now in place to help injured dogs?  

Each child was given a large concept question planner and, armed with their passion topic and their concept-question cards, were asked to think of questions for each concept.  PDF Concept Question Planner

Concept Question Planner

We discussed that some concepts may lend themselves to more questions and some to fewer questions. As we continue with this on Monday, my hope is that we can help each other focus our inquiries through the use of concepts. I also want to make sure that their time is spent on relevant, engaging and worthwhile questions.  I want their questions to be deep and open. But how?

I came across the idea of a Question Quadrant to help see if where your questions ‘fit’: The Quadrant can be used to distinguish closed and open questions that relate specifically to a text; or closed and open questions that stimulate intellectual curiosity.

Question Quadrant

I also really like the Visible Thinking routine Question Starts.

Question Starts

Once they have generated questions, I am thinking of using the Visible Thinking Routine, “Question Sorts” to help my students ensure they are really focusing on questions they care about:

Question Sorts

A question sort, would be similar looking to the question quadrant:

Question Sort

I am still thinking about how best to help them make the most of their inquiries.  I think we are off to a good start! I know a lot of the focus still remains on ‘producing a product’ which is not the goal of this project but is something that I think people are more comfortable with given that is how we were educated: to produce ‘something’.  My goal is to keep putting the tools out there and hoping that the more product oriented ideas arise from the deeper inquiry, rather than become the sole purpose of the project.

PYP, Teaching

Rising Above

On Friday morning, I met with about half of my class parents to share with them about the upcoming PYP exhibition, to answer their questions, and to get a feel for where they were at in their understanding of the work ahead. I shared the following slideshow with them:

For detailed notes about each slide, take a look at the post on my class blog.

In addition, I shared a number of documents with my parents: an eight week tentative plan, single subject integration, language arts integration, exhibition rubric, weekly reflection criteria, and student contract. I also gave everyone a copy of the 16 Rules that I posted about earlier in the week.

After the meeting, I went back to my classroom and when my kids came in from recess, I told them that they would be working on the tasks we had discussed the previous afternoon, focused on our exhibition.  This is what “work” looks like in my classroom:

I was asked a lot of questions from my parents about final products, accountability, level of involvement, and how to “know” if kids are working and/or learning anything.  Here is what I know to be true:

  • if you set high expectations, kids will rise to meet them (and then exceed them)
  • kids are inspired by kids and will feed off each other (in a good way!)
  • kids know when they are working hard and when they are hardly working
  • kids don’t want to waste their time any more than we want them wasting their time
  • what looks like “wasting time” to us, is often a valuable learning experience for kids
  • kids have a way of viewing the world that often exceeds our world view

I think we all have kids in our class who struggle.  Their struggles may be with confidence, time-management, organization, academic skills, social interactions….the list goes on. Undertaking a unit of inquiry of the magnitude of the exhibition is a real challenge – for any 10 or 11 year old. But does that mean that because it is hard, we shouldn’t do it?  No.  Because:

Source: seesawdesigns.blogspot.com via Sonya on Pinterest

When I asked my kids “Who is ultimately responsible for your Exhibition journey?” I got a resounding and unanimous “We are!!” from my kids.  And I trust them, so I trust that this is true.  They know they have the support of their teachers, mentors, parents and myself, and now they just have to trust in their own abilities.  It is really hard to let go of some of that control.  To sit back and to watch where the journey takes each child without constantly wanting to move the rudder and steer them where we think they should go.  

I am learning that the Exhibition is a great learning ground for students: it is a chance for them to shine, to showcase their skills, to develop new skills, to become independent, and to experience hard work, failure, success and learning. As adults, it is also a great learning ground for us: a chance for us to trust we have prepared them well, to take a bigger step back, to guide without overshadowing, and to trust in the process and the journey.

What I know to be true is that I am seeing, already, kids rising. Rising to the challenge.  Rising above my expectations.

More than ever, I believe that children learn best when personally invested in what they are learning about.  And it is a pretty awesome thing to watch.  

Inspiration, PYP

More on Passion!

I was playing around today with the idea of evaluation for the Passion Project.  I am not the biggest fan of rubrics, but I am interested in providing meaningful indicators of success for my students.  To that end, I want to share two items I am thinking of using as evaluative tools:

RUBRIC

I was greatly inspired by the work coming out of my former place of work, NIST (New International School of Thailand, in Bangkok).  There is a blog for Exhibition teachers and through that, I came across a simple post: How Do We Assess the Exhibition?  I really liked the style of the rubric and have used this as a platform for tailoring one to our Passion Project.  It is still a work in progress – I have a couple more weeks before the big kick-off – but I want to put it out there in the hope of making it better.  Click on image for larger view.  Click to download PDF.    Click to access Pages file.

PYPX Rubric

 

REFLECTION

We had the students reflect in a variety of ways last year.  While I like this, I also like giving them some kind of structure to guide their reflection, should they need it.  To that end, I created a student reflection sheet based on the Learner Profile.  Click on images to enlarge – the first is a set of guiding questions for the student to consider during the weekly reflection.  The second provides space for notes.  Click to download a PDF copy.

Reflection - Guiding Questions

 

Reflection - Student Responses

 

Inspiration

Don’t Underestimate Encouragement or the Power of a Great Question

In response to the letter I sent out to my incoming class of fifth graders, one student wrote back with the following quote that is so far, fueling her passion to be “fifth grade and fearless”:

“Nine-tenths of education is encouragement.”

-Anatole France

So true. And it can come in many forms.

For me, I rely heavily on what my husband refers to as “my emotional paycheck”.  Like most teachers, I am not in it for the money.  I am grateful for having a job, and one that I love at that.  The paycheck = great.  The feedback, encouragement, critiques – way more valuable. So to are the people who give so freely of their time to help make me a better teacher.  Recently, I have been working on a new website to showcase our PYP Exhibition: The Passion Project.  It has been a mountain of work, but totally worth it.  When I was at the bottom of the mountain, I put a few feelers out to people I have worked with – and they came through big time.  The ideas, suggestions, critiques and encouragement were all so welcomed and so valuable.

Most valuable were the really good questions. The ones that didn’t tell me what to do, but gave me something to think about and ultimately led to a better website than could have been created on my own.

So…that’s my takeaway for the coming school year.

1.Ask better questions.

I came across a book called “Ever Wonder” by Kobi Yamada.  The Ever Wonder book is filled with intriguing questions that invite powerful answers. The quality of our lives is in direct proportion to the quality of the questions we ask ourselves. If you want better answers for your life, ask better questions. Ever Wonder raises our awareness and points us toward life-enriching change. Ask Better Questions.  Love it!

 

 

2.Give encouragement freely.

If you want something more tangible than words of encouragement, you can’t go past the adorable gift left on my front steps today from a sneaky duo.  A beautiful book of encouragement and celebration.  I can see my class making these for each other next year….

Innovation

Discovery 1 – Make School Different So That “We Will Fly”

Last week, my sister emailed me asking if I knew about a school in Christchurch, New Zealand (where we are from) that she was in the process of checking out for her son.  She said that the school “sounded just like me” and my ‘dream school’ from Imagine a School.

Intrigued, I began to investigate and I think I have fallen in love!  Talk about make school different!

The physical space that the school is located in has been badly damaged by the recent earthquakes so the school has relocated to a different part of the city for the time being. Prior to the relocation, the site was designed by Imagine – an architectural firm focusing on  inspirational school design. From there, it just gets better!

The name of the school is Discovery 1.  It is a state-funded , public school that operates under the auspices of having a ‘special character’ and as such, the way in which they approach learning (the what, how and why of what they do) looks different to more traditional schools.   The ‘special character’ is defined by the following points:

  • that students direct and manage their own learning based on their passions, interests and needs

  • that we ask students first what they need in order to learn

  • that we create and uphold a community where families are an integral part of the learning process, sharing responsibility for learning with students and staff

  • that we are involved in learning wherever it naturally occurs in the community without the restrictions of curriculum, place, time, style or subject

  • that students come together in a learning community without barriers, learning at their own level

  • that we create and uphold a community where everyone is a learner and everyone is a teacher

Discovery 1 goes on to define the role of the stakeholders:

Students are expected to:

….take advantage of the opportunities available to them and commit to the learning intentions they have co-created. Learners at Discovery will be successful if they strive to be self motivated, self directed and self managing.

Parents/Caregivers are expected to:

…commit to the special character of the school and work in partnership with staff and students to set appropriate learning intentions for their child and support them through the challenges of achieving these intentions. Work alongside staff and students both within school hours and outside hours.

Learning Advisors are committed to:

…make Discovery 1 a place of learning that students enjoy, where their learning and personal development will flourish, provide challenge and new and varied learning opportunities.

The core values of Discovery 1 are:

Respect

Trust

Caring

Relationships

Community

Collaboration

Innovation. 

Amongst their documentation, is a ‘glossary of terms’ that explains some of the terminology you will hear being used at Discovery 1:

There is so much here that I just really connected with!

  • students grouped across grade levels
  • the use of the local community
  • the role of the ‘teacher’ as learner and advisor
  • the commitment required of the parents to particpate in the education of the child
  • the inquiry based stance
  • the idea that the learning does not have to occur in the classroom
  • the option for students to learn from home
  • the option for group or individual inquires

And this is free (a donation to the school of less than NZ$150 is asked for by the school as a school fee – a practice in place by most New Zealand public schools).

Ultimately, this begs the question “If this is my ‘dream school’, what can I do now, where I am at, to make school different?”

I think this goes a long way in answering that question:

A lot of this reminds me of how our class operated during our recent PYP Exhibition.  You can read more about that here. We worked really hard on developing an environment based on passion and inquiry, incorporating collaborative and group work, requiring the showcasing of well-established skills and the development of new skills, interactions with the community, and the idea of connecting to the community and taking action.

At the end of the process, we surveyed our parents and then collated, reflected upon and shared their combined feedback, indicating how we would use their insights to shape the program next year. That document is available here: PYP Exhibition Feedback.  When I look this over, with the Discovery1 lens permeating everything I see, I am both pleased with how we did and able to see loads of places for improvement.  I am also pondering the question:

“Why only the last unit, the last 8 weeks of the year, in the last grade before Middle School?”.

As much as I love the graphic above and am so inspired by the work of its creator, I think I would tweak this poster to more accurately represent the ethos of my classroom next year, all year, as inspired by Discovery1: