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.
Today we started a new math unit on measurement, and I wanted to try something new to launch it. Before beginning, I decided to ask the kids what they already knew about measurement and what more they already wanted to know. We looked at the idea of creating mind maps (or concept maps) to lay out what we already knew, and then took off on an inquiry to find out what other areas of measurement we could find out about. The traditional stuff a lot of them already knew about included, measuring for length, width, height, perimeter, area, volume (mm, cm, m, km, mL, L etc...) Then all of a sudden I started seeing student discover words like capacity and temperature and dimensions, protractor, mass, distance, metric units and more and more.
After the concept mapping, students were asked to think of questions that they wanted answered about measurement (related to the key concept questions if possible) . We will hopefully get a chance to inquire into some of these in between meeting our curriculum goals.
In a math class where there are so many students working above grade level expectations, I sometimes struggle to find activities that are appropriately challenging and engaging for all students in the room. I have a small group of students that are working at a high school math level and so they often enjoy the challenge of working together to solve problems.
Here is an example of a project I had two group of students working on during our recent fractions, decimals and percentages unit. I started by collecting the data for them, but next year I think I will see if they can brainstorm ways to collect this data on their own, and perhaps even work in a way for them to meet with the admissions office. I was happy that both groups of students chose to display the data differently!
Students were engaged for about 40 minutes with this activity. Most took the opportunity to show we had been learning in class : drawing and representing fractions, comparing and ordering fractions, equivalent fractions, turning fractions into percentages and decimals. Others showed their newly strategies for adding and subtracting fractions while others even showed their own abilities and strategies for multiplying and dividing fractions. The results were varied. Some were very surprising. Some students had to be encouraged to keep writing more, but ultimately, everyone did the best work they could.
These tables are one of the coolest things that has happened in my classroom in recent years. They were purchased/manufactured through a local company in Beijing (http://www.makespace4learning.com) and have completely revolutionised the learning in my classroom. Collaboration is up 1000% and students are so much more eager to work and share their learnings. We use them most regularly for math lessons, but have used them for brainstorming sessions, games, small group instruction and for group presentations.
I received an email a few weeks ago from a student's mom after completing a Unit of Inquiry about Migration. It was a heavy topic and we often talked about the Syrian Refugee Crisis amongst other things. As a teacher, you hope your students will have perspective and you hope your students will feel empathy and ultimately you look for evidence that somewhere, somehow, action is taken. How can kids truly understand the impact of something so big, when most adults and people in power don't even get it?