Today we tried our first S.O.L.E of the year!
Student Learning = Individualized & open ended
Student Engagement = 100%
Can't wait to try again!
This week was crazy busy! Students have been aware since the beginning about some elements that would be required (writing, data, design thinking, action, art, music etc...) and this week we introduced several of these as mini lessons. Moving forward, a big part of our plan is to encourage time management, independence and a then more time management. Teachers were busy checking in with kids and most worked on at least a few of the above elements this week.
The data collecting is something new that we have never done before, and it has been exciting, interesting, difficult and stressful. Most of our kids are collecting first hand data, and some are even collecting second hand data. Preparing surveys, discussing audience participation and size and constantly reviewing the idea that good data could likely be connected to taking action. It has not been easy, we are learning from our mistakes and hopefully the outcome will be amazing!
Collecting Data Mini Lesson
Design Thinking Mini Lesson
Writing Piece Mini Lesson
Two Week Outline:
Trouble Shooting Finding Out Quiz
This activity was planned as a way to launch into the finding out process. With the Exhibition being such a technology heavy project, we wanted to make sure that students were not only building upon their research skills, but also some of their management skills. The activity was designed to be interactive, rather than directive.
We are very fortunate to have a great group of parents working with us this year, and having them come in to help out during exhibition is incredibly helpful for both the students and the teachers. It's so wonderful for them to be a part of the process, and for them to truly understand the inquiry cycle. We had such a great turnout this year and I cannot wait for them to come back in in a few weeks!
We tried something new last year with mentors, and it didn't quite work out so well, so this year, we went back to the old way, which meant 'grouping' students and assigning them to a mentor who they would meet with once a week. We had so many teachers volunteer this year to help out that we were really able to accomplish putting kids into logical and purposeful groupings, which is really hard to do when you have each kid working most independently during the exhibition. Some of our mentors are working with groups of 3 or 4 kids (deforestation, pollution, endangered animals etc...), while others only have 1 or 2 students, with perhaps much more unique and issues (artificial intelligence, urban beautification, bee extinction etc...).
Next week is going to be really exciting. We are going to be launching into the next phases of the inquiry cycle-- sorting out and going further. We have students going on field trips, doing interviews, and we hope to start working on literacy, math and design elements! It's going to be busy!
This Weeks Outline:
Monday- Welcome to your learning room
On Monday, we scrambled the kids up into their new working rooms. The overall themes of this year's working rooms are: Technology, Environment, Health & Wellbeing, and Human & Animals Rights. Our vision is that within each working room, kids will be able to collaborate and work alongside other students with similar issues. Although they may not be exactly the same, there is a likelihood that a student investigating water pollution and oil spills, or literacy in China and Child Welfare in China.
After some team building activities we dove into creating some working room essential agreements, and then moved on to sharing some prior knowledge about our topics. We did by having students fill out concentric circles. For the last circle, students moved around the room and made connections to one another's issues.
Tuesday - Friday - Key Concept Questions & Lines of Inquiry
In the past, we have had a bit (lot) of difficulty when it comes to having student generate questions to guide their inquiries, sot his year we tried something new. The initial task for for students to generate as many questions as possible. We then worked as a class to critique each other's questions. We moved around the room 'musical chair' style and wrote one of 3 things about each others questions. We could give a checkmark if it was a great questions, a question mark if we didn't understand the question, or we could simply make little changes to the question to make them more grammatically correct. Once we finished this process, all students participated in a question think tank. In small groups, each student took turns sharing a bit about their issue. The other students in the group then had a chance to also ask questions and students could add these to their questions banks. By the end of this process, students were excited by what they had on their pages and many of them commented on the benefit of collaborative process.
Our next task was to organize our questions by key concept. This was surprisingly easy for many students compared to years before. As a school, we are definitely starting to see the payoff of having students be a part of the PYP program for the past several years.
Making Lines of Inquiry - Thursday & Friday
When it came to making Lines of Inquiry, students had the opportunity to review the lines of inquiry from earlier in the year. This helped them to recognize a) what a LOI is, and b) how to formulate their own LOIs. For this process, we had most students write down their biggest, guiding questions on little tiny pieces of paper. They then sorted them into like/similar groups. Once these groups were in front of them, it was easier to recognize what their LOIs could potentially be. Now that most of our students have their lines of inquiry made, they will be ready to launch into some research and finding out next week!
A few other things we accomplished this week:
Design and innovation provides solutions for personal, local and global issues
Issues & Innovations
An outline of our first week:
Highlights of the week:
As a grade 5 team, we were organized! Although this is our fifth time around the block, we are once again trying out new themes and basically starting from scratch. This year it it has felt great though. Our experiences from the past are finally starting to pay off and we planned the absolute best launch week. By the time we got to Friday, kids were excited and buzzing to let us know their final Exhibition issues.
I think there is only one thing I would change about the week. I do feel like I/we did a lot of talking. Between going over expectations during role of the students, and having students listen to the CISB community about taking action, I felt like our students did a lot of sitting and listening. In the end, I do think it was valuable and they generally enjoyed and absorbed, but I'm sure a few of our language learners felt overwhelmed. Sitting and listening will be worth it when our process starts and everyone has a clear understanding of what is going on.
Role of the Student:
This is how role of the student went down
The action workshop was meant to inspire. Every year we find that taking action is the hardest part of the inquiry cycle for the kids to complete. Ideas generally bounce between putting posters up around the school and trying to raise money for some issue or cause. The idea was to show kids that action can be taken in many many different ways. We invited a few guests for the CISB community to come in and share examples of actions they have taken in their own lives. We hoped for the students to recognize that action is usually attached to genuine care and interest for an issue, and that there is no one right way to do it.
We especially wanted to highlight the fact that there are 6 types of action: doing, being, saying, having, feeling and thinking.
On day 2 of the action workshop, we watched a video about a young boy named Boyan Slat who took action on the issue of ocean pollution. We took notes on all of the different ways that he was able to take action. We continued on with brainstorming ideas for other types of action that could be taken for a variety of issues.
Choosing an Issue
The final step of the week for students was to choose an issue that they wanted to investigate further for the Exhibition. About 6 weeks before the Exhibition process started we began by asking students to think about the passions, interest and issues they were interested in. Teachers presented one new idea and each week, a passion or interest to them, and students had to choose 1 as well. By the end of the 6 weeks, students all throughout the grade had a handful of passions and issues they were willing to investigate more. We did mini lessons on turning passions into issues, and in the end, most kids were able to identify something they wanted to pursue further.
The entire grade 5 team is excited to get started next week with some Tuning in and Finding out!
I think the general consensus is that making a new resume is the worst. It's time consuming, formatting is difficult and after a recent, complete loss of everything on my computer, I literally had no choice but to create a brand new one from (gulp) scratch!
But then... there is the other side of me, who loves making things, especially in my beloved programs, Pages and Photoshop. All of a sudden, I was really up to the challenge of doing it, and doing it well!
While making it, I had one thought in mind, make a resume that people will pick up, and remember. I obviously want people to remember it because of the experience and skills that I possess (and all that other jazz), but even more so, I want someone to remember my resume after going through a pile of hundreds of others that will likely all look the same.
I spent a lot of time searching for resumes online that would inspire me. And mostly, they all looked the generic and the same as my previous resume. I did however stumble across a few. Check them out!
What I liked about both of those resumes, what that there was a focus on creativity, simplicity, design and most importantly, personality!
I LOVE making things in Pages, so this quickly became a very fun challenge for me, and I was inspired to use symbols from the website The Noun Project, to make a few things pop off the page.
I also decided that branding myself is something that I want to be consistent with, and so I borrowed some of the design elements that can be found on this very blog.
It took me 9 attempts to nail down the final version, but in the end I was completely happy with my new product!
For the past several years, I've been doing my best to have "genius hour" be a part of my class schedule. And honestly I always dreaded that time of the week. The first year I did it, I ended up with class posters about bunnies and Canada and tanks, but for me, it always kind of felt like I was allowing my kids to just waste their time by googling things for weeks and then sharing their learning by making a poster or a digital presentation. Sure my students had fun, but honestly, it did not really feel like kids were learning and I don't think the outcomes was ever anything other than superficial interest.
After taking a couple of years off, because honestly, I just kind of felt like I could not fit it into my schedule, I have decided to give it another go. But this time, I decided that I wanted the outcome to be greater, and that I wanted my students to get more out of genius hour than "googling" skills. I want them to take action and be proud of the new knowledge or skills they will hopefully acquire!
My general plan went something like this:
The results were almost too good! Here are a few of their genius hour topics:
Next week, I'm hoping to explore ways to share our learning and to take action. I'm really hoping to move beyond the poster making/PPT presentation, and to have kids reaching out to experts, taking advantage of our school MakerSpace and also really thinking of purposeful and meaningful ways to share not only their learning, but also their process (including their struggles and their successes).
Why wait until the end of the year to go on a two night adventure? We went in September as a way to get to know one another and make memories that would last the year! The kiddos are already pros at stepping out of their comfort zones and should rock at this for the rest of the year! Plus we survived a crazy rain storm while sleeping in tents! Now we can survive anything!
This year, I wanted to do something special on the last day of school for each student. In the past, I've done pictures and books, but this year I wanted to try my hand at something slightly more creative. I came up with the idea to give each student a personalised portrait covered with words to describe them and the year. The portraits were made using Photoshop and an app called WordFoto!
For the first time ever, I didn't do the wonderwall during the first week of our new UOI. We completed all of the tuning in, investigated and did mini lessons surrounding all of our related concepts of governance, decision-making and citizenship. And for the first time ever, the quality of questions that found themselves on our wall were great. No students didn't want to ask something, and almost all of their questions connected to our central idea! I asked them to try and think personally, locally and globally and they had no problems. The rest of the unit is going to be filled with great inquiries!
'How the World Works' Exhibition
It's about the process, not the "product"
Here's how it looks like for us:
As a school, we are fairly new to the entire Exhibition scene (this is our 4th one), and every year we experiment with ways to do it better than the year before. It can be a very exhausting process for us teachers, but we legitimately walk away at the end of each Exhibition season think that we pulled off something bigger and better than the year before.
Our Exhibition takes place mostly over a two day period. On Wednesday, we have all parents, teachers and mentors come in at night. This year, we started in the auditorium where we essentially hand pick a few of our students to get up on stage and show something from a part of their process. Most kids shared parts of their action, their Think Tank presentations or another part of the process that they were proud of.
We then make the big move upstairs to the grade 5 hallways. The set up is fairly unique compared to what we have seen at other schools. Our main goals are to focus on the process and not on a product, which is why we go with the "tour guide model". The idea is that students will pair up with a parent, teacher or mentor and take them on a tour of their entire process. This involves them walking around the grade 5 hallways and stopping at different points along the way to show something off or to share.
Each section of the hallway is devoted to a part of the inquiry cycle, and it is almost entirely created by displaying student work. Although the teachers take care of creating the 'Tuning In' section, students are expected to have something to contribute to each other section (Finding Out, Sorting Out, Going Further, Making Connections, Taking Action). Some students display posters, keynote presentations, data they collected, interviews, models, art work, or anything else that was a part of their process.
The best thing about our Exhibition is that the entire "show" is like a conversation. Kids don't have to worry about standing beside a project and talking if and when someone stops by. They work is on display for all to see, and anyone giving a tour or going on a tour is free to stop and look at someone else's project together. This results are so much organic and it is just so amazing to see.
Every year, we have a handful of students that struggle throughout most of the Exhibition, and during old way of presenting Exhibition, these students just sort of needed to stand by a project that looked underwhelming compared to their classmates. People rarely stopped by to check out their work and they didn't usually have too much to say when standing beside their poster boards. With our Exhibition Tour model, these students are now so much more engaged and able to showoff the highlights of their own journey throughout the process. No one is just standing around, doing nothing.
The second day of our Exhibition, is for the students. This year we invited grades 3 and 4 to come up, as well as a few other grade 5 classes from other International Schools. We try and do this by having only one or two classes at a time, and each student is paired up with a grade 5 student, or, by pairing up pairs of kids. We really liked doing this this year because it allows for these other students to really get to understand the process and see how the Inquiry Cycle works. Of course, since the (other) students are in charge of the tour, they can also stop to look at other projects along the way. It is so amazing for us to see one of our grade 5 students talking about the projects that their classmates worked on.
After the big day(s),we kept our Exhibition displays for a week. This allowed for other grades to check them out as they wished, and also allowed for any parents to drop in if they weren't able to make it to the "show".
Friday is spent celebrating! We went to the park for the entire morning. We have our admin team leading games and activities while each teacher spends 5 minutes sitting down with each student individually going over the 'Exhibition Reflection'. Just in time for lunch, we head back to school where we have a ginormous picnic and barbecue. It truly is a fun and relaxing day, and a great way to end the week.
Obviously, there are a few things that we would change for next year. We felt a lot of students eventually got a bit away from our related concepts of Discovery and Innovation, as well as the overall science theme. Next year, we may try and introduce the related concepts (we might try some new ones) right at the beginning of the year, that way students are comfortable with them and the idea of science when the Exhibition roles around again!
Overall the Exhibition was a huge success! I'm sure the next one will be here in the blink of an eye!
Going Further + Taking Action!
We are really starting to see "Exhibition" coming together this week. We have finally gotten most of our kids to move beyond finding out. We spent a good bit of time reviewing with our students what it means to go further and what action looks like to different people. All teachers are in agreeance that this year, we might see some of the best action we have ever seen!
Some of the amazing things our students are working on this week include:
Another highlight of the week was on Tuesday, when we invited all grade 5 parents in to our classes to have an opportunity to experience the grade 5 Exhibition. We had about half of our students with one parent present, and many even had two. The feedback was amazing and it was such good timing. It really was helpful to have parents working with students during such a big decision making time (choosing ways to go further and take action).
Taking Action and putting it all together!
Kids are busy this week and we are giving them the time to get it all done. Most of our days are dedicated to working on Exhibition and the teachers are just as busy trying to set up for the big event. Most kids are continuing to work on their actions, and the only real issue this week is trying to get them to think beyond taking action by putting posters up around the school. Although many many students start with this exact type of action, it is amazing to see how many of them responded to our "So You Want to Take Action" poster. We also prepared for kids who thought they might be done early with our "Am I Finished my PYPX?", and this kept kids working up until the very end of the week.
Time is flying!
This week, students worked hard to finish up and make sense of the research they had been conducting for the past two weeks. Our end of week goal was to have each student present at a mid point check-in, the "Think Tank". The Think Tank was an opportunity to share and sort out some of their biggest take aways from their first couple of weeks, and was done in small groups so students were able to talk and offer feedback following each presentation. Students had the freedom to choose how they wanted to present, and the only requirements were to share what they were proud of and and ways in which they had grown. Most students presented a mixture of research, aha!-moments, key concept connections and plans for next-steps. Most students are now ready for the next step in Exhibition, and will be focusing this week or going further. For most, this will be some form of data collection or deciding that they need to ask more questions, and for others, this will be time to start making a plan for taking action.
This week I spent some time coming up with some inquiry based /open-ended tasks for our current math unit on statistics and probability. The first project was designed to replace the formal "unit end test" we have done in previous years, and the others were created as a way to introduce students to brand new outcomes on mean, median and mode. I'm excited to see what the kids can come up with!
Week 3 & 4
What did we accomplish this week?
This year's TD theme: How the World Works
Guiding Concepts: Discovery & Innovation
Teachers' initial feelings before beginning:
OMG, no one has ever done this before! Literally, we scoured every corner of the internet and we couldn't find much. The only glimpses came from a blog I read from time to time. For the first time in 4 years, our team is moving away from our traditional TD theme of How We Express Ourselves and trying out something completely new. Why didn't we just going with something we see all the time like Sharing the Planet? Apparently we are up to the challenge!
Some of the questions we had before beginning:
How will we keep this from looking like a science fair?
Can we have an exhibition where student collaboration is not dependent on creating groups?
Can we allow for independent inquiries?
What will we expect on the day of Exhibition?
What is our expectation for action?
How can we backwards plan when we don't really know what things will look like in 8 weeks?
How can we more effectively use our school community and mentors?
How can we get parents more involved?
It went better than I had actually imagined. We brought all of our grade 5 students down to the auditorium. There, they were presented with large pieces of paper with the following prompts on them: What is Exhibition? Questions I have about Exhibition & What skills and Attitudes will be important for me to use during the Exhibition? Students were given markers and sticky notes to share their ideas.
We then went into watching a movie we knew would get them excited about this year's theme of science, Mysteries of the Unseen World . The silence was only interrupted by the ooohs and ahhhs of the students in the theatre. Student were more than excited about the images of science they had seen throughout the movie.
Back in the classroom, students were presented with the TD HTWW theme descriptor:
Inquiry into the natural world and its laws, the interaction between the natural world (physical and biological) and human societies; how humans use their understanding of scientific principles; the impact of scientific and technological advances on society and on the environment.
They were able to deconstruct it to come up with many valuable words and ideas to connect to our potential Exhibition projects. While talking about some of the meanings of words, students were even able to come up with on their own, the ideas of discovery and innovation.
On Tuesday, we began by talking about the word discovery.
Here were a few of their ideas to describe the word discovery:
Students then posed questions about past discoveries they wanted to know more about. Who invented electricity? Who invented language? Who discovered Japan? Who invented the first cell phone?
We had our students participate in a Discovery Walk around the classroom. Their challenge was to find to look deeper and closer than they ever had before, in order to find things that they had never noticed before. At first it was difficult to find things, but then all of a sudden, people started noticing all sorts of strange things about our classroom. It was amazing!
On Wednesday and Thursday we presented students with what we called "Experience Stations", where in each classroom, students were presented with different materials and challenges to experiment with. No explicit instructions were given, so students had a lot of freedom to try out different things. We followed with some refection questions to prompt track their discoveries!
On Friday, we gathered our students to begin looking at the concept of innovation. We know that people/scientist innovate things to make our world a better pace and or to help people, so we asked: were there objects in our room that were innovated in order to help us as students and teachers? Staplers, white out tape, iPads, cork boards, water bottles and the list went on and on. How were the Experience Stations we completed earlier in the week connected to possible innovations of the past or the future?
Next week, we look forward to diving further into our tuning in!
Check out the shorter version of the video we showed on launch day!
How are we being manipulated by advertisers?
1. MacDonalds ad vs. the real meal
2. KitKat vs. KitKat King Size
3. Dove Evolution commercial
Some student reflections:
- The burger is smaller than in the advertisement (and it doesn't really look the same at all!)
- They want us to think the burger it is big, juicy and tasty
- The KitKat King size is barely bigger than the regular size KitKat, but almost double the price
- Photoshop was used to enhance the beauty of the made up girl
- People may believe that applying makeup will make you beautiful, but the girl in the ad has been unrealistically changed.
- It is very easy to manipulate people people through images.
- It is sometimes difficult to see the manipulation in advertising.
A few months ago, I decided to start going to meditation classes being offered by a colleague at my school. Although very informal and causal, I immediately fell in love with the practice. Each week, we spend time also talking about mindfulness and this seemed like something that could easily be transferred into the classroom.
A few weeks ago, I started by doing one minute meditations every couple of days with my students. We would all gather onto the carpet, find a comfortable position to sit in and then focus on our breathing with our eyes shut for 1 minute.The kids thought it was a fun new activity and enjoyed the challenge of staying still for one minute (definitely not easy for everyone).
This week after a really interesting staff meeting in which we discussed mindfulness for teachers, I decided to take a bigger step with this new little exercise in my classroom. During this particular time block, I had only ten students present in my class. I started by asking each of them to be open minded and risk-takers, because we were going to try something new and perhaps somewhat challenging. We began by having a discussion about stress; what is it and where does it come from. What are some of the main causes for stress. The most common answers for these ten year olds was homework, younger siblings and friendship worries. Students were then resented with the idea of mindfulness. What could this word mean? When your mind is so full of things that you can no longer feel calm was their guess.
Ms. V, who had also joined us for this lesson, began to lead a new activity called a visualisation. Students were asked to spread out around the room and to lie flat on their backs. She then proceeded to read a script called about a walk on a beach (http://www.innerhealthstudio.com/visualization-relaxation.html). For 10 minutes, the students and I closed our eyes and followed along with the story she was reading aloud for us.
When the 10 minutes were up, I expected the students to begin getting hyper and to shout out how difficult it was or how bored they were. But none of them moved. They all continued to lie still and some of them began to sit up slowly. After a bit of prompting to slowly make their way back to the carpet, the students almost all unanimously agreed that they felt relaxed and calmed (some of them a but sleepy as well). We concluded the last minute with Ms. V teaching us a new breathing technique called fire belly.
Their follow up homework was to have a home talk with their parents about stress. Do kids and adults have the dame feelings/causes and cures for stress. I am excited to get a small dialogue started at home and hopefully the students and parents will feel comfortable talking to one another about this topic.
In the upcoming weeks, I think I plan to continue doing mindfulness lessons in class. Some kinds suggested we do them once or twice a week. I've been reading all sorts of ideas about how to incorporate this into a classroom and the data clearly points to this being a positive thing. I can't wait to see if the kids continue to enjoy these small moments.
Yesterday, we launched a new Unit of Inquiry. It was great, interactive and students were engaged for close to 80 minutes during our tuning in. Day two of launching a new unit can be tough though. Kids are excited to find out what they will be learning about, but when presented with a new Central Idea, Lines of Inquiry and Key concepts, they often lose a bit of their enthusiasm. So, we tried something new. Students were divided into groups and were given a large copy of the new Central Idea. The task for each group, was to deconstruct the new Central Idea. This was done is so many different ways. One group translated it into Mandarin, another into Korean and another group worked to figure out what each word meant to build a more kid friendly explanation. Following this activity, each student was excited to share their understanding of what they believed we will be doing for the next six weeks.