Some people fear change, some embrace it. Change is a funny one. Because we are always changing. Our kids change, our knowledge and understanding changes, units change, the people around us changes and of course we change. I have been having a lot of conversations about change with people the past week. Some people are good at moving with change, but they also want continuity and consistency too. Change is good, but it doesn’t always mean we have to change everything, for the sake of changing. If you have used something that works, then keep using it. Well, that’s until it is actually time to do something different because it longer works.
The point I am trying to make is, I don’t feel guilty in sticking with what works. How the kids interpret it and the way they respond WILL be very different from the year before. There is a place for continuity, if you are open to experiment with it and build upon it each time.
This made me think about my own practice and how I approach units. My intension is always to go into new units with fresh ideas. Especially, when it comes to thinking about who the kids are and what would be helpful during their inquires.
There are some things that I have used and will continue to use, just because they are that good. It can’t be improved and it is so useful when guiding and leading the kids down the right path – a meaningful path.
Using a visual is such a powerful way to represent what a unit is all about. We have used some visuals that are totally original and new. These visuals have been developed and taken shape through team planning meetings. And some visuals have been used or adapted from the good stuff that is already out there. And there is a lot of good stuff floating around.
Time for some real examples:
(1) Something original which was developed through planning (Author – Sam Sherratt)
Last year we were looking at a way to guide students through a scientific process. We felt that a flow chart would be the most effective way. While the team was discussing ideas and possibilities. Sam went to work and was able to show this through a flow chart. This is what he came up with.
I have now used the above flow chart two years in a row and it has totally helped me and the kids. The questions have been so different (naturally) that it has seemed like a totally different experience, especially how the kids have shared their understanding about their curiosity.
(2) Something already out there that is transferable (Author – Alan Atkisson)
The compass is a really good way to get the students to look at different points, especially though the themes of Sharing the planet or Where we are in place and time. This was something that was already being used and it become a guiding light to frame thinking and develop understanding by contextualizing the unit. This is what the compass looks like:
So, what has this got to do with change?
There are some things I won’t change just because I know it works. It works every time and brings out the most in the way student’s think and learn. These visual will remain part of my teaching tools because they have proven to work. What do other people use again and again because it is so useful and helpful to light the way for learning? I would be very interested to learn more about the things that work really well! What is the good stuff out there?
Traditionally, the PYP exhibition has heavily been centered around NATURE. Really big issues that students really don’t have an impact on. There has been a real shift in recent years. This shift has happened for a number of reasons:
- teachers are getting better at the PYP exhibition
- the exhibition has become more personal
- students are valuing the importance of the self
- the focus is keeping it simple and realistic
The above image shows that there is a serious tilt towards WELL-BEING. This is best described as:
“Our individual health, happiness, education, satisfaction, and fulfillment, as well as the health of our families and primary relationships, and the quality of our living and working environments.”
We have found that the students have been really engaged and empowered because of this shift. One of the most obvious benefits is that well-being is easy to access in the school context and community.
Making the exhibition personally connected and significant has given it real meaning to the students. This is authentic learning!
The second session of the day was all about finding out what people are saying about the connections between issues and nature. Students:
- searched online
- looked through newspapers, books and magazines
- referred to notes they had taken from TED talks, guest speakers and videos they’ve watched
- wrote their own quotes!
The students were able to locate a lot of very powerful quotes that they can use in the latter stages of their exhibition.
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.