Something exciting happened this week. James Forsythe, from Phuket International Academy, has been reading the 6SS Class Blog. He noticed some similarities between what our 6SS have been thinking about and what his Grade 3/Year4 class have been thinking about. Both classes have been looking at wisdom and trying to understand what it means. He showed this posting from the 6SS blog to his students and used the 6SS students thinking to take his students’ conversations further:
Read the comments to see how the students’ thinking develops and to see where James adds his students’ thinking to the conversation.
James then sent through some photos to show the process he took his students through to arrive at their interpretations of what wisdom is.
This kind of cross-pollination of thinking using a blog doesn’t happen that often, but it’s great when it does. Has it happened to you? I am always happy to help people work on their blogs to make them work better as learning tools.
This is Elmarie’s class blog. She has embedded a Wallwisher page as a way of collecting her students’ thinking. She is asking parents to speak to their children about school and get them to tell them what they enjoyed most about school this week. Then, the parents “post a sticky” on the wall to share what their kids said. How cool is that?
I once heard someone say “we’re not going to bother with blogging, we need to concentrate on the kids’ writing instead”. It is only once you have truly experienced blogging, once your students have been genuinely “let loose” with a blog and once you have seen what happens to the way that students start to use written communication on a blog that you can actually understand the power of it. I love this posting called “20 reasons why students should blog”:
Click on the image to go to the full story.
I had a few minutes at the end of today, so I decided to venture up to the world of Year 5 to see what was going on. I met Bill at the bottom of the stairs and we huffed and puffed our way up them (but didn’t blow any houses down!). I figured it was a little unfair to go into any rooms with teachers who had their kids as it was getting close to 2:30 and everyone was winding things up for the day. I’m sure Jane was glad about that as her A/C was completely broken and her and the kids were sweating buckets and madly stopping sheets of paper from flying everywhere because of the temporary fans they’d been given!
Anyway, Heather was sitting at her desk “being all nerdy about a blog posting” (Heather’s words) she was putting together for the kids to work on at home. The blog posting is all about different landforms and asks the students to research the landforms in the places they come from or somewhere they have been to. It states explicitly the different ways to collect information and it has a very visual element as students are expected to use Flickrstorm to locate and use images that are relevant to their writing (yes – blogging is writing, everybody!). Heather has modeled the process for the students by doing a piece of writing about New York.
This is a wonderful, and yet very simple, illustration of the integration of Language Arts and a unit of inquiry. The task is heavy in research skills, speaking and listening, viewing and presenting, reading and writing. It calls upon the students to write for a genuine audience and will no doubt lead to further comments and discussions online. It is very rich in relevant vocabulary and Heather plans to use the students’ writing to feed into her ongoing word wall for this unit.
Have a look at the blog posting and maybe you’d like to make a comment to tell 5HR about the landforms where you come from? I’m sure they’d love the input and could use your language in their inquiries.
Just before I left the room, I recommended this video:
It’s an amazing, visual feast that captures the world’s landforms from a hot air balloon. The language is also quite poetic, and the subtitles will really help Heather’s students to develop their vocabulary and to understand the meaning of the film.
It’s quite long, and fairly slow. Heather and I talked about how it will be good for her students to develop their ability to view films like this.
The students were given some decent paper and a small selection of chalk and oil pastels. They were asked to use shades of green and only one more colour in order to show their issue from a green/nature perspective through abstract art.
Many of them were not familiar with abstract art, which was quite a shock! However, I shared some examples of the work done by the teachers at the Green School (see previous posting) and that seemed to unlock some of their creativity.
The students wrote an explanation of their work on an index card and then they put them up on a display board.
Some of the ideas that came out of students sharing their work were very interesting and could lead on to some bigger works of art to form part of the exhibition:
- Sasha’s drawing of blue water that is becoming more and more polluted could become a large “timeline painting” that shows what we have been doing to water throughout history. It could also include some vision for the future.
- Rosna’s image of plastic bags on top of a natural background could be extended to become a painting of the Earth that is covered with cut-out bits of plastic to represent plastic bags. She could stick these on herself, or make it interactive in order to increase the shock value!
- Alfie’s growing cloud of cigarette smoke could also be turned into an interactive piece of work. He wanted to get people to sign a petition. maybe, instead, he could get people to contribute to a massive cloud of smoke?
These ideas for further development of the artwork came from Naomi Natale’s One Million Bones project.
The slideshow is doing some strange things!
I’m going to attempt use this blog to document all my planning, both before and as everything happens, as I work with my Year 6 students through the PYP exhibition process. I’m going to call this “Blanning”… because “Blagging” is just too honest!
Tomorrow, I’m going to use the Nature lens of the Compass. Through the Nature lens, students are asked to consider the implications of their issues from the natural perspective. So, for example, making links between local beggars and deforestion and loss of homes in Myanmar and Cambodia.
I was thinking of having quite an open-ended day, with students making choices of a number of ways to consider the links between issues and nature. But then I thought it might be good to have a series of finite activities that need to be done within a specific timeframe and then shared and reflected on before moving on to something very different. Perhaps:
- Students could use expressive materials like pastels and charcoal to create an impulsive abstract piece of artwork based on their thoughts about their issues in the green context. I will limit them to using only shades of green and one other significant colour. I got the idea from a session my Dad did for the teachers at the Green School Bali: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=199675&id=114095042424&ref=mf
- Creating quotes, locating quotes, sharing quotes: This would be the search for existing and student-created quotes that illustrate connections between their issue and nature. They will have a set amount of time to find and develop their quotes, and then the same amount of time again to think about how they will share it.
- Green Data: Up-to-date facts and figures that will back up student ideas, arguments and conclusions. Again, they will have a set amount of time to find and collate their data, and then the same amount of time again to think about how they will share it. Emphasis will be placed on producing infographics here, probably leaning heavily on using the SmartArt features of Microsoft Word, or paint.net for the more technologically advanced.
- I’d like to end the day with a lot of talking, walking and looking at what the kids have produced. I’ll try to provoke conversations and play devil’s advocate a bit. Then, I’ll get them to identify the “Key Connections” between their issue and the Nature lens of the Compass. They may blog those by comments on a posting. They may display them visually in the room, they may do both… we’ll see what happens tomorrow!
So, during all of this – hopefully – the Compass Guides will be dropping in whenever they have 5 or 10 minutes to spare and taking a look at what the kids are thinking, what directions they’re moving in and what ideas they have for them.
I've shamelessley created another wordle for this posting by copying pasting the words in the posting into wordle and hitting "randomize" several times. So simple, so good to look at. But... they can't be used all the time.
The Blog that my class and I have developed so far this year has been outstandingly successful. The effects, among others, have been:
- A much greater amount of writing is being published than I have ever experienced in teaching before.
- A worldwide audience has made the students think about their responsibilities and powers as authors.
- The conversations that have happened through comments and replies has taken student understanding to a very deep level.
- The students are increasingly confident about sharing their ideas, thoughts and feelings.
- The parents love the fact that they can go on our Blog at any time and get a real sense of what the students are thinking about at the time.
- The students have naturally started to self and peer edit.
- ESL students have the opportunity to express themselves in writing in a very low-pressure setting, boosting their confidence.
- The students have become genuinely empowered by having the right to create their own posts.
- The students are developing skills and codes of online behaviour that will really set them up for the future.
The Blog has become what it is because:
- Everything on the Blog is relevant to current learning or is based on student interests.
- Students have been trusted to create postings.
- Students have been assigned Blog tasks in school and at home.
- Students have been provided with new skills as they have needed them, not too much too soon and nothing held back because “they are not capable of doing that”.
- Postings contain provocations that get the students thinking and make them want to react.
- Postings contain high-quality images that give the Blog a professional feel.
- Effective use of Tags and Categories makes it possible to access old postings very easily, keeping them alive.
- Effective use of widgets provides extra content and useful information.
- Information about the number of hits and worldwide visitors puts things into perspective for the kids and acts as an extra motivation – “there are people out there who are interested in what we do!”
I was recently very happy to find a similar blog posting to this one: “Let Your Students Blog” by Deborah C. White